Account-based content – the target group of one

Account-based content – the target group of one

A lot of the time when we’re talking about B2B content marketing, we’re thinking in terms of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of potential consumers of our content. In doing so, we’re trying to appeal to as many prospects within our target group or buyer personas as possible. But, within B2B, there is a specific group of content that takes virtually the opposite approach – account-based content.

Account-based content targets a single target account – of course, this is B2B so there will be a complex set of individuals within that account. However, everything we produce will be highly tailored to the needs and aspirations of a single customer. And while the cost per item is certainly higher, for an enterprise-level sale, the relative investment can be little more than a rounding error in the sales budget.

Insight is everything

For account-based content to work, you must have a deep insight into the target customer (and into the customer’s customers). More than this, you need to have a clear view on what that insight means. And you must be able to demonstrate a clear way forward for their business that takes their thinking on from where it’s currently at.

To put this in more technical terms: never try to blag it.

This insight will come from a variety of sources. You will, of course, learn a lot from the customer themselves (via your sales people or channel partners). You’ll be able to tap into analysts and other experts. But you will probably need to carry out some primary research too.

Ultimately, the objective is to earn the right to have a more strategic face-to-face conversation with them.

Sales and marketing alignment is critical

While sales and marketing alignment tends to be a running sore in many B2B organisations, when developing content for account-based marketing, it is fundamental to success. Now, before you stop reading, there is some good news. This is an approach where absolutely everything is designed to help sales sell. 

In an account-based approach, there are no arguments over what constitutes a marketing-qualified lead. There are no worries over whether sales will follow up on those leads. These are real, live opportunities that marketing can help sales grow and close.

You cannot have successful account-based content without the active participation of your best sales people. Their understanding of the customer’s business, focus and people is the foundation upon which everything else will be built. Get this right, however, and it will pay dividends for sales and marketing alignment across all your activity.

Gates and hubs

Account-based content is exclusive by its very nature. The value it offers the customer is that it talks directly to what matters most to their individual business. As such, gating this content adds to its perceived value and will boost its effectiveness.

The simplest way to do this, of course, is to deliver account-based content via one-to-one outbound communication. But that’s really just a start. If you’re committed to using content in a more systematic way, you should begin thinking in terms of creating hubs for each key account you target.

A content hub gives you a place to store the various pieces you develop. It means customer contacts can go deeper into the detail as and when they wish (eg you may use this area to curate and store other third-party content in addition to what you create yourself). It also means that should a new key customer be appointed, you do not need to start again from scratch in delivering content to them.

What could it look like?

Every account-based content programme will be different in many ways. While a certain level of sector-focused insight and material may be able to be reused, the highly targeted, highly individualised nature of the approach is central to its effectiveness. However there are six steps that we’d recommend you take:

  1. Identify key accounts – these should generally be ones that are strategically important to your business and where you already have a relationship with a number of key contacts.
  2. Workshop with sales – develop a unified plan for how you will approach the customer and the kinds of material and activities that can support greater engagement. 
  3. Audit your existing content – while the account-based approach is centred around bespoke content, you will also already have other relevant material that can be used to help populate a content hub.
  4. Research and develop content – the custom content you produce will need to be highly considered, deeply insightful and of the highest quality. This will take time. Success, however, is not measured in volume – a tight piece packed with value that stimulates further discussion will deliver greater results than another worthy but dense white paper.
  5. Communicate – account-based content marketing is inherently an outbound approach. Importantly, however, all communications should come from named individuals within sales. And there should be enough content to allow them to nurture their prospects over an extended period.
  6. Workshop with customer – getting face-to-face with the customer team is, of course, key. Use the thinking and content you’ve developed as the basis for a bespoke customer workshop where you work with them to identify and overcome their business challenges.

Account-based content marketing is not for everyone. It is primarily an enterprise-level activity focused on large, strategic sales. However, if the preconditions are right, it offers a direct route to significant ROI.

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