There’s much discussion at the moment about the need for sales and marketing alignment, about the technology/the tools available to support ABM strategies, about the need to change success metrics from a traditional lead gen approach.
I want to focus your attention for a few minutes on a lesser-discussed but critical aspect of successful ABM — the creative strategy.
While account-based marketing itself may not be a new concept, the creative strategy you need to employ is unique, particularly because you are talking to several stakeholders, across disciplines, within the same company.
Insight, perspective and conversations
The most brilliant examples of creative purpose-built for ABM will feel irrelevant to a traditional marketer. As they should. They are not about the brand, or the product or service, or simply the persona poster on the wall. They are about showing the customer what’s possible if she looks a bit differently at the challenges and opportunities that are in front of her.
Decisions are made every day in business, and while those decisions are most definitely informed by experience, they also rely on research, peer opinion, case stories, past failures, politics… Decision makers and influencers must be informed. And they do want to hear from you, but only if you have something of value to share.
There is only one way to know what that is — dig in and get smart.
The industry. What challenges and opportunities exist?
The company. There are two parts to this one.
The Business of the Business – What’s the recent activity? How are their expectations changing based on evolving technology and disruptive new competitors? What current solution would your product or service replace, augment or enhance?
The Structure of the Business – How do decisions get made (around the kind of product/service you offer)? What departments are involved?
NOTE: Your salespeople are an absolute goldmine when it comes to understanding how your existing customers are aligned/make decisions. Interview them, get truly into their heads, ask questions that get them talking about customers as if they were the product you are selling. You can use this as a guide when you are mapping target/like companies.
The roles. Which roles within which departments are decision-making vs. influencing? Who do you have within your own company that serves at a peer-level with those roles?
The people. Who are in those roles? What is their contact info? How active are they on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook? Do they have a blog? What topics do they talk about/engage with on social media?
(You are simultaneously building a list and getting smart.)
INSIGHT – Take what you’ve learned about the industry and the business of the business and craft your insight. With this approach, an insight might be: ACME is still running a host of legacy IT and is actively losing ground to disruptive competitors X and Y. The cross-discipline team is fragmented as there is no CDO and no one has stepped up to unify the groups.
PERSPECTIVE – Use your insight to craft a unique perspective for the Business of the Business — THIS is the value. THIS is what your creative strategy should bring to life. THIS is what will make them comfortable and curious. With this approach, a perspective could be: CIOs have a unique opportunity, but you must transform your information, technology, value and people leadership practices to deliver on the digital promise. Assume the role of Chief Digital Officer and get on the road to digital. Here’s what it looks like for you [insert vision of the future here and how to get there].
CONVERSATIONS – This is where you align your value propositions to real value. Use a simple mapping process to articulate how to frame your story around the worldview of each department, each contact. By aligning your value propositions to their real value and mapping it to relevant content and offers, this conversation map serves as a blueprint for persuasive conversations.
Start with the promise of change/differentiation/transformation (the vision of the future). Then progress through the customer’s thought process (but remember, it’s not necessarily linear)
- Why change now? (Loosen the status quo)
- How do I do that? (Create curiosity)
- Where do I start? (Establish confidence)
- Why Client X? (Provide real value)
- Action/Result (Deliberate step toward the vision of the future)
Why does mapping conversations matter? It’s a distinct way of processing a traditional messaging framework to be buyer-centric, to work across disciplines whilst staying consistent with your stories.
When you can make something simultaneously visionary and practical — when you show customers an idea they may not have thought of and a logical way to achieve it — you win hearts and minds.
In Part 2, we’ll dig into how to turn conversations into an ABM creative strategy.