/Account-based marketing (ABM) has its share of disciples who swear that it’s the best way to pursue prospects: 73% of respondents to a Demand Gen Report survey said they practice ABM to “ensure they are targeting the right stakeholders.” Yet, a surprising number of B2B organizations risk being too rigid in their adoption of ABM, focusing solely on their list of target accounts to the detriment of all other potential prospects and marketing opportunities.
ABM doesn’t have to be a locked list with no room for adjustment. In fact, keeping a static ABM list and only working from that list misses the point entirely of focused efforts to improve ROI. B2B marketers can use their target account lists as a starting point to experiment and find new prospects, without devolving back to inefficient spray and pray strategies. All it takes is reliable data and a willingness to go beyond the world of known accounts.
ABM With Blinders On
The reason so many enterprises are adopting ABM is because there is a great deal of value in dealing with targeted accounts. It lets marketing and sales coordinate on efforts, communicate in a one-to-one fashion, and tailor their campaigns and sales efforts with the right messaging for different parts of the funnel. The partner ecosystem is evolving to take advantage of the popularity, with Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) and other platforms building software solutions specifically for ABM.
This tactic has become so popular that there are businesses out there that are now saying they only pursue named accounts, or that they keep a locked ABM list that doesn’t change or grow based on new information.
Companies that maintain static ABM lists may do so for a number of reasons, including staffing or budget constraints. Still, limiting marketing so severely doesn’t make much sense. If a brand wants to target 500 accounts only, why would it ignore a comparable company outside of those 500 that is displaying intent signals and has similar purchasing power? In other words, why miss out on a sale because it’s outside of the target account list?
Implementing Whitespace Strategies
It seems obvious that there are selling opportunities outside of a locked list of named accounts. The issue is that many B2B marketers seem to think in terms of a binary: ABM is tightly targeted, and everything else is inefficient spray and pray. But that’s not the case. The world of marketing data makes it easy to find new prospects that might be interested in a product or service.
The best place to start is to use a predefined list of accounts as a starter file, then include anything outside of that universe as “new.” When the two spaces – known accounts and new accounts – are defined and separated, it’s easier to manage and manipulate the lists.
B2B marketers can also rely on lookalikes, validating their target-account strategy by identifying and profiling similar types of companies. The accounts that emerge might be net new, but they also look similar to your other named accounts. This is a lot more precise and efficient than opening your marketing strategy to anybody and everybody outside of the list.
Another key thing is to start using this type of strategy with the sales teams. Yes, ABM is about channeling marketing toward the likely targets, but it is often easier to see immediate ROI using new data sources in a sales capacity first, and only then expanding to marketing tactics. Take that list of net new companies generated earlier, hand it to an outbound salesperson and ask them to contact the accounts. They’ll likely have success securing meetings, and it’s much easier to track and attribute the success of that effort than it is to start with marketing and go all the way through the sales cycle waiting for conversions.
The benefits of going beyond an ABM list are significant. B2B companies, like consumers, will move in and out of different stages of the sales funnel, and there may be a promising prospect that you didn’t know the day before. No retail store is going to put someone in the front door and turn people away because they’re not the right audience for the brand or product. Going after new accounts is low hanging fruit, and all ABM-inclined B2B marketers should be doing so.
Brian Dudley is Bombora’s VP of Customer Success. He brings almost 20 years of B2B MarTech and agency experience to Bombora. He oversees the company’s Customer Success and Operations teams and is dedicated to helping clients, partners and agencies get the most out of their relationship with Bombora and intent data.
How 3 HubSpot Managers Found Strong Co-Marketing Partnerships [+How You Can, Too]
A solid co-marketing partnership is one of the better ways to reach a previously untapped audience, generate positive publicity, and create a wealth of valuable marketing collateral. When done right, it’s a mutually beneficial, thoroughly productive way to boost your marketing efforts as a whole.
