The year 2019 might be the end of a decade, but it is one that signs off a lot of discoveries in the business world on a strong foot. Brands achieved far more than the usual within this decade, and that growth existed multilaterally across various sectors and industries. A huge part of this growth can be attributed to the unlocking of new modes of marketing and reaching the customer base besides the direct, traditional forms of doing business which was in play before. To that effect, we had both thought leadership and account-based/ key account management come out, among others.
As we head into the new century, we can feel the paradigm-shifting once again. Will it be the time when either of these concepts is discarded in favor of a new one? We think not.
Rather, like the brands themselves, this is a time when the coming together of both account-based management and thought leadership will be the next gamechanger.
What is Thought Leadership?
It has been the buzzword for a while now. Almost everyone has now become a thought leader in about one thing or the other. Go to professional websites like LinkedIn, and you will see this keyword come up on many profiles than you care to count.
It has almost become like the digital gold which just about everyone is looking to mine to the very bottom. As the time of the gold rush, though, knowing the gold is not enough – but knowing where it is, and how to get it.
The same can be said for thought leadership .
In the simplest sense of it all, thought leadership is a personal skill which is developed by looking inwards at the core areas of your niche/ area of expertise, asking the mind-boggling questions which others are shying away from and relentlessly pursuing their answers.
Thought Leadership is the form of content marketing which comes from not external knowledge, but the creation of an internal awareness that gives such valuable insights into your field as is not found elsewhere.
If anything, thought leadership has come to redefine the saying ‘Knowledge is power.’ To those who have thoroughly realized how to tap into this power, they are further strengthened by the uniqueness of the knowledge they hold. Little wonder why the thought leaders are the ones winning all the clients.
Speaking of clients…
What is Account-Based Marketing?
Also known as key account management, we are convinced this is the larger-scale implementation of personalized marketing.
Hear us out.
The regular business will have a target market it deals with. However, it is always sure that there will be some clients patronizing such a business that are beyond the scope of its target market. That is one variation the business will have to accommodate and deal with.
On the other hand, target markets can also have a lot of groups within them. While the whole idea of developing a target market is to pinpoint certain demographics who marketing should be focused on, the diversity within the target market starts to show as the customer base increases.
To put that in context, a target market definition for ‘students’ helps a business eliminate working-class, retired and non-student sectors of the economy. In its way, the student category also provides a problem of levels – middle school, high school, college or postgraduate. Even within the various groups there, there is the possibility of having even more groups.
Account-based marketing helps to take all these out of the equation.
To sum it all up, account-based marketing refers to all the efforts of a brand dedicated towards certain consumer/ a group of consumer accounts. With 85% of marketers agreeing that ABM outshines all other forms of marketing, you should know that this is not just a fancy term for yet another marketing fluke.
The TL-ABM Confluence
Both of thought leadership and account-based marketing are doing well on their own. If they were to be taken and put in the same room, though, would they rather exist independently than co-exist?
If you guessed that they would co-exist, that could not be more wrong.
Already, 60% of businesses that have been practicing ABM for close to a year agree that their revenue base has increased by at least 10%. A further 19% of these businesses even have better returns, claiming 30% or more revenue growth instead.
On the other hand, thought leadership has landed companies higher premiums from over 60% of C-suite executives. This is in addition to 49% of B2B executives who had fallen out with another business due to the kind of poor content that the said business puts out.
In any way, embracing just one of these concepts alone and getting it right will still mean success for a company and vice versa.
If a business does not start making their thought leadership projects align with their account-based marketing efforts, though, it will be losing out on:
1. Better Targeting
Your entire audience base does not want to see the same kind of content. Thus, generating the same thought leadership content for the various accounts you have on file could seriously backfire on you.
Assuming your ABM strategy is strong, you already know the accounts/ group of accounts that you need to focus your marketing efforts on. Approaching each of these groups with what they will like to see means they are better engaged and glued to your platform.
Of course, that takes more effort than just churning out the same content and stats for everyone. However, that saves you from falling into the poor content trap which 49% of companies (as stated above) might not get to crawl out of.
