The global trust revolution is here (and much sooner than expected). Is your company ready?
2020 has been an unforgiving year. And to add to a seemingly ever-growing list of Covid-related repercussions, we are — in real time — experiencing the decimation of traditional business sales strategies as we know it. The New York Times identifies this shift as a change in digital etiquette; one in which businesses are being forced to throw out literally everything they know about the way they communicate to the market. What you’ve been doing up until this point won’t work in a post-Covid world, and it’s time to adapt — fast.
Many of us have experienced this sharp change in customer expectations firsthand. With the shift toward a global trust revolution, it’s vital you understand how to adapt your ABM strategy to cater to a different buyer than we had just a year ago. Especially as your fellow sales and marketing leaders pivot their strategies and technology to keep pace with customer expectations headed into 2021.
In this article, we’ll expand on some of the themes covered in the 2021 Consult Series: Adapting Your ABM Strategy to the 2021 Buyer. You’ll learn how to:
- Assess the new buyer journey (and the behaviors behind it)
- Identify the stages, audiences, and content needed to adapt your ABM strategy
- Launch targeted, trusted, and effective programs to fuel pipeline and growth
But before we build the house, let’s lay the foundation:
What is ABM? (…and what isn’t it?)
Traditionally, marketing’s main focus (and measure for success) is lead generation. Marketers create broad content that appeals to a wide audience, capturing individual leads through gates and sign-ups, in the hopes of turning those leads into customers.
This strategy helps sales teams get their pitch in front of a larger audience — and at that point, marketing’s job is done.
But with that, comes an inevitable and substantial drop-off between MQLs and SQLs, making it hard for your sales team to convert that big pile of “qualified” prospects into paying customers.
Why does this happen? Because leads don’t buy software — accounts do.
In the B2B space, a ground-swell of support for ABM (account based marketing) has taken the front seat as sophisticated revenue orgs begin to address the costly gap that happens as marketing tosses leads over the proverbial sales wall, with most of them never to be heard from again. Account based marketing, in its simplest definition, flips the traditional marketing funnel on its head.
So if traditional marketing starts with lists, channels, and campaigns in an effort to narrow down to a list of individuals at companies, ABM starts with a carefully curated list of companies, and expands upon their individual and unique needs.
Marketing teams then use marketing automation, highly targeted advertising, curated direct-mail platforms,and other martech solutions to create extremely personalized messaging and experiences on a case-by-case basis. These communications are crafted for each account, making one-to-one sales outreach easier for your BDRs and AEs.
Account based marketing takes much more time and planning than traditional marketing funnels do – but the personalized approach can make all the difference in closing or losing a deal:
- 91% of companies using ABM were able to increase their average deal size
- B2B marketers saw an increase in average annual contract value of 171% after implementing their ABM strategy.
- 87% of marketers that measure ROI say that ABM outperforms every other marketing investment
So, if account based marketing is such a success, why are we here? Because while the value of ABM isn’t up for debate, the content and channels needed for it to remain effective have dramatically, and rapidly changed almost overnight.
Your entire targeting strategy used to center around your value prop and messing. Now? Throw it out. Your central theme needs to be trust, and trust alone. And the data supports it.
of customers say trust is the most important factor when purchasing from a new brand.
This shift in how consumer trust impacts purchasing decisions has thrown out the old ABM playbook. From massive data breaches, to the breakdown of trust in media, healthcare, and even government, consumers are skeptical of perceived authority and expertise — while growing increasingly aware of when they are being marketed to. This has led to buyers deliberately putting up walls between you (authoritative experts) and their personal information and behaviors.
By doing so, your buyer’s journey no longer runs alongside your sales team, but behind closed digital doors, leaving major purchasing decisions to be made in a vacuum.
But not all hope is lost: modern consumers haven’t entirely abandoned seeking outside information when conducting buyer research. Customers are seeking out a different authoritative expert: their peers. And they’re choosing them over any other resource, driving record traffic to third party review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, and G2.
of customers won’t take any buying actions until they’ve read reviews.
So you can do the math: if your business isn’t gathering and distributing peer reviews, you are INSTANTLY missing out on 72% of your addressable market.
So how do you reach your buyer through these walls?
In this new Trust Economy, companies who want to reach their 2021 buyer need to stop expecting customers to take the bait, and start meeting the buyer where they are. That involves making an immediate shift away from traditional account based marketing to a comprehensive, relationship-focused account based management strategy.
