Some time ago, I added the term “Campaign Architect” to my title. Why? Because my clients were asking me for my help in designing new campaigns and developing innovative ways to use content marketing to deliver new business.
With this title change, came the freedom to think more broadly and proactively about how to combine our services for best outcomes.
I wondered – what if I were to architect the ultimate soup to nuts campaign, using INFUSEmedia resources, that would serve the individual needs being communicated by B2B tech clients holistically AND accomplish the goal of generating new accounts?
Could Account Generation be achieved?
The more I got into it, I found that thinking of the Account Generation process as a series of 6 phases helped me to keep it all straight.
So, without further ado…
The first phase of this process is a pre-marketing step and consists of two parts, with part one focused on establishing a target account list build methodology.
What we want to do here is figure out all the parameters that go into creating a target account list that is always robust and up to date. Basically, we want a target account list that gets the sales team excited.
Now, for most B2B technology companies with a growing sales team, this isn’t a small list of 25 or 30 accounts. We need to start with something like 2,000 accounts! If we can find more, that’s even better.
And then you need to be able to rebuild it regularly. At a minimum, you’ll want to scrub your existing clients and active prospects out of it monthly, and replace those with newly identified targets.
Think monthly is too frequent? Think about how much the world has changed in just the past month!
Next, brainstorm account level intent topics that relate to your problem area and solutions (don’t forget relevant competitor topics!). Query for any new accounts that may show up and purge those that fall out.
With many vendors in the space, intent can be a tricky beast to tame.
INFUSEmedia has been building its own, proprietary intent data set for years using our own methodologies. We’re poised to apply it in concert with other vendors like Bombora and ABERDEEN Services to leave no stone unturned.
From there, there’s a whole host of additional options to filter and capture even more accounts such as vertical segmentation, lookalike matching, best customer matching, or employee title match modeling, as well as company size, or revenue.
Finally, if you’re running an ABM platform (e.g. 6sense, Terminus, metadata.io, Demandbase), you may have site visit data that identifies accounts—use this too – and add accounts that are already visiting your site to your list.
Right, now that you’ve got that shiny new target account list, it’s time to create versions of your content that appeals to the accounts within it. We want your reader to feel like the content was written specifically FOR THEM.
The biggest bang for your buck will come by customizing content based on the verticals you’re targeting. Once you have that handled, look to customize based on the personas and job functions within.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Venafi’s paper is perfect here. They’ve built out a gorgeous buyer guide that covers a lot of ground but doesn’t explicitly define its target reader.
To make the most of this guide’s potential, we could easily make some small tweaks to make it specific to a key vertical, or even a buyer persona.
For example: “The Banking Industry Buyer’s Guide for Machine Identity Management,” or, if the Bank Executive is a target reader, retitle to “The Bank Executive’s Buyer’s Guide for Machine Identity Management,” with a sub headline reading: “4 Risks Your Cybersecurity Team Needs You to Understand.”
With each version, include a brief paragraph or page speaking to the unique needs of the vertical or persona you’re targeting.
Don’t limit yourself to customizing just text-based content. Transcribing on-demand webinars and formatting them as text resources is just one example of repurposing that doesn’t even need many technical resources.
With minimal work, a single content resource can easily be adapted into a stack of custom versions ready for promotion and higher value engagement.
At this point, you’ve got a solid target account list and content that speaks to it, awesome. The next step is to figure out which accounts are in-market.
Traditionally, content syndication is used as a marketing tactic leveraged to uncover the individuals, not accounts, who are interested in your content. More broadly, these individuals are interested in the problem you are talking about and not the fact that your company published it. Remember, at this stage they MAY NOT KNOW YOUR BRAND OR PRODUCT.
It’s fairly common practice for a sales team to immediately start calling a persona who registers and downloads a content resource. However, as content marketing has become intensely more competitive, turning over these syndication leads to sales too soon has also become a very low converting endeavour.
The unclear connection between prospects registering for content downloads and their sales readiness, often means that prospects stop moving down the funnel, or never really get started. This is especially frustrating for everyone as the account still remains a target.
As a result, some marketers dismiss the utility of content syndication, but this is like saying your hammer is no good because it doesn’t drive screws.
Content syndication’s core value is that it PROACTIVELY puts your content into the hands of target prospects who show interest in the problem your company solves.
Think of content syndication as a tool to produce your own actionable, real-time, first-party intent data to discover which target accounts are most in-market.
When you syndicate content across your entire target account list with equal weight, you’ll see some unequal response levels. Some accounts will have zero responses, while some accounts will have many.
The underlying idea here is that the more people at an account who respond to syndication efforts applied evenly, the more likely that account is in-market, and the easier it’ll be for your team to product opportunities.
