If most people approached dating the way marketers approached marketing, the world’s population would likely plummet.
Why? Because when it comes to B2B demand marketing, we marketers seldom acknowledge the subtle differences between those tactics that successfully pique target buyers' interest and those that simply annoy them (or creep them out entirely).
This is especially true regarding account-based marketing (ABM), in which B2B marketers must raise interest and credibility among an entire buying-committee across a set number of accounts. In other words, marketers can’t just play the numbers game and risk burning bridges with the accounts most likely to close and generate big revenue gains.
A weakness in the ABM MarTech landscape
Forrester recently released a comprehensive report on the ABM technology vendor landscape. (It’s the first that I’m aware of.) A handful of Forrester analysts interviewed 38 marketing technology vendor and user companies, and conducted product demos and questionnaire surveys with 55 vendors. It’s quite an impressive feat considering how vague marketers’ understandings of account-based marketing remains.
This report is very strong and undoubtedly of great use to just about any B2B marketer. For obvious reasons, however, coverage of the various ways tech vendors help find and engage account buying committees is somewhat simplified. (Note: this is bound to happen in a report of this scope in a landscape of little maturity.)
The report basically lumps all tactics used to acquire decision-maker contact data (and the vendors that automate these tactics) into a single group. It doesn’t delineate the differences between them and how this will affect your relationship with these target buyers going forward. In my view, this is an important nuance.
All marketers are trying to get that first date with the target buyer. And from what I often witness through my conversations with demand marketing teams, there’s two ways to find the decision-makers at target accounts and get those first dates:
1. The unsolicited come-on
There are several vendors that (among other useful capabilities) offer the ability drop contact data among your target accounts directly into your database. At first glance, this is great – you immediately know who you need to engage at these high-value accounts. Quick and easy, right?
But what this essentially turns into is the old, outdated marketing practice of list buys and spray-and-pray emailing. After all, these people whose info you just acquired have yet to show any interest in your brand, product or service. Think about it: How often do you reply to unsolicited sales emails?
This method often comes across as irritating to your target buyers because it’s presumptuous and distracting. In an era that’s all about the customer experience, the last thing marketers want to do is start out their relationship with a prospective buyer with a sense of irritation.
Even worse is adding that level of buyer stalking to the equation. Plenty of new tools allow marketers to look “at individual team members’ social posts, search histories, site visits, and content consumption.” Now, imagine receiving an initial prospecting email that refences your social posts and content consumption. Or being continuously stalked by display ads from vendors whose websites you haven’t yet visited. It’s kind of creepy.
Cartoon created by Steve Kosaka for webinar “How to Evolve Content Marketing Strategy for an ABM World”
That’s not to say such buyer intelligence doesn’t have value; researching your target buyers and using this data in communication is very helpful once they’ve expressed interest (on their terms) and after you’ve created a good rapport.
2. Setting the scene for welcomed engagement
The second way to find and successfully engage target buyers uses a subtler approach, one that’s more like being introduced by a friend.
Once you have your list of target accounts (whether based on a manual process of sales-marketing agreement or automated by predictive modelling), disseminate your content via several media partners that have proven relationships with the specific accounts you’re targeting.
Such media vendors act as hubs of information for specific industries. Their content libraries act as watering holes in which your target buyers go to consume content on their own terms. If your content is good, properly tailored to their persona and account profiles, they’ll fill out that lead form, showing their interest in your company.
This starts off the customer relationship on the right foot. When you reach out to them, they’ll be far more likely to have a positive reaction to the outreach.
This isn’t anything new. It’s simply making sure that new shortcuts presented in the name of ABM don’t result in us falling back into bad habits. It’s important to remember that just because we’re now marketing to entire accounts, we’re still building relationships with individuals who don’t like to be annoyed, hounded or stalked.