A lot of very sophisticated companies have launched Account-Based Marketing programs to engage customers more effectively as buying processes shift more and more online. ABM tries to coordinate sales, marketing, and service teams to offer a more personalized approach to strategic, high priority accounts. They often try to use social media and other digital outreach programs to add personal interactions with key contacts at the account and augment offline sales efforts. Sadly, these efforts mostly fail because ABM is usually a marketing lead program without the involvement or buy-in from the sales teams and channel partners.
To make ABM work, you have to align and integrate all the account efforts across all the various silos in the organization. The customer journey adds value to the relationship and is optimized to fit the customer’s needs and objectives. Instead of lead generation and follow up which is the usual marketing programs companies use, ABM requires a paradigm change to integrate everyone’s efforts to identify and close new business opportunities across the entire account decision-making process from engineering to management, quality, and production and purchasing with a tightly coupled, synchronized approach that maximizes your chance of success.
When you create a successful program, it becomes a strategic account engagement program, often referred to as Account-Based Engagement (ABE). The entire program tries to identify what needs to occur to engage with the account to solve their problem and become their preferred choice in the opportunities you are targeting. A good ABE program’s advantages are apparent – higher closure rates, faster pipeline flow rates, more massive deals, and improved customer retention. With all these advantages, why do companies find ABE so hard to implement?
Today buyers and engineers in your customers are sophisticated users of the internet to research options, screen out vendors, and maybe buy your goods or services. Marketers try to engage in this environment with websites, social media, conversational messaging, emails, and advertising to get your message out to these advanced buying communities. Studies have shown that:
Up to 80% of website visitors are not likely to be a potential customer.
50% of marketing investment is wasted on generating leads that no one follows up.
60% of companies find it hard to create customer responses with the standard ways marketing tries to engage with customers.
Sales find inconsistent messaging is one of the major problems they have dealing with customers.
40% of companies find these problems getting harder instead of easier as customers get more sophisticated.
Buyers are looking for suppliers who can provide high value, knowledgeable interaction with their people on programs – generalists will fail in dealing with customers today.
The challenge is to find a way through these complex networks of decision-makers, engineering teams, business people, and buyers in large organizations to drive their business opportunities to your solutions. One of the significant casualties of this changing customer environment is the classic one-to-many general marketing approach that has worked for decades. Generalized messaging and buzzy advertising will be less and less successful in engaging these types of customer business opportunities. By changing the focus of Account-Based Marketing to drive for Engagement helps focus all parts of the team on the actual goal of the program – Engaging the customer in meaningful business opportunities faster and more effectively than your competitors. By focusing on Engagement – all parts of the team and management on the strategy and tactics needed to Engage the customer using all the details of the marketing, sales, service, and management interaction to move to Engagement in an organized, measured, aggressive way to win the business.
The ways organizations go about defining and executing an effective ABE program vary, but they all include strategic and scaled account engagement activities.
Strategic Account-Based Engagement focuses on a smaller set of critical large strategic accounts that you believe are essential to your business to be successful. ABE integrates marketing activities much more tightly than has been done historically with account sales teams and sales account management programs. Marketing develops customized messaging targeting individuals or groups in the account with personalized messaging addressing pain points, competitive comparisons, and project-specific data and information to improve the customer’s overall understanding of your solution. Strategic ABE typically targets 10s of customers and requires careful research, detailed information specifically addressing the customer’s issues, and highly reactive follow up as the customer is engaged. Strategic ABE is a one-to-one personalized approach for these valued customers that is usually sales led.
Scaled Account-Based Engagement extends this approach to a broader set of customers. Scaled ABE is one of a few programs that is usually marketing and sales led and strived to reach a more overall market with personalized messaging to achieve a more cost-effective engagement with a few accounts. CRM technology is one of Scaled ABE’s prime drivers, using account data and engagement tracking to personalize the meeting with a broader set of target customers. The program may be driven by market segmentation, regional plans, or even crucial people who have relationships with your team.
Typical Lead Generation programs capture the rest of the customer universe driven by marketing with sales support for prioritization and follow up. CRM systems help improve the lead follow-up activities with lead assignment and prioritization, helping focus the team’s efforts.
Building an effective Account program is a complex activity that needs many organizational buys to make it a success. Future blogs will discuss:
The value of advanced Account Engagement programs.
How to start and build an effective ABE program.
Roles and Responsibilities in an effective ABE program.
Key lessons learned by organizations that have implemented an effective ABE program.