What if I told you to throw away the idea of automation for a minute? To completely forget everything you’ve been told about building scalable processes that can automatically help you scale?
Blasphemy! You’d look at me like I’m completely crazy.
As a founder of an organization that has helped thousands of customers automate nearly every aspect of marketing and sales operations, the words feel foreign and awkward as I say them. But in order to be wildly effective with Account Based Marketing (ABM), you need to have an equally drastic mindset shift away from a lot of these philosophies we marketers have become so accustomed to over the last decade. Of course, repeatable processes and automation can help you scale in many situations, so your efforts in those areas are still relevant. But true Account Based Marketing is a different animal, and you have to treat it as such if you want to achieve true personalization.
When it comes to landing new accounts, relevance matters…a lot. And we all know that true personalization doesn’t really scale. So this leaves you with one option: coaxing your sales reps into manually personalizing their communications with their target buyers. I know that some salespeople often would rather send out high volumes of emails than take the time to painstakingly create and send a few customized ones. So, it’s important to create an approach that is gradual enough to win over your sales team to the idea of manual personalization and powerful enough to resonate with your target customers. Here are the steps you can lead them to take:
Start with customizing one sentence in an email.
The beauty of this first baby step is that literally anybody could do it. It eases your sales folks into the habit of personalization, but it’s also the easiest thing they’ll do all day. If all they do is insert the recipient’s name and company name in the email—it’s not enough. If they go a step further and mention a recent meeting they had with that person’s colleague, great. And if they really want bonus points and make that sentence about the value they got from the other person’s most recent speaking gig, I’ll throw in a golf clap.
The point here is to wake them up to the mentality shift I mentioned at the start of this post. It feels counterintuitive to step back and take longer with your outbound communication. In a typical sales scenario, you’re trying to avoid spending too much time on a prospect until you’re fairly certain they’ll progress through your funnel and become a paying customer. When it comes to ABM (that is, if it’s being done properly), the people you’re speaking to should already be qualified as ideal buyers with a need within the next six to 12 months that you can fill. So this gives you and your sales team the license to go deeper, and spend more time finessing your communications in these earlier stages.
Gather key data points and customize one paragraph in an email.
The next progression toward becoming an ABM rockstar is to do some research (because every good rockstar hits the books, right?). Start by mapping out your buying committee and aligning your messages to the buying committee roles. Look at each deal that’s in the pipeline and figure out who is playing which role, then connect the dots to the messaging that resonates best with each.
Beyond this, there’s a tactic I want to mention (one I swiped from my friend Jill Rowley). Once you have your buyer committee roles and messaging mapped, dig into the person’s online footprint like they’re the ex you never got over (kidding—sort of). Chances are, you can figure out a lot about their opinions, the types of content they like and share, how they talk and how they see the world. Then you can take what you’ve learned and customize a couple of lines in your email so you mimic their styles of speaking and what they care about.
Let’s say your target buyer posts regularly about ABM, for example. You could use this knowledge to unearth a few relevant, valuable facts about ABM and a specific angle on it she’s mentioned and then share that with her. This step encourages you to mine your target customer’s public information, and then use it to strike a meaningful connection. Add these sentences into an email that already has targeted messages for her role worked into it, and you’ve inched your way closer to being her hero.
Use insights you’ve gathered from the organization to create a highly personalized email.
Once your sales team is comfortable with the two previous steps—and regularly engaging in these practices—it’s time to beef up the personalization even more. This is the perfect opportunity for your salespeople to construct a thorough and compelling email that hits on numerous specific details.
For instance, let’s say you’re planning to reach out to a CMO. Mention in your email that you’ve already met with the marketing director, you understand their current struggles and tech configuration, you know what gaps exist and what their goals are for the next year. And then segue into the next section, in which you share a story or overview of a client you’ve had in their same space and all the blazing glory you were able to achieve for them.
Sound easy? It isn’t. There really is no magic switch you can flip to get your sales team closing more accounts as fast as you want them to. But even without an easy button, you can work with your teams to follow the steps above and gradually increase the personalization of their communications with prospects. By doing so in a gradual way, they’ll become accustomed to investing the time necessary to win over new accounts. Because when all is said and done, selling is about people—and people need to know they matter (which is exactly what ABM communicates). At least we can all agree that those cat MEME BDR emails aren’t cutting it.
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.