Aligning yourself with an industry peer can pay off in spades, but these kinds of relationships aren’t easy to start and sustain. Your partner’s interests and qualities need to complement yours, and the companies you work with have to be reliable enough to consistently pull their weight.
Finding a company that fits that bill is hard in its own right, but once you’ve identified one you want to work with, you’re faced with the challenges of successfully contacting them, corresponding with them, and convincing them to work with you.
Those processes can be hard to figure out on your own, so to offer you some help, we spoke with three HubSpot experts about how they found strong co-marketing partnerships and the steps you need to take to do the same.
What do you look for in a co-marketing partner?
When asked about what they look for in a co-marketing partner, our experts all seemed to agree that the number one priority is alignment in audience, messaging, and image. As HubSpot Senior Marketing Manager, Margot Mazur, put it, “We look for partners who speak to similar personas and address their needs. Specifically, we want to make sure our partners have a similar audience and voice — with similar values and goals to meet.”
Though finding a company that checks those boxes is central to a successful co-marketing partnership, there’s still a lot more to the process. You might identify a potential partner that lines up well with your brand identity and appeals to a similar audience, but co-marketing partnerships need to be productive and mutually beneficial — you need to know you’ll get something out of it.
According to HubSpot Marketing Manager, Diego Santos, “Once we are happy with [a potential partner’s] suitability, we classify them according to a co-marketing matrix — one that takes the partner’s popularity, relevance, and objective into consideration. This process helps us to prioritize collaborations and look at the big picture.”
Ideological and objective-oriented alignment isn’t enough. There needs to be hard, quantifiable potential behind a co-marketing partnership. As Mazur said, “We also look at a potential partner’s audience across social and email channels, making sure that our businesses are of a similar size.”
Co-marketing partnerships are, at their core, strategic plays. They can be invaluable assets in targeted marketing efforts. For instance, HubSpot Marketing Manager, Clara Landecy, spoke on how they can be leveraged to target specific areas, “I always look for partners who have a strong presence in targeted regions. Partnering with local partners is essential if your company does business in multiple languages and across the globe.”
Santos succinctly captured all those points when he laid out the key questions to consider when finding co-marketing partners, “We usually ask ourselves the following questions to make sure they are a good fit: Who are they? What is their area of expertise? And who — and how big — is their audience?”
It’s important to have a firm understanding of what you want out of a co-marketing partnership before approaching potential partners. Find a company with similar values that will enhance your ability to effectively reach your target audience — one that will pull its weight, complement your messaging, and ultimately suit your long term goals.
How do you approach and connect with potential co-marketing partners?
Our experts stressed the importance of a personal touch in connecting with potential co-marketing partners. As Santos put it, “A more personal, network-oriented approach is usually much more effective than a cold introductory email or message.”
Co-marketing partnerships are inherently personal, so it’s only fitting that you start your relationship with your partner off on a personal note. But how do you get there?
Well, according to our experts, your best bet is leveraging resources and co-workers from within your own company. Landecy said, “To increase your response rate, ask your colleagues if they have any contacts at the companies you’re looking to partner with, warm outreach always helps.”
Santos agreed, “We always try to leverage the connections we already have in HubSpot. When we are looking for partners in a particular area, we reach out to everyone in the relevant regional team and encourage them to send ideas of potential collaborations.”
Mazur reiterated their points but added some insight about what she does when she can’t reach potential partners through her colleagues, “Generally, I’ll see if anyone at HubSpot already has a connection to someone at the partner company. If not, I’ll reach out to a partnership, BD, or marketing person at the company on LinkedIn, using their InMail tool.” As I mentioned earlier, no matter how you reach potential partners you need to do so with a personal touch.
Do your homework. Make sure you have a firm grasp on the nature of the company you’re contacting, what it might need out of a co-marketing partnership, and what you can do to suit its objectives and interests. Or as Landecy said, “Make sure your outreach is personalized! Showing you did the research before reaching out shows you are invested in the potential partnership and makes their work feel special!”
