I recently had a virtual launch party for my book and in the midst of cocktails and digital mixing, we had a concert with Michael Franti. When everyone at home wavered on his set, one of his songs really caught my eye. “Start Small Think Big” is my new theme song – and here’s why.
Today’s B2B buyers are smarter and expect meaningful, personalized experiences when searching for solutions. We’ve talked about meaningful personalization for years – and now technology is helping us make that a reality. That makes it an exciting time to be a B2B marketer!
Even so, the task can feel daunting. When I first spoke to my team about our bold vision of removing forms, spam, and cold calls from our account-based engagements, they said it was a worthy pursuit – but impractical.
What if a couple of leads walked right by us? What would sales think? How would we promote our perspectives?
I don’t think anyone expected to just unplug the first day. It should shock the system – make us think about what we could achieve and set a strategic goal focused on the customer experience. And like any massive business, it would take a few small steps to get to the end.
As Frantis Lied puts it, if we want to change our buying experience, we have to think big, but start small.
Here are four small steps you can take before you think about big steps.
1. Know who not to target
When we say “account based” most people think that it comes down to who you are actively targeting in your prospecting strategy. It’s … but we often don’t think about who to target.
Each team has a limited budget and the same number of hours per day. The first step in creating a great shopper experience is figuring out where to focus and where not.
For example, direct mail is a popular game. Who doesn’t like it when bottles of champagne are delivered to their door? But are you targeting the absolute best accounts for this game? Are you in a segment that guarantees this customer acquisition cost (CAC)? Are they in the market for what you do?
Before you pop champagne corks, consider assessing your open options and determining which accounts are receiving how much attention.
That doesn’t mean it’s just your high-yield accounts that get personal attention. Accounts that are not quite in this range yet could one day be. Plus, you don’t want to treat potential customers like dirt! However, the point here is to optimize your valuable resources.
So plan a low-touch process with lower-yielding accounts that are still on-brand. By automating the orchestration, you can send that type of potentially relevant content without an intensive, hands-on approach.
2. Get to know the intent of the most important segments
Once you know exactly who to talk to, it is not yet time to ship the champagne. Focus on your key segments and pick the details. Can you tell what the accounts in your key segments are actually about?
I love a good persona card as much as I love the next marketer, but in reality they are time consuming and static. The needs and wants of your prospects change so quickly that there is no way your map can be updated as often as it should.
A more reliable way to understand your buyers is to use keyword-based intent data. Capturing and interpreting signals from your buyers gives you more accurate data that your teams can use when reaching out to prospects.
Plus, intent data is continually updated as the market changes and key information gushes up. That way, you can find out if no one is consuming certain content or if emails are missing the mark – which leads to a better buyer experience.
3. Know who is in your house
Third-party intent data is part of your data collection, but there is still so much waiting to be collected. In fact, much of the buying journey happens in what my company calls the “dark funnel” – the mass of anonymous data that most sales and marketing teams have not yet touched. Which honestly stinks to them. What if your top prospect is on your website but you have no idea that they are?
Even companies that believe they have business identification capabilities often find their results poor and inaccurate. That leaves a cryptic look at who is “in your house”. It’s like leaving teenagers in your basement and never going back downstairs to check on them: it’s just irresponsible.
We don’t want to be parents like that – or marketers.
Your small step is to evaluate and compare technologies that enable business identification. Pick one that works best for you and your customer base (and gets the highest number of exact matching accounts).
Collect data on who is visiting your website so you can orchestrate an amazing digital experience that fits a prospect’s top priorities exactly. Bonus points if you can match extensive information such as industry, geography, personality and purchase phase.
The more data you can dynamically display, the more personal you can create an experience: chat bots, content hubs, and ads become more personal and meaningful to potential customers.
4. Use Insights to Deliver ABX
So far, the small steps in this article will enable your marketing team to orchestrate incredible experiences. But we shouldn’t forget about sales either!
Let’s delete the M from ABM since this is really about sales and customer service too.
I love that Insight Partners’ Gary Survis calls it Account-based Experience (ABX). It puts the customer at the center of everything your teams do – something that is becoming increasingly important in today’s marketplace.
One of my first sales mentors poked the following into my head: “Whoever knows the customer best wins.” ABX is designed to help your team know your customers inside out, in order to serve them in the best possible way – to be their hero and give them the solution they need. The best way to be a hero to your customers, your future customers, and your sales and customer support teams is to gain valuable insights.
This is more difficult than expected as buyers don’t always know what they want in advance. It’s like an iceberg: there’s what they tell you (about 10% of the story) and then there’s the rest that lurks underwater (the other 90%).
To expose the entire iceberg, make sure your tech stack is delivering deep, real-time account insights to the front lines. Your team needs these to prepare for meetings, make sure they are closing their multi-threaded deals, are aware of the competitive factors, and focus on the right things every day.
Insights lead to great ABX, which leads to satisfied prospects and satisfied customers.
It’s time to send the champagne
With small steps you can achieve a better customer experience. Once you’ve nailed them down, it’s time to ship the champagne because, thanks to your data and insights, you’ll know exactly which accounts and people need that special touch to strengthen engagement with you.
You’ll also find other options – maybe a special customer worth celebrating with an extra gift.
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Knowing your buyers and creating exceptional ABX is the foundation of your bigger, bolder future plans. Personally, I would love it if everyone took no forms, spam and cold calls as a hunt, but if you have to start small, go for it! Just don’t forget to think big.
So put on Franti, make yourself happy and get on with it!
Additional resources related to the customer and buyer experience
What makes customer experience: Jeannie Walters on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
Five Keys to Building Better Shopper Experiences
Five tips to improve the B2B customer experience to generate more sales
4 Ways To Show Interest In Your Buyers: Lessons From Bono