We’ve talked previously how some organizations are going to the most customer-centric type of marketing transformation possible, towards account-based marketing (ABM) and how that requires some basic shifts in thinking. There are deeper, practical issues that have to change during that sort of transformation.
One of the implications of using ABM is that the organization needs to make multiple marketing plans that each reflect a target segment of one account. These marketing plans are unique in they their focus is about enabling sellers to simultaneous engage multiple contacts within a single account and, hopefully, get a meeting. Because of that, sales and marketing need to build the plans together and this takes a great deal more time and effort than traditional marketing.
They need to build plans that simultaneously broaden and deepen seller relationships with individuals at each account while also increasing awareness and demand for products/services among these contacts. While that is a tough task for any marketing plan, the work must be done subtly so as not to cause opt outs from your marketing communication. This is because managing opt outs, always an issue for marketers, is even more critical in ABM, where there is a limited pool of contacts that cannot grow the way a traditional databased list might.
At the same time, the database has to be cleaner and more accurate than traditional databases since direct messaging is the most effective way to reach these contacts (unless you have an unlimited budget and can afford to do content syndication to thousands of other, irrelevant people just to reach the small number of contacts at a specific account). Avoid this problem by ensuring you have a contact validation and augmentation strategy.
Expectations of Personalization
In an ABM model, customers rightly expect that your account-level focus will translate into personalized marketing materials. To most marketers, personalization means inserting a specific contact’s name into an email. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the personalization mountain, especially if you intend to keep contacting the same individuals again and again.
This starts with addressing the account’s specific industry and organizational concerns. Work with sales, work with outside agencies, do whatever you have to in order to better understand the strategic plans and pain points of the target account. Add in industry concerns (such as new legislation or economic factors). These topics become the basis of the content you offer.
Once you have that, address the specific individual’s concerns within the organization. For example, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) might have concerns about keeping up with the latest in security for cloud-based infrastructure while the network administrator at the same account might have concerns about meeting the increased service levels demanded by his internal clients at the account. Again, work with sales to understand the concerns of the specific individuals. Then overlay them with role-based concerns that you can glean from persona research.
Take the extra effort to build personalization into evert aspect of your marketing tactics that you can. Track performance data for your marketing tactics and modify your campaign based on what has the most engagement. Use responsive technologies to surface relevant content in real time. Use “wisdom of the crowds” to surface what other contacts with similar profiles are interested in. Just be sure to explain the source, so the buyer sees it as value add and not something unrelated to his/her preferences.
Be a Trusted Partner, Not a Seller
Sometimes organizations using an ABM strategy set up “customer success” teams aligned to target accounts, particularly in software as a service (SaaS) or other cloud-based products that only generate revenue when used or via a subscription model. At all firms, these teams also support cross-sell and up-sell. Both of these are reasons why marketing needs to support these teams the same way they do other sellers. However, these teams also have another function that marketing also needs to embrace.
Many organizations use customer success teams to help accounts to feel like they have a dedicated “listener” who will ensure their problems are dealt with. However, the goal should be more than appearance. The real goal of these “post-purchase” teams –and all members of the vendor organization –should really be to become a trusted partner for the account.
Being a trusted partner means knowing down in your bones what the account’s goals and pain points are. It means searching the universe outside of the account for ideas that will really help the account while ignoring things that are not practical given the account’s circumstances, that aren’t relevant based on the account’s goals, and so on. ITSMA, the organization that coined the term “account based marketing,” has some great case studies, including this one on SAP, about firms that have done an excellent job of becoming a trusted partner.
There is more to ABM and we’ll talk about it again but for now, encourage your marketers to subscribe to magazines like ABM in Action and learn more about best practices in ABM through courses like those offered by ITSMA.
Comments are welcome, especially if you have examples of how your team has changed its marketing to support ABM.