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Account-Based Marketing: Targeting the Committee

The Rise of Account-based Marketing

One of the hallmarks of good selling, especially when you sell a complex or sophisticated product, is understanding that there is more than one buyer — more than one person who needs to sign off on the purchase in the account. Most often, we think about the four buying influences made popular in Strategic Selling — the User buyer, the Economic buyer, the Technical buyer and the Coach. We counsel our salespeople to address the concerns of each buyer on that person’s terms, which can be as simple as talking about ROI to the economic buyer and speeds and feeds to the technical buyer.

But whom are you really marketing to?

Ok, so here’s the trick question: If you sell to all these buyers, how many of them are you marketing to? Is your marketing generic, aimed to tell one story that only involves how your product works? Smart marketers will assemble materials and programs that aim at different parts of the sales cycle, beyond simply getting people to raise their hands.

In this Internet crazed age, we know that very often customers perform extended evaluations long before they engage with a salesperson.They visit websites, talk to each other and consume various content. Experts agree, and it has become an industry meme, that customers can be as much as 40 to 60 percent through a purchase process before they engage with a salesperson. This translates into reducing the amount of time a rep has to assemble facts and sell appropriately.

This brings up two essential requirements that have become very important. First, capturing enough data about the organization and the decision-makers to provide a full-scale understanding of the customer, and then doing it in time with the cadence of the overall process. There are two sources of data that vendor organizations are increasingly relying on to help move sales processes past the initial familiarization processes — curated data and your own data. In the right hands, each data source can cultivate existing data into actionable knowledge.

Curated data

Available from a variety of sources, curated data is culled from contemporary sources and cleaned by third parties.

By itself the data won’t tell you much but when combined with what you already know it can help answer basic questions like can this prospect afford my product? And does this prospect need my product?

For example, financial data (i.e. venture capital infusions for private companies and quarterly revenue and profit statements for public companies) can give you a vivid understanding of the customer’s ability to buy. The data won’t tell you if they’ll buy your product, but it will tell you if they can. In today’s heated markets, no one wants to spend valuable time and treasure on a deal that won’t close.

Curated data can also tell you not only who the decision makers are but whether they’re located in the company you want to sell to. For instance, a subsidiary with a different name than the parent organization might throw you off a correct understanding of who one or more of the buyers is. Too often when this happens, a sales process has to be pursued twice with a loss of time, effort and forecasting accuracy.

Your data

Too often sales organizations ignore the mountain of useful data about their successful sales processes because it is scattered around various hard drives and systems and in formats that don’t lend themselves to easy analysis. That’s too bad because this data tells you what works best for your company in selling its products to its customers. Marketing needs to collect and analyze this treasure trove.

Putting it to work

So increasingly, the job of initially understanding buying signals falls to marketing which means having a story to tell

each buyer about all the major facets of doing business with a vendor, hence the rise of account-based marketing.

If you segment your marketing content and effort by buyer persona or role, it will provide an automatic sort of the customer data you collect, which can be very useful in analyzing your position in an account. For instance, we know that customers consume information about secondary and tertiary parts of your offering as they become more familiar with it and comfortable with a decision in your favor. So consuming your content and programs aimed at the later stages of the buying cycle provide an objective way to score leads and deals, thus enabling sales to deploy resources where they will do the most good.

More importantly, if you analyze past sales processes against this idea you will likely find relatively clear account-level buying signals that you can apply to current and future deals. That’s the power of big data. It starts with a clear understanding of the marketing-sales process and is followed by the judicious application of powerful software. It might not be fool proof — what is? But it beats the wet finger in the breeze approach we’ve been stuck on for too long.

Written by

Denis Pombriant
June 9, 2014