A new (but old) trend in marketing—five tactics to implement account-based marketing
What is account-based marketing and why should you care?
The term account-based marketing has been around for quite a while and the strategy itself isn’t new either. So, why is it that all of a sudden, it’s the next big trend? Remember, the year of mobile? Well, a personalized approach is more important now than ever in order to cut through all the noise that surrounds marketers. Especially, senior marketers. For example, when is the last time that a CMO downloaded one of your whitepapers or attended a webinar? The CMO is one of the people that you ultimately need to reach, but more than likely they are not the person that is visiting your website or downloading your latest research paper. That’s why you need more than a “throw everything at the wall” marketing approach. In other words, a broad marketing plan works when you want to build your brand and awareness. However, when you are looking to use marketing to convert key accounts, you need a customized strategy. That’s where account-based marketing comes in and it involves treating your priority accounts as a marketing segment in their own right.
Align sales, marketing and account service
Easier said than done — I know. But if you want this to work, you need alignment. Once you have identified a target list of accounts (start small with 10 or less), then each of those accounts should have a small team assigned. Why do you need a team for each account? Because each account is unique, and you need the people that deal with that account on a frequent basis in order to provide context, background and to be involved in the tactics to convert that account. Small teams per prospect will also help to ensure accountability.
Consider assigning sales “territories” based on relationships rather than geography
At almost every organization, prospects are assigned to sales executives based on seniority, location or vertical. What about assigning prospects to those salespeople that have the most connections at a particular client? It is not hard to go on LinkedIn or other social media outlets to see whether that salesperson really knows the key players at an account. So many times, companies hire based on connections, but they never really investigate to see if those connections are real. We know that much of sales is based on solid relationships so why not take better advantage of that? Don’t forget to also utilize connections that other people within your organization may have with a prospect.
Map out all the key players within the account
This seems obvious but many salespeople rely on one or two people to determine their fate. And that is usually reinforced by the client contact who often says, “I make the decisions, so you don’t need to speak with anyone else.’ If only it were that easy. We all know that isn’t the way it usually works especially in large organizations. However, it’s often impractical to map out all of the main decision makers for every single account. That’s why it is crucial to start with a manageable list of target accounts for your ABM strategy. If you can’t find all of the contacts through social media outlets, try buying a contact list based on specific roles rather than titles. Titles can often be deceiving. While the cost may be much higher per lead, it will be money well spent.
Find the trigger points
I don’t mean stalking your prospect, but it is important to find out what makes them tick. In addition to LinkedIn, look at other social media outlets to gauge their interests and the news that they might be sharing. It is not unusual for people to use their FB accounts to announce work-related initiatives or updates. The assigned team for each account should also set up customized news feeds based on company name, prospect’s name, job titles, industry etc. When you send a personalized note congratulating someone on an accomplishment (without asking for something in return) you can begin to lay the foundation for a real connection.
Create the personalized plan
Look at the previous tactics as the foundation that you needed to build in order to create the actual strategy. And here is where the creativity of the whole team comes into play. The first step should be a brainstorming session where no idea is bad. You should be planning an approach for winning this client that includes a timeline as well as the following steps — get their attention, build the relationship, and work towards conversion. Getting the meeting is only the first hurdle and it is far from the last. Think of this as your business plan to get the customer. If you had a retail store, your business plan wouldn’t end with getting someone in the door or to your website. You would need to consider pricing, inventory, presentation and follow-up. These are the same elements that you need to focus on within your ABM plan except that you are personalizing your business plan for each customer.
In summary, although each of these tactics is important to the overall plan, the first step of truly aligning marketing and sales is the one that will ultimately determine failure or success.
As Mary Gilbert, SVP of strategy and account services at R2i told CMO.com, “Organizations must realize that ABM is not just a targeting strategy or set of technological tools. It’s a way of life for organizations that want to win by getting close, and staying close, to the opportunities that will drive growth for their business. The discipline of defining a core set of target priorities and then building marketing, sales, and technology solutions to surround those targets not only optimizes near-term results but also shapes the future of the business. It’s a holistic strategy that can dramatically transform a business.” Well said….
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