The newest advancement in the B2B space is account-based engagement (ABE).
ABE is an evolution of account-based marketing (ABM). It focuses on personalization at scale. It’s about engaging with each individual from each individual account.
ABM makes the shift from marketing to a specific person to marketing to a whole account/buying committee. It includes providing different messages and tactics for each person involved in the buying process. Instead of targeting to an entire market, you market to particular accounts.
Inbound Marketing vs. Account-Based Engagement
Inbound marketing has been the main strategy for years. It is all about trying to address and solve customers’ pain points by offering valuable content that pertains to their specific needs. Account-based engagement is different in that it’s about the entire customer journey, not just about bringing in customers initially. It’s also about making customers feel understood by providing them value in a personalized way.
The customer journey consists of marketing, sales, and customer management. With ABE, each step of the customer journey needs to involve high levels of personalized engagement. You don’t want customers feeling lost in the process. As a customer makes their way down the customer journey, there needs to be a smooth transition and hand-off from each team. Marketing, sales, and customer support teams need to be reaching out and engaging with the customers.
The Buying Process
Oftentimes, there are dozens of people involved in the buying process; there’s rarely just one decision-maker. With ABE, you target each member of the buying committee.
Instead of marketing to everyone and hoping ideal accounts come to you, you must search out the ideal accounts and market directly to them in a personalized and strategic manner.
It is the most time-efficient way to market. 87% of B2B marketers reported that these strategies outrank all others in terms of ROI. You don’t want to be wasting time on accounts that are not the right fit. Identify the accounts you want and go after them.
To break it down in the simplest way, account-based engagement is targeting individuals from specific accounts in a personalized way and leading them to further engage with your company through various tactics such as personalized campaigns, targeted emails, social media engagement, and most importantly, through chatbots.
It is a more focused way of marketing which allows for greater alignment between your sales, marketing, and customer support teams.
At the Demand Gen Summit Spring 2021, the keynote speaker Scott Rhodes, Associate Director of marketing/sales/pricing at BCG, explained in his presentation what account based engagement is and why everyone needs to pivot their marketing and sales strategies to incorporate it.
5 Benefits of Account-Based Engagement
The major benefits from account-based engagement are faster pipeline growth, higher close rates, larger average deal sizes, greater customer retention, and further alignment between sales, marketing, and customer support.
1. Faster pipeline growth:
Account-based engagement leads to faster growth of your pipeline. On average, 83% of companies have seen a positive impact on pipeline growth when implementing ABE. The sales cycle will speed up because it involves more personalized interactions between the customer and your company. Account owners can be directly routed into conversations with the accounts, [LESS SALESY] which is a huge benefit with using ChatFunnels.
2. Higher close rates:
You will start to see a higher percentage of your leads converting. You will be spending less time [AND MONEY] marketing and trying to sell to people who are not a great fit for your product, and more time targeting those who are a perfect fit. Your leads will be more qualified and therefore more of them will convert. In a recent study conducted by SiriusDecisions in 2017, 66% of respondents experienced 20% better close rates with these new business strategies. The reason is because the accounts you focus on will all be high priority, [the reason is that they are your ideal customers, not just random people] which inevitably leads to higher close rates.
3. Larger average deals:
The size of your average deals will be larger because your customers will be able to quickly see the value in using your product since you’ll have more personalized messaging and content. Initially people may be hesitant to jump right in and purchase your premium package because they are unfamiliar with your product and just want to dip their toe in the water. With ABE, they will better understand the value your product offers them specifically and know exactly what they are getting into. That eliminates any hesitation on the part of the customer that comes from lack of education on your product. Companies have seen 171% increase in average contract value!
4. Greater customer retention:
Account-based engagement leads to greater customer retention because more time is spent developing personal relationships with each member of the buying committee of each specific account. Open communication with customers is the #1 most important factor in customer retention[SOURCE?]. Not only does it build trust, but it allows for the customer to feel heard and appreciated.
5. Alignment of sales, marketing, and customer support:
Everyone is always talking about aligning sales and marketing. There is the long standing battle between the two teams. Marketing blames sales for not closing all the leads they are providing, and sales claims they were horrible leads. Account-based engagement leads everyone to focus on the individuals of each account, which will unify your teams on all fronts. ABM is a great play, but sales and customer support are never involved in it. ABE requires the help and support from each of your teams.
Strategic vs. Scaled ABE
There are two emerging types of ABE: strategic and scaled.
Strategic ABE focuses on the most strategic accounts. It involves teams who are experts on the accounts and who engage with them in personalized ways across all channels.
Strategic ABE involves the most individualized engagement, which in turn creates the strongest customer relationships.
However, this level of extreme personalization and attention given to these accounts, realistically, can only be done with tens of accounts. On the other hand, scaled ABE can be implemented across hundreds or thousands of accounts.
Scaled ABE is a one-to-few approach, versus the one-to-one approach with strategic ABE. Strategic ABE is more sales-led, while scaled ABE is more marketing-led.
With a scaled ABE approach, you deploy ABE strategies to segmented accounts. Strategic ABE focuses on fewer, but larger, accounts and deals.
4 Simple Steps to Incorporating Account-Based Engagement
1. Define target accounts/target groups:
Your company needs to strategize and decide which accounts have the most potential. Remember, the whole point of ABE is reaching out to ideal customers and engaging with them in personalized ways. You and your team need to sit down and discuss what your target accounts and groups are, and strategize on what type of content and messaging will appeal to them.
