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5 Ways to Immediately Boost Account Based Marketing (ABM)

What are the five ways you can immediately improve your account based marketing (ABM) and selling?

I recently did an interview on CRMRadio.today with Jim Obermayer founder of Sales Lead Management Association and Funnel Media Group.

In the interview, we talk a little shop about the fundamentals of account based marketing, what’s new (and unchanged) in the world of the complex sale, and how empathy marketing is the way forward.

Here’s a transcript of that discussion:

Paul:  Welcome once again to another episode of CRM Radio Today; the voice of CRM today and tomorrow. It’s a live streaming weekly program right here on the Funnel Radio Channel for at work listeners brought to you by the Sales Lead Management Association and many others with your host Jim Obermayer, hey Jim!

Jim:  Hi, we’ve got Brian Carroll on today, and we’re going to talk about five ways to improve account based marketing and selling. In a world where account based marketing and selling it seems to be permitting so many discussions, every time I turn around I hear someone talking about it, it’s backed I think by the expanding technology choices that are out there.

I thought I would go to one of the experts of the industry Brian Carroll. He is an evangelist, speaker, author who wrote the best-selling book – Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. I’ve got a dog-eared copy, and he’s got a very, very popular B2B lead blog with 20,000 people on his LinkedIn group. He recently finished as a chief evangelist over at MECLABS, and he’s now helping B2B companies understand and execute some of their modern demand generation chores so I thought we would tap Brian right away to talk about this.

Brian, what are the five ways to immediately improve account based marketing and selling? 

Brian: So the five things are getting sales and marketing collaborating, not just aligning but collaborating, re-engaging past leads; so going further with relationships you have at the back end. The third thing is being able to build a lead scoring approach that actually works. And the fourth thing is learning how to nurture your customers more effectively, and fifth is using your empathy to put yourself really in the buyer’s shoes.

Jim:  Empathy, huh?

Brian:  Yeah.

Jim:  Well we covered lead nurturing today that’s why Paul said there’s a thread that’s going through these things with David Lewis over at Demand Gen International. He’s got his program on the show at 9:30 on the channel at 9:30 this morning, we went through the whole lead nurturing thing. But let’s tackle each one of these as we get into it but before we get there, tell us what you are doing now that you’ve left MECLABS, and you are back loose in the marketing world so to speak as Brian Co.

Brian:  Yeah, so I am doing three things. I am speaking and teaching what I’ve learned through my 20 years’ experience and working with the complex sale and B2B lead generation. I am doing consulting and so working with companies on growth strategies to help them get more out of their existing lead generation budgets. And third I am researching a new book which is going to be around empathetic marketing, and so I am in the process of running field test and experiments with companies both B2B and then also we are testing in nonprofits.

Jim:  Well that should be fascinating. I look for to that. Do you have any date or publisher yet for that?

Brian:   I don’t. Right now we are validating the research, and so as things progress I’ve already had the framework and several publishers interested, but I really wanted to ground what we are talking about based on real results and what works.

Jim:  Well good, I can’t wait to go ahead and read that one when it comes out with all of the new technology behind it I am sure that you… considering that it’s coming from you, I am sure there will be solid research behind it that will make the case so to speak.

So let’s take a look at this account based marketing that you seem to know quite a bit about, and you mentioned there are five ways.

First of all, you say getting collaboration between sales and marketing, can you delve into that a little bit more for us?

Brian:   Yeah, so there are three things to get clarity around, and I think the first thing when you are executing account based marketing is getting a common language, and that would be around your ideal customer profile.

Within that, two of the personas that are driving that and I find quite a few companies don’t have a unanimous agreement between marketing and sales as they are executing programs. So account based marketing, it’s essential, and it is part of your process because some of the accounts that sales teams may choose may not align well with the company’s ultimate growth strategy and vice versa. And so we need to be really clear on who’s an ideal customer, why they are, what are the attributes?

And then as you develop your segmentation, your list, your approach, that’s important, the other is getting clear on how sales and marketing are working together, and that’s creating service-level agreements. And you know what? When I encounter account based marketing, there are three flavors.