But let’s say you don’t have the know-how and personal connections to identify and reach potential co-marketing partners. You’re at a loss when it comes to finding interested companies whose size, values, and interests line up with your own.
What can you do? Well, there are certain tools designed to expedite the process. For instance, Crossbeam is a resource that leverages CRM data to help you find and connect with potential co-marketing partners with overlapping customer bases and other complementary attributes.
Ultimately, a solid co-marketing partnership has tremendous potential that’s only seen after tremendous effort. It often takes extensive research and critical thought just to identify the companies that suit your values, goals, and qualities. And actually conducting the necessary outreach and communication to establish one adds a whole new, often exhausting layer to the process.
Still, there’s a lot to be gained from these kinds of arrangements. If your business is looking for a shot of life to your marketing efforts, pursuing a co-marketing partnership is something to consider.
As Businesses Bounce Back Post-COVID, B2B Orgs Prioritize Accounts On The Rebound
As businesses slowly start to reopen, B2B marketers will be tasked to reignite their business operations and identify when their target accounts are ready to do business again.
Seismic, a sales and marketing enablement software, rolled out resources to help its customers adapt to a work-from-home model, helping customers with remote collaboration, meeting the demand for content and fostering digital engagement. Ed Calnan, Co-founder and CRO of Seismic, shared details around how Seismic has adapted to COVID-19 and helped businesses retain similar levels of customer success.
“Businesses were forced to have most, if not all, employees work remotely,” Calnan explained. “They quickly needed to get their tech stack sorted to support this shift, and many turned to remote collaboration tools, like Zoom, which has experienced unprecedented growth during this time. These companies were most in need of a platform that helps facilitate continued growth if they had the budget available to make technology investments. Every sales and marketing leader, no matter what kind of business they work for, should be looking within their networks for similar opportunities.”
Calnan offered three tactics for marketers who are struggling with the effectiveness of their efforts:
- Aligning sales and marketing with customer success teams;
- Finding the best time to target rebounding accounts; and
- Identifying accounts that are on the verge or have already rebounded.
Keeping All Teams Up To Speed
The need for efficient communication is integral to any business’ success, and this rings true for businesses operating during and after COVID-19. According to Calnan, sales and marketing leaders need to look at the landscape as a whole and adapt accordingly, and having marketing, sales and customer success teams aligned leads to efficient communication and the ability to adapt to new information or marketing shifts.
The alignment of business operations can help increase response time to new trends, market shifts and active accounts. Maintaining alignment across the organization can also help teams identify companies that are rebounding, track new information that helps marketers accurately pursue individual accounts, create unified messaging and drive campaign success.
“When these teams are already working together, it’s much easier to get a pulse on how customers are being impacted, which can then be funneled to sales and marketing to inform new strategies and plans,” Calnan explained. “It’s incredibly important that the customer success team is closely in touch with sales and marketing to ensure everyone is singing the same song as messaging and campaigns are overhauled.”
Marketing plays that worked pre-COVID may not be viable in a digital-only environment, and maintaining alignment across marketing, sales and customer success positions all teams to brainstorm ideas and test new strategies.
“Sellers can be creatures of habit,” Calnan stated. “Sales leaders have to become accustomed to pivoting and re-prioritizing, or worse, pipeline slowing. When that happens, marketing must take the time to focus on the behind-the-scenes work that will help their sales team succeed in the future. This requires perfecting demos, role-playing, training and account planning.”
Optimizing Rebounding Account Outreach
As businesses bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important for marketers to remember that their buyers are also in the process of re-entering the market. Some accounts may not be financially ready to engage in purchasing decisions, while others have been interacting with B2B businesses throughout the pandemic.
Calnan suggests that marketers make sure to validate the leads they are about to engage by identifying active accounts and looking at boosts in revenue, existing historical data and merger/acquisition activity. These factors show the overall health of the account, and help marketing, sales and customer success teams determine whether pursuing the account will result in engagement or ROI.