2. Roll out a one-to-one, or strategic, ABE strategy:
To get started, begin with the top 10-15 most important accounts. You want to start here because not only will it bring in the most revenue, but it will help you figure out how to make your ABE strategies work.
3. Roll out a one-to-few, or scaled, strategy:
Once you’ve mastered strategic ABE, then you can move on to scaled ABE. Take everything you learned from your one-to-one strategies and scale it in a personalized manner. This is where segmentation comes into play. At the Demand Gen Summit Spring 2021, Laura Patterson presented on the philosophy behind segmentation. “Members of a segment will respond in the same way to a value proposition and have similar characteristics. You may promote the same product to the segments in a market, but how you position that product to the unique segments may differ.”
4. Optimize your account-based engagement strategies:
The most important aspect is to continue to engage in meaningful ways. No one likes a company that markets by throwing out content that isn’t even relevant. Whether you engage with them through phone calls, SMS, emails, or chat, your content needs to offer value and be useful by solving relevant problems. Follow up with personalized, targeted campaigns once they’ve left your website.
What Is Conversational Marketing?
Conversational marketing is the optimal marketing strategy for driving engagement. At its core, conversational marketing is targeting customers by having direct, one-on-one conversations with them, whether that’s through email, social, phone, or intelligent chatbots.
The use of chatbots on your site is the most effective way to optimize your conversational marketing strategies. In addition, it allows for real-time engagement, which in turn promotes faster lead conversion.
Conversational marketing with chatbots differs from traditional marketing in that instead of reaching out to customers to try to get them to your site, you engage right then and there with customers who are already on your site. It allows you to engage with them the moment their interest is piqued.
Conversational Marketing and Account-Based Engagement
Account-based engagement and conversational marketing go hand-in-hand.
Using conversational marketing strategies is the only way to truly implement ABE in an effective manner. Don’t think of conversational marketing and account-based engagement as two separate strategies; conversational marketing is part of how you achieve account based engagement.
It’s all about personalization at scale and targeting.
What Does it Really Mean to Market and Sell to Each Member of the Buying Committee?
Companies have realized that buying in committees is the safest route to take. It ensures that an informed decision is made and that no single employee is to blame for a poor purchase.
Think about the Miller-Heiman sales methodology. It’s all about selling to large accounts with large buying committees. They call it conceptual selling- you’re selling a solution, rather than a product/service.
The Miller-Heiman method is how salespeople can cover whole accounts and build long-term customer relationships. Salespeople who use this process learn how to sell to each individual on a buying committee.
All aspects of a company should incorporate the principles of this sales methodology. Marketing needs to move from spray and pray to a more effective targeted marketing strategy.
Let’s break down who the buying committee generally consists of in B2B Saas purchases.
The Buying Committee
1. CMO or CRO:
The chief marketing officer or chief revenue officer is usually the main decision-maker in this buying process. They are the ones that usually give the approval of the purchase before the CEO signs off. The CMO or CRO needs to be sold on how your product/service adds value to their company.
2. Department Head:
This is usually either the sales or marketing manager. Oftentimes, it is a demand gen leader. They want to know what value your product/service will have overall. They are the ones who need convincing that your product will make them a winner for their company. Help them realize that if they purchase your product, they will be saving their company time, money, and effort.
Of course, the financial team is involved in any purchase. They will need to know whose budget will be purchasing the product/service. They will only sign off on purchases they are confident will have a high ROI, so you need to make sure they see the results. Finance teams are all about numbers, so give them what they want. Share case studies and statistics with them.
The legal team comes into play when it comes to the actual contract that the customer needs to sign with your company. Every company’s legal teams have their own policies. You need to ensure that you take the time to coordinate with the legal team and take into consideration their concerns with the contract. For example, we’ve seen some companies’ legal teams be hesitant to sign off because they have specific policies about needing 30-day opt-out as an option. The contract review process can be tedious, but legal is a crucial part of the buying committee, and ABE is about making sure everyone is on board.
IT is involved with the security aspect of implementing your product or service. And they care about whether it will be compatible with their existing tech stack. You need to ensure that they understand the security details of your product and how to make it work with their software.
You should have individualized messages directed to each member of the buying committee. Sales teams already understand the importance of selling to each member of the buying committee. Now, marketing and customer support should also learn cater to them as individuals.
Pitfalls of Account-Based Engagement Implementation
The biggest pitfall we have seen with ABE is the initial implementation. People struggle to shift from focusing on one individual to focusing on multiple individuals of a single account.
We have to change how we do things!
For years, people have ignored the buying committee and focused only on one member of the buying committee. Nowadays, you have to take into account everyone involved in the buying process in order to increase close rates.
Even though it may require upfront time investment, it is worth it to stick it through and fully implement account-based engagement.
Sales Needs to Be on Board
Another pitfall is assuming that ABE falls on the shoulders of the marketers. ABE involves everyone from marketing, sales, and customer support. If any of those teams are not on board, it cannot succeed.
Quick Recap of Account-Based Engagement
Account-based engagement is an evolution of account-based marketing. It incorporates aspects of conversational marketing, along with targeted campaigning. What sets ABE apart from other marketing strategies is that it revolves around continual, personalized engagement.
Consumers nowadays don’t want to waste their time. In theory, they know what they want, but oftentimes are unaware of the true value your product/services can offer them. With ABE, you will be able to focus on target accounts and have real conversations with them in order to lead them to conversion.
ABE requires quite a bit of initial implementation, but if you stick to it and get your whole team on board, the pay off is worth it!