Account based management is the next evolution of ABM
If account based marketing is the pooling of marketing resources insights and tools to target strategic accounts with personalized messaging, account based management is simply the logical and organizational expansion of that strategy.
Account based management takes ABM one level further by spanning not just marketing, but every department in your revenue organization.
This comprehensive shift closes the gap in the handoff between marketing and sales that — even when you shift from traditional marketing to account-based — is still likely to occur. Account based management delivers a seamless customer experience, from lead to long-time customer. This is how we finally get everyone across the revenue org to speak the same language to the same accounts.
Ultimately, account based management ensures that no matter what stage in the buying cycle each of your teams owns, everyone is aligned in scaling and strategizing towards a unified goal.
The 3 core elements of account based management are:
- People: Identify and closely align key stakeholders and teams that touch any part of the customer lifecycle. This generally includes sales, marketing, research, and customer success teams.
- Insights: Partner closely with internal analysts and experienced sales people to gather insights, analyze trends, and pick out key strategic accounts with a high propensity to buy — and stay. Once accounts are identified, select specific personas within each account that experience the unique challenges your solution solves for.
- Technology: Once you’ve aligned the right personnel and carefully built your target account list, invest in marketing and sales technology that allow for maximum personalization. Think: don’t send mass blast emails, but do invest in curated target ad experiences. This will make the personas you’re targeting at these strategic accounts feel like they’re seen and heard — but at scale.
Account based marketing places a heavy focus on targeting and acquiring new, high-value accounts. And while there is nothing wrong with prioritizing your focus based on revenue potential, account based management is the future of customer relationship building — which, long tail? Generates way more repeatable, expandable, recurring revenue.
of ABM marketers said their ABM accounts had a bigger deal size, and companies that implement ABM strategies saw a 171% increase to their average contract value.
Because even after all the contracts have been signed, and revenue’s been recorded, account based management then sets up your relationship managers, and customer success teams to continue the conversation seamlessly.
In essence, it becomes less of a handoff and more of one streamlined experience for the customer, removing potential dissonance, inconsistencies, and roadblocks in their journey with your company. This helps encourage brand loyalty, adoption, referral-based business, and expansion
Introducing: The 2021 Buyer
Implementing a tactical strategy for successful account based management is the necessary first step in targeting strategic accounts — but once you’ve nailed down which accounts and personas you are targeting, what do you target them with?
Historically, it’s thought leadership such as your best blog or gated eBook. Perhaps a compelling webinar or another format of thought leadership that establishes you as a trusted authority in your space.
But customers have new expectations of how they’re treated by the companies they do business with. The 2021 Buyer expects their favorite companies to engage in a high level of transparency, which includes making them part of the conversation.
Account based management requires that you fundamentally reimagine your customer relationships. After all, we know the relationships you build with prospects don’t stop after you’ve closed the deal. In fact, those relationships are just beginning. The new 2021 customer expects a quality and standard of customer engagement and experience that most companies are not yet equipped to enable.
How can you ensure you’re not one of those companies that falls behind? It boils down to two key things:
- Understanding the landscape of the Trust Economy
- Merging account based management and trust
Understanding the landscape of the Trust Economy
The Trust Economy is an idea popularized by Rachel Botsman, a leading expert and author on trust in the modern world. Rachel has written several books about trust and the modern consumer, as well as a TEDtalk on the economy of trust.
Technology is transforming the way consumers engage with businesses — and it’s changing how they trust as well. Where branding and public perception were once seen as strategies to be carefully crafted in advertising board rooms — now your business’ brand and reputation are directly tied to your behaviors and activities as a company. The Trust Economy is the response to this lack of consumer trust. It’s a shift toward the idea that your brand’s reputation not only has capital — but means everything to the market.
We saw this year after the shift in our working environments that trust became more important than ever. When a company is hit with hard decisions about which businesses are must-have solutions for them, are you on the list? Customers are increasingly putting an emphasis on building lasting relationships with brands that represent their values. They want to know that your business has their best interests at heart.
So, how do you improve your understanding of the Trust Economy and your new 2021 buyer?
- Understand the lasting impact of 2020: the effect of the global pandemic on our work and home lives make trust more important than ever. And with many global tech companies shifting to new hybrid work styles and remote options, it appears our global working relationships are in for a permanent change.