In this phase, we are trying to figure out which accounts are in-market. So, rather than targeting a single job function with a low lead limit per account, run a heavier campaign across multiple relevant job functions. Remove the account lead limits entirely to discover where the strong, account-level interest really lies.
After the campaign, rank the accounts by the number of leads generated for each account and focus on the top 25% (keep the rest for later rounds of Account Generation) to work in phase 3.
Phew! Okay – time to get into the nitty gritty.
Flesh out the personas and contact data of the people who are most likely to be involved in the evaluation and selection of B2B SaaS solutions. These could range from business functions like finance or procurement, executives, legal and compliance, product managers, or additional functional users (and their managers) of your solution.
Once you’ve decided on the personas who may be involved in approving or advocating the purchase of your solution, you’re going to need their contact data—and it better be up to date.
Validating the contact data of your most likely in-market targets is an ongoing mandate, especially in these turbulent times of change, and must be done quickly to be useful. A 3rd party validation specialist is going to be very helpful here.
If you’ve started with 2,000 accounts and determined the top 25% ( = 500) of those accounts, you should have a list of around 5,000 individuals (10 contacts per account * 500 accounts) who are likely involved in purchasing your solution once Phase 3 is complete.
It’s a critical step that can’t be overlooked for Phase 4 to work as intended.
Now that you have an up to date and fully validated contact list, the next step here is to run a targeted ad campaign over four weeks on social and display channels.
You want to be as efficient as possible and take advantage of options for individual human level targeting, and of course, cold email should also be used when permitted by local regulations.
Here are the 3 primary outcomes you’re looking for in Phase 4:
At this point, all the work you’ve done so far has been to set the stage for driving useful leads to sales. We’re not sitting around waiting for your most in-market accounts to take action, we’re going after them.
So, it’s time to promote your content again with syndication efforts.
However, instead of a broad campaign to determine interest like we did in Phase 2, we’re only going to target your most likely decision-making champions at your hottest accounts and collect registrations for at least two pieces of semi-customized content – a top funnel piece and a mid-funnel piece.
These are the leads you’ll be sending to your sales teams for follow up and opportunity creation. The number of leads you ultimately deliver from this phase is up to you and the capacity of your team to handle them.
Importantly, you’ll want to add a profiling question or two to the standard contact data capture. This opens up the topic being discussed in the resource and asks the reader why they are interested in it. The answer(s) give your sales team a relevant and useful place to start the conversation.
Be confident. The strong foundation you’ve built will set up this content promotion campaign for success as we move onto the final stage.
When your sales team starts seeing multi-touch leads coming in from champions at the best, most in-market accounts, they should be practically chomping at the bit to get started.
First things first though, make sure they are fully trained and ready for the road ahead. Inconsistencies and gaps in knowledge can have heavy consequences.
Start by educating your team on the content they will be leveraging. They should be verified experts, able to expand upon and add their own insights to the content. This will give them more confidence and crucially, add more credibility.
Instead of opening calls by demanding that prospects remember that they downloaded a specific piece of content from your brand, train your reps to speak directly to the challenge a prospect is facing. Avoid references to initial content touchpoints and other irrelevant information—make this about the challenge your team knows they are facing.
Finally, if your team can’t get anywhere with an individual lead, it doesn’t mean the account is dead! It just means that lead is unworkable. Instead of giving up, leverage the interest as a reference when pivoting to another account contact. Remember, the work you did in Phase 3 delivered around 10 (or more) additional names to approach at that account.
In the example below, “Dan” is a cold contact at your target account, “XYZ”, while “Sally” is his co-worker, but is an unresponsive lead…
“Hi Dan, I heard that your colleague, Sally at XYZ Corp, may be working on overcoming the emerging ABC challenge. Is this a challenge you’re working on as well?”
Always customize for the person you’re trying to reach, and in the example above, imagine what “Dan’s” role may be in dealing with the challenge you face. Don’t give up on the account just because the original lead went cold.
Instead, invest the time to create personalized messaging that resonates.
While your sales team is executing personalized outreach to individual leads, be sure to keep up with a more general nurture from your marketing team just in case your leads want to engage in a different way than you imagine. I’d recommend a weekly email cadence with lower funnel calls to action.
The greatest strength of the Account Generation process is that it is repeatable and sustainable.
From start to finish, the process should take about 12 weeks, but can be restarted every month once it’s up and running. A monthly restart cadence will deliver a steady stream of in-market target accounts to sales with actionable leads and a clear window for continuously applying sales effort when it matters most. If they don’t convert, put them back in the mix, and start over.
If you’re worried about putting all these steps together, have no fear!
INFUSEmedia is here to deliver the entire package.
Thank you for walking through Account Generation with me.
Based in Bellingham, WA, Trevor has been selling for over 25 years and is one of INFUSEmedia’s longest-tenured sales reps. Trevor’s philosophy: put the needs of the client first, and the profits will follow.