When you have been around as long as I have, you will have seen “The Next Big Thing”, many times. An article caught my eye they other day about “Account Based Marketing”. Now, I don’t know if this is the next big thing or not, but it seemed interesting, and possibly in alignment with Microsoft’s suggested “Industry Focus” partners should be taking.
The Last Big Thing
The rise of the internet, and subsequent popularity of social media, created a marketing approach that many of us simply fell backward into. Here we have zillions of people talking to each other… so let’s inject an ad into those conversations. Maybe it wasn’t an “ad”, but rather an ad disguised as a comment. This seemed like a free and easy way to blast a message to a ton of people at once, and maybe one of them would actually be a prospect. One of the challenges businesses have had with Social Media is their inability to tie a ROI directly to the effort. The best you can get is anecdotal evidence. Obviously this has gotten better over the years, and we have seen a shift towards attempting to target “personas”, with a more specific “ad disguised as a comment”, but it is still a shotgun approach at best.
The Big Thing Before The Last Big Thing
Way before Social media, we had direct mail, which ultimately gave way for the most part to Email Marketing, and before that we had magazine ads. Since all of these had a cost associated with them, it is easy to see why Social Media looked so attractive. What all of these had in common, similar to Social Media today, was the shotgun nature of the efforts.
Traditional Leads Approach
CRM systems have long been designed around a specific “flow”. You exhibit at a trade show and collect cards; these are Leads. They go into your CRM, and one or more, marketing campaigns start firing off. The more sophisticated efforts at least attempted to segment these Leads by persona. But way too many, fired off the same introductory messaging to everybody… shotgun. You would hope that an actual prospect, would surface on their own, from the haystack, having seen enough triggers in your generic message to want to learn more. Most ignored or unsubscribed or un-friended, but hey, I guess they were not prospects anyway, right? This is not particularly efficient, and with so many generic messages assailing people today, we are getting tuned to automatically discard without even reading. That’s a lot of writing for nothing.
Account Based Marketing
I’ll be honest, I’m no expert on this approach, but in general, it seems interesting. The idea of approaching a specific target account, armed with all of the information we can learn about them today, with a highly targeted “Market of One” approach. Microsoft does this with their large corporate prospects. An individual seller is assigned to an individual target account, or small handful of target accounts. That individual’s job is to get inside that account’s head, and really understand them. What do they do to make money, what are the impacts on their business, who are the key players inside. With this information, the Seller can reach out to the right person, at the right time, with a very specific conversation, about their particular, and unique issues. Seems more effective than a generic email blast. This also seems like a natural extension of the “Industry Focus” approach.
Industry Focus meets Account Based Marketing
I wrote recently about the Industry Focus idea. Basically, the idea is that you narrow your current “We will work for anybody” approach to, “We are experts in this niche”. If you go that route, and find yourself focusing on a niche, it would be pretty easy to identify the key Accounts that are in that niche. If you now extended your messaging beyond, “We are experts in your Niche, and know your niches pain” to “I know your specific pain”, well, that sounds like it could be pretty effective.
You Know You Won’t
I know that, for fear of missing out on random opportunities, many of you are struggling with the idea of Industry Focus already. And now here I am, suggesting that you focus that even narrower to just the key accounts in that industry, and more or less, ignoring all of those potential “over the bow” deals. So most of you will think, “Interesting approach Steve, but we’ll keep blasting the world in a generic way, thank you”. But, those that do think about this, will actually be thanking you… for letting them have it.
Lot’s of Homework
For those of you that are intrigued, I am not suggesting that this will be a walk in the park to easy money. You will actually need to try and learn in advance, for these Target Accounts, the kinds of things you already know about your existing Key accounts, at an individual Account level. Thankfully, today we have the technology to do that, but we now need the time. For example, with Dynamics 365 Sales, we have this nifty little addon called “Insights” from InsideView… this is a great starting point for learning about a specific Target Account. I have referred to this tool in the past as a “Rabbit-hole”, that can actually give you too much information and become a total time-suck, this is true, unless you are doing Account Based Marketing. Account Based Marketing is the opposite of marketing “at scale”. Scale marketing does not allow for that much time to be invested in each prospect… just the basics. But think about a Seller, who instead of being responsible for all companies in an industry, or the world, is instead responsible for a handful of specific Target Accounts. This tool could provide 90% of the information they would need to succeed.
Sticking a Toe in
Many of you have Account Managers, who are responsible for keeping a few existing key accounts happy. It is easy to invest the effort to have an individual get to know what makes an account tick, when they are already paying you. But what about investing that same effort in prospective accounts who are not paying you…yet. As an experiment, think about taking one of your sellers, and sending them down this path. Have them do the homework to identify 2 or 3 Target Accounts, then have that seller do the more significant homework of figuring out what makes each of them tick, at an individual level. Resist the urge to jump on the phone, or send an email, too early. Wait until you know who, what, when and why. Really drill in, figure out who the person, or people are that would matter, then learn about those people. Have they been there long, where were they before, have they written anything… read it. What challenges is the industry facing, how might those impact this Account… specifically. Who have they acquired, what is their strategy, read their SEC filings, blogs, social media… what are they saying to their customers. Only then, should you reach out.
I noticed that you are new in role at Acme, but poking around I noticed that you had experience in experimental widget development when you were at OldCo. I can see why Acme brought you on board given their new focus on widgets. Clearly CompeteCo has been making some strides in this area also, based on their latest patent filings. It seems to me that given Acme’s history, being the first to come to market with a Whatsit, Acme should be able to leverage that at the upcoming World Widget Symposium in Chicago. I also noticed that Acme recently acquired WidgetCorp, who has done some pretty amazing things in the Widget space. I read a few of your blog posts on Experimental Widgets, and found your comment that “Widgets will rule the world one day” to be interesting. I was hoping that we could schedule a time for a brief chat so I could learn more about your goals for expanding Acme’s Widget line, and see whether our Widget Blaster Solution could assist with that. Would you have any time in the next week for a call?
Account Based Seller”
Do you think this might be more effective than you typical generic message? Let me know in the comments.