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We’ve been doing a lot of work with clients that are implementing an Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategy into their marketing plans. ABM is a great marketing strategy for B2B companies that want to get back to some basics in terms of both selling and marketing. ABM brings together both sales and marketing departments to build a strategic plan that provides enormous value for the company.
ABM is probably a bit of a departure from what you’re online strategy has been and if you’re like many marketers or business owners, the chances are great that you’ve been probably using an inbound marketing strategy, of some type. Inbound marketing, on a fundamental level, is creating enough quality content online that your future customers will find that content and make their way to your website to convert into a customer. The problem with inbound marketing is that in and of itself, it doesn’t work for the vast number of people that are using it for their marketing.
ABM, however, is a whole different strategy. ABM’s focus is on demand generation as opposed to lead generation. Demand generation and lead generation are often used interchangeably when, in fact, they have two uniquely different meanings. Demand generation is essentially creating a demand. In an ABM strategy, this is played out by identifying an account ( a company) that you want to do business with and using marketing channels to get their attention (create demand). Lead generation is when you identify the people within that target account that will most likely be responsible for the purchase decision. Then you can start highly personalized marketing to generate these people as leads.
This concept is best explained by the term flip the funnel referring to the sales funnel. Historically, the way that the sales funnel worked, from a marketing perspective, was to stuff as many people in the top of the funnel, recognizing that a large percentage of those people will “fall out” of the funnel as they traveled down through the stages of their purchasing decisions.
In this model, the buyer’s journey starts with Awareness, travels to Interest, then goes to consideration and finally ends with a purchase. In each stage of this journey, it has been reasoned that a percentage of the people that started in the Awareness stage will fall out of the funnel before they reach the Interest stage. A percentage of the people from the Interest stage will fall out of the funnel before they reach the Consideration stage and so-on. The falling out of the funnel from stage to stage is a “qualifying action” and supposedly eliminates the unqualified buyers.
The problem with this model is that 1) it wastes a lot of marketing dollars to get all of those people into your funnel that shouldn’t be there 2) it’s challenging to personalize marketing messages to vast numbers of people when you don’t know who they are 3) your sales team will quickly become frustrated making sales calls on people that aren’t going to become customers 4) it assumes that the buyers journey for making a decision is linear.
The problem with the old sales funnel is that you have to spend a lot of money, time, and effort to fill that top of the funnel with a lot of people that will never ever buy what you are selling. With all of those unqualified buyers taking up time and space within your sales funnel, marketing and salespeople are chasing a lot of dead ends when efforts could be better spent finding, nurturing, and selling to the people that are most likely to become customers.
The flipped funnel for ABM turns the old sales funnel 180° degrees.
Now, at the top of the funnel, instead of trying to pour hundreds of people into the Awareness stage, at the top of the flipped funnel are targeted accounts (companies) that represent your best-fit customer. These are accounts that you know your product or service will be a good fit. You either are doing business with companies just like them, or they have a need that you have been able to identify that your product or services can fulfill.
In the second stage of the flipped funnel, the Expand stage is when you identify with the people within the account. You’ll want to find the people at the account that are typically involved in the decision making process for your product or service. Because we seldom, if ever, sell to just one individual anymore, getting your marketing messages to all of the potential decision-makers and influencers within this new account target, is critical to the success of landing this account as a customer.
The next stage of the flipped funnel is the Engagement Stage. This is where you focus on getting the right content to the right person within the targeted account. This is critical to sales success. Because buying is done with teams of people from different departments within a company, the interest of the various people is going to be unique to the department that they are representing. So, let’s assume that a buying committee is made up of someone from finance, production, and product development. In this example, it’s easy to see how each person is going to be interested in a different benefit that your company, product, or service provides, and each of these people is most concerned about their own needs.
The final stage in the flipped funnel is what will bring you the greatest reward. This is the Advocate stage. The focus of this stage is to turn your customers into raging fans. Getting your customers to promote you and your products or services will help you grow your company faster than any other marketing channel. But, to do this, you have to continue to market to these same people even after they become customers.
ABM is a fantastic B2B marketing strategy that is proliferating in all industries. It saves money, improves closing ratios, and puts you back in control of your marketing and sales processes. If this flipped sales funnel is intriguing to you, then you really need to read our latest paper on ABM. It’s free, and it goes into greater depth on how ABM is changing marketing both online and offline for B2B companies.
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