In First Hand Accounts

By Justin Keller, VP of Marketing, Sigstr

Sigstr is a member of the ABM Leadership Alliance, which is a group of experts who provide B2B marketers with guidance and oversight on how to leverage technology to create a high-performing ABM strategy.

A true ABM strategy focuses on the customer experience with the goal of building genuine relationships with prospective buyers at a business’s target accounts, converting them into customers and ultimately gaining brand advocates.

Relationships cannot form overnight, however, and in an era of people demanding brand transparency, genuine relationships are arguably harder to achieve than ever before. But marketers can focus on a few fundamentals that are key to success.

Here are my top three considerations for ensuring your ABM program can help you develop strong buyer relationships:

Aligning Sales And Marketing

One of the biggest roadblocks of ABM programs is alignment between sales and marketing. This becomes even more critical when using ABM to develop strong relationships with prospects and customers. Marketing is often in the driver’s seat of ABM initiatives, but sales also needs to be there on the journey and not just at the beginning.

Once target accounts are established, marketing can apply tactics to raise awareness and personalize the content experience to a certain degree (say by industry) to assist with opening the door to sales for potential conversions. However, it’s the sales rep that is ultimately owning the account-level relationship. Therefore, to truly leverage ABM for better buyer relationships, sales people must work with marketers to help them deliver uber-tailored experiences to their buyers, right down to the account and individual level.

When the sales rep is able to provide marketing with insight into the accounts that matter, individuals’ pain points and personal information, it’s much easier to truly customize assets and communications. By aligning sales and marketing, ABM can deliver a richer experience that is more likely to gain the attention of B2B target buyers and help expand relationships with different targets at those accounts.

Crafting Authentic Email

Despite a wide number of communication channels being open to businesses, email still leads the race. As of 2018, there are approximately 124.5 billion business emails sent and received each day, according to Radicati. Email isn’t slowing down either, with projections from Statista citing that almost 320 billion daily emails will be sent and received in 2021 across personal and business spheres.

As the default mode of communications, marketers must recognize one-to-one email as the workforce behind B2B marketing. With all that said, as the world gets noisier for our audiences, it gets harder to craft effective emails each year. After all, when you’re used to getting spam emails every day as a consumer, it’s no surprise that we become cynical about the business emails we receive. I’m sure you’ve all thought before, “My name is only being used as a token in this email,” or “How is this email personalized to me?”

Authenticity is the key to making one-to-one email effective for developing relationships. Before potential customers will consider your products or services, they must trust your business, which means proving to customers that their challenges and needs matter to you. When using email for B2B marketing, marketers can begin by orienting the messaging to the department or industry of the recipient, and then working down to the account level to address the pain points facing that customer. Yes, you’re ultimately selling a good or service, but you’re doing so in a way that presents your company as a trusted partner. Since one-to-one email is a trusted and authentic medium, consider including relevant call-to-action banners within the email. That way, you can keep your language focused on them, while a strong display ad drives your brand and demand activity.

Marketers, be warned. As email volume increases, B2B relationships start to live or die, so make sure the emails you send are authentic!

Measuring Relationships

Given ABM’s focus on quality, a different set of metrics are required compared to traditional demand generation programs. There are several quality-based metrics that marketers can use to measure the strength of their business’s relationships, which focus on real engagement with content and people.

First, healthy communication indicates a healthy relationship. Establishing an authentic and productive relationship at target accounts with a healthy amount of back and forth is critical. Marketers should monitor for real dialogue via email and calendar patterns with their target accounts, and then use this to determine (in alignment with sales) the next best action to use their ABM initiatives to deepen the relationship.

Content engagement is more passive than real dialogue, but it can tell you a lot about which messages are most meaningful to buyers at your target accounts (and which specific buyer is most engaged in your content). Remember, though, if you’re not delivering relevant, tailored content, you’re only delivering noise. Just like crafting authentic email, this takes the same level of care in order for your message to resonate with the recipient. If done right, your passive engagement metrics will go up.

Also, keep a “spread” score of how many people your company knows at your target buyers’ organization. Establish what relationships you have as a business from the beginning and, over time, you will understand who is involved in the buying decision. Then, track the expansion of your company’s relationships with more people at the target account, as there are now more people than ever (6.8 on average, according to HBR) that form a buying committee.

Overall, make sure you know who to target at your business’s most important accounts and how to deeply customize their experience. Ensure your email communications are authentic and compelling enough to cut through B2B noise and address prospects’ needs. Then, constantly measure the success of your efforts. By putting these three fundamentals in place, marketers can ensure their ABM strategy focuses on the customer experience and supports the creation of strong buyer relationships.

As the VP of Marketing at Sigstr, Justin Keller brings 14+ years of leadership experience in digital media and Silicon Valley marketing. He frequently contributes to leading B2B marketing blogs and publications and often speaks on the topics of ABM and digital marketing.

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