The world as we live in it today is not the same as it was even ten years ago. We’ve experienced a technological revolution unlike any we’ve ever seen before, and with the inception of artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, big data and cloud storage, and advanced automation, it has become far too easy to fall into a set-and-forget mentality.
As we pursue the latest trends, the latest best practices, the latest response methods, we become entangled in a network of tools and processes, and as we travel further down that road, we begin to lose sight of where we came from. We begin to forget that marketing – lead, demand, pipeline, sales, and the rest – is all about the people.
This isn’t a blog post advocating we use technology less – quite the opposite, actually. Technology isn’t going away, so we need not fear the new tools at our disposal, but rather, we should better learn how to integrate these tools with a human-centered approach. Because at the heart of everything you do – behind the computer screen and on the other side of that phone call – are people. And people respond to people.
So, the question becomes: What can we do to bring a human-centered approach to a marketing landscape built on new technology? The answer comes in three parts:
Understand the people
Provide relevant, valuable content
Build meaningful, interconnected relationships
Understand the People
Knowing who you’re marketing to seems like common sense, but despite this, marketing teams too often fall into the trap of making general marketing efforts their main channel. While general marketing and awareness certainly have their place in the sales funnel, those shouldn’t be your main drivers of opportunities in your marketing strategy, especially if you want to see quantifiable, tangible numbers.
To really see positive results, you need to first determine the target account you want to market to, and only after that can you start to drive a deeper understanding of the stakeholders within that account. Who are they? What are their needs? Their interests? Their focus areas? Their pains? If you can answer these questions, you can begin to orchestrate more meaningful marketing tactics and kick-off a more targeted account-based marketing approach.
As you begin to understand these stakeholders and decision makers, you can start to identify the areas where you can provide more than just products – but real, visible value. Prospects don’t care about what your product does – they care about how it can solve their problems.
Account-based marketing is not a product pitch. Show your prospects that you not only know about their issues, but also that you can relate to them. You can think of this as matter of depth – to really demonstrate your knowledge of a prospect’s situation, you need to move past a surface-level problem admission and towards a deeper, more profound validation of the problem and its place within the organization. Where does it originate from? Who does it affect? What are the outcomes of not addressing it? As you move closer to the source of the problem, you begin to solidify credibility, trust, and expertise.
Leverage what you know to craft a meaningful marketing strategy that demonstrates to your prospect that you know who they are, what problems they face, and how those problems affect their day-to-day business operations.
Provide Relevant, Valuable Content
By now, you’ve done the work to understand the people who make up the buying committee of your target account – you know their interests, focus areas, and pains, and now it’s time to use this information to craft your content. But content without purpose is easy to spot – it’s generic and full of unspecific actions with no real value and nothing new to offer. Don’t let your content fall into this definition. What do you know about your targets’ pain points? What issues do they deal with on a day-to-day basis that you can help solve? And what unique spin can you put on your content to help it stand above the rest?
Don’t get caught up in worrying about selling just yet. Instead, think of your ABM program like a sales funnel. At the top, you have awareness and education – this is where your content roadmap should start. What kind of educational, value-added content pieces can you provide to each member of the buying committee based on where their focus lies? Remember, this isn’t a product pitch – your top-funnel content should address the common pain points felt by your prospect.
Think of whitepapers, tip sheets, guides, and infographics for your top-funnel content – tips for organizational efficiency, infographics on staying productive in the office, or whitepapers to maximize ROI. Whatever topics you decide on, develop unique pieces of content for each stakeholder’s focus area. The more targeted you can be, the more successful your ABM program will become.
As you engage more regularly with these prospects, you can begin to introduce more product-specific offers as you guide them down the sales funnel to a buying decision. The further down you go, start thinking of topics that more closely align with your own services.
Build Meaningful, Interconnected Relationships
As you continue to use what you know about your targets to influence your marketing tactics, and assuming that you have the right message, you begin to build credibility for your brand and your products and services. Though you probably won’t see any immediate results, don’t let this detract from your ABM plan.
Building relationships with your prospects takes time, and solidifying trust and mutual understanding takes even longer. If I could describe ABM in one word, it’d be “patience,” and this stage is where your patience will really be put to the test. The worst thing you can do is rush a prospect into a buying decision when they’re not ready to make one. A hard-sell too early in the game could cause future marketing efforts to be fruitless.
It’s important to remember that ABM isn’t just about hitting a single person in an organization – you want to make sure you’re targeting, and just as actively marketing to, the entire buying committee. Too often do salespeople and marketers make the mistake of focusing all their attention on a single player. No decision happens in a vacuum, and the larger the company you’re targeting, the more people will be involved in the decision-making process. As more stakeholders see and respond to your content, the easier it will become to generate consensus among them. Word of mouth among an internal buying committee can accelerate your ABM strategy immensely. Use this to your advantage and ensure that no one is left off your radar.
It’s All About the People
As you’ve seen, an ABM program is built from many moving parts, but understand the basics and you can begin to create an ABM program designed specifically for your organization. The important thing to remember here is that ABM is all about the people. If you lack a firm understanding of who you’re marketing to, what you’re selling won’t make a difference.
Too often do people send generic cold emails assuming a relationship where there isn’t one. These do nothing to build trust and credibility, and if you’ve ever received an email like this, you’ve likely thrown it directly into the trash.
In order to effectively reach out to named accounts, you need messages that are personal and meaningful, and that are built on more than cold calls. Relationship building is a key part of ABM, and in order to grow your business and bring in sustainable, reliable revenue, you need to take the time at the start to build, foster, and strengthen the relationships with those you wish to do business with.
People respond to people. And in an age where we are reliant on technology and automation, the need for human interaction and interconnectedness only becomes more apparent. We’re not marketing to machines with preset responses based on trigger actions. We’re marketing to people – people who have their own sets of needs, wants, and pains they want solved, but not without first establishing a connection.
So take the time to regain your focus. Put down the spreadsheets and ROI calculators, and stop wasting resources creating content that isn’t bringing back anything in return. Remember that at the heart of it all, at the core of everything you do, are people. Understanding the people, providing unique, tangible value, and building meaningful, interconnected relationships – those are the fundamentals of an ABM program, and the pieces to completing your marketing puzzle as a whole.
Want to learn more about Account-Based Marketing? Join us next Thursday, May 11th at 10:00 am PDT for Matt Heinz's webinar, Account-Based Marketing: From Strategy to Action & Results. We will cover strategies & best practices to build and optimize your ABM program’s impact, including how to identify key stakeholders within target accounts and how to develop a multi-contact, multi-channel marketing plan to influence buying decisions of your targets. You will walk away with the tools you need to launch and accelerate a successful ABM program, as well as measure & justify program improvements based on sales & revenue results. Click here to register for free!
Note: This article was originally published by Josh Baez, Marketing Coordinator for Heinz Marketing, on March 21st, 2017, on the Heinz Marketing blog.
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 15+ years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but also his actionable and motivating takeaways. Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty. He has helped organizations such as Amazon, Seagate, Morgan Stanley, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many others create predictable, repeatable sales & marketing engines to fuel growth. Matt is a repeat winner of Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers, and has authored several books including “Full Funnel Marketing,” “Modern Marketing Field Guide,” and “Successful Social Selling.”