Account-Based Marketing Drives Effective B2B Personalization

December 2, 2020
Contributor: Rama Ramaswami

Executing high-impact B2B personalization initiatives can strain marketing resources. Account-based marketing offers a cost-effective approach.

Personalization offers marketers the promise of reaching the right customers with the right message at the right time, but it’s a costly endeavor that can actually do more harm than good. So B2B marketers must ensure that their personalization efforts are generating impact — especially given pandemic-driven resource constraints. Account-based marketing offers an outcome-driven approach.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents to the 2020 Gartner B2B Marketer Survey say the best way to engage buyers is to deliver personally relevant communications. But although Gartner research shows that personalization can increase the likelihood of a high-quality deal by 12% when properly executed, it also shows that certain forms of personalization can actually decrease purchase likelihood by up to 15%. The customer segmentation inherent in account-based marketing allows for more targeted, relevant and cost-effective personalization.

“Account-based marketing brings focus to your ability to execute personalization at scale,” said Rick LaFond, Senior Principal, Advisory, Gartner, at the virtual Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo® 2020. “It leads you to focus on the highest-impact, highest-return opportunities.”

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Four steps to prioritize personalization efforts for maximum impact

Gartner defines account-based marketing as a go-to-market strategy in which a supplier targets a set of named contacts and accounts, representing significantly higher expansion or growth opportunities, to receive tailored marketing and sales support. Account-based marketing enables marketers to prioritize high-value personalization opportunities through four steps:

No. 1: Build a list of high-priority accounts. Work with your sales team to select accounts using an ideal customer profile that sorts targets by industry, organization size, purchase history, geography or other characteristics. Ideally, your customer profile should be data-driven and correlate with positive commercial outcomes.

No. 2: Collect customer insights to identify target account needs. Invest in understanding each account thoroughly: The organization’s objectives, key stakeholders and their responsibilities, buyers’ critical purchasing tasks and the information needed on the buying journey. This enables you to personalize by industry or account, stakeholder persona or journey stage. Consider intent data — information on online user behavior collected within your organization or by third parties — to anticipate your target account’s purchase intent and buying patterns.

No. 3: Determine where personalization enables you to offer customers help. All personalization executions must offer customers a source of help, whether it is helping them complete a buying task, learn something new or feel more confident about their purchasing decision. Personalized web or email content perceived as helpful increases the likelihood that the customer will make a high-quality purchase by 9%, according to Gartner research. 

No. 4: Scale by amplifying successful pilot projects. For example, you may want to start your personalization efforts with a small set of top-tier accounts. This segment receives highly resourced, one-on-one personalization. The second tier receives some tailored content, whereas the third tier receives only generic, mass-market content. You can glean insights and tactics from the highest-priority tier that also apply to a subset of the second tier, such as organizations in the same industry. Replicating or reusing personalization practices in this way enables marketers to deliver more effective personalization to more accounts — without necessarily investing more resources.

In a post-COVID-19 recessionary climate, digital marketing leaders must focus their personalization strategies on initiatives that pay off. Identify and gain deep insights into high-priority customer segments where you need to win to achieve business goals. Take a test-and-learn approach to building a personalization proof of concept with top-tier accounts and use that experimentation to refine personalization tactics with a broader customer base.

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