Six Ways to Pivot Your ABM Strategy During a Crisis

Graffiti that says "Made in Crisis"

Dynamics of business are changing at a dizzying pace. Business models are upended. Marketers are scrambling to decode signals in search and social that change by the hour – or even minute. As much of the industrialized world has adapted to remote work models, how visitors engage with your brand is also changing dramatically in the short term, and brands will almost certainly experience long-term implications.

Everything is changing. Facebook and Instagram Live are taking over our nightlife as bands and comedians host live shows for Venmo cash. Food service providers have switched to a take-out only model, and many foot traffic stores are adjusting to massive digital transformation as a necessity to keep their doors open. Some are perhaps finally discovering e-commerce for the first time.

What This Means for Your ABM Strategy

For B2B marketers doing account-based marketing (also referred to as “ABM”), many clamor to determine what needs to change in their martech stack and operations to keep up with the challenging times. At AIMCLEAR, we’re often asked about how clients’ teams and integrated efforts should respond.

Here is a checklist of 6 quick tips to help take stock of your current ABM strategy and adjust tactics to help survive the times.

#1: Marketing and sales alignment has never been more critical (and challenging)

  • First, revisit your account list. If your current approach leans into 1:1 marketing, consider increasing your investment in a 1:many approach and widen your target accounts list.
  • Marketers need to make sure their digital signals prioritize critical behaviors to prime sales.
  • Analyze scoring criteria in your lead scoring system. Practices of two months ago may not be at all relevant today.
  • Set up a new working session between marketing, customer success, and the sales team. Meet weekly to share information about the latest developments and implications for the businesses.

#2: Engage your PR team to center your messaging and factor crisis management in everything you do

  • Every interaction with customers is, in some way, PR. Messaging, tone, positioning, word choice, image selection – combine to form perceptions about your brand. During a time of crisis, PR pros are essential in helping to gauge sentiment and assist with messaging to help shape the holistic messages to support the brand and customers.
  • Responding to critical issues in a rapid and appropriate manner is essential to maintain positive PR. Ensure PR team members are aware of promotions, communications, complaints, and percolating issues internal or external. Include PR in your planning and execution of marketing activities.
  • The people you want to reach are stressed. Emotions are more raw than usual. It’s not unusual to see an uptick in negative comments in social channels, direct messages, private groups, etc. Trust PR to help understand and gauge the nuances and forces at play as people interact with your brand in channel.
  • Product launches or “good” news items are still important, but timing is critical. Dynamics are changing by the day, based on our by-the-moment new cycle. Include PR in launch planning and be flexible with timing and tone of communications. 

#3: Don’t underestimate direct mail 

  • Right now (maybe more than ever in recent years), direct mail and postcards may be a good option to help cut through the noise.
  • Direct mail assets are affordable to produce and highly customizable. If you relied heavily on running booths at trade shows in 2019, consider investing a portion of those dollars into a direct mail campaign to schedule virtual meet & greets. Explore potential direct mail partners to design and deliver your message in physical form. 

#4: Develop a series of new tests for your lead nurture machine

  • Previously used day-of-week and time-of-day tests may change with a considerable percentage of the workforce working from home (and some with families doing schooling at home). Run tests and deliver emails on different days and times. Compare whether historical data holds true in the new setup and determine whether changes be required.
  • Subject lines are even more challenging than usual. For example, searching your email for “coronavirus” two weeks ago in your email may have returned one or two results. Now, you may see dozens or hundreds or such subject lines. Be sure to test subject lines consistently. Relying on coronavirus fears to increase your open rates may very well backfire, because there is so much noise out there right now.

#5: Evaluate your stack and optimize for the changing times

  • If ABM wasn’t on your radar before, now is a good time to invest in getting the machine setup properly.
  • What tools do you have in place to help manage internal comms more effectively?
  • What tools are in place to gather feedback from customers about their evolving needs?
  • Invest in listening/monitoring tools if your product or service is on the frontlines of the pandemic. Now more than ever, we need to be attuned to what audiences are experiencing.
  • Invest in chatbots for your website. If people are at home, filling out a form may not be their go-to move. They may want more information immediately, so, if they have kids at home, for instance, chat may be less distracting than phone calls due to fewer attention obstacles. 

#6: Increase investment in social and display for branding

  • Time spent on social platforms is increasing substantially, creating an opportunity to develop rapport and trust with your audience.
  • Customers are watching how businesses react globally and to their local communities.
  • Many critical touch points such as industry events have vanished, wiping out critical opportunities to generate brand awareness. ABM has relied heavily on event marketing in the past, so consider shifting budget from event marketing to display-based marketing and virtual event marketing.
  • B2B marketers need to think about using LinkedIn and other display efforts right now to keep your brand top of mind. Keep in mind, customers are looking to the future, and at some point return to some form of normal.
  • Inventory costs are comparatively low. Rather than focusing on conversions, perhaps focus more on funnel filling actions that will help your business be top of mind when people find a new normal and open up their wallets a bit more. 

2020 Foresight – Be Ready for What Comes Next

The tactics noted above are designed to help your team adjust their marketing approach in the face of circumstances unimaginable when we started 2020 a few short months ago. Focus on the basics: Prioritize accounts, adjust messaging, get creative with personalization, reimagine service delivery, and focus your efforts on enabling your sales team with the right air cover by investing in display channels.

The circumstances confronting marketers today may seem insurmountable at times. As a community, though, we are confident we can navigate these times with strength and leadership. 

The brands that marketers represent NEED great leaders in marketing to help guide public perception and long-term viability. Be that leader.  

Do you have other tips you want to share with our community? Leave a comment and we’d love to hear from you.

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