How to Use Account Based Marketing to Earn #CustomerLove (Beyond the Sale)


TL;DR: Account Based Marketing (ABM) is all about relationship building. It’s about providing extraordinary, highly personalized value. Your product team needs to understand your ABM strategy and a successful ABM strategy will raise the bar on your customer experience. A customer who doesn’t feel as valued as a customer as they felt as a prospect will churn, so you must think about ABM throughout the entire customer journey.

I recently spoke on a panel moderated by Fred Tsai about Account Based Marketing (ABM) at Dreamforce with Rishi Dave, Jason Jue, and Jon Miller. (Unfamiliar with ABM? Check out this article on CIO: 5 things you need to know about account-based marketing.) We each gave the audience a quick look into our worldview as it relates to ABM, and what we think ABM can do for our companies and how we’ve applied it. Because ABM is a relatively new category, everyone has a different perspective on ABM and it was interesting to compare outlooks.

My fellow panelists spoke about how ABM can enrich our customer outreach with data, help us walk away from spam selling, and advance our targeting capabilities — and they are all correct. ABM helps us focus on people and our relationship with them.

On stage at Salesforce Dreamforce ‘16

ABM, however, does not end with the sale. I believe that a deeper observation of ABM reveals that it is not just a new “category”. It is a different approach to thinking about the role of the sales professional. The entire company, through the persona of the salesperson, aims to provide spectacularly personalized, thoughtful, and valuable interactions in order to nurture a business relationship. I am an optimist and as such, I believe that the real motivation for ABM is to better know a prospect, educate them and create a relationship.

With that lens, the sale is just the start, representing a very small percentage of your overall relationship. ABM sets a much higher bar for the rest of the company when done well, because the customer expects to come into the experience and be wowed by communication, education and a personal touch.

Your Product Team Needs to Understand ABM

If you’re in the software business, you want long-term relationships. It’s likely that you care about low churn rates and great LTV to CAC ratios. ABM can help you identify the right prospects, because your research process and outreach helps you narrow in on the best target customers.

You’re investing in a high touch approach that requires you to invest in 5 or 10 accounts at a time per salesperson. This only works if you’re identifying people who can really get value from your offering AND (this is a big and) you can communicate it clearly.

At Apptentive, by deeply getting to know our prospects and their problems, we’ve learned that there are opportunities to provide value before the sale. When we started to hear that the world’s largest brands were struggling to make sense of what their customers were saying about them in app store reviews, we learned that an adjacent problem existed. Because we’re always working on ways to communicate the value of our offering before they integrate our software, we got excited. We saw a path to provide unique and tailored value prior to integration.

This motivated us to build Public Reviews, which helps our customers analyze public app store reviews. We were able to prioritize Public Reviews because our product team understands what ABM means for us; they get that helping our customers out early on is a huge asset in building a relationship.

Our investment in creating more value for customers based upon their problems is constant, but our communication between Product and Sales made magic happen in order to level up our ABM efforts. The impact on our sales velocity has already been very meaningful.

Being a Customer Must Be a 10x Experience

I would offer this to the marketing ecosystem: ABM isn’t just about the outreach and the prospect conversions. It’s about how to help give massive value to your potential customers as you get to know them. Your stance, as a company, must be one of providing value as early and as often as possible.

There is, however, a catch.

The more you practice highly organized intelligent outreach that resonates because it’s very valuable, the more your customers will expect you to walk on water when they sign with you. That sounds like one of those “high class” problems, but as a practical matter, it’s really important to deliver on personalized communication on a regular basis.

Here are some ways to drive your team to deliver an experience that is 10x the sales journey:

  • Invest earlier and more in Customer Success
  • Emphasize to marketing that their role isn’t just for new customers
  • Empower the whole team to shower existing customers with love
  • Invest in starting more conversations with your customers
  • Listen to the customers, change your product, improve it, and thank them

At Apptentive, #CustomerLove is a year round thing. We know that love is an act, so we really invest in seeing our customers, calling them and ensuring that they hear from us regularly. We continue to welcome their feedback and act on it as quickly as possible.

One of Apptentive’s “Boxes of Love”

We always look for ways to surprise and delight too. For example, we adopted Valentine’s Day as our holiday. Every year we send heart-shaped boxes — otherwise known as “Boxes of Love” — filled with handwritten notes, Apptentive swag, and sweets to make sure everyone we work with feels the love. Does this take a lot of time? Yes. Is it an amazing experience for our team and our customers once a year? Yes!

Here’s the hard truth: If you’re too busy showing your prospects love while neglecting your customers, churn is going to be a big problem for you.

It’s imperative that you don’t lose sight of your customers while you’re chasing prospects. Companies exist to serve their customers, not prospects, and ABM cannot end with the sale.

What’s your take on ABM? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Originally published at Apptentive.