ABM Takes Awareness Right To Your Prospect’s Front Door
The challenge with straight demand generation is that it involves a lot of awareness building. You’re trying to tell your story to people who should be interested, but who – for whatever reason – might not be at the time. The message delivery is one to many. You’re telling your story to a big group of people.
Account-based marketing takes that same approach but narrows the delivery. Now the message delivery is one to one; you’re telling your story to one person at a time. This is one reason ABM is so appealing to marketers and so appropriate for sales. It carries a single personalized message with highly contextual content to a top-tiered, highly targeted group.
The result should be engagement and new high-quality sales opportunities. But account-based marketing is more than targeting prospects and social outreach. It takes planning, strategy and a well thought-out playbook.
Here is a six-step process to successfully launch an account-based marketing strategy at your company. The high-level process is courtesy of our friends at Engagio. We’ve tweaked the language a bit to make it a little easier to understand, but the steps are similar to theirs.
Step 1 – Select Targeted Companies
This sounds easier than it is. Yes, these should be the whales you’re looking for, but they should be chosen based on intelligence as to how you can solve their pain with your product or service. Research these firms and make sure their strategic objectives are aligned with the solutions you bring to the table. If you offer recruiting services and the target company is going through a major downsizing, it might not be the right target for your ABM campaign.
This is also where you’ll start to realize the data in your CRM is key to this type of marketing. If your data isn’t clean, your sales team is going to look silly when they start doing their outreach. Make sure you don't have multiple entries for the company, with different company names or unconnected parent–child data for headquarters and branch locations. Clean up the data before you do anything else.
Also, be smart about the targeting. Don’t select 1,000 companies. Start with 100 in your top tier; you may have a bigger universe in your second or third tier. Remember, this isn’t really about the companies, it’s about the people at the companies. So 100 companies might produce 1,000 individual targets if each company has ten execs you want to speak with.
Step 2 – Identify The People In The Right Roles And Map To Your Target Companies
Speaking of the people, that’s the next step. Once you know what companies you want to go after, map the people in the right roles at each company.
You should identify the decision-makers, the influencers, the champions and the economic buyers at each company. Sirius Decisions reports that today’s complex sales usually involve seven to ten decision-makers, up dramatically from just a few years ago.
The quality of your data is also relevant in this step. If you have the wrong name or the wrong title, or the right person but in the wrong division, it’s going to be very hard to get their attention. Your credibility is shot when you can’t even get the basic identification right.
Step 3 – Develop Insights For The Targeted Individuals At The Target Companies
Seth Godin once wrote, "If you don’t have anything interesting or remarkable to say, don’t say anything at all." This holds true here. If you don’t have any new value or insight to provide your new friends, then don’t bother reaching out. But if you do have insights that are going to help them be better at what they do, well, now you have something to talk about.
Step 4 – Create Disruptive, Emotional And Compelling Messages With Content Offers
Since these people are not looking for you, they’re not going to roll over and let you scratch their bellies. You’re going to have to work to get their attention. To do this effectively, we recommend an inventory of disruptive and emotionally compelling messages with contextual offers.
Start by understanding what their pains might be, what challenges they're facing and some of the uncertainty going on in their industry. Fear, uncertainty and doubt have always been very powerful motivators from a marketing perspective.
If you create a package of eight to ten different messages, your sales team can pull from the inventory depending on the research on the contact they're targeting. Keep track of what’s being used and where to get data on the messages that are performing and those that are not. Make it a continual project to add, remove and adjust messaging based on data.
Step 5 – Deliver Insights, Messages and Content
Now that you have insights, messaging and content, you’re ready for outreach. Keep outreach about them and not about you. This is by far the biggest mistake I see when I’m on the receiving end of outreach communication. Your prospects don’t know you, nor do they care about you. Keep it all about them.
Make sure you connect the message with the content offer. This is how you drive engagement. You tell them something interesting and then give them the opportunity to learn more by downloading or requesting your contextual offer. Here’s a quick and rough example.
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Step 6 – Execute Orchestrated Plays to Targeted Individuals
As we said earlier, this is not going to be easy to do. It’s going to take perseverance to cut through the clutter and match the perfect message, insight and offer with your prospect’s agenda. It might take six or eight outreach messages similar to the one I provided above before they engage. You need those assets to maintain the effort.
Once they do engage, you need a specific recipe or playbook to create an experience that sucks your newly engaged prospect into your sales process. You'll want it to be educational, informative, entertaining or even enjoyable. You have to make them feel safe and you have to make the process about them. Design the process up front, infuse it with “little wows” along the way. Your current sales process might be inadequate for this type of prospect.
For example, imagine that in the middle of the process, your prospect receives an unsolicited email from an existing client telling them how amazing it’s been to work with you and how much your company has helped them get to their business goals and beyond; how hiring you should be a no-brainer and offering to chat at any time about their experience with your company. Would that be powerful?
That’s an example of how we infuse advocacy marketing into a client’s sales process. It works beautifully to shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates on sales opportunities. But it has to be planned, designed and properly executed.
OUR EXTRA Step 7 – Measure Key Metrics, Adjust And Cycle Adjustments Into Play
The Engagio process ended after six steps, but we’re all about results, so we wanted to add a seventh step that adds an element of measurement to the process. If sales and marketing are scientific, then everything must be measured, ABM included.
You’re going to set key metrics, track them, report on them and adjust them accordingly. It’s rare that any marketing or sales programs works as designed, right out of the gate. The key to successful execution is being able to identify the areas that are underperforming, fix them and continue to iterate on the program over time. Access to data and the speed at which you can respond to that data have everything to do with the success of your program.
There’s nothing easy about this marketing tactic. However, it does offer one of the very few alignment exercises that bring sales and marketing together. Without marketing, ABM would fall flat on its face, and without sales, ABM would have no one to execute it. For once, marketing and sales have to work together to execute account-based marketing. It’s a great first step to pulling these two historically uncooperative departments together into one single revenue team.
But unsolicited outreach to target prospects is going to take time. You’re talking about people who have not even started a search. They may be unaware that your solutions even exist, and they’re likely to be satisfied with the status quo at their company. Convincing them that they need to take action is challenging – all the more reason to make sure you have the right messages, stories and content before you get started.
Start Today Tip – If you think you have the messaging assets and content offers to get targeted prospects to sit up and take notice, you might be ready for ABM deployment. But if you have any doubt at all, it’s likely that you don’t have the right stories to drive engagement. Hit the pause button and create the messaging assets: the LinkedIn outreach messages, the email messages, the Twitter PMs and the content required to get someone’s attention. You want to let them know about your new research, your new insights, your discoveries and your thought leadership, which are going to change the way they think about their jobs. Then look at your playbooks, if they’re not complete from outreach to close, they might need an upgrade too. This is a highly orchestrated tactic that requires a highly designed set of plays. Be realistic about your effort, and get help if you’re not prepared to drive successful revenue generation.
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