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4 ways to build a successful ABM strategy

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Should start-ups worry about hyping their products?


Auseh Britt, vp of growth marketing at account-based marketing platform Terminus, recently hosted a webinar that discussed her organization’s 2021 State of Modern Marketing Report. The study polled over 1000 go-to-Market (GTM) teams — groups tasked with identifying the best ways to reach specific marketing.

“It was a global report,” she said. “It spanned across various countries, organization sizes, and sectors.”

The goal of bringing so many respondents from different departments and organizations was to pinpoint common issues brands were experiencing in their marketing campaigns. And the data was telling: 90% of marketers surveyed said they wanted to target customers through customized approaches, using personalized campaigns and sales outreach.

Source: Auseh Britt

“One of the things that we learned in this report was that B2B has been evolving over the last several years,” Britt said. “We’re moving away from that traditional demand generation linear funnel and more to an account-based marketing structure, where marketing, sales, and customer success are working together in concert.”

She noted that the report also found faster brand adoption of account-based marketing (ABM) strategies: “A lot of that was expedited by the pandemic: When the pandemic occurred in early 2020, a lot of us marketers saw one of our main tactics and channels evaporate overnight. By this, I mean life events.”

To make up for this loss of marketing opportunities, Britt recommends marketers ensure their ABM strategies are optimized across their digital channels. Here are four ways brands can improve their audience targeting with ABM.

Target “best-fit” accounts

Britt pointed out that the main focus in marketing has shifted to “best-fit accounts” — those consumers that fit your ideal customer profile and provide the highest potential value to your brand. She suggests marketers put more resources into identifying these customers to help improve their ABM campaigns.

“One of the areas with the most room for improvement is account targeting — specifically deal acceleration and pipeline acceleration,” she said.

Source: Auseh Britt

Britt sees these areas as opportunities to move leads faster through the sales funnel, which can hopefully increase deal sizes throughout the process.

“You have to have a good sense of who you’re targeting, but one of the challenges is determining the right stage they’re in,” she said. “If they’re too early in the customer journey, they may not be quite ready to engage. There may be some opportunities to hone that.”

Marketers should consider implementing pipeline acceleration tasks, which can help strengthen ABM strategies by increasing the volume of leads while ensuring relevant content reaches customers at each stage of the funnel. ABM platforms can help marketers personalize these journeys and secure those best-fit accounts.

Align sales and marketing teams

Marketing and sales teams rely on each other to drive leads through the pipeline, but misaligned tasks often derail their respective operations.

“I cannot overemphasize how critical it is that you have this alignment … I think everyone needs to be in agreement over what that looks like,” Britt said

Source: Auseh Britt

Marketing and sales teams should align on KPIs as well. Many of the discrepancies that arise between these departments come from the differences in performance tracking — sales may be focusing on lead numbers while marketing hones in on lead quality or brand awareness. While both sets of metrics are important, these teams can find more success with target accounts by reporting on the same goals. Then, they can use the insights gleaned to improve their campaigns and avoid unintentional discrepancies in customer journeys.

KPI alignment is absolutely crucial, but Britt says the execution of the strategy is the most important alignment element to succeed in ABM.

“That’s where you see most of the success,” she said. “If marketing is running their programs and campaigns to target accounts, but sales isn’t doing outbound prospecting to those target accounts at the same time, you’re not going to see the success that you want.”


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Use first-party data to fuel the ABM strategy

Customer data is the fuel that powers any successful ABM strategy. However, with the disappearance of third-party cookies on the horizon, many marketers are trying to figure out alternative ways to collect this valuable information.

“There’s quite a bit of concern over the disappearance of third-party cookie data,” Britt said. ”Companies need to think about how they’re using this information — it’s only going to increase the importance of first-party data.”

Source: Auseh Britt

First-party customer data is key to successful ABM strategies because it provides marketers with relevant insights straight from consumers themselves. And, because it’s information users have consented to share (which adheres to data compliance regulations), marketers can personalize campaigns with this data to help build customer trust.

“That [first-party data] is the most valuable data that you’re going to have,” said Britt. “This trend is only going to increase, so it’s important to have a strategy regarding how you’re going to rely less on third-party cookie data and more on your internal first-party data.”

Prioritize campaign attribution measurement

“For marketers, attribution has always been a challenge,” Britt said. “We have lots of tools that we use … We’re trying to get as much information as possible to know which channels are most effective.”

