With a growing amount of content, channels and more devices all vying to capture people’s attention, the marketing space is more crowded and competitive than ever. In such an expansive digital landscape, Acquia and our partner, Elevated Third believe that B2B organizations win more when they start with a clear understanding of what companies they’re most prepared to help rather than sending out an endless stream of messages and hoping that their target buyers will find the golden needle in the haystack. Together with Acquia’s open technology and personalization tools, Elevated Third has become an innovator in helping businesses develop a successful account-based marketing (ABM) approach that can evolve to reflect what customers want at any point in their journey.
Elevated Third — an Acquia Top Growth Partner of the Year — specializes in creating digital experiences for B2B organizations that have unique challenges in connecting with customers across longer sales cycles and creating impactful, personal moments in a more complex space. When working with companies that regularly need to keep stakeholders engaged for 12-18 months before converting, Elevated Third needs to think beyond simple awareness content and understand what a customer’s needs are at every point in the funnel. To get a deeper look at what goes into launching and optimizing a successful ABM strategy for B2B businesses, we recently sat down with Elevated Third’s CEO Jeff Calderone to discuss how organizations can evaluate their marketing maturity and continuously evolve their approach to personalization by investing in their most valuable customers.
Measuring Marketing Operations Maturity to Establish Sales and Marketing Alignment
When starting a new project, one of Elevated Third’s first steps is helping the organization understand and measure their level of technical maturity and marketing maturity when it comes to things like launching a personalization strategy. “We need to conduct a discovery process and understand the operational workflow and internal goals of the company before we build a roadmap,” said Jeff. “Before you can create a successful ABM program, you need to work with marketing operations and demand generation teams to ensure they understand what ABM actually is and that they have the structures and systems in place to make sure it will work for their goals.”
Elevated Third regularly helps B2B companies conduct what Jeff referred to as a “martech audience audit” to ensure that teams across all departments, particularly sales and marketing, are aligned on the type of customers they’re trying to reach and the accounts that will generate the greatest return of value for their company. An effective ABM program will make sure that sales and marketing agree on the type of customers they should go after and set clear criteria for sales-qualified leads (SQLs) and marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) before investing in the tools and systems to build out their audience segments and target them with content and advertising.
To identify their most valuable audience segments, businesses need a comprehensive view of their entire digital ecosystem. For a large SaaS organization or other B2B company, that can involve gathering and analyzing data from dozens of different systems from their CRM to their marketing automation tools and sales ops platforms. “They need to bring all these pieces of data together and build one master record or data map that can show businesses their top 1,000 accounts. This is why solutions like customer data platforms (CDPs) are so popular right now,” said Jeff. “Once you’ve taken inventory of what tools you have and what solutions you may still need to integrate, and have mapped out a clear path of customer behavior, you can start refining and honing your marketing efforts to go after the most valuable customers that are the most likely to convert,” he explained.
Unifying Data to Target Your Next Best Customers
A well-done ABM program follows the philosophy that the quality of customers will be more valuable to businesses than the quantity of customers. ABM uses existing customer intelligence to understand which customers are most in need of their services and focuses on creating individualized content and experiences that capture and keep their attention. “We think of it as placing those ‘ideal customers’ at the center of a bullseye, whether that’s 500 or 5,000 customers, and then gradually working outward from the center to go after companies that may be less of an exact fit,” Jeff said. In this way, marketers can spend more time really learning about the preferences of their next best customers to tailor experiences for them that promote long-term relationships.
One approach Elevated Third recommends when refining your target account lists is to look at your existing customer base and look for opportunities for cross-sell and upsell rather than spend all your efforts on the acquisition of new customers. “We aren’t a fan of basic, party-trick personalization techniques,” said Jeff. “Just logging in and getting ‘Hi, [Name]. Welcome to the site! How’s the weather in Boston?’ seems personal on a surface level, but it doesn’t actually address the needs a customer has in that moment or encourage them to take an action.” For example, a software company could use browser-based data to determine which visitors to their website already have a platform log-in and target these users with offers for further integrations and upgraded features.
One way Elevated Third and Acquia worked to build more engaged relationships between an organization and their audience was the transformation of the Water Research Foundation’s (WRF) digital portal. As part of the relaunched website, Elevated Third segmented WRF’s vast research database into a few specific categories to help subscribers more easily find the information they need. They used Acquia Personalization to then target users with relevant materials based on their role and activity. Nurturing and strengthening existing customer relationships often benefits brands even more than gaining new customers. According to research done by Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25%. By regularly engaging customers with relevant, timely content, they’re more likely to remain brand loyalists and have an overall higher lifetime value than customers that are not presented with personalized experiences.
Optimizing Your Digital Experience Ecosystem with Drupal
Once you’ve invested in establishing an ABM strategy, Elevated Third believes that leveraging an open platform like Drupal is the secret weapon to accelerating and improving your ABM efforts. Drupal’s open technology is a perfect fit for integrating data, technology and customer intent and connecting all of your existing martech components together. “Drupal is great for helping brands grow their ABM maturity because it's services-based and provides flexibility to standardize data and content across your martech stack,” said Jeff. With closed marketing vendors like Adobe and Sitecore, clients are limited to their set of products and future roadmap to lead their efforts. “This walled garden approach doesn’t allow for the fast-acting innovation and integration of new technologies that companies need to get ahead of their competition,” he continued.
As the market continues to evolve and we see more companies embrace ABM and more mature personalization strategies, Elevated Third and Acquia believe that innovation must be open and adaptable as needs and customer preferences change. For example, companies who are looking to integrate with new technology like chatbots or a new email newsletter service are able to use Drupal to build upon and enhance their current martech stack. They can grow their integrations and features without having to rip and replace the entire stack in order to make a change. As Jeff explains, open platforms provide the needed agility for businesses to improve their marketing approaches as their audience grows and the direction of the market changes. “When it comes to personalization and ABM, these aren’t just onetime actions. These tactics take time and continued investment to grow and mature over time. This requires some degree of freedom and flexibility, so for us, open technology wins.”
To hear even more of Elevated Third and Acquia’s tips for effective personalization, join Jeff Calderone and Acquia’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, Karen Wood at our virtual roundtable: The State of Personalization Today (And What We Are Doing To Fix It on May 20.