Account Based Marketing cannot succeed without the right information

Inbound Marketing has been heavily deployed in numerous businesses in recent years: the creation of high quality, relevant content in order to attract potential customers. However, Inbound Marketing in isolation, is unfortunately not sufficient. Indeed, you barely have any control over the quality of such leads. This explains the rapid growth of other approaches: Account Based Marketing.

In contrast to the more traditional lead-based or contact-based approaches, in Account Based Selling (ABS) and Account Based Marketing (ABM), each account is considered a private market. In account-based marketing, sales, marketing and service collaborate to identify and access specific customer accounts: a small select group of high-value accounts that offer the greatest opportunity for favourable deals. However, you must know how to source such accounts.

Is Inbound Marketing dead?

Inbound Marketing has been heavily deployed in numerous businesses in recent years: the creation of high quality, relevant content in order to attract potential customers. Talking about your brand and products has been replaced by talking about the customer’s challenges and issues.

Expertise is shared in whitepapers, e-books, webinars and blog posts. The benefits of inbound marketing are clear. Harnessing content that actually matters to your potential customers, enables you to drive traffic to your site, consequently resulting in leads.

However, as you barely control the quality of such leads, it would appear that Inbound Marketing in isolation is not sufficient. It produces a steady stream of leads, yet of varying quality. Sales naturally want to pursue them all. However, they soon conclude that the return on these actions is extremely low. It costs significant time and energy and ignores the fact that it’s better for your business to determine for itself which potential customers are more attractive than others.

The pull-technique of inbound marketing ideally works selectively via the relevance of the content, however, appears to fall short in practice. It’s rather like casting a huge net, with substantial by-catch and wasted energy as a result. Effectively declaring inbound marketing dead is a step too far. However, it does require considerable support.

The right people, the right campaigns, the right content, the right moment

At ABS, it’s about quality over quantity. The main goal is getting in touch with the right people, the right campaigns and the right content at the right time. It’s about building and maintaining business relationships and less about selling – indeed, it’s about building trust and creating value without selling. Customers only want to talk to sellers who understand their requirements and help to resolve their problems.

Of course, account-based marketing is not new. However, the circumstances have changed. Technology within marketing makes ABM scalable and thus attractive to a wide range of B2B companies.

In many Account Based Marketing cases, attention is focused on providing the right content and the right campaigns. This is only possible, however, if you know how to source the right people at the right time. And that’s where it sometimes goes amiss.

Account Based Marketing based on Addressable Market

In account based marketing, sales, marketing and service collaborate to identify and access specific customer accounts. Instead of blindly aiming at the broad base of the customer pyramid, we’re going to concentrate our budget on the customers that matter. We call this the ‘addressable market’, that is, the section of the market which you can and should effectively actually target. However, many organisations don’t sufficiently know what their addressable market is. How often is a market defined or selected according to a limited number of extremely rough criteria? Such as “all business services with more than 5 people” or “all construction companies in North Brabant”. Sales subsequently call these potential customers, to separate the wheat from the chaff. This is obviously a huge waste of time and effort.

Account-based marketing begins with the right perception of the ‘addressable market’. Who are your true customers and potential customers? What is the actual customer situation? Are they already using similar solutions? And when were these purchased and thus due for renewal? Which people form the entire decision-making unit?  And who are the influencers surrounding it?

Work on unequivocal customer definitions. And then identify the most valuable customers. Which customers are the most satisfied and provide the greatest yield for your business? Which sectors are they in? Which other companies are in this sector?

Only once armed with this information, can you take the first step in condensing the entire market into your potential market and, subsequently, your addressable market.

Customer relationships based on trust

Account Based Selling is not so much about selling the product, but rather about providing added value to the account. An ABS approach gives sales time and space to build ‘trusted relationships’. Thus the seller understands the customer’s challenges and problems, and can provide relevant, valuable content and meaningful insights to pave the way for a solution. This tactic also helps sellers to identify the ‘internal ambassador’, the client-side person or persons who can help bring the product/service to the attention of the other decision-makers, and thus take the deal a little further.

B2B purchases are invariably faster when you have the buy-in of the entire organisation or, at the very least, the entire decision-making unit. Who are these people and what’s their role? According to CEB data from 2015, there are on average more than 5 decision makers involved in every purchase. It’s, therefore, more important than ever before to nurture multiple contacts within the company. This enables you to stay in touch with the right people, initiate meaningful conversations, create opportunities and ultimately conclude deals.

Aligned Marketing and Sales

Lastly: an Account Based Selling Strategy must be adopted organisation wide. ABS is so closely related to Account Based Marketing (ABM) that the two cannot be separated. A successful account based strategy requires the full mutual alignment of sales, marketing, operations, and even customer service, to identify, develop, and close deals together.

The more optimally the addressable market is mapped, including installed base, previous purchases and the exact information about decision makers and influencers, the faster and more effectively your sales people can get to work.

A Chamber of Commerce address file is thus not the same as an addressable market with sales-qualified leads. And sales-qualified leads are definitely not the same as those leads that are in many companies still all too often passed to marketing as qualified leads.