Some companies are doing lead focused operating, and they are making the transition account based marketing. Companies are doing some account based marketing and lead focused marketing. And then there is those that are focused purely on key accounts, and that’s how they do things.

And so the common language getting alignment and then with this it would be clear and having a service-level agreement of what is sales doing, what is marketing doing and how do they collaborate to ensure that no account is missed and that there are no critical missteps that happen regarding engaging and building those relationships. To its core, account based marketing is really about building relationships.

Jim:  I like everything you said there. I think the ideal customer profile which sounds so common, but I go on sales calls, and a salesperson says oh, we’ve got the entire team going to listen to our presentation today, well who is on the entire team?

Well, we’ve got executives that are on the team, we’ve got the product managers that are on the team, we’ve got engineers that are on the team and the customer service people who are on the team. I would ask well what kind of messaging are you getting for those five different people, and they scratch their head, they say well it’s a sales message, and so I hope it is for each one of them because each one of them has different needs; very, very interesting. I also like your service-level agreement that you get from people.

Brian:  Yes.

Jim: That service-level agreement between sales and marketing I call it the rules of engagement of follow-up and reporting; etcetera, etcetera, so that’s great. What about the second part here? –

What was your second item here? Was it re-engaging past leads?

Brian:   Past leads and past accounts. And so one of the fastest opportunities to drive revenue when you’re doing account based marketing is to engage people that already know you and to re-engage them.

For some reason, an account didn’t buy, and there is research from the Corporate Executive Board, MHI Global looking at how customers buy and really what we are up against more often than not is no decision. So you are up against the status quo and for whatever reason an initiative didn’t move forward, it got slowed down. And so what I find is the salespeople are focused on the next quarter or the next quarter after that so about two-quarters or half a year.

And so if something’s not moving forward, accounts feel there’s an opportunity closing in that timeframe, I find that they let up a bit, and so this is a great opportunity for marketing to begin re-engaging these past opportunities. And how do they further the conversation? Maybe a person left, perhaps a company went through acquisition, there are all kinds of different things.

And so what I found is that even when people purchased from competitors, you can go back and re-engage, after implementation and after a period of time. Actually, last week did a webinar, and I was teaching a case study of a company that found 40% of their new business, their new revenue was coming from leads that were over a year old. And 20% of their new revenue was coming from the leads that were less than a year old, so my point being is that these longer-term accounts that have gone dormant for whatever reason are really the next best place you can find opportunity.

Jim:  Those old leads are very valuable. And the research I’ve done for the years working for several of the inquiry measurement companies, sales lead management companies that are out there. I found consistently 45% of all the people who inquire you can consider qualified because they say they are going to buy something whether it’s your product or another product, they are going to buy something.

And depending on what your market share is you might only close 10 or 15% of those buyers but the rest of them are still in the marketplace – 22, 15, 10 to 15% buy in three months, 22 to 26% buy in six months, and 45% buy within a year. That all depends on the sales cycle, how long the sales cycle is. If the sales cycles are 18 months to two years, you’re going to find a lot of those decisions get pushed off, and yet salespeople are merrily trotting off looking for the next hanging fruit – absorbing. I scribbled all your five things down right at the beginning which was a great part there.

What about the lead scoring that you had mentioned?

Brian:  Yes so right now with lead scoring, the thing that I found companies are struggling with is when they implement marketing automation. And they are doing things with behavioral or predictive lead scoring and predictive analytics and account marketing or segmentation etc.

Most companies I talk to say they aren’t 100% satisfied that these tools give them what they need to prioritize where they put in the human touch, whether you have your sales development reps as part of your account based marketing, or your field sales teams engage.

I taught last year at Dream Force, and I was recently up at an event in Toronto and in a room of 250 or 300 account based marketers, I might just have two or three hands raised up, that they are happy with their lead scoring. So this is a big problem, and the problem is I found is that we need to be clear on at what point is a lead, or an account is sales ready.

