By Michael Avis
Where customers once purchased, they now subscribe and consume. Where the technology was the main priority, now customer service is just as important. And where purchasing technology was a matter of trusting your CIO to make the right call, now line of business leaders conduct their own research to ensure their needs are met.
Map these changes to life in a “strategic account,” and you get three distinct phases of a customer journey. During the first stage, prospective buyers conduct research in a professional community. Advice and stories are exchanged and the buyer can research solutions to their problems. For example: CFOs talk with peers about finance transformation; CTOs and CDOs share ideas on how to drive innovation, and CMOs swap notes on modern marketing best practices. Jump to the last phase of the journey, and it’s all about supporting the customer to embrace change, improve adoption, and squeeze every last drop of ROI from their investment.
In It for The Long Haul
Of course, sandwiched between the early and later stages is the engagement you build with the stakeholder. It’s here where their research is validated and perceptions are challenged. It’s here that the customer ultimately decides if you win or lose. This is where you help sales understand their key stakeholders better to engage them more effectively.
This is where the ABM magic happen.
Strategic accounts are typically complex organizations with many and varied stakeholders. We know that bombarding them with generic communications can be worse than not communicating at all. You need to balance efficiency against the need for a very customer-specific approach. For example, you can select the profile that best matches the individual: a manager, strategist, or innovator. Then factor in the account’s state of play — current customer, competitor powerhouse, in the cloud, or still largely on-premise. That gives you the starting point to select from a portfolio of basic messaging and communication plans. After that, it’s about combining the team’s knowledge and expertise, to create a bespoke ABM strategy.
Taking this approach arms your sales team with the insight they need to provide the best possible customer experience all the way from the professional communities to stakeholder engagement to implementation and rollout. And don’t forget, the work of an ABMer doesn’t stop at purchase. Real value can be provided when you take everything you’ve learned pre-sale and apply it post-sale to support your customer’s success, and get your ultimate reward when your customer becomes an advocate.
As account-based marketers, we need to support them as they travel their journey. In the early stages, facilitate and encourage ideas while building rapport, often with people you don’t know yet (but should). At the other end of the journey, show your commitment to support as they implement your solutions, through to when they’re ready to become advocates and start a new journey. This stage is often overlooked in general marketing and ABM. In other words, you need to engage earlier and stay engaged for longer.