This does not mean all of your content has to be diverse. After all, your target market should have a lot of aligned interests.
Adopting the Pareto principle here, you can leave 80% of all content to be the same across all accounts while the remainder 20% is structured for the various accounts under management
2. Redefined Funneling
Thought leadership works on the traditional funnel approach:
Every funnel starts with the prospect who has to be convinced to even start the buyer journey, even if they would not be financially baptized yet. From then on, they are nurtured until the stage where they make a purchase and become a full-blown part of the family.
ABM, on the other hand, starts the other way around.
This is not surprising since ABM works with accounts that have already been gained by the business. Keeping them engaged and on the books is much like working up the funnel again, rather than down (as it is with thought leadership).
Thus, brands can now focus their marketing efforts on creating targeted content – which becomes much easier since all they have to do is take a critical look inside their business and industry at large. By so doing, these brands can always keep their clients convinced that they remain the right choice.
3. Integration of Metrics
American consumers have already stated that they will be attracted to a brand on the grounds of authenticity – and this is the kind of thing that you can make happen with thought leadership. What you might have missed, though, is that the functional keyword here is attract.
It is one thing to attract the kind of audience you want, and it is another thing to keep them or get them to commit to you.
This defines why thought leadership campaigns are always seeking out metrics like engagement rates, website visits, downloads and others. All that is great and show that your content is doing well, but to what end?
Integrating ABM means you now shift your focus to the kind of content that does bring in the target market, not having them window-shop all the time. The other metrics start to matter much less as you now have your focus set on how to not only convert those customers but build them up into brand advocates.
Making the Marriage Happen
No one ever said it was going to be easy, but integrating your thought leadership plans with account-based marketing doesn’t have to be impossible either. Here are some steps to help you get ahead with this important merger
1. Research Your Accounts
You have done your target market research before and come up with your audience, but how about personalized audience research?
Take your current audience and review their demographic.
Apart from meeting your general requirements, what are the more subtle boxes that they tick again? These will help you know what kind of content they will be interested in seeing, informing the type of thought leadership articles to be directed their way.
2. Align the commercial teams
The marketing team does all it can to bring in the sales, and the sales team has all the data on customers and clients. With such a relationship, you would think these teams worked hand in hand – but that is not the case in many organizations.
While the marketing team can be largely transparent, the sales team usually feels it has more to hide. By more, we mean consumer data.
This can be the biggest threat to merging your content (from the marketing team) with the account management data (held by the sales team) for proper alignment. The teams should know that they are all chasing the common goal of an improved business model as well as revenue-generation potential.
While guidelines can be in place to ensure sensitive data is not obtained by unauthorized personnel, the marketing team should be given with as much as they can work with.
3. Go Personal
Recall the suggestion to use the Pareto principle from up there? Well, it still applies here.
You don’t have to trash your entire content plan just because you want this marriage to happen. What you should do, though, is ensure that the current content strategy is flexible enough to take personalized content.
Your personalized content should not go out all the time, but enough to let the various accounts know that you are aware of their unique needs too. That allows you to maintain uniformity of thought across the various accounts while also taking care of their deeply-rooted personal needs.
4. Track Metrics
Again, there are different metrics to be tracked for either content marketing and key account management practices. Now that you are bringing both together under the same canopy, you have to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) which you are working towards.
The great part about tracking is that you have to deploy your strategies via technology for an automated flow. Thus, you would not only be getting valuable feedback on how your streamlined campaigns are going but develop a unique channel for delivery at the same time too.
Being a relatively new concept on its own, the prospects that this kind of merger holds for different brands and companies cannot be underemphasized. By leveraging some of the hottest standalone marketing tools that this decade has afforded us, we can look forward to an even improved business model which takes personalization to a whole new level in the coming decade.
For effect, it should be stated that the goal of this blending is not to blur out the unique characteristics and offerings of the different forms of marketing. It is, rather, aimed at harnessing their strengths for an unstoppable forward momentum.
Is that a train you honestly don’t want to catch? Contact our team for a free consultation on how you can combine thought leadership & account based marketing for maximum commercial benefits.