Imagine you work for a major medical device company with the goal of selling an innovative new device to hospitals across the country. How would you go about finding prospects and pitching your product?
You’d probably start by buying an email list or by letting your CRM do some work for you by finding surgeons and administrators at medical centers — but you’d probably end there, too. Those contacts you are able to find are either unresponsive to emails or aren’t authorized to make any purchasing decisions. And you can’t exactly waltz into an operating room to give your pitch.
Maybe you could try to visit a city park and loudly announce that you’re selling a new medical product. You’re hoping a surgeon happens to be walking by at the right time, but instead you probably end up selling to a few curious citizens who never intend to talk to you again.
The scenario above demonstrates why traditional outbound marketing (think: billboards, television commercials and newspaper advertisements) has been labeled “ineffective” and “old-school.”
When the average person is inundated with more than 2,000 marketing interruptions a day — including you, the medical device rep at the park — it is nearly impossible to cut through the noise and connect with your future customers.
And even if your marketing team is on point and generates a high number of leads, only 1 percent of those actually become customers.
It’s why many organizations have shifted their focus to inbound marketing, a strategy that uses valuable content and experiences to entice your target audience to come to you.
But contrary to what some in the industry may say, outbound marketing isn’t dead. With smart analytics, adjustment and automation, sales teams can still turn cold calls into big contracts.
Account-based marketing is one approach to B2B sales that has been shown to be more efficient and drastically boost ROI. Account-based marketing flips the traditional sales funnel on its head.
In a broad outbound campaign, sales representatives cast a wide net in hopes that a portion of those prospects might bite and an even smaller fraction will make it to the end of the funnel to sign a contract.
Account-based marketing, on the other hand, starts by first identifying the highest-value accounts that are a perfect fit for your product or service. Rather than wasting time broadcasting your message to prospects who might not care about your product, your team can spend time developing marketing and outreach strategies that are catered to your top accounts.
While a traditional sales representative might wait for a prospect to express interest in the product before researching the account and crafting a strong pitch, account-based marketing forces organizations to think about their full marketing and sales strategy before a campaign even launches.
Account-based marketing focuses on the quality of the leads rather than the volume of them.
It can feel scary to completely scrap the sales techniques and processes that you’ve always known. But you know what’s even scarier? Not hitting your sales quota because those calls and emails you’re sending are either being drowned out by the competition or they’re being ignored because your prospect wasn’t that interested anyway.
More than 80 percent of marketers say that their account-based marketing initiatives outperform any other campaigns for sales.The ROI is clear, but the benefits go far beyond the profit margins.
Let’s explore just a few of the benefits of account-based marketing.
A successful account-based marketing initiative isn’t some half-baked plan to try to make up for a slow quarter. It requires careful planning, strategy and collaboration between sales and marketing teams.
Creating an account-based marketing strategy requires companies to ask important questions about their mission: Why are we offering this product or service, and who do we believe it will help? This kind of internal reflection helps identify your company’s ideal customer profile.
The process makes sure sales and marketing are focused on the same goals and understand their roles, but it also generates buy-in from the entire company. When every employee in the organization is aligned behind a single purpose and vision, you create a positive company culture that even potential customers will notice.
Account-based marketing requires internal consistency, and that is never a bad thing.
Personalization is essential in account-based marketing.
While a traditional marketing campaign might aim to make your product or service look attractive to as many people as possible, no one is excited about a one-size-fits-all solution.
How could a single customer support software possibly work for an online retailer selling women’s clothing, a manufacturer specializing in oil refining, and an Internet service provider? You know that your product is flexible enough to be applied successfully to just about any industry — but does your prospect really believe that?
Account-based marketing hinges on the creation of content personalized to the account you’re going after. Every article you write, every ad you run and every email you send is focused on showing your prospects how your product was designed to solve the very specific problems their company is facing.
Finding out how to match your business to their needs takes a lot of research and creativity, but it will boost our relevancy.
Even if your target accounts aren’t ready to sign a deal right now, a successful campaign will change the way people think about your product.
