Account Based Marketing (ABM): Your Path to Customer Success from Day One.

Why launching an Account Based Marketing programme is the best vehicle to infuse customer success as a priority across your Marketing & Sales organisation.

Working for both fast moving scale-ups and larger B2B companies gives a unique perspective on how to introduce change management for Marketing & Sales functions. This article explains how shifting all engagement teams’ focus to long term success creates a dramatic change in culture, performance and alignment. This change of mindset can be summarised with the mantra, “Customer Success from day one”.

Sales, Marketing & Customer Success functions are merging

Five years from now, GenZ will thrive in the B2B space by combining the skills of a business analyst, a marketer, a sales and a customer success manager. A junior level relationship management function (Success Development Representative) will become a financial imperative imposed by emerging business models: to find customers with the best long term ($) value potential and realise this commercial potential throughout the customer lifecycle, from prospect to advocacy.

Delivering on a Customer Success vision will take teamwork and planning for a seamless prospect/customer experience. So, how do we, present-day B2B practitioners, get there?

The perfect vehicle for change is… ABM.

Let’s think about the perfect change initiative for your organisation:

– small scale, fast moving project;

– direct measurable impact on business;

– easy disruption of current mindset & processes;

– visible support from the boardroom and/or investors (for scale-ups).

After launching many B2B projects for revenue generating teams of all shapes & sizes, my strong opinion is that an Account Based Marketing programme delivers on all of the above criteria and, therefore, is a fantastic opportunity to prepare for the future while actively improving the status quo.

Let’s take two practical examples where an ABM vision does the job of creating a healthy tension for your Marketing & Sales organisation to adapt for the better.

The switch from MQL to MQA – a lightbulb moment for Marketing?

In my former days of Marketing Automation consulting, leading a workshop on the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) was always a lightbulb moment for the project, but also for the team, their inherent alignment and how well they would adapt to external forces (technology usually being one of them).

Sometimes I would walk away from discussions on lead scoring, service level agreements and rejected lead reasons, wishing we could also change the PEOPLE & PROCESS side of the equation, especially when trying to penetrate the large accounts segment.

Nowadays, the advent of Account Based Marketing in the B2B space allows Marketing teams to take the best of Inbound/Outbound strategies and provide a much more compelling delivery to their Sales team: a Marketing Qualified Account.

I won’t go into much detail on how to operate the switch (yet), but the initial step to launch an Account Based Marketing programme is to start small: simply segregate a few target accounts and work beyond the MQLs, asking yourself; how do we switch the focal point from a person to a buying committee? How do we switch the insight level from a personal need/pain point to a demand unit (merci Sirius Decisions!)?

Back when I was consulting in Australia, after talking to a frustrated Marketing Manager complaining about the volume of “good MQLs been rejected by Sales”, I suggested she try to further develop (larger) accounts with a) more research and b) outbound activities before moving them further down the pipeline. More research simply meant that the Marketing team prepared a deck about the buying committee (or decision makers) of the particular account they were trying to target. The outbound activities consisted of nicely printed invites for an upcoming event, which were followed-up with a call and email.

This was, of course,  a lot more work for the marketing team, but it paid off as soon as all of these MQLs – reworked into accounts – converted to SQLs. In essence, she had delivered her first MQAs: Marketing Qualified Accounts.

Committing to a future case study – a lightbulb moment for Sales?

In the same spirit of planning and mindful anticipation of the next team’s job, the Sales team can draft a case study to be published a couple of quarters later – right before or after the closing of a subsequent opportunity for a large account. This exercise can be kept internal and will be used as a reference/health check tool between the Sales, Marketing and Customer Success teams. Going a step further would be to share the draft case study with your (soon to be) new customer: what a great way to focus/commit everyone on long term success!

The Sales leader on the Account should be the main contributor to the future case study as he/she knows best at this stage the buying committee’s main demand as well as how to deliver with his/her solution. In collaboration with the client, the Customer Success Manager validates this plan and confirms when specific milestones of success can reasonably be reached. The Marketing team facilitates the whole case study drafting process, suggesting the verbatim and owning the final output format.

Again, an Account Based Marketing programme helps instigate change at a reasonable scale, one account at a time. The acid test for how much impact a target account would have on the overall change management process is to ask the CEO to be quoted on the draft case study, to be published around the yearly renewal date; now that’s going the extra mile!

I’m throwing this kind of curveball into a couple of current Customer Success Plans with French scale-ups. If full adoption and alignment is still difficult to achieve, the resulting conversations definitely help build a common culture of long term commitment between teams, one success plan after another. The definition of success is seen as an iterative journey over time.

Conclusion

ABM is a compelling methodology for revenue generating teams as it forces them to begin creating the changes they need to deliver Customer Success: new processes (MQL to MQA), new skills (Business Analyst, Customer Success Planner), a new commitment to selecting customers with the best long term revenue potential and finally, delivering this revenue potential along the full lifecycle.

What’s needed for longer term transformation are pilot programmes fuelled by easily trainable/coachable resources: Success Development Representatives. I’ll explain in a later article how these new kind of SDRs will keep their senior Marketing, Sales and Customer Success colleagues in check.

Watch our recent webinar to find out more about account-based marketing and to determine if it’s right for you.

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