“But when you move to an account-based marketing strategy, it’s more about the accounts that are engaging,” she added.

Multichannel attribution helps marketers measure customer engagement. ABM campaigns in the past focused on singular channels such as email, but now customers encounter brands across a wide variety of channels and demand personalized, seamless experiences. Multichannel attribution helps marketers identify each touchpoint in customer journeys to help determine which elements lead to conversions and other high-value KPIs.

“At the end of the day, determining if your marketing works depends on looking at those macro types of metrics like account engagement,” she said. “Are you generating opportunities from these accounts that you care about? Are you creating pipeline from these accounts that are then turning into revenue?

“That’s what we care about: How much revenue are we closing from the efforts that we’re putting out there?” she added.

Watch this webinar presentation at Digital Marketing Depot.

Account-based marketing: A snapshot

What it is. Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts to focus on high-value accounts. 

This customer acquisition strategy focuses on delivering promotions — advertising, direct mail, content syndication, etc. — to targeted accounts. Individuals who may be involved in the purchase decision are targeted in a variety of ways, in order to soften the earth for the sales organization. 

Why it’s hot. Account-based marketing addresses changes in B2B buyer behavior. Buyers now do extensive online research before contacting sales, a trend that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of marketing’s tasks in an ABM strategy is to make certain its company’s message is reaching potential customers while they are doing their research. 

Why we care. Account engagement, win rate, average deal size, and ROI increase after implementing account-based marketing, according to a recent Forrester/SiriusDecisions survey. While B2B marketers benefit from that win rate, ABM vendors are also reaping the benefits as B2B marketers invest in these technologies and apply them to their channels.

Read next: What is ABM and why are B2B marketers so bullish on it?


About The Author

Corey Patterson is an Editor for MarTech and Search Engine Land. With a background in SEO, content marketing, and journalism, he covers SEO and PPC to help marketers improve their campaigns.



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Local Pack Header Specificity Vanishes while Local Packs Downtrend

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9 Local Search Developments You Need to Know About from Q3 2022

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

In July of this year, Dr. Peter J. Meyers and I published a report analyzing an element of Google’s local results we termed “local pack headers”. About a month after publication, members of the local SEO community, like Colan Nielsen, began noticing that the extraordinary diversity of headings we had captured had suddenly diminished:

Today, I’m doing a quick follow-up to the manual portion of our earlier study in an effort to quantify and illustrate this abrupt alteration.

A total sea change in local pack headers

Between July and November of 2022, 83% of our previously-queried local pack headers underwent a complete transformation of nomenclature. Only 17% of the local pack headers were still worded the same way in autumn as they had been in the summertime. Here is a small set of examples:

In our manual analysis of 60 queries in July, we encountered 40 unique local pack headers – a tremendous variety. Now, all specificity is gone. For all of our queries, headings have been reduced to just 3 types: in-store availability, places, and businesses.

Entity relationships remain mysterious

What hasn’t changed is my sense that the logic underpinning which businesses receive which local pack header remains rather odd. In the original study, we noted the mystery of why a query like “karate” fell under the heading of “martial arts school” but a query for “tai chi” got a unique “tai chi heading”, or why “adopt dog” results were headed “animal rescue services” but “adopt bunny” got a pack labeled “adopt bunny”. The curious entity relationships continue on, even in this new, genericized local pack header scenario. For example, why is my search for “tacos” (which formerly brought up a pack labeled “Mexican restaurants”, now labeled this:

But my search for “oil change” gets this header:

Is there something about a Mexican restaurant that makes it more of a “place” and an oil change spot that makes it more of a “business”? I don’t follow the logic. Meanwhile, why are service area businesses, as shown in my search for “high weed mowing” being labeled “places”?

Surely high weed mowing is not a place…unless it is a philosophical one. Yet I saw many SABs labeled this way instead of as “businesses”, which would seem a more rational label, given Google’s historic distinction between physical premises and go-to-client models. There are many instances like this of the labeling not making much horse sense, and with the new absence of more specific wording, it feels like local pack headers are likely to convey less meaning and be more easily overlooked now.

Why has Google done this and does it matter to your local search marketing?

Clearly, Google decided to streamline their classifications. There may be more than three total local pack header types, but I have yet to see them. Hotel packs continue to have their own headings, but they have always been a different animal:

In general, Google experiments with whatever they think will move users about within their system, and perhaps they felt the varied local pack headers were more of a distraction than an aid to interactivity with the local packs. We can’t know for sure, nor can we say how long this change will remain in place, because Google could bring back the diverse headings the day after I publish this column!