According to the 2020 ABM Market Research Study from Demandbase, companies who are measuring their ROI specific to their account-based marketing initiatives are seeing double or triple the returns on their investment compared to traditional campaigns.
But if a company looks at the traditional KPIs like leads generated or meetings set, that account-based marketing campaign might not look so great to management.
Account-based marketing requires a shift in how your company measures its success, but the new metrics will show the quality of the contracts and progress rather than just the quantity. By looking at things like relationship engagement and brand sentiment in addition to the dollar amounts, you’ll see a clearer picture of true ROI.
Measuring ROI in account-based marketing initiatives also helps inform future strategy. You will see exactly which accounts were worth the effort and you’ll learn what types of companies might not be the best fit after all.
If you are in a sales role focused on a traditional B2B sales funnel, the work has only just begun when the marketing team passes off a pile of sales leads. The marketing team did their part by collecting names, now you need to weed through that list.
How many ended up on the list just to receive some free SWAG from the trade show their husband dragged them to? How many are eager entrepreneurs who may have a need for you in the future, but haven’t even made their first dollar yet. There’s bound to also be a few that have never even heard of your company and have no idea how you got their contact information.
Even after you have filtered out the unqualified leads, you still need to try to connect with the qualified ones. Because the chances are so high that your calls and emails will be ignored, you wait until you connect with them to research more about their needs. That can mean an unproductive discovery call where you’re trying to learn what they offer while the customer is still trying to figure out what exactly your product does. Then, you spend time trying to guess what type of package would be best for them or what would even be possible within their budget.
You send off your proposals and you celebrate a few new contracts, but you also realize the customer churn will be high.
Account-based marketing doesn’t just transform the sales process — it streamlines it.
You know that every prospect on your list is a qualified lead because you hand-picked them with the help of the marketing team. You spend the rest of the sales cycle producing content and connections that prove to that account that you are a perfect match, and you patiently wait for your hard work to pay off.
When you do finally close the deal, you won’t need to spend as much time reassuring the client that they’ve made the right decision or smoothing over tensions that arise from miscommunications.
Although the account-based marketing sales process may take longer, it is time well spent.
Finding new customers is expensive. According to a ProfitWell report, customer acquisition costs have risen more than 60 percent over the past five years. To be found on search engines or social media, you need to pay-to-play. Even organic marketing is becoming more expensive as creating valuable content requires a more precise and technical skill set.
There’s no sign that customer acquisition costs will decrease any time soon, so it is more important than ever to focus on retaining the customers you already have.
Not only can you count on the recurring revenue from those target accounts, but you will find that your happiest customers will help acquire new sales for you.
While 65 percent of consumers don’t trust advertisements from businesses, more than 80 percent rely on the advice of friends and family to make financial decisions. In a business sense, buyers want to hear from other customers rather than relying on your word.
By personalizing the sales experience with account-based marketing, you’re setting your relationship off on the right foot (especially if you flatter the decision makers with thoughtful handwritten notes and appropriate gifts — more on that a bit later).
Assuming your company can maintain the consistency in customer experience even after the deal is signed, your account-based marketing strategy won’t just yield high-value clients — you’ll also have a team of loyal brand advocates spreading the word to their colleagues and peers.
By this point, you are probably convinced that all the buzz around account-based marketing is more than just hype. (And if you need more proof, just consider the report from SiriusDecisions that found that companies measuring their account-based marketing campaigns are seeing 99 percent better engagement, 80 percent improved win rates, and 73 percent higher deal sizes).
Now you just need to figure out where to start. Listed below are a few steps that you must take to ensure your account-based marketing strategy does not fall flat.
While you may be able to develop and use your own personal sales tactics in a traditional campaign, account-based marketing is not something you can tackle solo.
All internal stakeholders — from the CEO to the customer service agents — should be aligned behind the strategy. Not every employee needs to know the details about the budget and goals of the campaign, but an account-based marketing strategy requires companies to think about their strategic vision and goals — and that’s a conversation that will benefit all employees.
At a minimum, you’ll need buy-in from the full sales team and the full marketing team in order to create consistent company experiences.
