Making a complex B2B sale always has and always will hinge on being able to pick up on signals. If you can’t read the room, you’re cooked. But the “rooms”...
Making a complex B2B sale always has and always will hinge on being able to pick up on signals. If you can’t read the room, you’re cooked.
But the “rooms” these days look awfully different than before. These days, it’s a virtual environment with more buying members than ever before. (Gartner says the average buying committee has reached 11 persons.) More challenging still, these buyers are anonymously, sporadically and indiscriminately conducting research and collecting perceptions to take back to the hive.
No wonder companies in traditional sectors like security and manufacturing have clung to their traditional ways of marketing and selling as long as possible. They prefer the wink at the trade show booth or the telling statement in the sales call to the obfuscation of the internet.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has changed all that, putting marketers and sellers far outside their comfort zones.
It’s within this backdrop of altered signals that 6sense’s Kerry Cunningham discusses next-generation account-based marketing (ABM) in a webinar with Lee Odess, the founder and CEO of group337, a consultancy all about integrating strategy, content and data for the security technology industry.
In “Account-Based Marketing: What do I Need to Know,” Cunningham reminds marketers in the security sector and related businesses that account-based marketing was the O.G. before digital marketing arrived on the scene.
Back in the day, he says, everybody knew there was a defined set of accounts they could sell to, but those accounts emitted few — if any — buying signals until a sales rep called someone on the buying team. Instead, marketing worked to build awareness through advertising, while in-house product marketers built messaging and content to support sellers and channel partners.
Then the Internet grew such that any business in the world might be a prospect. Mass-marketing became commonplace. Focus gave way to opportunity. Naive buyers freely divulged their contact information on webforms and were inundated with information from sellers.
The deluge was so extreme that customers quickly decided it was best to pretty much go undercover.
As all that was happening, the marketing automation programs that captured inbound leads when web visitors completed forms began to assign point values based on content visitors consumed. Voilà! A new method to evaluate buyer signals at scale — lead scoring — was born. Smart, right?
Not so fast. While the concept sounded great at first, the so-called “marketing qualified leads” derived from these scored formfills became notoriously fraught with unviable contacts. Meanwhile, many of the legitimate contacts remained anonymous lurkers — or were scared off altogether.
The end result is too seldom new business and too often wasted time and icky infighting between marketing and sales.
Fortunately, as Cunningham explains, what the MQL approach gets wrong, the new web-enabled form of ABM gets right.
Advancements in AI, big data and account matching restore sellers’ ability to refocus their efforts on priority accounts by picking up otherwise-missed evidence for when and how they’re engaging and where they’re at in their buying journey. ABM also enables the audience experience to be personalized all the way to the point of sale because you can anticipate their next moves, thoughts, and questions.
Notably, this capability doesn’t just stop at the organizational level. It clues into individual job titles and personas too. Companies can curate specific messages — inbound and outbound — to members of the buying committee as best suits what they’re specifically interested in and ready for.
Most importantly, this AI driven approach lights up the Dark Funnel™, discovering and matching the trace evidence left behind when buyers engage with relevant third-party sources like competitor pages, product comparison sites and trade outlets.
This means B2B organizations can now see when their target accounts are starting to show signs of being in-market, and they can respond accordingly. Now that’s picking up on signals!
All of these whiz-bang features matter because they facilitate, rather than foil, purchase behavior. When done properly, they put selling organizations in the right place and with the right message at the right time, rather than creating friction with unnecessary forms and unwanted follow-up.
And instead of the marketing department focusing on front-end leads and the sales team focusing on back-end revenue, it changes the paradigm so both business groups are aligned and involved with the entire game plan.
Check out the archived webinar to see and hear Cunningham and Odess delve deeper into these and more aspects of ABM strategy, including how these concepts play into the security technology industry’s overall digital transformation and ongoing efforts to keep bad people out and good people safe.
Specific questions addressed throughout the dialogue include: