June 14, 2022
By Chantel Hall, Marketing Content Specialist
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a highly-targeted strategy where marketers target specific companies instead of verticals or industries. ABM campaigns are similar in some ways to inbound marketing, and buyer personas play a significant role.
While ABM marketers are more focused on companies as a whole, the individual buyers within those companies play a critical role, and buyer personas must be more specific and developed in the context of their buying group. Each person within a buying group brings something unique to the table. You may need to adapt your buyer personas to individual companies to ensure you’re accounting for their unique role and expertise.
For example, suppose you know members of a specific team or department are the primary decision-makers or that all purchasing decisions of a certain size must involve the CFO. In that case, you need to account for that in your buyer personas. Sometimes, just knowing which job roles or seniority levels to target with ABM campaigns isn’t sufficient.
To run a successful ABM campaign, you need to understand your buyers both from a high level and a more granular level.
An ideal customer profile (ICPs) represents companies that are an ideal match for a B2B company’s product or service. ICPs will inform both the companies you decide to target with ABM campaigns and the specific buyer personas you target with your marketing efforts.
If you aren’t already using ICPs to inform your marketing efforts, you can begin building them using data about your current customers. Data like their size, location, industry, and budget will form one piece of your ICP, but it should also include information about their pain points and goals, behavioral data, and any relevant context around their buying decision. For example, if you find that many of your customers have recently acquired other companies or often state they’re experiencing a lot of growth, that context is relevant to your ICP.
Whether you plan to use them for inbound marketing efforts or more targeted ABM campaigns, ideal customer profiles are critical to B2B digital marketing. Without a clear profile of what companies you should be targeting, something as granular as an inbound marketing persona won’t be useful to your marketing and sales teams.
When choosing companies to target with an ABM campaign, you need to understand your goals for the campaign and then determine what company you will target with your campaign.
Your goals for an ABM campaign might be generating renewals among current customers, developing credibility for your brand, getting some quick wins, or closing deals with high-revenue clients. Depending on what your goal is, you’ll target different companies. However, your target companies should always closely match one of the ICPs you’ve developed. Companies with deep pockets or high visibility won’t be a viable target for you if they won’t benefit from your products or services.
Next, look at the data available about current leads or leads who have shown interest in the past. There may already be companies that fit your ICP whose employees are interested in your products or services.
Depending on your offering, you can also research businesses in the news, on LinkedIn, or on their websites to look for conditions or events that signal they might be interested in your product. Continuing with the examples from the last section, if your ICPs include companies with new acquisitions, you can look at whether your target companies have made announcements about recent acquisitions on their website or social media.
Once you’ve selected which company you want to target with your ABM campaigns, you determine who at your target companies will respond to and engage with your marketing.
Now that you understand who your ideal customers are and which businesses you want to target with your ABM campaigns, buyer personas will help you determine which individuals to focus your efforts on.
Using buyer personas in tandem with company information is critical when executing ABM campaigns; without a complete picture of individual buyers and their business needs, you can’t accurately target and segment high-value leads. Buyer personas help marketing teams target the right people with their paid campaigns, remarketing, and messaging.
For buyer personas to be useful, they need to be specific and backed up by data. Sales and marketing should work together to develop buyer personas that accurately reflect the buyers that benefit from your product.
Buyer personas should also include the buyer’s intent — what does the buyer want to accomplish? What pain points are they trying to understand, and what goals do they have for themselves and their business?
Personalized messaging is a critical component of digital marketing, and buyers respond to content and messaging personalized to their needs and interests. Thirty-two percent of buyers even said that content that’s personalized and tailored to their needs would warrant a sales call with the company providing that content.1
When asked what made content memorable enough to warrant a sales call, 32% of buyers responded, "[Content] Is personalized/tailored to their needs.”
Data about your current customers and leads moving through the pipeline can help provide more texture to your personas and create more meaningful representations of your buyers. You can also utilize lead generation forms on your website to learn as much as possible about your buyers and leads and use that data to strengthen your buyer personas. With progressive profiling, you can learn more about each lead and how they’re progressing through the sales funnel.
Buyer personas are a critical piece of digital marketing campaigns, but marketers must use them in the context of company data to be valuable tools for marketers. Building up your targeting strategy using information about the industries and verticals you serve, specific accounts you’re targeting, and the buyers within those companies will allow you to fully utilize buyer personas and target the right people with the right message at the right time.
1DemandGen, 2021 Content Preferences Survey Report, 2021
Terminus, Account Based Marketing vs Inbound Marketing: 2021-2022 Trends Report, 2021
HubSpot, 10 Easy Steps to Creating a Customer Profile [+Templates], April 13, 2022
B2B Marketing, Four steps to selecting the right companies to target with ABM, April 13, 2022
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