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Fishing for Account Based Marketing

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ABM writing is nice work if you can get it. And you can.

For an industry where clear language is meant to be currency, the world of copywriting doesn’t half love those acronyms. B2B or B2C? What’s the expected ROMI? How are you converting those RFPs into SQLs?

At times it makes IT look almost intelligible (in fact, with campaigns for plain English ruling the roost in IT, the acronym you’re most likely to encounter is CAMRA). There’s one that’s particularly important – and lucrative – to copywriters, though: Account Based Marketing, or ABM.

ABM IS becoming increasingly prevalent in job specs and adverts and if recruiters are struggling to find candidates – and they might want to take a good hard look at their recruitment practices if that’s the case – then they’re all but crying out for copywriters with a decent set of ABM chops.

So what’s the frequency, Kenneth? What is this superpower that’s spoken of in hushed, reverential tones? The fact is (as you'll see), it’s nothing new. It’s simply a case of marketing and sales working together to work out which potential prospects have the biggest revenue potential, and targeting their decision makers directly.

Marketing! And sales! Working together! What a hoot! This revolutionary concept has previously been known as ‘Key Account Marketing’, although ‘Stating the bloody obvious’ might be nearer the mark.

We all stand together (Pom, pom pom)

But bizarrely, this can be a real sticking point for many companies. Working together for the greater good might seem logical, but a surprising number of businesses wouldn’t be able to see common sense with a telescope. Instead, they engage in daily bouts of Battlin’ Business Units, where they either stay firmly in their silos or spend half their time plotting raiding parties and acts of sabotage against the others.

So if a company actually gets to the point where they’re looking for an ABM copywriter, it’s a good sign that they’ve somehow managed to iron out their petty baronies and fiefdoms in favour of, y'know, actually getting some work done.

Which is good for them, but can make things tricky for you. ABM is an expensive proposition, and because of that, it carries a greater degree of scrutiny and caution. It can also mean dealing push back from different people with different objectives if the account handler hasn’t got their act together. This is seldom fun.

Three colours, read

So as with anything there are stumbling blocks but the important question is: what do you need to know to get in on the ABM ground floor?

Firstly, the fact that there are three different types of ABM: Strategic, Lite, and Programmatic. They all share common ground – they’re all focussed on a smaller target group with a higher degree of personalisation than straightforward hit-and-hope marketing. With ABM, the client is targeting a small group of specific accounts, or even just the one.

It’s something that’s evident from the briefs – with ABM, you’re being engaged for your ideas as much as your writing, and you’re generally expected to do some research on the prospects. This can range from swotting up on white papers on the industry sector in question to putting on a trenchcoat and digging through their digital bins.

Strategic ABM leans towards the latter. The ROI can be enormous, but so are the risks. This is a one-to-one approach that involves building marketing campaigns to bring a single prospect on board, or to strengthen engagement with an existing one. The focus is on the big fishes and often involves whole teams dedicated to landing them.

The other about full-fat ABM is that the cost is correspondingly corpulent. It can eat up resources and money like there’s no tomorrow (and if it falls flat, there may not be). The plus side of this approach is that you can get involved in the sort of out-on-a-limb campaigns that win industry accolades and awards, such as the some of the batshit crazy ideas that GumGum pulled off.

ABM Lite is by far the most common at the moment, carrying many of the rewards of Strategic ABM but at a lower cost. The approach here is to target a clump of similar prospects (in the same industry sector, for example) and create hybrid campaign material with a blend of generic and personalised copy. As a rule of thumb, this usually translates to  a 80:20 split – perhaps the case studies and the body copy will relate to the sector in general, with the intro, outro and maybe one further case study being prospect specific.

It still means no small amount of research, but most of this will relate to the sector as a whole, and the pay-off can be huge: for the prospect, the resulting brochure / white paper / study can feel highly-personalised. And highly effective: everyone likes to feel special. In fact, according to a recent(ish) ITSMA study (and aren’t they supposed to be some sort of expert on these things?) ABM Lite delivers higher ROI than any other marketing technique, including Strategic ABM.

Programmatic ABM is, as the name suggests, the most technology-led of all three, and also the newest. It’s also the one that as a copywriter, you’re least likely to encounter – for the time being. That’s not always going to be the case though, so it’s worth knowing about.

Essentially, it’s a tool for marketing teams to use ABM philosophies to take the grunt work out of generating and maintaining a growing portfolio of leads. Rather than doing this on an individual basis, they can use analytics and algorithms to let a smaller number of people target the personalisation across a huge number of accounts.

This is more about creating lots of modules that can be assembled by an AI or an actual human rather than writing end-to-end copy. But that copy still needs to be written, so there are opportunities for bolder souls to corner a growing market.

ABM redefined. Yes, already.

What madness is this? Redefining the concept before the end of the article? Well, it turns out that very few businesses are sticking to the dictionary definition(s) of ABM and are instead rolling out their own version. Resources, expense and cold feet can all be factors – even at the Lite level, it’s a far-from-cheap undertaking, and that first campaign can be a doozy.

This is where you come in because if you think about it, you’ve been doing this sort of thing already. Remember that bit about ABM being nothing new? Think about how many times you’ve tweaked your CV and your portfolio to try and win over a big client (Strategic ABM) or created a version that appeal to a few similar clients (ABM Lite).

What’s the big idea?

But make no mistake, whichever flavour of ABM you’re dipping your toes in, your creativity is where it’ll live or die. You’re going to be the one that they look to come up with winning concepts and ideas, and they’re going to carry as much weight as your copy, or more. It’s this that’s going to set you aside from the competition.

Daunting stuff? To a degree. But the chances are, you've already got experience in writing for one or more of the areas that the client is targeting, be it fintech, gaming or hospitality. And if you’ve ever complained that your creativity is always hamstrung by restrictive briefs, ABM can give you the chance to let it soar – or crash and burn. That bit’s up to you.

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