As to whether this matters to your local search campaigns, unfortunately, the generic headers do obscure former clues to the mind of Google that might have been useful in your SEO. I previously suggested that local businesses might want to incorporate the varied local pack terms into the optimization of the website tags and text, but in the new scenario, it is likely to be pointless to optimize anything for “places”, “businesses”, or “in-store availability”. It’s a given that your company is some kind of place or business if you’re creating a Google Business Profile for it. And, your best bet for featuring that you carry certain products is to publish them on your listing and consider whether you want to opt into programs like Pointy.

In sum, this change is not a huge deal, but I’m a bit sorry to see the little clues of the diversified headers vanish from sight. Meanwhile, there’s another local pack trend going on right now that you should definitely be paying attention to…

A precipitous drop in overall local pack presence

In our original study, Google did not return a local pack for 18% of our manual July queries. By November, the picture had significantly changed. A startling 42% of our queries suddenly no longer displayed a local pack. This is right in line with Andrew Shotland’s documentation of a 42.3% drop from peak local pack display between August and October. Mozcast, pictured above, captured a drop from 39.6% of queries returning local packs on October 24th to just 25.1% on October 25th. The number has remained in the low-to-mid 20s in the ensuing weeks. It’s enough of a downward slope to give one pause.

Because I’m convinced of the need for economic localism as critical to healing the climate and society, I would personally like Google to return local packs for all commercial queries so that searchers can always see the nearest resource for purchasing whatever they need, but if Google is reducing the number of queries for which they deliver local results, I have to try to understand their thinking.

To do that, I have to remember that the presence of a local pack is a signal that Google believes a query has a local intent. Likely, they often get this right, but I can think of times when a local result has appeared for a search term that doesn’t seem to me to be obviously, inherently local. For example, in the study Dr. Pete and I conducted, we saw Google not just returning a local pack for the keyword “pickles” but even giving it its own local pack header:

If I search for pickles, am I definitely looking for pickles near me, or could I be looking for recipes, articles about the nutritional value of pickles, the history of pickles, something else? How high is Google’s confidence that vague searches like these should be fulfilled with a local result?

After looking at a number of searches like these in the context of intent, my current thinking is this: for some reason unknown to us, Google is dialing back presumed local intent. Ever since Google made the user the centroid of search and began showing us nearby results almost by default for countless queries, we users became trained not to have to add many (or any) modifiers to our search language to prompt Google to lay out our local options for us. We could be quite lazy in our searches and still get local results.

In the new context of a reduced number of searches generating local packs, though, we will have to rehabituate ourselves to writing more detailed queries to get to what we want if Google no longer thinks our simple search for “pickles” implies “pickles near me”. I almost get the feeling that Google wants us to start being more specific again because its confidence level about what constitutes a local search has suffered some kind of unknown challenge.

It’s also worth throwing into our thinking what our friends over at NearMedia.co have pointed out:

“The Local Pack’s future is unclear. EU’s no “self-preferencing” DMA takes effect in 2023. The pending AICOA has a similar language.”

It could be that Google’s confidence is being shaken in a variety of ways, including by regulatory rulings, and local SEOs should always expect change. For now, though, local businesses may be experiencing some drop in their local pack traffic and CTR. On the other hand, if Google is getting it right, there may be no significant loss. If your business was formerly showing up in a local pack for a query that didn’t actually have a local intent, you likely weren’t getting those clicks anyway because a local result wasn’t what the searcher was looking for to begin with.

That being said, I am seeing examples in which I feel Google is definitely getting it wrong. For instance, my former searches for articles of furniture all brought up local packs with headings like “accent chairs” or “lamps”. Now, Google is returning no local pack for some of these searches and is instead plugging an enormous display of remote, corporate shopping options. There are still furniture stores near me, but Google is now hiding them, and that disappoints me greatly:

So here’s today’s word to the wise: keep working on the organic optimization of your website and the publication of helpful content. Both will underpin your key local pack rankings, and as we learned from our recent large-scale local business review survey, 51% of consumers are going to end up on your site as their next step after reading reviews on your listings. 2023 will be a good year to invest in the warm and inclusive welcome your site is offering people, and the investment will also stand you in good stead however local pack elements like headers, or even local packs, themselves, wax and wane.



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