The Art of B2B Market Research: Understand Your Audience Better–and Fast

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Best practices for using paid media in ABM programs.

Read Time: 5 Mins

While account based marketing (ABM) began as primarily a nurture-based strategy, more and more companies are using paid media to expand and accelerate these programs, with good reason. Running a paid media campaign through a publisher partner such as TechTarget not only lets you put your content in front of a highly targeted audience, but can provide terrific insights into the behaviors, needs, and purchase intent of people within that audience.

We sat down with TechTarget CRO Steve Niemiec to talk about best practices for using paid media in ABM programs.

Here are Steve’s top tips from that conversation.

1. Find and prioritize in-market accounts.

At its core, ABM involves developing a list of target accounts, based on previous successes, and focusing more effort on these accounts with the idea that by prioritizing quality over quantity, you will be more fruitful. What many organizations miss is that you can and should further narrow your list to those accounts that are currently in-market. Insights from paid media play a big role in helping you determine this.

Here are some of the questions to ask when looking at paid media data:

  • Which accounts from your list are researching your solution and interacting with your content?
  • Which accounts from your list are researching and engaging with your competitors?
  • Which people at those accounts are most actively researching? (These are the personas to target!)
  • Are there “look-alike accounts,” or accounts that are not currently on your list but could be more of a greenfield opportunity right now, based on their activity?

Using intent data to identify accounts that are in-market not only allows you to home in on the most appropriate targets at the right point in time but can help you refine your messaging and content to meet the specific needs of the people who are actively seeking your solution.


2. Understand the buying team dynamic.

Companies need to remember that accounts don’t make purchasing decisions, people do. With every account, there are multiple buying team members you need to consider. Two key points to remember about the buying team:

  • Don’t assume you know who has the most sway in the decision. One mistake many companies make is to focus on the check cutters. The reality is that there may be multiple additional team members that play a significant role in researching and recommending solutions. When it comes to technology solutions, for example, marketers often focus on the ITDM persona and pay less attention to engaging the practitioner audiences (in this case, developers) that often heavily influence the decision.
  • Different members of the buying team may have different levels of familiarity with your solution. Don’t take a relationship with a decision-maker for granted. Someone else on the buying team may have an equally strong relationship with a competitor. Understanding not only who is on the buying team, but what level of influence each member has, is critical for understanding the big picture of the opportunity and advising sales on the next best action.

Intent data derived from search behavior and engagement can provide valuable insight in both these scenarios. You can learn not only who is engaging with your content, but who is engaging with your competitors—giving you greater visibility into who is on the buying team and what they care about.

For example, you may discover that there are roles interacting with your content that you didn’t expect, or that someone in a particular role is engaging more heavily than the title you were targeting—a strong indicator about who is really making the decision.


3. Continuously engage the right audience.

You’re always fighting for mindshare, so continuous engagement is critical for staying top of mind. Consider the rule of seven in marketing: a person needs to see your advertising seven times in order to remember it. When it comes to ABM, where the sales cycle may take 6–9 months and require the consensus of multiple stakeholders, it’s important to think about how you can make sure that the whole buying team is seeing your message over a consistent period of time.

Key points to remember about continuous engagement:

  • Your audience is everywhere. Synchronize your messaging across your content and channels. Buying team members should get a consistent experience no matter where they engage with your solution.
  • Content is not one-size-fits-all. Don’t assume that a piece of content that is successful in one channel or with one audience will automatically be successful in all of your campaigns. Instead, look at each campaign with the question, what messaging is working, and what isn’t, so you can serve up the right content for the right audience.
  • Testing and optimization are not optional. You may find that a piece of content doesn’t resonate quite as well in a given moment in time, but can be tweaked or run with a slightly different audience with great results. It all starts with a willingness to roll up your sleeves, test new things, and, of course, stay focused on the needs of the actual audience rather than your idea of the audience.


4. Help sales take action.

At their best, ABM programs should give sales a giant leg up. Rather than wasting time guessing who to approach or dialing into accounts haphazardly, insights from paid media can help your sales team to know who to approach, when to approach them, and how to move the conversation forward. Marketers have access to a wealth of intent data through paid media and other channels; transferring this information to sales so they can act on it requires tight collaboration between the two teams.

Here are some tips for sustaining alignment between marketing and sales throughout an ABM program:

  • Involve sales early and often. Make sure your sales team understands what you’re trying to accomplish with your campaigns—and that you know what kind of information helps them get closer to closing deals.
  • Give sales what they need. With ABM, marketing should be doing more than delivering leads to the sales team. Marketing should be providing account insights and information about the people within those accounts to help sellers approach the prospect, sound educated, and use their time effectively to drive influence. For example, if a seller knows which content pieces the prospect has been downloading within the last couple of days, they can avoid rehashing territory the prospect has already covered and focus the conversation in a way that advances them down the funnel.

Sales buy-in can be difficult to maintain, which is why it’s important to get some early wins for the sales team through your ABM campaigns. When sales gets a taste of ABM success and can see the potential first-hand, they will rally behind it and help take it to new heights.

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