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ABM Is Not a Revolution, It's an Evolution

Targeting large accounts requires a thoughtful approach—you have to consider the level of personalization, your channels, your assets, and more. And that takes time. Just ask our resident account-based marketer Heidi Vandermeer. She sat down with Robert Lesser, Principal and Founder of the LAX Boutique to talk ABM strategy in part 2 of this two-part series. Did you miss part 1? Read Taking a Team Approach to ABM for Large Accounts.  

Uberflip: In ABM, there are different types of personalization and customization to drive engagement. How do you know when bespoke or segmented personalization is better?

Robert Lesser: One-to-one personalization needs to be really well thought out because of the implications that it has for marketing. This is not the case for sales because they are already doing this for the most part. It comes back to:

  • Is there a stated go-to-market strategy?  

  • Is there a focus on large accounts?

  • How many large accounts are there?

  • Is this a bespoke approach? Is it highly tailored, highly targeted?

  • Or, is one-to-one too much work right now?

If one-to-one isn’t the right fit, you can focus on clusters of accounts instead. It’s a journey and you don't want to get overwhelmed at first. We need to ask ourselves, ‘How much can we bite off? Where are we going to be successful?’

We need to build better alignment with sales first, and that takes time. It will take small steps.

It can't be a revolution, it needs to be an evolution.

Uberflip: For marketers that are working on a digital ABM strategy, how can digital channels can be used?

RL: CEB released research last year about the importance of digital channels. Sometimes in marketing, we tend to chase shiny toys. We look favorably at new trends, new channels, and new options for marketing, with ABM being one of them. The research from CEB was interesting because it shows that marketers may be overlooking their website as a channel. They found that buyers of complex sales solutions look at digital assets and channels from the beginning, middle, and end of their journey.

First and foremost within the digital channels is the importance of the website. CEB found that the website is the number one channel from beginning to end in the buyer journey. To me, this feels like a retro idea. All of a sudden, websites are the new thing again. We can't throw away or ignore some of the mainstays of our business. Digital channels and websites are here to stay, even after sales gets involved face-to-face.

In terms of digital assets and channels, it's interesting how digital is also in the eye of the beholder. If you talk to sales, they believe the buyer never goes to the website and turns to the sales rep for all of their information. For the sales rep, digital means slide decks that can be found online, emails, links within emails, the website, and online meetings.

In marketing, we see a wider breadth of digital. The “always-on” information that buyers can get is why they turn to so many different sources for information. There are vendor websites, analyst websites, peer review websites, social networks (like LinkedIn), and so many other sources of information. Buyers are overwhelmed with the number of sources.

Uberflip: One thing that we found interesting is that the number one most effective digital channel for driving engagement involves personalized content. How would you recommend personalizing content digitally (e.g. for microsites and landing pages)?

RL: There's a double-edged sword of personalization. We know that buyers want to have personalized messages, but it can be onerous for marketers to execute on. We don't want to bite off more than we can chew. Gratuitous approaches to personalization are something that has to be avoided.  

Moving from top-of-funnel, you can personalize based on the firmographics of the organization, size, growth, vertical market, tech stack, or behavioral. At the top of the funnel, this can be effective and engaging (of course, depending on how wide in the market you go). As we move down the funnel there's a need to get much more personalized. In a sales discussion, however, top-of-funnel content doesn’t work. You need to understand what are their specific priorities, and what are they trying to accomplish in their organization.

Uberflip: When your strategy and message have been refined, and you begin to implement ABM, what types of assets should be built out by marketing?

RL: Marketing assets should be considered only after making sure you have the right accounts selected, knowing what makes them buy (or not buy), knowing what makes them slow to buy, and developing insights.

A purchase for a large account is a substantial change in the way they do business. Most large accounts are leery of making changes. Status quo is something that most organizations are resistant to move away from. After you go through an assessment of deeply understanding the buyer journey and the sales process, you come to the question, ‘What is the insight? What is the driver that acts as a catalyst driving that change?’

There is a great quote…

Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

You need to prove that staying with the status quo is going to be more painful. That is no easy task, which is why developing this insight is so crucial.

Ask yourself what assets and messages you are going to develop that help the buyer understand they need to change.

There is no silver bullet, but there may be signs from your sales or marketing team where someone has seen something change from their audience’s perspective. Look for the signs and messages that have helped a prospect suddenly open up to change, open up to considering options, or open up to a conversation.

Know which assets will act as a catalyst for change. Not all assets can do that, and not all assets need to be that catalyst, but it's really important to think through:

  • How does this get a buyer to change?

  • How can it enable a buyer?

  • How can it help them buy faster?

  • How can it help them to move things along faster in their organization?

Know what will be the most impactful. It's a measure of quality, not quantity.

The second consideration is many assets are funneled through the sales team. We know that as soon as the salesperson registers an opportunity, they want to orchestrate all the messaging through to that account. So this is another consideration:

  • How is this going to play into the sales process?

  • How does the salesperson use it?

  • Beyond just being in a repository for content and being easy to access, how does it fit into the sales process, to ensure that it’s not going to sit on the shelf?  

There must be a place for it, a plan for how the salesperson is going to use it, and the right time to use it.

In marketing, we throw terms around a lot. Even the term “asset” has an assumption that it’s of value. Quite frankly, that doesn’t matter. What matters is does the sales team believe it’s an asset? And most importantly does the buyer believes that it’s an asset? This is something we can’t assume.

We need to ask ourselves if something is of true value, and when is it of value. When sales cycles are elongated, sales gets overwhelmed with what they need to deliver and when. We need to make sure there is an acid test for value first before we provide content, and knowing when it should be used. Unfortunately, a lot of content sits unused because it needs to be better thought out.

I’m looking forward to seeing the change of the status quo on how marketing assists sales, and the evolution of account-based marketing.

ABM is a big decision, and it can involve a lot of people in the organization, and a lot of resources. It’s something that needs to be well thought-out.  

Find out How You Can Scale Your Account-Based Content and Empower Your Sales Team now. Watch the recording!

About the Author

Robert is the principal consultant at The LAX Boutique: a sales & marketing consultancy that creates strategies and initiatives for sales and marketing teams to create better Large Account Xperiences (LAX). The LAX Boutique ensures that companies' ideal customers benefit from an optimal buying experience thereby shortening sales cycles and improving win rates and deal sizes.

Profile Photo of Robert Lesser