The dating analogy is probably overused when talking about marketing and sales techniques, but it actually is a useful one to illustrate how not to engage in a mutually satisfying relationship. How many fledgling relationships fail because one person only wants to talk about themselves with seemingly no interest in what the other person is all about? As with choosing a social – or even longer term – partner, establishing a relationship with a key customer requires a bit of ’getting to know you’ and an understanding what a buyer’s real interests, needs, and wants are. As many would-be suitors have learned, that doesn’t really work with a scatter shot approach that focuses only on why you are such a great catch.
A key element in any relationship-building journey is communicating on a personalized level. In buying terms that means relevance, timeliness, and most importantly, insight into what the customer or prospect is actually looking for. It’s just what you have to sell. A direct sales force has traditionally been the way companies build and maintain relationships with their customers. Nothing beats live interaction – sales visits, phone calls, meetings at events – to dig into what a potential buyer truly wants to buy. That type of engagement is the ultimate in a personalized approach.
Unfortunately, buying behavior (as with dating!) has changed, and the opportunities to develop those in-personal personal relationships are becoming less frequent. Worse yet, they come late in a buying cycle because today the majority of buyers do most of their upfront research and preference building before they even come in contact with a human. They search online, compare suppliers and probe deep into available information,often in a completely anonymous way and usually well in advance of you getting in touch with them (much less even knowing who they are).
So how can you build a personal relationship with someone who only wants to interact online and, in many cases, doesn’t want to even reveal their identity? Typically, your web site, online advertising, and other marketing touch points for customers are necessarily very general purpose and, frankly, company centric. It’s all about you. But the modern B2B buyer wants the same personalized experience they expect from B2C sellers, like Amazon: what do you have that have that meets my specific needs and preferences, instead of trying to sell me a one-size-fits all solution.
Enter ABM. It’s redefining how suppliers can build personalized relationships with their best customers and prospects and adapt to a new era in buying behavior. At the core of ABM is its ability to deliver customized content that pinpoints exactly what a specific customer wants to know, or more importantly, buy. That could be a white paper specific to their industry or use model, a customized ad that speaks to the challenges, or even a personalized message that resonates with their pain point. Whatever format it takes – and a robust ABM solution provides flexibility and delivery options to use a variety of methods – they key is that it’s useful and relevant to a very targeted audience you want to reach, such as specific as user group within a key account or a dispersed buying committee at an individual company you want to penetrate.
ABM is part science, part art. For sure, there is no replacing the knowledge and insights your sales force has about markets and specific customers. They are the key to understanding how personalization can work in your highest potential accounts, even if they don’t necessarily know everyone who might be involved in the purchasing decision (those pesky anonymous shoppers). So, for a marketing department charged with building awareness, preference and loyalty, your sales channel is your best friend.
But ABM takes sales to the next level of efficiency by using technology to better understand buying behavior and deliver relevant content at precisely the right time and context to influence a decision. Advanced analytics and machine learning techniques can deliver real-time insight into customer needs, pain points, biases, and buying triggers. This type of in-depth account knowledge is then able to drive account-specific campaigns and personalised engagement programs that cut through the clutter and irrelevance of typical shotgun marketing approaches.
Personalized communications are important in all aspects of our lives, including how people make decisions on who they want to do business with in a professional context. So with your marketing, just like in dating, don’t be ”that guy” (or ”that gal”) who only talks about yourself. Success depends on understanding what matters most to your partner and making sure it’s a two way conversation.
Would you like to learn how to be personal and relevant through segmenting your audience and messaging? You can sign up for our upcoming webinar here.