account-based marketingWith all the discussion around account-based marketing (ABM), I wanted to take some time to address an issue that most ABM conversations seem to be missing: Accounts don’t buy technology – people do.

As marketers, we may sell to companies, but we market to people. And these people have varied reasons for making a purchase, spurred by specific needs and driven by distinct personalities.

Just think of how varied needs and motivators are between people within your own marketing department:

“I need to get better leads so I can prove the value of my marketing efforts”

“I need to stop wasting time manually managing my leads so I can have a life”

“I need to prove to my boss that I know how to scale lead flow so I can get my performance bonus this month”

We marketers need to keep this in mind when initiating any account-based marketing strategy. How do we turn a list of strategic accounts into PEOPLE we can build relationships with?

While account-based marketing is largely about marketing and selling to the collective organization, we must learn to understand how to reach and build relationships with those whom will be champions inside those organizations.

Here are seven ways to keep the much-needed human touch in your ABM strategy:

1. Make marketing KPIs about ABM values

Account-based marketing is about quality lead data and how it ties to your strategic account objectives. Thus, KPIs for account-based marketing should focus on leads that tie to targeted accounts, match targeted personas, and result in conversations with sales.

We marketers have been drilled for years to see how many MQLs we could get into the funnel. ABM means our MQL pool will get much smaller and more refined, but the value of each MQL should now be much greater – if we’re doing it right. And measurements must reflect these higher-value leads by focusing on the individual prospects, their journey and the life-time value of the relationship. This inevitably requires a joint sales-and marketing effort.

2. Know your audience…well

Make sure you fully understand the players in the targeted organization and their individual needs/drives. And keep in mind the different players in an organization will have different drivers for making a purchase.

Some of these drivers are very personally and emotionally based. And that’s why emotional campaigns are twice as effective as campaigns centered on rational content.

How do you translate your product/service offering into an emotional connection? Spend time with your audience. Have sales reps add you to customer calls. Go on a few in-person meetings. And try to get invites to as many client happy-hours as you can (that’s where the gold is).

This is all necessary research when building personas. It’s the best way to find out what makes them take action on a personal level…and make purchasing decisions on a professional level.

3. Develop relevant content that speaks to your audience’s human emotions

A one-size-fits-all message will not resonate with the individuals in the account you need to reach. Your marketing content should speak to the person not the company. Content, timing and delivery have to align perfectly to break through the thousands of messages your prospect receives each day.

A couple sample questions you need to answer to ensure you develop the right content:

  • Where does your ideal prospect hang out?
  • Who do they listen to?
  • When to do they listen?
  • What types of content do they consume?

And remember – what they struggle with at the beginning of the month may be much different than what they are focused on at the end of the month. Needs shift with organizational changes as well as personal changes.

4. Engage with the people, not the company, throughout the customer journey

Your personalized, emotion-based content created for your account-based marketing efforts is only as good as your ability follow-up in a personal, relevant and timely manner. Interact with new contacts as what they are – people, not accounts.

Buying ads and distributing eBooks and reports that are tailored exactly to your audience’s needs and then following up in a generic way will instantly create a disconnect in the relationship. Your nurture tracks – and the content within them – must be just as customized to persona needs as the initial content they consume. Take what you learn from their engagement and use it to become more relevant throughout their journey.

5. Support your internal champion(s) and help them advocate for you

Strive to help your champions understand the benefits for all the roles in their organization so together you can get through any gatekeepers. While the initial efforts are to establish a relationship with your champion by truly understanding their emotional needs, you’ll also want to support their efforts to sell the rest of the organization.

To do this, you must arm them with the sales enabling tools they need – content, facts, testimonials, technical information/assistance, etc. A single great source with which to arm any champion is an FAQ document that helps them address any hurdles they may run into ahead of time.

Always ensure they understand exactly how your product/solution helps them with their KPIs. Help them explain how and when return on the investment occurs.

6. Keep the customer journey clear of roadblocks

With an account-based focus, the natural tendency is to try to get all the people of the targeted account on the same page before you take the next step. Insisting on across-the-board agreement, however, can derail the experience by putting up unnecessary barriers in the relationship with your prospective customers.

If one prospect at the targeted account believes they have budget, authority, need and that it’s the right time to buy, don’t insist on dragging other people into the conversations just because you have other names in your CRM.

At the same time, don’t try to oversell to the organization. Get your foot in the door with your champion and expand the relationship with the account as you prove your value. It’s always easier to expand a valued relationship than it is to expand an initial opportunity.

7. Remember that data is only part of the story

You can’t find everything you need to know about a prospect in your data. Data won’t tell you if your prospect is having a bad day. Data won’t tell you if your prospect is frustrated by the current process because they are spending time doing things they hate to do. Data won’t tell you if there’s someone else in their office trying to push their own agenda.

To overcome hurdles in the marketing and sales process we have to establish trust from start to finish. And ultimately trust comes with person-to-person relationships.

While CRM is critical in your ABM strategy, it’s vital that marketing and sales work hand-in-hand. Sales reps often have between-the-line info on prospects, and you must manage your relations with sales (as if they were customers too) to tap into that insight.

Marketing must therefore support sales’ own ABM efforts – not inhibit it. There comes a time when the messaging shifts from a marketing delivery to sales delivery, and data-driven supremacy turns to data-driven support.

While every B2B company ultimately creates solutions for other businesses, they must remember they are marketing and selling to actual people. The mindset of a marketer has to shift from lead quantity to account- AND individual-relationship quality.

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