Account based marketing (or ABM) is getting a lot of traction in B2B circles currently but it’s really nothing new. I remember using account based direct marketing campaigns 15 years ago so what’s changed and why so much hype?
The key difference is that we have digital insights. We can now get laser focused in our approach however, unless marketing and sales work together across the buyer journey it’s likely to fail. What we need is Account Based Smarketing.
For years we’ve been talking about sales and marketing alignment and if I’m honest, it gets on my nerves. We know it works – the evidence exists. According to Aberdeen Group, stronger alignment drives results including a 21% higher lead acceptance rate (from MQL to SQL) and 36% higher than average conversion rates (from SQL to Customer).
However, until now, “alignment” has been largely focused around agreeing lead qualification criteria and lead volume targets which is nice, but it doesn’t go far enough (in my humble opinion).
For an account-based approach to work sales must move further up the funnel (Digital/Social Selling) and marketing needs to move further down. In effect, both need to target and nurture the entire buyer journey.
I’ve created a short #TribalSketch to explain what I mean.
A Different Kind Of Sales & Marketing Conversation
My curiosity for Account Based Smarketing largely came about because as a marketer who runs a business, I now have a foot in both camps.
I now appreciate the value that sales conversations bring to marketing content. I also appreciate the value of digital insights on the buyer journey.
We’ve been running Account Based Social Selling Workshops with our customers for a little while now and are fast developing a proven methodology that starts a different kind of conversation between sales and marketing.
Here’s what I’ve observed:
- When you combine the topics and questions that sales frequently hear from customers together with an optimised content strategy that marketing owns, you create relevant content that resonates closely to what your future buyers are searching for.
- When you combine insights from the websites (such as domain traffic) together with Social Selling insights (such as “Who viewed my profile” on LinkedIn) you learn about who is really engaged and who is not.
- When you target your paid social spend at accounts that your sales teams are trying to engage, you are likely to increase the acceptance rates of InMails. According to LinkedIn prospects exposed to Sponsored Content are 25% more likely to respond to an InMail
Benefits Of Account Based Social Selling
There are several reasons why this approach unites and benefits both sales and marketing. According to Forbes there are 14 key benefits to Account Based Marketing, but how does Social Selling align to each of them?
- Improved Customer Acquisition Process
Most B2B sales organisations will likely be using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to target their time at the customers and prospects they most care about. If marketing aligns their budget and resources to those same targets, the customer experience is likely to be smoother.
- An Opportunity To Get Personal
Profiling leads and accounts is a critical Social Selling skill. Using tools like Crystal Knows and Smart Links allow sales to better under their buyer interests and personality traits before they’ve even met them. Combining these insights with Account Based Marketing is essential for success.
- Faster Sales Process
Social Selling is all about relationship building and nurturing at scale. Sales teams are learning to do this using platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. A highly personalised approach (whether InMail or marketing campaign) will resonate with your target audience.
- Clearer Path To ROI
It’s often easier to measure the impact of focusing on specific accounts rather than generalist activities in B2B Marketing. Same is true of sales. LinkedIn will soon be launching their Insights division where you can discover how many people your sales teams are connected to in key accounts vs your competitors.
- Cost Efficiency
The cost of sending sales reps across the country to meet and entertain one customer can rack up. Nothing can replace the value of a face-to-face meeting, but you want to prioritise and make efficient use of your sales team’s time. Digitally nurturing connections, remotely engaging first and planning your days helps you to run sales more cost efficiently.
- Efficient Use Of Marketing Resources
There are only so many hours in the day. Relying just on offline techniques such as calls, and meetings isn’t scalable nor sustainable. As territories get larger and we’re managing more customers we need to find a smart way to maintain relationships using digital selling techniques – an efficient use of sales resources as well as marketing resources.
- Shorter Sales Cycles
Your Social Sellers will be trained to identify buying circles early in the buyer journey. This helps to reduce the objections later in the journey which can often lengthen the sales cycle. Integrating the wider buyer circle in account-based marketing will grow brand recognition within your target account.
- Sales-Marketing Effort Synchronisation
According to LinkedIn, InMail response rate jumps to 40% if prospect exposed to thought leadership content from the organisation. In addition, a prospect is 46% more likely to accept an InMail if they are connected to someone who works at your company so encouraging your wider employee community be part of the social conversation (whether in sales or not) can open doors.
- Trust-Based Relationships
Social selling is not about selling at all. It’s about positioning your sales teams as trusted advisers. People who understand the market and issues to better help customers solve their problems. We know that 74% of buyers choose the company that was first to add value as they are defining their buying decision (Source: SAVO, Techniques of Social Selling: Just Do It)
- Better Reporting
Measuring your combined sales and marketing impact on target accounts is essential and possible. Benchmarking the performance of your social sellers versus non-Social Sellers is a good start. Consider ongoing account-based sessions between marketing and sales where you bring the intelligence and data to notice patterns, correlations and trends that informs the coordinated approach to an account.
- Data-Driven Decisions To Align Sales And Marketing
Understanding the buyer journey is critical. If sales are engaging in a conversation with a customer around one topic but your prospect is downloading resources from the website relating to another topic, this kind of alignment of data can shift the opportunity.
- The Right Target, The Right Leads
If your marketing teams setup lead scoring via automation, it’s possible to alert when there’s an increased amount of activity on the website from registered contacts. Setting up lead scoring allows you to trigger Social Selling at a certain point in the buyer journey, helping your sales teams to target their effort at the right people at the right time.
How To Run An Account Based Smarketing Workshop
Step 1: Get The Right People In The Room
First, an Account Based Social Selling needs input from everyone. Your key account manager, marketing executive, field sales rep, inside sales rep, technical experts and even channel partner representatives need to be present. You need all the people in the room that can effectively help the process of building and scaling relationships in your target account. You don’t need a room full. You just need the room full of the right people – max 10 people.
Step 2: Do You Account Research
Next you need to do your research on the account, their vision and direction. Get everyone in the room on the case. Search websites, Google, Sales Navigator and social media channels. Are they growing their headcount? How many new roles in the last 90 days? Understand the conversation and the keywords they’re using. What can you find out?
Step 3: Searching & Profiling
Next it’s time to get stuck into searching and profiling. This is Social Selling at its best. Who are we trying to reach? Who’s active on LinkedIn? How do we know them? Are they following our company page? Who used to work for our company and moved to the customer? Who can TeamLink us into them? What do they care about? What are they sharing? What are they engaging with?
Step 4: Content Research & Aggregation
Now it’s time to help your Key Account Manager out. Using the techniques we teach in Social Selling we go find industry content that relates to the buyers we’ve identified. We build Smart Links live in the session and build an asset that can then be utilised via InMail or blogs once triggers have been identified.
We’ve done a few of these highly interactive sessions and I always get a few goosebumps when marketing suddenly realise the power sales have at their fingertips with LinkedIn Sales Navigator. But it happens the other way around too. Suddenly sales understands why marketing keeps asking questions about content because sales now realise they can’t do Social Selling without it.
This is where true alignment starts to happen – the point where one person can appreciate the perspective of another.