In addition to the leaders of the marketing and sales departments, account-based marketing teams are made up of individual marketers and sales representatives who will execute your strategy.
It is essential to redefine the relationship between the two departments. No longer is marketing solely responsible for finding leads and sales responsible for closing the deal. Instead, both sales and marketing will fill important roles through the account’s full lifecycle.
The number of accounts you choose to target will depend on the size of your company and whether you plan to focus solely on account-based marketing or incorporate it as a piece of your existing sales strategy.
Identifying your ideal customer profile will take some brainstorming and creativity, but the more time you are willing to invest in defining your target accounts, the easier things will fall into place.
Start back at the very beginning of your company: What particular problem was your product or service developed to address? Identify a few high-value accounts that are still experiencing that problem, and get ready to woo them.
It is also a good idea to review past contracts and assess as a team what clients were the best fit for your company. Look at everything from their industry to their vision and employee count, and then find other companies that match the profile.
Marketing and sales should work together to create the game plan. At this stage in the campaign, it is essential to assign clear and specific roles to each team member on the project.
What kind of content can marketing create that will resonate with the target audience, and how can sales reinforce that messaging when they reach out to prospects?
This is a chance for marketing and sales representatives to both be honest about where the relationship typically breaks down in a campaign and make sure all are working on a united front with constant communication.
The process up to this point may require more planning and strategy than other campaigns, but this is the step where you start to see the pay-off.
The role of marketing at this point is to produce highly personalized content and distribute it to a very specific demographic. In an average account-based marketing campaign, this includes landing pages tailored to the needs of specific industries or accounts, ad campaigns targeting specific job roles at specific companies and making sure company communications remain consistent.
At the same time, sales representatives work to reinforce those messages and connect with customers. In an accounts-based marketing campaign, it is especially important to take the time to build relationships with the key decision makers and the buying committees. A meeting with a low-level manager might land you a small contract, but keeping the focus on the big goal will pay dividends.
Personalized direct mail campaigns are also a great way for sales to take the target accounts across the finish line.
Just like any marketing campaign, consistent monitoring and adjustment is important for success.
If you rely only on your traditional indicators, like the number of meetings scheduled, you might not see an accurate representation of performance. While the number of meetings scheduled may drop, the amount of new revenue can still go up.
Measurement is another reason that all stakeholders must be aligned behind the account-based marketing strategy. You don’t want a C-suite executive to put a stop to your progress just because some of the year-over-year charts look bad.
The full team should remain flexible and adjust the strategy if the data demands it. Maybe you were a little bit off when you identified your key accounts, or maybe you’re spending too much of your budget on the content creation and not enough on making real connections with real people.
Bluebird is an automated sending platform that uses smart integrations to deliver handwritten notecards, personalized gifts and digital gift cards to prospects, customers and other team members.
The word “personal” appears more than 10 times in this article. In case it has not been clear to this point, personalization is critical to a successful account-based marketing strategy.
A personalized and warm email is not enough any more (thanks, mail merge). Direct mail is a chance to prove — with a real, tangible object — that your companies are made for each other.
Not only are your prospects more likely to notice your gift, they will feel the need to reciprocate. It’s been documented in peer-reviewed scientific journals that when someone receives a gift, they feel a psychological impulse to reciprocate in some way. That means when you send a thoughtful and well-timed gift to a prospect, it’s scientifically proven that they are more likely to reciprocate by gifting you the meeting you requested.
This does not mean you can purchase some cheap pens or sunglasses and toss them in the mail. A smart corporate gift is thoughtful, personalized and well-timed.
Bluebird partners with promotional marketing distributors, fulfillment centers, suppliers, and local businesses to make your corporate gifting program a success. With an established supply and distribution chain, Bluebird has delivered 10,000 packages to more than 35 countries.
Bluebird has even assembled a team of people with great penmanship to craft handwritten notes that accompany ever physical gift that is sent. Marketing and fulfillment reps have saved more than 2,500 hours without compromising a single touch of personalization.
Since your team has spent so much time researching the goals, problems and potential of the target accounts in your account-based marketing package, you will have a pretty good idea of what type of gift would be well received.
