As marketing gm for Microsoft U.S., I receive multiple pitches a day.
For example, on Monday, my cellphone rang at 8:15 a.m. It was a sales rep at a financial firm looking to help me “manage my wealth.” They’re accessing my profile through public records and then calling me. It’s unwelcome, and it’s as cold as it gets. Needless to say, I didn’t answer. In fact, the rapid growth in phone scammers and phishing attempts has driven most people away from answering calls. But this doesn’t spell doom for direct sales. It just means sales needs to get smarter about how to engage prospects. It can’t do that alone. It’s time for sales and marketing to team up and get surgical about how they go after the accounts and prospects that matter. Enter an emerging area called account-based marketing, or ABM.
Although the concept of ABM has been around for a long time, the emergence of marketing technologies has created a new opportunity for marketing to scale personalization far beyond where it has in the past. The problem with most business-to-business marketing programs today is that they’re based on generic lists. Sellers spend endless days cold-calling, hoping to catch someone live. The irony is that as more and more prospects spurn the phone, cold-callers scramble to increase call volume to overcome their plunging response rates.
The new, modern approach to selling is social and relationship-based marketing. And the relationship with the prospect is based on value—through relevant content or through tailored experiences which have value to the prospect. It’s a “give/get” model, with the seller making the first value move. This pay-it-forward approach to sales is anathema to the cold-calling Glengarry Glen Ross-style selling of the past.
To effectively “sell” to people who don’t want to be sold to, you need to invest in meeting, nurturing and caring for individuals, and a well-devised ABM strategy can help you craft the right approach.
Here are thee tips for ABM success:
1. Predictive Targeting
Let me repeat: No one will pick up a cold call. To reach the people that matter, you need to be smarter about how you develop your target list. Today’s technology takes the guesswork out of building a custom list based on in-market signals curated across several attributes. There are several predictive analytics to help with this, including Lattice Engines, 6Sense and Leadspace, to name a few.
2. Dynamic, relevant content
Content is meaningless unless the recipient sees value. The equation for value is simple: relevancy plus timing. The timing part is key. Being able to serve up relevant content in a dynamic way makes the experience feel tailored and increases the likelihood that the prospect will click and engage. Platforms like Marketo, Demandbase, Uberflip and Percolate enable you to serve the right content at the right time to the right prospect.
Another interesting addition to this tool set is Folloze, which lets marketers set up “boards” or microsites of relevant content and send on behalf of sellers, providing greater amplification with less effort.
3. Customer-centric unified data
Digital transformation is fundamentally changing the landscape for how organizations engage customers, empower employees, optimize operations and transform products. Key to this transformation is a broad-scale move by organizations to shift from siloed departmental systems into a unified, customer-centric “system of experience” that orbits the customer. Technologies like Sprinklr Experience Cloud or Adobe Marketing Cloud provide an end-to-end view of the customer experience, managing modern communication preferences (social handles, not just email) and enabling a more efficient use of resources. Once a prospect has converted to a customer, you have the tools in place to convert the customer into a fan, which ultimately generates referrals and reduces churn.
All told, ABM is an integral part of this overall customer-centric approach. But let’s face it—customers are tired of generic, brand-focused marketing content. They’re looking for relevant experiences that demonstrate that you know who they are, you understand what they want and you have the solution that exactly meets their need. A well-constructed ABM strategy enables you to provide exactly that—and at scale.
Don’t miss the Adweek Livecast webinar on Aug. 22 with IBM chief digital officer Bob Lord on how marketers can succeed in an AI-driven market. Register now.