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October 17, 2017

Team Member Renee Spurling

Renee Spurlin


Executive Vice President

Acronym overload – I know. But I promise those will be the only two (well, three if you count the one I just made up) in this blog post. So now that we have that clear, how does PR combine with ABM to drive revenue? Let me tell you…

It’s easy to think of account-based marketing (ABM) as strictly a sales strategy. After, all, the whole point is to close a defined list of target accounts, right? Well, technically, yes, but those sales are heavily powered by PR, which is why the two go hand-in-hand.

Wait, back up, what’s ABM again?

B2B PR pros, if your clients aren’t asking you about ABM, they will be soon – or probably should be. Wikipedia defines ABM well: Account-based marketing (ABM), also known as key account marketing, is a strategic approach to business marketing based on account awareness in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospect or customer accounts as markets of one.

ABM is, at its core, an outbound sales and marketing methodology, pushing content and messaging through a variety of channels to a very defined set of target customers. Unlike inbound marketing, which is focused on attracting any qualified buyer to your product/service, ABM is focused on identifying the most qualified buyers, and hyper-focusing resources, energy and messaging on them. Despite fundamental differences, the two actually work well together, and having a strong inbound program in place actually makes adopting ABM easier.

So where does PR come in?

When most people think of PR, they think of media relations, and that certainly plays a role (see #6 below), but PR is more than media relations – it’s messaging; it’s social; it’s basically all forms of communication (check out Our Approach to see how they all work together). With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the core components of PR, and how they bolster ABM efforts.

1. Personas

No company can begin ABM without a strong understanding of their personas. For ABM to be effective, companies have to know their best customers, and the decision makers and influencers within those companies, inside and out. Having key personas that not only outline industries, company sizes and titles of prospects, but also details about what keeps those prospects up at night and how they select solution providers is essential before ABM can begin. With a keen pulse on external audiences and a natural instinct for getting to the root of a story (e.g., the challenges prospects face), PR is essential in the persona development process.

2. Strategic Messaging

Messaging is fundamental to ABM. No matter whether a company is taking an inbound or outbound approach - or even better, both - they have to have something to say to their prospects! They need strong messaging, positioning, reasons to believe and competitive differentiators. PR teams, with the ability to balance internal messages with how they will resonate with external audiences, are the natural lead for developing critical brand messaging.

3. Content Marketing

Just like inbound, content marketing is core to ABM. Case studies, white papers and playbooks, emails, videos and more are all used by marketing and sales teams to reach ABM decision makers, and will need to be a core part of the ABM approach. Content for ABM should be highly persona-based and customized, with examples and personalization specific to the target company and decision maker.

4. Organic Social Media

This is where ABM gets really fun! With a targeted list of both accounts and decision makers, PR pros can take a very personalized approach to social media. Knowing exactly which platforms targets are most active on, which hashtags they use, who they follow and which types of groups they are in allows you to create highly targeted content and engage in authentic conversations with prospects and their influencers.

5. Digital Ads

Having a list of target accounts and contacts also allows PR teams to hyper-focus digital ads. LinkedIn advertising can be targeted based on company and title, and Facebook and Twitter ads can be targeted directly to decision makers. ABM can also fit into your Adwords strategy. For example, you can place a premium on Adwords bids for prospects, so ads will show higher. Additionally, you can create retargeting display campaigns that reach prospects who haven’t converted, directing to a landing page built and customized for ABM.

6. Media Relations

My colleague Jennifer explored how ABM and media relations work together extensively in her recent article in Hypepotamus. In short:

In the buyer’s journey, credibility is key. Credibility can be the deal maker — or deal breaker — in the final purchase decision. Earned media, driven by PR, serves to validate claims of marketing messages through a third-party source. In fact, earned media (i.e., third-party articles or mentions) ranks the highest in earning credibility because an outside source determined the product, executive and/or company are interesting enough to cover without being paid to do so.

7. Trade Shows/Events

This one’s pretty self explanatory - clearly, you want to be at the shows and events where your prospects are, right? The good news is that ABM makes this research easier. Look for events that your target accounts are sponsoring and where your prospects are speaking or attending - those should be your primary focus. As you’re planning for selected shows, you can reach out to specific attendees to set up meetings before hand and/or invite them to an intimate off-site event. Plus, be sure to engage with specified attendees on social media during the show.

8. Lead Nurture

This is a given, right? You’ve got a list of prospects at target accounts; now you need to build awareness and nurture these accounts into sales. Because all of the aforementioned tactics are all designed with those objectives, they can really all be classified as lead nurture, so here let’s focus on email marketing. Like any nurture series, emails should be triggered based on prospects actions - or inactions - and designed to elicit a desired response - a demo, a case study video, video watch, etc. (Content, content, content!) Ideally, all emails are personalized, but it’s mandatory using ABM. Emails should be written like they were created just for the prospect, which requires a combination of basic personalization (first name, company, etc.) and dynamically placed content, like different case studies, personalized intro lines, etc., for each individual audience member.PR is key to ABM success. It creates the foundational messaging ABM is built on, provides third-party credibility and creates personalized, compelling content that converts into sales. Interesting in seeing how PR can enhance your specific ABM efforts? Contact us.