My mother-in-law is convinced I’m an overpaid party planner. And to be honest, that’s not that far off.
My introduction to marketing came when I was an ambitious account executive in desperate need of pipeline, so I began throwing my own field marketing events all over the country. Couple that with a former CEO of mine who, I swear, was an event planner in a past life (he was that into the details) and the experience of building a brand almost solely based on throwing the best “rager” at Dreamforce, and my mother-in-law’s assessment is pretty right on. But those are stories for another day.
This is about account-based marketing (ABM) and selling, the industry in which I currently work, so let me put on my party planner hat and break it down. Think about ABM as throwing a surprise party.
First, would you ever attempt to throw a surprise party for someone who you really didn’t know?
Of course not. That would be creepy and weird. So, step one for ABM is knowing the best accounts to sell to and why. But let’s say you, too, are a great party planner and have been tapped to host the big event for someone you don’t know. The first thing you do is start asking questions about the guest of honor to find out everything you could to make the party all about them.
So, too, in ABM, we need to start by asking questions. Why are those good accounts for you? What success have you had with similar accounts? Are these accounts in an industry where you can be successful? Do these accounts have the right technology to utilize your solution? Are they the right size? Right geography? The answers to these questions will help you develop your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Trying to do ABM without a well-defined ICP would be like trying to throw a surprise party for a random person you’ve never met. Your only hope for a successful event is to put out an entire smorgasbord of food and drink options and hope your guest likes something. But with this approach, you’re likely to have lots of wasted food, and your guest of honor likely won’t feel very honored. It would be like if we served up every e-book, video, white paper, customer story, blog article, news clipping and infographic we have in our arsenal in hopes that a prospect account likes something we’re offering.
Would you throw a surprise party without knowing how much you could afford to spend?
Is this a major birthday, a.k.a. a big pay-off account segment? Or a smaller milestone, a.k.a. a higher-velocity, lower-revenue party? Based on the payoff, you’ll need to make trade-offs on the most important things to get engagement, like deciding if you want the clown or the ever-flowing champagne tower to entertain your guests. In our world, trade-offs could look like display advertising and business development outreach, or the full monte, meaning display, content, direct mail and an executive dinner.
Would you throw a surprise party without giving the guest of honor directions to the venue?
You’re going to need to provide a map to get everyone to the party. In ABM, we use predictive analytics to know where each guest is starting from (buying stage) and how far we need them to go to reach the venue (closed won). Just like any good road map, previously traveled routes tend to be the best option to get from point A to point B. If you’re drawing lines through wooded areas and marshland, don’t expect a full house.
Would you throw a surprise party and not employ a few accomplices?
You’ll probably need some help keeping up the ruse and getting your guest of honor to the party. It is, after all, a surprise. Sales development representatives (SDRs) are the perfect partners in crime. They understand the logistics and the plan, and they know the end game. And they have the tools like a sales engagement platform to keep everything on track.
When you look back at a surprise party, people often don’t remember the party (I’m not making judgments), but they do remember the experience of lots of folks “getting them to the party.” Getting the person to the party is a big part of the experience.
Would you plan a surprise party and not know the guest of honor’s favorite food/drink?
What do they like? What would make it a fun party for them? In ABM, we use intent data to understand what prospects care about so we can deliver relevant, personalized experiences. I’m not talking about knowing the guest of honor’s name; I’m talking about knowing their favorite appetizers, cocktails, music choices and more to create a unique and memorable experience.
In ABM we often equate this with a content hub where we can serve up personalized content. If you have great intent data and understand their persona and where they are in the journey, your hub can be incredibly tailored for the guest of honor. Are they allergic to anything? Have you ever seen an allergic reaction to shellfish? You don’t want that.
Would you plan a surprise party and not include the guest of honor’s friends and family?
Who are you inviting to this soirée? As a host, you’ll want to know who your guest’s friends and family are. And more importantly, how are you going to get all their friends to show up? In ABM, this is like trying to engage the entire buying team.
Six to 10 people are often involved in a complex business-to-business (B2B) sale, so what’s the plan? Do you invite just close friends? Only family members? What about Steve from high school? He was cool. Once you get that list figured out, you’ll need to convince all of them to show up. And you’d better have a rager planned.
I told you I was a party planner!
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