- Realize it’s about more than the technology: your company’s reputation has a direct impact on your bottom line. Brands are increasingly being built online through third-party review sites like G2. When trust is in question, customers will seek out objective information to inform their purchasing decisions.
- Successfully shift your strategy to adapt: a successful remote strategy requires the right technology, and a greater expectation of trust. Companies are relying on businesses to provide them ample support with the set-up and maintenance of their products and services. They also increasingly expect an improved customer experience and level of transparency.
How to tie your ABM to the Trust Economy
When you’re exploring strategies for improving on customer trust, it’s important to understand how customer trust is won and lost.
The 2021 Buyer isn’t just looking for a product that can get the job done. The truth is there’s likely little your product does that a competitor’s product doesn’t also do.
Customers are choosing their partners based on the experience they provide, their online reputation, and their ability to offer a personalized service or solution for them. But this isn’t just a digital strategy — and if it is — you’ll actually break trust with your accounts.
How do customers choose who they trust and who they do business with?
- 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand.
- 80% of customers say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.
- 77% of consumers view brands more favorably if they seek out and apply customer feedback.
Account based management is about creating a better customer experience, front to back, on and offline. And in the fast-paced world of tech and hyper-personalization, teams that work under a unified goal and create a consistent, high-quality customer experience will win out.
How can you integrate ABM and the Trust Economy into your sales motions and marketing strategies?
- Focus on targeting accounts and titles that’ll actually benefit from what you offer. You can’t launch great ABM strategies without first honing in on the right accounts. Many sales teams struggle to identify the right companies and contacts. A tool like G2 Buyer Intent + LinkedIn Matched Audiences fixes that problem by allowing you to build LinkedIn Matched Audiences based on your G2 Buyer Intent data: including accounts who have recently viewed their profile, category, or competitors on G2.
- Provide meaningful and authentic content. Instead of sending your customers another case-study, show potential customers what doing business with your company feels like. With tools like G2 Content, you can license quarterly reports, social assets, video reviews, and other content sourced from your actual customers, which is proven to influence your prospects more than marketing originated content.
- Engage buyers where they prefer to be engaged. Your marketing shouldn’t be disruptive to the market. It should be contextual, and add true value along their buyer journey. Using LinkedIn’s powerful professional data and combining it with your own first-party data makes it easier for your marketing team to retarget your website visitors or leads who engage with your content or lead generation forms. LinkedIn also allows teams to securely upload lists of companies or email addresses and integrate directly into your contact management platform.
How Autodesk delivers ABM to the Trust Economy
We’re already seeing the early impact for companies that integrate their G2 paid subscription with our extended network of partner and product integrations.
Autodesk BIM 360 Construction Management Software is just one example of how teams can used G2 Buyer Intent Data and LinkedIn Matched Audiences to refine and target their ideal customer. With continued pressure to reduce ad spend, while converting more MQLs for Autodesk’s sales team, the Autodesk marketing team faced a problem.
They needed a cost-effective solution for targeting and closing deals with high-value accounts.
The biggest challenge that Autodesk faced was prospects weren’t engaging enough with their native content (19% conversion rate), and when they were, their CPA (cost per acquisition) was higher than what they were aiming for – anywhere from $100-$500 per lead.
Autodesk focused their ad spend on targeting decision-makers at accounts who were engaging in high payoff activities, including anyone who recently viewed their G2 profile, G2 category, or competitors’ G2 profiles. This solution would ensure their ad spend would only be used on their warmest, most active accounts.
Once they narrowed their audience down to only the most likely to convert, Autodesk doubled down on their strategy by investing in LinkedIn Sponsored Content featuring G2 Content, which gave them predesigned advertising creative and copy that displayed a snapshot of their G2 reviews, ratings, and award badges.
This strategy of combining G2 Buyer Intent Data and LinkedIn Matched Audiences worked.
Autodesk was able to create better content that boosted lead conversions and lowered their overall CPA. Autodesk was able to increase their conversion rate from 19% to 26%, and reduce their CPA by 25%.
The Future is Trust — and that Future is Now
Brands that are leading the conversation around trust are doing so by creating a top-down strategy that puts the customer ahead of the sale. ABM is your key to finding the highest value leads that are the right fit for your product. Building trust can’t happen reactively – it must be at the core of everything you do.
Learn how to adapt your full revenue strategy, including ABM, Brand, and Sales to the trust economy, register for the 2021 Consult webinar series here.