Account-Based Intelligence: when ABM meets thought leadership

Ben Harrison

Good thought leadership offers deep understanding of the individual ambition of your clients and prospects – and original insight to help them navigate industry change.

Increasingly, companies are now adapting that recipe and applying it in a tailored package to their most important client accounts. In the past, this was known as account-based marketing (ABM), but recently firms have been deploying an account-based intelligence approach – a movement that elevates ABM strategy by including wider, more in-depth customer knowledge.

However, an ABI strategy cannot truly be intelligent, unless the content is intelligent as well.

The potential is clear. Our own research, based on a survey of over 1000 senior executives globally, shows that good-quality, intelligent thought leadership can create deeper client relationships, with nearly 9 out of 10 C-suite executives stating that they are more likely to award business to brands that share good thought leadership as part of the sales process. Personalisation is also highly valued by B2B buyers – our survey shows over half of C-suite members favour insights focused on their role or industry.

In practice, however, many companies struggle to marry thought leadership with highly tailored activation strategies and the data they require. The organisations that are doing this well, focus on getting the solutions in place to drive an account-based strategy at scale.

Here are three ideas to add fresh intelligence and insight to your ABM platform:

1. Ensure your commercial team works as one

The integration of sales and marketing teams is something that has been bubbling away in the background for many years now, and there are no greater proponents for this than ABM and its smarter, younger sibling, ABI. It is a chance for sales and marketing teams to work collaboratively, making up for a lack of necessary skills that threatens effective ABM practices currently.

The relationship between these functions has been born not only out of desire, but also necessity – ABI cannot work effectively with only one team involved. It boils down to the fact that the sales teams often own the customer data, and the marketing teams own the content. In fact, 86% of marketers see gaining access to these customer data as their biggest challenge.

For thought leadership-producing marketing teams, the benefit of an ABI activation strategy is multi-faceted. Revenue generation is rightly front of mind, but an account-based approach can make the client-facing individuals look like heroes, and making them valuable allies in the marketer’s endless struggle for budget allocation.

2. Personalise your thought leadership

For an ABI approach to succeed, it needs great content, combined with a cost-effective strategy to tailor that content to the client.

A bit of personalisation can go a long way here. Taking a general industry report, but contextualising your communication for the client massively increases the value of your content to that client. But it is important to remember that it does not always have to be account-specific – one-to-many ABM strategies can work at the top of the funnel and can make use of more generic content.

If the content is optimal, and you use sales intelligence to distribute to the right people at the right stage in their journey, then this is the backbone of good ABI, and your thought leadership content will excel.

3. Use technology to deploy and track your content campaigns

It’s 2019 and technology has been embedded in every aspect of business for the best part of 20 years. For marketing, the battleground for these new platforms has been in measurement and attribution. Marketing automation tools have been redefining how marketers track their campaign spend in a way that was once left to guesswork – and the same can be true for account-based campaigns.

Tools such as Pardot and Marketo allow marketing communications to be brought under one roof, syncing with the sales team’s CRM, in order to deploy and track marketing activity in a way that can inform how client-facing individuals go about their day-to-day communications.

These tools are providing great support to account teams, allowing them to create, track and tweak their multi-touch ABI campaigns over time. But, while email and social media still rule the roost, think about using account-focused webpages or microsites, advertising campaigns and direct mailers, considering carefully when in the sales cycle to deploy them.


“Don’t count the people you reach; reach the people that count”

Finally, David Ogilvy’s immortal marketing aphorism reminds us of ABM’s most important lesson: that account-based marketing strategies must be account-centric, just as thought leadership content should be audience-centric.

This will be obvious to any seasoned account-based marketer, but if you are thinking of activating with an ABI-slant for the first time, then keeping an audience-focused approach will be the key to a successful campaign, from thought leadership development to account-based activation.

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About the author: Ben Harrison

As marketing executive, Ben leads various marketing activities such as the firm’s social media effort, our always-on content programme, and all aspects of the website – from maintenance to re-designs. He also manages the department’s tech stack, delivering an increasingly seamless experience from marketing all the way through to the sales team.

Ben also contributes to the marketing team’s overall strategy and goals, helping to plan, execute and effectively measure all our content and engagement that push the firm towards brand- and commercial-oriented goals.

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