So when I am talking about leads, I am speaking about qualified accounts and opportunities. And you can have multiple leads under a single account. So with your lead scoring program, what you need to be clear on is based on your universal lead definition, for you to be 100% satisfied that you’ve got those 5 to 7 must have questions your sales team needs, feel comfortable calling a lead, giving you feedback that you have that answered.

I recommend people get clear on the universal lead definition and then begin layering that into the predictive scoring. Otherwise what you will continue getting is their sales team will look at scored leads, and they will cherry pick them, and they will pick the ones that appear the most qualified or that they know the best because they are trying to prioritize their time based on what’s giving them the most productive selling time. What salespeople really need with account-based marketing is more effective selling time with qualified opportunities and accounts.

Jim:  That’s what the salesperson always asks for. We are going to take a quick break here and just a word from our commercial sponsors and then we will get back to the other two items that you had mentioned out of the five ways to immediately improve account based marketing. We have been speaking to the author and evangelist Brian Carroll. Paul over to you!

[Break]

Paul: All right after all that let’s get back to Jim and his guest!

Jim:  We are speaking with Brian Carroll the author and entrepreneur and speaker and the author of B2B Lead Blog that’s www.b2bleadblog.com and Brian’s been turned loose back… you’ve always been out there but your back on your own in the industry, we are happy to have you back out there Brian. And he’s been attacking the subject; five ways to immediately improve account based marketing. He hit the first three in our first half of the program now we are getting back to the last two. Brian?

Brian:  Yes, we are going to be talking about the last two which are really around nurturing your customers more effectively and then how you can use your empathy to reconnect. And I can give some examples of that as well.

Jim: Excellent! So nurturing? Is nurturing only email? Is also nurturing mail? Is nurturing telemarketing? Is it all of the above?

What’s the most effective way to nurture people today?

Brian:  I think lead nurturing is about having continuous meaningful communication with viable potential accounts or customers and doing that regardless of their timing to buy. And you know, what you really are looking to do is add value and help people and help your customers progress through their buying journey and making that decision do they even need to buy? And what would be the best approach in identifying the problem?

So email is currently the favorite tactic we as marketers use for nurturing, but I think that the best pairing is combining email with the phone, levering marketing automation to help you focus on the relevancy piece. And also being able not to send through a blast cannon of your marketing automation or email system, the same message to everybody. And so this is being relevant, and that you are focused on specific personas, you are differentiating.

Also, you can differentiate based on industry and segments and so it’s critical not to focus just on channels or focus on content because those are just really the ways. But we’ve got to get clear about what we are really trying to do, is to help that customer goes through their buying journey and progression. And we are naïve to think that nurturing is one person, or one company is going to do that.

We need to have them not just have conversations with us but have those crucial conversations that need happen inside their companies to make a decision. And this is a big thing with account-based marketing where we have complex sales is five or more five, 15, in some cases 25 people or more will be involved in that buying process. So you’re not just nurturing one person, you are looking to nurture multiple individuals in an organization.

Jim:  Boy, that first statement was so succinct, meaningful communication with qualified buyers where you are adding value to the buyer in their process and their trip to buy this product – my words. But you’ve got me writing faster than I can write clearly here which is one of the better explanations I’ve heard about nurturing. What combination do you recommend in nurturing?

What is your opinion about those nurturing devices?

Brian: Yeah, so there’s a lot of different things. I would say the approaches for nurturing in your toolkit include email, the phone whether it’s done through sales development reps, inside sales, your field sales team, then you have events which there is a myriad. It could be live in person events, it could be webinars, it could be workshops, and so the other piece is direct mail. So where you can send and for some people in your audience I mean it’s never because people aren’t sending direct mail. But I’m talking about things where it might be a handwritten note. You might be sending someone a copy of a best-selling book you say I read this book, I thought about you, and I loved this book, it helped me it might help you.

But what you are really looking to do is to progress the relationship. And within all these, so salespeople or inside salespeople, content gives you a valid business reason to call. I’ll provide an example of what is not a nurturing call. I get these calls frequently because I’m keeping up with the industry, I’m downloading e-books, and I am reading different things.