“Historical sales data has helped us determine who may still have the highest propensity to buy during an uncertain period like COVID-19,” he said. “Marketers and sellers also need to pay attention to things like a resumption of M&A activity. Basically, look for anything that suggests a company is making forward-looking business decisions.”
Calnan also highlighted that reaching out to pre-existing accounts and identifying active older accounts that have already rebounded will be easier by establishing trust. Many pre-existing buyers are looking for businesses that will maintain their operations despite the uncertainty, and marketers need to prove to accounts that buying from or partnering with their business will result in healthy growth for both buyer and seller.
Organizations with aligned marketing, customer success and sales teams can use this transparency to identify which older accounts are beginning to rebound, have already been active throughout the pandemic or are still inactive.
“Pandemic aside, expanding existing accounts should always be a top priority, and the customer success team should be part of that process in their role as trusted advisor and support system to customers,” Calnan stated. “They should always be clued into how current customers are using the platform and the business goals they’re trying to achieve so they can make strategic recommendations on new tools and features that can drive even more value.”
Knowing When To Engage
Calnan stressed the importance of knowing the best time to reach out to target accounts, as many accounts are still reopening or struggling to reenter the market.
Prematurely performing outreach for accounts that are not in the market or are still struggling to reopen can not only result in rejection but potentially kill any attempts to engage with them in the future. Marketers and salespeople need to carefully analyze their account data to avoid isolating potential buyers, learning which accounts are struggling, which are actively buying and which are getting their bearings.
“Sales and marketing teams need to exercise the highest level of due diligence before attempting to start a conversation with a business they perceive to be on the rebound,” Calnan stated. “This means keeping tabs on the activities of these companies for indicators that things are stabilizing for them.”
To avoid isolating their current out-of-market accounts or struggling future accounts, Calnan suggests that sales, customer success and marketing teams should instead pivot their strategies based on the accounts’ current status and decide whether to reach out accordingly.
While we’re still in times of uncertainty, B2B organizations must be nimble and agile with their outreach to maintain engagement with buyers as they rebound. Having a solid plan that aligns across organizations will position marketing, sales and customer success teams to build and maintain authentic relationships that close deals.
How to be successful with Google Shopping Ads
- Inflow is a Denver-based digital marketing agency that specializes in creating and managing Google Shopping campaigns for their eCommerce clients
- Inflow’s eBook, How to Identify and Execute a Winning Google Shopping Campaign, provides an overview of how Google Shopping operates within the context of a Google Ads strategy.
- The eBook explains three common vendor mistakes within Google Shopping that contribute to wasted spend and poor results.
- Inflow also provides three proven campaign structures that are designed to mitigate waste and maximize return.
- Inflow’s eBook, How to Identify and Execute a Winning Google Shopping Campaign, is available for download from ClickZ.
Denver-based digital marketing agency, Inflow, is a premier Google Partner that specializes in growing results specifically for eCommerce clients. Inflow recently published a comprehensive eBook, How to Identify and Execute a Winning Google Shopping Campaign, aimed at helping advertisers get the most out of their Google Shopping ads.
Content produced in partnership with Inflow.
A brief history of Google Shopping
Google Shopping was initially launched by Google in 2003 under the name Froogle.
While initially free for vendors, in 2012, Google rebranded the service as Google Shopping and pivoted to a pay-to-play model where merchants paid to list their products using the Google Ads (formerly “AdWords”) interface.
Today Google Shopping exists as two platforms—Google Ads and Google Merchant Center. Merchants update their product information in Merchant Center, and create their paid shopping campaigns via Google Ads.
Google then displays your ad based on user search queries it deems most relevant. Unlike Google Search, Google Shopping campaigns operate without keywords.
Shopping ads, also known as product-listing ads or PLAs, differ from standard text ads because the content of the ad is pulled directly from the Merchant Center feed. Ecommerce-specific data, such as product images, price, rating, description and more, is displayed to users in place of ad copy.
