In-person interactions have become a welcome novelty after two years of isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the shift to conducting nearly all of our business engagements online, many of us have been feeling fatigued by increased screen time. The ease of replacing in-person meetings and events with Zoom caused our days to quickly become concentrated with more back-to-back online meetings than we’d ever experienced in person. In today’s environment, many of us are craving the return to at least some in-person meetings, and building stronger relationships with the vendors and partners that we trust.
This calls on B2B marketing teams to consider a more human-centric approach in their tactics, rather than treating “target audiences” like just another “segment” in their account-based marketing strategy. After all, our customers and clients are actual people, not segments.
Typically, the place to start when building an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy is to identify the firmographic attributes of your ideal accounts (or companies). Through research and by developing an ideal customer profile (ICP), a well-documented ABM strategy removes any guessing about which customers are a good fit and whether they’re likely to purchase.
ABM can be seen as a more focused, top-down, strategic approach compared to inbound marketing, and it can be more efficient since you’re not spending time chasing after inbound leads that may not actually be qualified. However, it can also be a good companion to inbound marketing -- it’s not necessarily a choice to pursue one strategy versus the other.
SaaS companies tend to have technical requirements that limit universal customer applicability, so it’s vital that marketing efforts are aimed at customers that can actually use the product offered. ABM helps SaaS companies better define their target accounts, then create marketing strategies that are aligned to those ideal client groups. But at the end of the day, there are actual people behind the buying decisions, each bringing their own personal experiences, beliefs, and expectations. And while we like to think that B2B buying decisions are all made rationally and purely on data, emotions and “gut feelings” can be just as important in B2B as in a consumer purchase. A human-centric approach to ABM can help us better appeal to the important personal influences that have been traditionally overlooked in the effort to convert leads into sales.
When using ABM software tools, these tips help you keep your target customer’s humanity top of mind.
Build a community
Privacy concerns are real. ABM platforms such as RollWorks and 6Sense as well as data providers like ZoomInfo and SalesIntel leverage intent data that tell us who is intending to buy a product based on their web activity. This can be helpful in the prioritization of campaigns but, with a rise in regulations to address privacy concerns with intent data mining, they have their limitations.
The possible “cookie-less” world highlights the importance of building your own community through platforms like podcasts, LinkedIn, and members-only websites. These communities help you connect to your ideal customer in a natural, collaborative environment where the customer wants to be part of the community because of the value you bring. Invite a prospect to be a guest on your company’s podcast or to join you on a panel at an industry event. Pro-social gifting, such as offering to donate to a charity of their choice, can be a useful tactic as well and helps you build a personal connection to your clients.
Go beyond identifying your target accounts
ABM software tools help you understand your Total Addressable Market – that is, how many potential customers fit your ideal customer profile. To optimize ABM tools, you next need to identify the people behind these decisions. Geography, company size, and revenue are important, but it’s only the first step to identifying the people within the company. Once you’ve narrowed that down, your next challenge is to consider: What is important to these individuals? How does our product connect with their values? What other likes and dislikes might they have that databases can’t tell us?
Unite your sales and marketing teams
ABM is beneficial because it unites sales and marketing teams by helping you assign ownership of specific tactics between the two teams. For example, if your ABM strategy identifies 100 top-tier ideal accounts, your sales team can use high-touch outreach campaigns to connect with these specific accounts. (For example, a high-touch sales outreach program could include inviting local New York City prospects to a Yankees or Mets game with your leadership team.) And, if the strategy identifies another 3,000 potential accounts, the marketing team can take ownership of building a personalized email campaign or direct mail campaign, rather than a high-touch, in-person outreach campaign. This collaboration leads to more effective sales through aligned goals, more agreement about the budget, and a better understanding of the funnel as a whole. CRM tools (like HubSpot’s ABM tools, combined with professional databases like ZoomInfo or SalesIntel), can help execute these strategies.
Your competitors aren’t waiting, so why are you?
ABM is absolutely necessary for high-growth SaaS companies. A human-centric approach can boost ABM performance, appealing to the rising desire for human connection in the buying process. Exclusive use of inbound marketing can be inefficient for SaaS companies that serve niche business needs. Unless you know your target company profiles, you won’t be able to be strategic, which may lead to investment in technology that won’t help you accomplish your goals. When done correctly, a thoughtful ABM strategy will guide you in choosing the technology you’ll need to execute it. (Don’t let your technology drive your strategy!)
Measure your results
As time progresses and you experiment with new avenues for reaching your target accounts, you’ll be able to identify the parts of your ABM strategy that need improvement. HubSpot recommends these KPIs to help you measure your results and ensure you’re using ABM to its full potential:
- Volume of deal creation
- Account penetration
- Account engagement
- Deal-to-close time
- Net-new revenue
- Percent of deals closed
Human-centric ABM is beneficial to both buyers and sellers – helping buyers feel more satisfied and confident with their purchases and sellers to increase revenue and decrease spending on nonconvertible leads. Whether you’re ready to jump on board or not, keep an eye out for updates in ABM software as we learn more about privacy regulations and consumer wishes for personalized experiences.
Adept at communicating and connecting with people of all backgrounds, William brings more than 10 years of experience leading, developing, and implementing digital marketing solutions for B2B clients. He’s worked with a variety of clients, from large multinational corporations with multiple business units to local small businesses. William previously served as the Director of Digital Strategy and Insights for a Portland, Oregon-based B2B marketing agency, helping it grow from a team of 3 to a team of more than 40. In addition to leading analytics, marketing automation, SEO, paid media, and business intelligence, William also focused on mentoring and providing team members in his department with a clear professional development path.