Better ABM from Better Data: Developing Micromessaging for More Effective Marketing Campaigns

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series from TechTarget and HG Data on how to drive better Account-Based Marketing ROI from Technographics and Real Purchase Intent. Please see Part 1 on Using Data to Develop Target Profiles and Part 2 on Building Propensity to Buy Models as well.

ABM micromessagingAs we’ve discussed in this series so far, if you can get better information about a potential customer, that puts you in a better position to really target your marketing efforts more effectively. We’ve explored leveraging both technographics and purchase intent to zero in on those accounts and prospects who structurally and behaviorally demonstrate a propensity to buy.  In this final post, we’re adding the final touch that can make or break campaign success.  We call it “micro-messaging” because it uses insight to make general campaign messaging much more relevant to specific recipients.  Once you’ve established better targeting, it’s the combination of relevance and timing, leveraging both technographics and intent, that leads to breakthrough conversion.

Weaknesses in Classic Approaches to Targeting and Messaging

Classic B2B targeting methods have relied too much on size and seniority.  We assume that if a company is huge it must have a need.  It’s logical.  We assume that the CXO will ‘get’ our value proposition — makes sense, we think, because those people are really smart and our value prop seems super compelling to us.  In the end, it’s the very obviousness of this kind of thinking that’s its downfall.  Not only is everyone else targeting the same people, but they’re also raising up their message to a CXO level of abstraction to make it very clear.  They’re talking “value delivery”, TCO, “next generation” and all those generalities that make everyone sound like everyone else.  This can’t possibly work.  And it doesn’t.  We all know that.

To be effective, you’ve got to think long and hard about who you’re talking to and how what you do can make a substantive difference to them in their business lives.  It starts with targeting the right people.  Then it’s all about speaking to them at a level that will resonate.

Operationalizing Micro-messaging

Obviously, micro-messaging begins with micro-targeting.  While you are usually going to have to engage senior leaders at some point in the process, to gain an initial foothold in an organization you’ve got to seek out and connect to the people who are experiencing the issues your solution addresses.  By talking to prospects and studying past deals, you can create a clear picture of the roles/titles that were critical to initial phases of past success.  While final purchase decisions commonly appear to be made top-down, the reality is that the discovery process commonly occurs deeper in the hierarchy.  Your past-win analysis will tell you the personas you have to talk to.  HG Data’s technographics clarify the conversation starters.  TechTarget’s purchase intent can tell you exactly who has already started doing research.

With target personas established, the next step is to use technographics to further segment your target set into distinct groups based on the particulars of their current installation and how your solution fits with it.  What you are doing here is formulating hypotheses about differences in key purchases drivers and feature/functionality needs.  Since you’ve developed your solution to address these, you know what they are; the difference here is in how you believe these will be prioritized by a prospect based on their own situation.  To make the best start possible, you’ll want to do two things:

  • First, test your hypotheses with some customers. You can accomplish this by developing messaging in partnership with your Sales team and working with them to present it to customers who you trust to be honest with you.
  • Second, you’ll want to compare your hypotheses to what TechTarget’s data is showing you about active prospects in your market. Real purchase intent insight is built from the consumption behaviors of IT buyers doing pre-purchase research in your solution category.  By studying the topics and actual content resonating with your target audience right now, you can see how to adjust messaging to take best advantage.

Combining HG Data technographics and TechTarget purchase intent data allows you to create micro-messages that differentiate you with reference to what is present at the prospect and how they are currently thinking.  Not only do you have insight into their operation, you have insight into their minds.

Micro-messaging for Specific Campaign Types

Renewal/Upgrade Campaigns

Whether you’re an earlier stage company or relatively mature, Renewal and Upgrade campaigns are critical to ongoing business health.  While they may not be as sexy as white space and aggressive competitive actions, you cannot ignore them because they can provide the financial fuel necessary for everything else.  Furthermore, no matter how sticky you believe your solution to be, in practically any category, customers have never had more to choose from and it’s constantly getting easier to switch.  Therefore, your company’s very livelihood could well depend on your ability to deliver full clarity around why it is better for the customer to stay with you than to begin considering doing anything else.

To make sure you maximize the likelihood of early renewals and rapid upgrades, you need to stay on top of a lot.  You need to understand changes in the competitive environment, changes in customers’ installs, and changes in their mindsets.  As you develop your micro-messaging skills, you’ll want to solve for each of these.

The fact is that renewal (and upgrades as a subset) ‘campaigning’ actually begins at or before installation.  As soon as you can, you’ll want to implement retention streams that stimulate usage of and appreciation for your solution.

