Basing everything you do on your accounts means every touchpoint with them has to go above and beyond their expectations.
That includes introductions—those moments when you flip a curated list of target accounts into a real, live, one-on-one, human-being-in-the-flesh meeting that shows how much you know and value your customer.
Data can take you far, but you can’t automate humanity. If you want to break through and improve the quality of your accounts, here’s how to develop a well-rounded strategy that will make you more efficient at identifying, entertaining and entering into business with your targets.
Creating solid, reliable referrals is a process few digital marketers have the patience to undertake. It requires a constant assessment of your own value and an uncanny knack for talking to the right people. Personal relationships in the ABM world are discovered and nurtured through ecosystem referrals—meaning you need a referral agent (or, better yet, a promoter) who’s connected to the person you want to be connected to. You should always be looking to curate your relationships at scale, which means you have to demonstrate the value you provide to these agents so you’ll get in front of the right people.
Certain tools are extremely helpful for building relationships. We use LinkedIn Sales Navigator because it helps us do our homework and make better one-on-one connections—the bedrock of quality referrals. And we also know that the higher up the chain we go, the more our targets will be doing their homework as well. Executives need to understand your joint value proposition before they ever take a meeting with you.
There are two dimensions to forming these executive referral relationships. First, do you have a first degree connection with someone reputable and holding a decent position within the organization? If you know a CMO who knows the VP of marketing, there’s your in.
The other dimension is more ongoing and works at a deeper level of human connection. Essentially, you have to remember that every person you talk to is a potential referral source and treat them all in a white glove manner. Anyone who works in email marketing knows that no matter what you send out, you’re bound to get a small percentage of responses along the lines of “I didn’t ask for this! Take me off your list.” Handle small things like this in a negative way and you’ll turn someone’s bad day into an irreparable referral relationship.
A handy rule of thumb is to just follow the Golden Rule. Be diligent, be decent and the rest should take care of itself—on both sides. Sadly, this is lost on a lot of digital marketers.
How good of a detective are you? Your sleuthing skills can help you score great accounts by making your pitches more personal. An account planning framework can help guide you in your pursuit of knowledge about your customers so you can be armed with pain-point salves at a dinner, an event, or wherever one-on-one interactions with important individuals happen.
Frameworks help you discover the answers to two key questions:
- Do you know your target’s problems and what they’re focused on improving?
- Do you have a value you can bring to solve it?
Your fact-finding mission will invariably lead you to stacks of data—things like org charts, demographics, technographics, etc. It’s up to you to take those pieces of information and shape a narrative around them so you can give more compelling pitches.
Don’t just do this once, either. Account planning has a cadence and requires your supervision to make sure the data stays clean and accurate. The more details you uncover, the better you can curate your information going forward. Every target account is important and unique, so you need to have a strong entry point into each one. Get deeper under the surface than even your CRM will allow in order to capture the truly valuable data.
You can demonstrate the most value when you orchestrate events. What does that mean? Well, if you’re at a Marketo conference, set up an ABM audit with a select group of leaders that exists within ABM Central—basically an event with an event. Distilling it down like this helps you leverage your in person, face-to-face exposure while bolstering the value of the larger event itself.
The key with curating these events is to balance out the room. Everyone needs to feel like they’re in a safe space with people they want to be around, with similar problems, with whom they can talk about things openly (so no direct competitors). Five or six CMOs in one room is always going to be more valuable than a random smattering of people walking through an expo hall. Lure them in with a value statement that clearly gets at the key takeaway they’ll remember. In other words, why you, why now?
High value experiences
These experiences differ from events in that they’re more successful if they have a nonbusiness bend to them. Swanky dinners, golf outings, and other slightly over-the-top get-togethers can up the hype level beforehand and make your target accounts feel extra valued. Follow these group events with a round table once everyone is feeling friendly.
When you create high value experiences, it’s critical to communicate that you are asking for nothing in return. These are opportunities to make your accounts feel appreciated, not sold to. Go all out in customizing giveaways for them so they know they’re being recognized.
The oldest example of this is “see a demo,” but in ABM, the offer has to be highly valuable. Because you are going after higher value accounts, you have to up your game in what you are giving away. I’m a sucker for research and data—and I’m not alone. Some vendors like to provide audit reports to companies, knocking our socks off with in-depth reporting based on real data every quarter. We provide an in-depth marketing maturity report that includes a seven point inspection to let marketers know how they stack up against everyone else.
The key is to provide a ton of value and effort for free. Show them even more value by personalizing the report/offer to their company. Insider tip: this is where you can seal the deal by showing them how to improve with your services. For example, give them two ways they can increase performance based on the data you’ve provided with two solutions that your company offers to make it happen.
You gotta want it.
If you want great accounts, you have to work for them. When you show your own value early in the process, you’re also showing your targets how much you value them because you’re putting so much of yourself on the line.
Choose strategies and tactics that will revolve around meeting the right people, knowing everything about them, and giving them great experiences, and you’ll be making breakthroughs left and right.
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.