Connect With Potential Buyers During A Crisis By Following The Three 'I' Formula, as seen on Forbes

May 12, 2020 Latane Conant

A global health crisis, economic uncertainty, social distancing — as marketing leaders, it’s hard to lead our teams right now. Everyone’s struggling in this situation.

Yet, while juggling emotions, family and conference calls (what we old-timers once called them), we must press on with generating predictable revenue. But not how we did before.

Keep Connecting With Potential Buyers

I’m used to having answers, but this situation has stumped me. What direction do I give my team? Do your best? Use good judgment? Be empathetic?

All great things to say. But when I plan for my team’s success, I like formulas. Fortunately, while we’ve had to change a lot about our tactics, our targeting was already based on behavioral insights: what buyers are actually doing right now and who’s in-market. Without this life raft, we’d be lost in a sea of uncertainty.

I was passionate about having great insights before, but now it’s clear to me that insights are even more mission-critical for revenue teams. Our current situation means you’re one wrong decision away from scoring comments on your LinkedIn post about how tone-deaf you are. 

Even without events happening, we still have our pipeline goals, which leave us with tons of questions:

  • Does that mean our event marketing money should go somewhere else, or do we just cut it altogether?
  • Do we dump it into advertising, paid social or another “digital” marketing function?
  • How do we restore our team’s confidence and continue generating pipeline when so much about our world has changed?

We Need Specific Insights: The Three I Formula

Over our chief marketing officer (CMO) breakfast series in March, we asked 200 CMOs: Where are you focusing your marketing dollars now? Their top three focus areas were:

  • Account-based marketing (ABM)
  • Thought leadership
  • Sales enablement

Excellent ideas, but back to the original challenge: Where do we target our ABM, thought leadership and sales teams?

Enter the “three I formula.” I talked about insights, but there are specifically three types (I’m in marketing, so I love alliteration).

First I: In-Market

Assuming your industry hasn’t been ground to a halt, there are still accounts actively seeking what you do. You’re probably seeing a drop in inbound volume, but accounts exist. You want your teams to find those accounts and establish connections.

Predictive analytics can find patterns in a prospect’s activity to help you build connections. Are prospects researching specific keywords or anonymously visiting your website? You want to look holistically at what prospects do on your website as well as on third-party sites.

In-market is that critical window of opportunity when an account is ready to engage. Time your outreach to hit the in-market window, and you can be the first vendor a buyer talks to. That sets you miles apart from your competitors and lets you build a solid relationship.

Second I: Intent

What does this account intend to do? Intent data helps determine if accounts are in-market. But, more importantly, it shows you what accounts care about.

Intent is discerned through a combination of first-party and third-party data. First-party intent includes buyers visiting your website, interacting with your campaigns or engaging with your sales team. Third-party intent is when buyers conduct research on business-to-business (B2B) websites, using any combination of branded and generic keywords relevant to your business.

Nirvana happens when you know exactly which keywords target accounts are researching, which pages on your website they’re visiting, which customer locations are most active and which buying team personas are engaged.

Sellers see at an account level what’s most relevant to their accounts and which personas are most relevant, so they reach out to have valuable conversations. Marketers better understand what topics are most critical to their audience in real time because, guess what, it’s changing daily.

Third I: Industry

How does a situation affect this account’s overall industry and business model? Is it a positive or negative impact? Your teams must understand a prospect’s industry to centralize targeting and messaging.

While the current crisis affects everyone, I like to use the earthquake metaphor. How far away is the industry from the epicenter? In our example, cruise lines would be atop the epicenter, while cereal brands might feel only a tremor. The impact level — and how industries adapt — shapes your targeting.

You’ll also want to look beyond accounts in your customer relationship management (CRM) system. With how much has changed, they may not be relevant anymore. You’ll need to recognize patterns well outside your own data to adequately fill your pipeline.

Unlocking Mission-Critical Insights

Together, the three I’s give you insights to effectively market to your target accounts. And those top strategies CMOs identified earlier? Insights support them all:

  • Well-run ABM means you’re capturing insights for a buying team at the account level. When you know they’re in-market and can speak to the features they want, you can easily move them through the buying journey.
  • Marketers use content like thought leadership to warm prospects before they reach sales. The right insights enable the delivery of content that answers prospects’ burning questions and pushes them toward learning about your solution.
  • The sales team needs insights to move prospects from wanting to engage to wanting to purchase. Sales enablement solutions powered by the three I’s gives your team account-level data to engage the entire buying team and move them to purchase.
  • Even in certain times, the three I’s are mission-critical. You should always know what prospects want and how to focus your outreach on the right keywords. When times are tough, the three I formula can help you limit missteps.

So press on. Examine your current target account list and run them through the three I’s to focus on who needs your attention right now. Your targeted, highly personalized outreach will put limited resources to work. The three I’s can help you fill your pipeline using clear insights and lead through trying times with confidence.

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