To maximize preparedness, with your solution roadmap in hand, you start by compiling a series of “what if” scenarios based on what you learn from customers and see developing in the market.  Since few teams can manage for all possibilities, you’ll want to make some pragmatic decisions about the most likely and perhaps the most dangerous situations to prepare for.

As the final piece in the puzzle, you’ll want to identify “leading indicators” that you can use as advanced warning of trends developing that you’ve prepared to actively defend against.  You’ll want to take advantage of HG Data’s monthly updates to monitor your target audiences for changes in their infrastructure.  You’ll want to pay attention to TechTarget’s weekly content consumption updates to understand both competitive activity and prospect editorial preferences.

Specific Add-on/Complementary Solution Campaigns

Beyond simply targeting accounts that can use your solution based on their existing installs, for certain solution-types there are trigger events that suddenly create an opening for you.  Similar to what we saw with the Renewal approach, success with the Add-on campaign case begins with thinking through some likely triggered add-on opportunity scenarios.  It’s important to note that unlike the macro triggers that are high on everyone’s radar (things like Sarbanes Oxley of a decade ago and the upcoming GDPR from the EU), micro-events create opportunities that Marketing might typically not have the agility to take advantage of.

Technographics gives you the potential to pre-plan for these and therefore be ready and able to act when the data tells you you should.  Using technographics and purchase intent gives you the opportunity to become as proactive and agile as the very best performing solution providers have learned to be.

Competitive Conquesting

Competitive conquesting is both particularly exciting and uniquely challenging.  Joining with Sales, you’re setting out to do hand-to-hand combat in the real world.  To succeed in this arena, you’ll try to out-innovate your competition from strategy through execution, across the board.  It’s difficult, and it can be both frustrating and wasteful.  To maximize effectiveness with competitive conquesting, you’ll want to employ elements from each of the campaign types we’ve been talking about up to now.  Where possible, your campaign will take as much as it can from what you’ve learned from your Renewals and Add-on approaches, then enhance them further to explain exactly why a switch-out for prospects like these makes particular sense at this time.

You will want to begin your campaign effort well in advance by initiating a micro-messaging stream to the relevant contacts deep within your target companies.  You’ll want to create early engagement with them by sharing the things you’re learning from your own customers that could stimulate thinking about their own situation.  In addition, you will want to prepare a ramp up against scenarios they’ll encounter as they near a possible decision event.

In the past, you might have tried to simply pound away at them with thought leadership. With new data sources, you are in a position to synchronize delivery of relevant messages to when they will actually start to pay attention to them.  While engaging early is important to have those contacts when you need them, a true micro-messaging approach means you don’t come on strong until the relevant time.

Here’s how it works in practice:

  • HG Data technographics tells you what is installed allowing you to identify opportunities for renewals and upgrades.
  • TechTarget purchase intent shows you when a target company is starting to do research around this particular solution area.
  • Now is the time to ramp. For marketing, this is certainly the place to launch a new nurture stream designed to stimulate a change in solution providers.  You may wish to involve inside sales or similar resources to execute what SiriusDecisions calls “small net fishing” campaigns where you deploy micro-messaging via the phone.

When used in combination, these new data sources, combined with well-crafted micro-messaging, can create an approach to competitive conquesting that makes far more sense.  No Sales team wants to spend a lot of time trying to talk to customers about a change when they’re a long way from even considering it.  Likewise, Marketing should do everything it can to deliver only those messages that are relevant to a customer based on an understanding of their situation.  Because both HG Data technographics and TechTarget purchase intent are dynamic sources of information updated on a regular basis, not only can they make you more effective, they can dramatically improve the efficiency of how you deploy both Marketing and Sales.

For many of our clients, it’s simply the availability of these new data sources that starts to change everything for them.  They now begin with a much better picture of what is actually happening within their target audience so all their campaign activities become more focused in nature.  And as they become more adept at using the material, we see them start to refine their approaches to a very granular level.  When they start adjusting their messages to address install changes within an account and the concerns of real people within these targets, they achieve another level of performance yet again.

Summing it up

We put micro-messaging based on technographic and purchase intent insight last in this three-blog series because it’s an advanced step for many marketers.  On the other hand, once you have the data, if you start with the end in mind and don’t bite off too much too early, we’re truly confident that it’s within reach for most Marketing and Sales organizations.

To learn more about the specifics covered in any part of the series, feel free to reach out to your HG Data or TechTarget representative.  You can link to related materials right here.

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