If your target account makes it a point to award a portion of contracts to women- and minority-owned business enterprises, send a fair trade product that supports and empowers women from around the world.
If you discover that your target account was awarded LEED certification for designing their new headquarters with green building strategies in mind, find sustainable gift options.
Your prospect will appreciate the time and thought you spent to learn about their mission and personality. This is especially important since you are going after a company’s good will and not just their dollars.
While it’s clear that offering something of value -- a gift card or a personalized handwritten note -- to a prospect is almost a requirement to stand out from the noise, it’s also time consuming.
Sure, you could try to handle your corporate gifting campaign in-house — but should you? Your team excels at sales and marketing, but they’re probably not trained in supply chain management.
Bluebird allows you to leverage your existing tech stack to automatically trigger intelligent and logic-based gifts. It means that your team can focus on what they do best -- selling products and services -- while Bluebird will come in with the assist to reinforce those relationships.
In the context of an account-based marketing strategy, automations can be set up to trigger when an account reaches a certain threshold. When a deal is moved to a certain location in the pipeline, a gift package can automatically be sent to those marked as key decision makers in an attempt to schedule a meeting.
Bluebird also works with Zapier, an online tool that lets you create custom workflows and integrations between more than 3,000 different apps.
A custom Zapier workflow is a great way to enhance your inbound marketing strategies to land those high-value accounts. Let’s take a look at an example.
Remember that medical device you were trying to sell to random strangers in the park? Since that didn’t go so well, you’ve decided to give the account-based marketing strategy a try. You’ve coordinated with the marketing team, which has created a lead generation campaign on LinkedIn to reach the purchase agents and medical directors that would be the best fit for your device.
Using Zapier, you can create an integration that adds a new contact record in HubSpot when someone fills in the lead generation form from the LinkedIn ad. After three or four days, another integration will automatically send an email to your new contact asking them if they’d like to meet you for coffee — your treat. To your delight, they’ve accepted your invitation. Thanks to the powerful automation and integration tools available with Bluebird, a digital Starbucks gift card is emailed with the calendar invite.
Different automations can be set up for different steps in the account-based marketing process, from a lunch delivery during initial meetings to a full kit of branded gear to celebrate the beginning of a long-lasting partnership.
Although the automations and integrations set Bluebird apart from other gifting platforms, the software still allows for one-off gifts. When you learn that it’s the vice president (who also happens to love camping) that is reluctant to set a meeting with you, Bluebird helps you select and deliver to her the perfect package of outdoor essentials.
The automation capabilities within Bluebird allow you to focus on building a solid business relationship, not the logistics of sending a gift.
When sales teams constantly blow through their expense account budgets, you watch your return on investment nosedive and wonder if you need a new approach.
Bluebird’s intuitive user portal allows administrators to set budgets and control sending permissions for every authorized user on the account. Individual users see a real-time widget that shows how much money they have available to use on corporate gifts in the current period, which can help guide their decisions and strategies.
If a team needs to scale back spending for a bit to reassess the strategy, administrators can easily reduce spending limits. On the flip side, more credit can be added when you see that your Bluebird gifting campaigns are paying for themselves many times over.
Bluebird’s system allows you to set up company-wide automation rules but still give individual sales representatives the opportunity to add their own touch to the gifting process.
All activity and gift deliveries are automatically tracked in your existing CRM, so you’ll never lose track of a lead in your pipeline again.
Not only does the tracking encourage timely follow-ups, but it creates transparency within organizations.
The clear documentation from Bluebird offers reassurance to the nervous finance and HR teams that your corporate gifts are actually being delivered to prospects and you’re not just pocketing the goods yourself.
It also offers an easy way to look at your overall account-based marketing campaign to see what’s working and what’s not. Bluebird’s integrations make it possible to easily see your return on investment. That’s how we know that the leading companies who trust and rely on Bluebird have already seen a 400 percent increase in qualified leads.
Are you ready to see how much an automated sending platform can help your team accelerate deals and land your dream accounts? Sign up for a live product demo with Bluebird and we’ll show you.