What's with Account-Based Marketing?
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
How to gain trust from your customers, generate interest in your product, and close B2E deals?
Co-author: Roei Tal
If your product is aimed at enterprises, you probably use Account Based Marketing - ABM. If it is not yet the case, but you aim to larger sales, high tier customers, then ABM is one of the most productive channels you should explore.
Some products just sell themselves, right? Google products - Gmail, followed by g-Suite, google maps, and other self-service APIs, are good examples. Everyone is free to sign the EULA and implement, and all you need to get going is a valid credit card. Free credits or trial periods are on offer, and extensive support libraries are available.
However, not all products enjoy the simplicity and connectedness of those examples. Sometimes they are complex, need to integrate deep into customer workflows and culture. Other times there are perceived risks in implementation - to the organization and to the stakeholders you address.
In B2E situations, a slower route is required.
A case in point is application development platforms. Typically low-code or no-code, they offer “citizen developers” a powerful set of tools to create, operate, and maintain custom-built software solutions for their organizations.
Such platforms are met with mixed feelings: The obvious benefits of enhanced usability, accelerated time-to-market, and low development cost are often contrasted with concerns about scalability, security, reliability, and integration with the corporate fabric.
While business users just love the possibilities such platforms offer, IT managers have a more skeptic view on platform vendors self-aggrandizing promises, and for a good reason, too!
The core question is, would the self-service marketing approach of low-end SaaS products hit the mark with high-ticket, sensitive, externally exposed enterprise processes?
Personally, I doubt it.
Such a grassroots solution is monday.com. Originally targeted at R&D departments it provides a point solution to the internal process of R&D project management. Exploiting the gap left by outdated solutions such as MSProject, and fueled by an outstanding digital marketing campaign, it spread like wildfire among small and large technology companies alike, eventually claiming fame in a recent $1.9B valuation.
However, these days, the company demonstrably seeks further growth, as it tries to approach other, less tech-savvy stakeholders within target organizations. Will Monday be able to convey its value to them? And if it can, could it convert awareness and interest to actual sales?
It is noteworthy that while R&D teams have significant leeway in selecting their arsenal, “Ordinary” business users are required to rely on IT departments responsible for providing the technology stack for their needs. CIO’s and their subordinate IT organizations, on their part, enforce solution selection and approval, both to insure integrity and full integration of new tools, and to prevent dreaded shadow-IT.
In this light, Monday surely understands the limited potential of business users to buy-in, and commit, to its public cloud, unsupervised platform through a self-service process. Limited is also the financial potential from each target company: Will companies let employees commit to five and six figures contracts without finance and procurement departments having their say?
The evidence shows Monday has already embarked on the much slower, labor-intensive, ABM approach: A quick LinkedIn search reveals 52 employees doing channel marketing, one of the many names for ABM. Whether they succeed in this, maintaining and even accelerating their growth still remains to be seen.
The challenge, clearly, lies in successfully building the right growth engine - a mechanism that converts enterprise solutions opportunities into active large accounts - at scale. An educated guess, supported by the size of Monday’s marketing department, is that a significant part of their 2019 $150M cash injection were put to use towards this goal.
What would you do if you raised less than that, if at all?…
Accounts and Leads - Considerations
To discuss Account Based Marketing in greater detail, we must first revisit the concept of Customer Acquisition Funnel.
Prospects first become aware to the problem space in general, then learn about alternative approaches solving for the problem, and - through engagement with your team - gradually become familiar with the advantages and key benefits of your own solution, until they ultimately take the decision to buy.
As ABM marketeers we first identify target organizations (accounts) within our chosen market segments. We base our selection criteria on the business cases we previously built, where we believe our product is expected to generate clear value.
Now, it is important to emphasize that when we talk about accounts, we talk about groups of individuals - key stakeholders within or about those target organizations. These would be:
Prospective users of the product that would reap direct benefit from it
Influencers, such as trusted advisers or gatekeepers
Decision makers that would spend the budget
How would you approach each stakeholder? What value will you provide, to allow for as frictionless as possible transition from awareness, through consideration, approval, and finally - to purchase?
We at TheRoad believe that ABM is the art of relationships management and trust building. Once initial contact is made, recurring conversations and touch points are designed to build trust. That is, in your leads minds, trust in the person representing your company, trust in the product, trust in your business model, and eventually - trust in your brand.
Only when such trust is gained, your customer stakeholders would be willing to put their reputation on the line to request for your product, to recommend it, or to commit for the expense.
Timing and purchase patterns are also at play. When your customer’s time frame for purchase is pre-defined, this trust is part of the vetting process, and serves as an informal pre-qualification.
When the time comes, you are bound to be called in to participate in RFIs / RFQs
When the timeframe and process are less rigid, the result of such trust would be a direct request for proposal, where the discussion that remains focuses more on the “how and when?” rather than on the “if”.
The process, then, for each of the stakeholders, should start with generating their awareness - with messaging tailored to each of their respective needs.
Talk with Users all you want about features - Influencers will be interested in your product’s compliance and resilience, while decision makers would like to understand the ROI of your offering.
The next phase would be nurturing, and confidence building
First about your product, its ability to solve for the customer’s pains.
Then about your customer-facing operation: Your sales persons, customer success and support representatives are all part of the equation: The way questions are answered (to the point, and on time) is a good example for that.
Finally, customers must be comfortable about the viability of your company. Will you be there next year, or would they have to start all over?
Trust building is a long process, and is one of the reasons sale cycles are so long in b2b context. A well managed ABM process would keep leads contacted regularly with valuable information, increasing their trust in your offering and in you, and ultimately, increasing your success.
At TheRoad we build growth engines - operations aimed at enabling startups to accelerate disproportionately to their internal team size. Our approach is similar to B.O.T - Build, Operate, and Transfer. We are happy to bridge the gap between early days outfits to established corporations.
Once upstarts grow they have the discretion to absorb back in activities, and when they do, we have all the infrastructure to hand over to them. The knowhow accumulated during the process by top management is invaluable for their next phase of internal growth.
Meanwhile, we are the voice of the company in the ears of account stakeholders. Our reps speak and write the language of the company, running pre approved messages through pre defined, synchronized sequences.
Marketing Operations: We run drip campaigns through paid media, email marketing, social accounts and direct messaging, both in the inbound channel and through outreach. We manage content and creative operations, feeding social media, email marketing, and on-site conversions.
Outreach Operations: Some strategic activities, such as assigning partners, require a direct method. Researching the market for suitable partners, identifying key individuals, and finally approaching them is a delicate task. We conduct the research, identify the right match, and nurture a relationship culminating in POC, commercial discussion, and assignment.
Sales Operations: we employ a sales development team to nurture and qualify leads, after gradually nurturing them from top of the mind awareness, through intent, to consideration - ready to close the deal, answer RFPs or participate in a tenders.
Reporting layer: If you don’t measure it, it didn’t happen, so they say. You want your top dollar to be accounted for. Our reporting layer measures any stage in the funnel - Paid, on-line, or offline, and represents total cost of acquisition.
Our best expertise, tools and personnel are aimed to meet aggressive goals, taking enterprise customers through their journey - at scale.