- A target of account-based marketing (ABM) programs for years, financial services companies are now pursuing ABM strategies to unlock key growth accounts
- Sales and marketing are finding that it pays to partner on key accounts to help acquire and grow them
- The availability of new technologies that make it easier to collect insights and personalize marketing tactics are helping fuel this growth
I’ve spent more than half of my career specializing exclusively in the discipline of account-based marketing (ABM) and advising organizations on how to implement ABM. A few company names crop up frequently as the targets of these ABM efforts – Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Santander and BNP Paribas, to name just a few. What unites these attractive targets? They’re all among the largest banks in the world.
What I’ve started noticing more recently, however, is that the interest in targeting these and other large companies comes from within the financial services sector itself.
It’s very difficult to make generalizations when describing B2B financial services marketing. Even attempting to put all B2B financial services marketers into a single category is impossible, because their approaches vary significantly depending on the service they’re selling, the audience they’re targeting, and the strategies and tactics they’re choosing as a result. But in the spirit of drawing some conclusions, I’ll list three common threads that are leading this group to discover and recognize the value of ABM:
- The need for sales and marketing alignment. Historically, this alignment has not been strong in financial services – the term “service” implies the importance of buying into the people associated with the delivery of that service, so sales reps often keep relationships very close to their chest. An ABM approach tends to be popular with sales, as it recognizes that not all accounts are created equal, and describes a formal process for aligning marketing resources to a defined set of accounts in a way that is highly relevant and valuable to the accounts and the sales teams responsible for them.
- The drive toward personalization. Given the relationship-based nature of financial services, marketers in this sector are increasingly recognizing the value of personalizing their approaches for key accounts. Buyers are already accustomed to the personalized and frictionless buying experience of a B2C purchase, and they expect no less from a B2B buying scenario. With personalization as one of the hallmarks of an ABM strategy, early adopters already making inroads in this area by personalizing Web sites and customer portals and creating custom thought leadership and other content types will come to be seen as the harbingers of account-centricity in B2B financial services.
- The availability of richer insights. With the increasing power and prevalence of Millennial financial services buyers and the digital fingerprints they leave as they consume content during the purchase decision process, the insights on key target accounts have never been richer. Regardless of some of the regulations that clip the wings of financial services marketers, they’ve never been better informed on how their content is driving engagement within target account groups and how to use this to drive relevance – another hallmark of ABM.
The financial services marketplace can be a challenging place for a B2B marketer. Market forces are commoditizing a lot of offerings, making it harder for these marketers to differentiate their company. The high level of regulation adds to that complexity, because it further limits marketers’ options. These limitations have led financial services marketers to seek innovative ways to become more effective by focusing their efforts on the accounts that matter most. The evolution from the financial services heartland of brand, thought leadership and events has already progressed into demand creation strategies, digital marketing transformation, marketing operations and measurement – and in light of the trends around insights, personalization, and marketing and sales alignment, ABM is the next logical approach to try.