To overcome challenges resulting from the pandemic and thrive in the new era of business, B2B companies need to move beyond the account-level focus of most account-based marketing (ABM) and take a hyper-personalized approach that treats business stakeholders as people.

Today, marketers must understand individual customers' unique journeys and who they are both at and outside of work.

Enter account-based marketing for the individual (ABM-i). As an account-based marketing strategy, ABM-i enables deeper connections and drives greater revenue by adding true personalization.

"Marketers strongly agree that personalized content (56 percent) and advanced data management (43 percent) are keys to ABM's success," a recent Forrester survey found. Yet, the top challenge identified by respondents to a recent ITSMA survey was "personalizing and tailoring our marketing to the key contacts at each account." Another Top 5 challenge was "developing campaign assets that are mass customizable to allow scale."

The Four Tiers of an Account-based marketing Strategy

Data and insights are the foundation of personalization, and a tiered approach can help organizations prioritize their efforts. Let's take a look at a framework for how companies can structure their ABM-i programs for maximum success.

The four tiers of ABM-i graphic

Tiers 4 and 3: One-to-Most and One-to-Many

Moving through our framework from lower-priority to higher-priority accounts, let's start with Tier 4 (vertical targeting and light personalization by name and business) and Tier 3 (engaging with key sub-verticals).

Working within these tiers, we can create a scalable approach to ABM-i that allows companies to cost-effectively extend their strategies across a wide range of accounts, with ever-increasing levels of individual personalization based on account potential and opportunity.

To improve scalability as you move from T4 to T3...

  • Research each of your target and key accounts and find the overlap. Stakeholders at those accounts may have common interests (golf, sports teams, favorite charities), may seek to address similar business needs, or they may have similar job roles involved in the buying process.
  • Use your insights to craft messaging you can reuse for various accounts based on similarities between the needs of the business and personal interests of the stakeholders in those accounts.

B2B brands can use dynamic content on their websites, emails, and programmatic advertising to swap out images and copy automatically based on a contact's attributes and interests. Combining the power of data and design can help you build personalized campaigns at scale to reach many contacts with relevant content.

Example: Vodafone

In the early stages of the pandemic, Vodafone analyzed its customer accounts to identify the businesses that would be most vulnerable due to disruptions from COVID (for example, those without crucial digital assets, such as a website, or e-commerce capability). It created its V-Hub (digital advisory service) to provide one-on-one assistance and advice for its at-risk customers in a time of crisis.

Vodafone advertisement for V-Hub

Tier 2: One-to-Few

For Tier 2, which targets key accounts for your business, you can adopt a one-to-few level of personalization, creating deeply customized campaigns to reach businesses through relevant content.

To do so, take the work that began in Tier 3 with identifying shared characteristics across prospects, and look to get even more personalized according to the person's interests and job functions.

Example: Masternaut

Fleet telematics and tracking provider Masternaut created a personalized ABM-i campaign that helped the brand reach an ROI of 2,567% and drove engagement at every one of its target accounts.

Masternaut incorporated data from 10,000+ telematics customers and 250,000 connected vehicles to create an innovative campaign reaching prospects at the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, including critical data about how their vehicles are used. The campaign included a personalized report for each manufacturer, with insights such as average fuel consumption, mileage, and average stops made per day.

Masternaut automobile marketing campaign

Tier 1: Beyond One-to-One

Tier 1 outreach represents hyper-personalized messaging for people in top-tier target accounts. That level of personalization is best achieved through creative thinking; it can be time-consuming, but the payoff of a one-to-one initiative done right is well worth the effort.

Example: GumGum

Content analysis and image recognition platform provider GumGum capitalized on the insight that T-Mobile CEO John Legere is a big Batman fanatic.

To catch his attention and illustrate the value GumGum could provide to the brand, it partnered with a team to create a custom comic book. The printed copies were distributed not only to Legere but also to 100 other decision-makers at T-Mobile and its agencies of record.

Within a week, GumGum had a meeting lined up with T-Mobile that led to a closed deal.

GumGum custom comic book for T-mobile

* * *

In the past, account-based Marketing strategy has been a manual and time-consuming game of connect-the-dots. Today, advances in data analysis, predictive analytics, and automation are moving sales and marketing teams toward ABM-i, a truly individualized approach to account outreach.

Using ABM-i, marketing organizations will be able to achieve the personalized, one-to-one relationships that salespeople attain when speaking face-to-face with a customer—and do so at scale.


More Resources on Account-Based Marketing Strategy


How to Ensure ABM Success via Organizational Structure

The Seven Worst ABM Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

Seven Ways to Boost Your ABM Success: Advice From Seven Experts

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Next Generation Account-Based Marketing Strategy: Moving Beyond the Account to the Individual Stakeholder

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image of Stacia Goddard

Stacia Goddard is SVP of strategy and consulting at Data Axle, a digital innovation group that builds value for brands via real-time business intelligence, predictive insight, and strategic solutions.

LinkedIn: Stacia Goddard