April 5, 2017

Persona-Based Marketing vs. Account-Based Marketing: Which to Choose?


Have you ever used one of those calorie counting apps? You know, the ones that help keep track of your daily food intake and log your fitness routine — or in my case, lie about how many slices of pizza you actually ate that day. They’re meant to provide a consistent breakdown of your calorie count as you work to maintain a healthy weight

In much the same way, all of your sales team's efforts can be visualized in what we like to call sales calories. Your team only has a finite amount to burn each day and of course, certain leads burn more calories than others.

But what fuels those sales calories? The answer, as you might have guessed, is all of your marketing team’s demand gen efforts. But you don't just want to cast a wide net and hope for the best, you want to create actual demand. And that's where marketing strategies come into play.

Persona-Based Marketing

We know you’re familiar with persona-based strategies, so we won’t spend too much time on this.

You develop ideal buyer personas, then create highly specific content aligned with a lifecycle stage and targeted at your persona’s pain points, then capture relevant information through gated content to determine the persona that best represents each lead, and then strategically nurture each lead through the buyer’s journey to aid in the sales process. Ideally all at scale through your marketing automation platform!

In short it comes down to providing the right decision makers with targeted content aligned with their stage in the buyer’s journey, to limit the amount of sales calories your team needs to burn converting leads to customers.

However, there are typically several individuals involved in the buying decision for a B2B purchase. Likely with competing priorities. With persona-based marketing, this is addressed by developing content that will speak directly to that key decision maker and hoping internal influencers will get it in front of them. But lately, the focus has shifted away from those individuals, and more toward targeting the account as a whole.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Account-based techniques have been used by sales reps for years, typically by large firms targeting strategic accounts. You first determine the X-number of companies that meet your ideal criteria and have an LTV worth the higher acquisition cost. Then, all of your sales efforts are focused on bringing those accounts in one by one.

With account-based marketing, you essentially follow the same persona-based marketing techniques. But now, the goal is to engage key stakeholders from best-fit accounts and nurture them into the sales pipeline. Instead of developing content that speaks to the pain points of a single individual, we’re now looking to drive consensus among all of the influential members in the buying party, and lead the account as a whole through the buyer’s journey.

But how do you determine which accounts are best-fit for you product or services? Look to firmographic information to find the strategic accounts that meet your ideal criteria. Firmographics can include:

  • Employee Count
  • Annual Revenue
  • Industry
  • Geography

Then, use that same firmographic information to tailor a highly specific message targeting your top priority accounts. You’ll begin to attract leads that are a great fit at the account level and require far less sales calories from your team to convert into customers. Unfortunately, ABM is still quite a bit harder to orchestrate at scale, but there are specialized tools, like HubSpot, that can help you out.

So which should you choose?

Despite the dichotomy suggested by the title, we strongly recommend using both persona- and account-based marketing techniques. ABM can help tailor a message that speaks to the larger pain points facing your ideal accounts. But remember, inside each account there are still individual people with strategic concerns. You need to nurture them as well!

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Adam Kinsella

Adam is a Senior Web Strategist at New Breed with a focus on inbound best practices, conversion rate optimization and web strategy.


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