The following screenshot illustrates the difference between text ads in a Search campaign, PLAs, and organic listings in Google’s search results for the query “levis jeans.”
On the Google Shopping experience, Inflow writes: “With Google Shopping users can browse and find the product they want without having to leave the search results page. In addition, the Shopping ad takes you directly to the product page of the product you see instead of sending you to a generic landing page. This tends to result in higher conversion rates and a much shorter customer journey.”
Three common Google Shopping mistakes
In their eBook, Inflow lists three common Google Shopping mistakes that advertisers often make. While discussed below, more details on each are available in the eBook.
Mistake #1: You haven’t added any negative keywords to your PLAs
You’re likely already using negatives in your Google Ads keyword campaigns, but did you know that you can also leverage negatives in your shopping campaigns?
Inflow recommends that advertisers review Shopping search queries every 7 – 30 days (based on traffic levels) to ensure ads are not serving for irrelevant terms.
Mistake #2: You’ve failed to segment your shopping campaigns
As with Search campaigns, Shopping campaigns perform better when they are organized and appropriately segmented. Per their eBook, Inflow states “Oftentimes in an audit we identify instant wins from simply organizing a messy account.”
Depending on the account, there are many ways to organize Google Shopping. According to the eBook, “products can be segmented by margins, product type, bestsellers, etc.” Segments can be created using thematically relevant ad groups.
Mistake #3: Your account suffers from poor campaign structure
The right campaign structure is just as important as correct segmentation for Shopping campaigns. Thoughtful and strategic campaign structures ensure traffic is directed to your best performing, most relevant products - and help save a lot of money.
The right campaign structure will also create more optimization levers so you can be sure your PLAs appear as often as possible and are leveraged appropriately by device.
Choosing a campaign structure
Inflow lists and explains three approaches that eCommerce marketers can take when structuring a Shopping campaign.
These approaches differ based on several factors, including sales volume, search queries, and customer demographics. Inflow suggests first analyzing the following:
Sales per day
Smart Shopping is a campaign type within Google Ads that uses machine learning to automate campaign management and increase conversions. But, like any machine learning, it is only as good as the data at its disposal.
Sales volume can affect performance of Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns and should be considered when deciding on a campaign structure. If you have high-ticket items that amount to fewer sales per week, this campaign setting may not be right for you.
Inflow provides in-depth guidance on how smart shopping works. “While all products behave differently, understanding how much conversion data Google will be working with is a crucial step in determining what your Google Shopping structure will look like,” Inflow explains.
Search query traffic
Google’s search terms report allows advertisers to see when their ads are triggered for the specific queries that users type into Google.
Inflow advises advertisers to review this report so they can understand trending queries that lead to sales, enabling them to adjust their campaign to focus on the best performing products and categories.
The eBook addresses the importance of understanding your customers when applying manual bidding. This piece helps explain how to reduce wasted spend by getting your Shopping ads in front of the right people using demographic bidding.
Building winning Google Shopping campaign structures
With the common mistakes and important considerations in mind, the final piece of the puzzle is campaign creation. Inflow reviews three winning Shopping campaign structures that each leverage different features available to eCommerce marketers.
Smart Shopping campaign - no segmentation
This fully automated structure relies on machine learning to serve and optimize Shopping ads.
While these campaigns save time and allow the marketer to focus on big picture strategy, Inflow cautions that they can be wasteful and difficult to optimize as you lose control of the levers you have in manual Shopping campaigns.
Smart Shopping with segmentation
This hybrid approach leverages AI while also providing more manual control options for marketers, allowing for the adjustment of budgets by segmented groups.
Manual tiered structure campaign
This third and final approach requires more work and setup time, but holds value in the leverage it affords marketers. With a manual tiered structure, you’re able to easily adjust bids, set priorities, view search queries, and manually prioritize high-performing products.
Inflow provides more information about the benefits and implementation for each of the above strategies in their eBook, which is available for download here.
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