And so what isn’t nurturing is sending me an autoresponder that’s after I download a white paper it’s offering me a demo. And the great thing about marketing automation, it allows us to be real efficient and very responsive, but the problem is that people were assuming that my interest was moving immediately to demo and in a way it was like asking me on the first day before we even had said hello.

I think what we need to do is look at how we are communicating with customers, and I would start right now with your sales team who is often struggling after they talk to someone, things are progressing, but there is always that question in their mind of how do I advance this conversation?

What isn’t nurturing is calling to say: “I am calling to touch base” or “I am calling to follow up.” That isn’t because really what it feels like to your buyer, to your customer is I am really checking to see if you are ready to buy yet. I am really ready to see how far you’ve moved along. And instead, it can be: I was giving you a call because I saw you attended our webinar and what I want to do is provide a summary to put together key talking points.

We heard feedback from other attendees that they wish to their team were here so we put together a summary for you to one – have as notes and two – pass along if you think it would be helpful. It’s a whole different conversation because at its core what you are trying to do in nurture as I said it’s really about helping people go through their journey.

Jim: Okay, that makes much more sense, you are not asking for the sale. As you close things you are providing value.

Now, what’s our fifth item here for us – empathy?

Brian:  So empathy is our intuition as marketers to be able to connect. And for our listeners out there who are in sales, who are in marketing, you’re with a group of friends, and you are sitting there talking. I just had a situation where I was out with my wife and a college professor, a therapist, a pediatrician, an attorney and they are like what do you do? I described I was in marketing.

You could just feel the energy like oh – that means you are trying to manipulate people, and you are pushy, or they have all of these different things in their mind. And the reality is that those in marketing and sales, we have this reputation with customers because of what other people’s behavior has been. And what we need to do and what empathy is about it’s not feeling what someone else is feeling, it’s identifying how they are feeling with how you felt in that same situation because we can’t honestly feel how others feel. But our empathy allows us to feel that, and so if someone’s crazy busy and they are overwhelmed, we can acknowledge that.

Some examples would be for example thinking of email communication, and I could give you an example of what isn’t being empathetic and an example of what is empathetic marketing.

Jim: We’ve got two minutes.

Brian:   Okay. So from an email that says: you are just one step away from getting free access to our award-winning software system, quickly make this webinar, and you just hear that it sounds like a sales pitch. And what would happen if we started thinking about all customer and began to do something like this: I noticed that you started the process of getting free access to our tool, but you weren’t able to finish. Are you concerned about giving out your phone number? Are you worried about high-pressure sales tactics and mandatory contracts? We think our product sells itself, so we’re just you to provide you with whatever assistance you need to get up and running whatever way works best for you.

So it’s a whole different approach using empathy and by the way, that’s a real world test. And the first version had 1% of people click through and complete, the other version went to 7% and that was a 395% improvement just by being more empathetic to how that customer is feeling and thinking.

Jim: I would like to try to come back and talk about this on another program sometime. We’ve been speaking with Brian Caroll our entrepreneur evangelist, speaker, writer of the lead generation for The Complex Sale and got a new book coming up and don’t forget his blog. Love to continue but we’ve got another program following us.

How does someone reach you, Brian?

Brian: They can go to the B2B lead blog right through Google, and you can find me and contact me, and I look forward to hearing from our listeners today.

Jim:  You’ve been very helpful today; you’ve been very helpful with your time. Thank you, Brian Caroll, for addressing the subject five ways to immediately improve account based marketing and selling. Paul, over to you!

Paul:  You’ve been listening to another episode of CRM Today; taking a look at CRM today and tomorrow right here on Funnel Radio.

You may also like:

Lead Nurturing: 4 Steps to walking the buying path with your customers
Lead nurturing via email series and content marketing
Content Marketing Tips for Lead Nurturing
You can’t automate trust

Brian Carroll
 

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to improve how they acquire and grow customer relationships with empathy-based marketing and meet the challenges of revenue growth. He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, and the B2B Lead Blog which is read by thousands each week. He also founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 19,801+ members.

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