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How to find your next, best customers with ABM

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How to find your next, best customers with ABM

You’re likely familiar with the Pareto Principle, the old 80/20 rule and how it applies to marketing — 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your customers. You also know who those “best” customers are. The metric that illuminates your best customers is customer lifetime value.

But do you know who your next best customers are? Those who will replace your current set of best customers as they “age out” or perhaps join and augment your profitability? I propose that you deploy very specific strategies to identify them and nurture them to their potential, even before they’ve signed their first contract. 

The most effective and efficient way is account-based marketing or ABM. It requires resources and it delivers payback. Let’s peel back the layers of what makes an effective ABM strategy, from developing your ICP to deeply personalizing prospect journeys through qualitative research and two-way dialogue.

Understanding ABM

ABM is a targeted, personalized and measurable process focusing on a specific set of high-value customers-to-be by creating and immersing them in a personalized customer experience. It’s a strategy that’s all about acquiring revenue and profit. 

Plenty of three-letter acronyms are related to this marketing approach. The ones you need to know right now are:

  • ICP, or ideal customer profile: It’s a data picture of your best customers.
  • TAM, or total addressable market: Your ICP is likely a small circle inside this ballpark.
  • CLV, or customer lifetime value: The metric that means money. How long does the customer relationship last and how profitable has it been? The objective: happier customers that stay longer and buy more.

The uncomfortable truth is that close coordination of marketing and sales (and soon customer success) is required to create and maintain the increasingly personalized customer experience.

Your ICP is ABM’s GPS

Your ICP is a broad-stroke profile of your best customers. This is where separating the wheat from the chaff in your TAM begins. It is the model that ABM prospecting will begin pursuing.

Not every interested prospect is going to turn into a long-term customer. Your TAM has a subset of your ICP. The ICP is the prompt you put in your ABM satellite navigation. There are three levels to a successful ICP:

  • The first is in broad strokes: firmographics (vertical, revenue, number of employees, location, etc.). Interestingly, a customer of ours found that by digging a bit here, the percentage of budget allocated to HR was a clear indicator that a company was really in the ICP. 
  • The second level lays out the preconditions or the reasons they may benefit from becoming a customer (e.g., targeted companies with larger legal departments will benefit from our software). 
  • The third level takes an educated guess at what titles to target and why (e.g., SME or subject matter expert, a key advisor to the decision-making process).

Personalization, or the ability to personalize, is a key concept within ABM. This ability to personalize depends on the information we gather through analysis and increasingly from two-way communications based on trust. 

We may intuit that the SME in a targeted company needs detailed information. We need to learn the specific concerns and use cases to become a differentiator for personalization. We want to focus deeply on these companies and executives.

Levels of personalization within ABM

With only our ICP to keep us warm, the ability to personalize is generally “Dear Santa,” because we really don’t know much more. We can begin to offer more specific content based on assumptions and trying to earn engagement.

We construct a preliminary consideration or buying journey and use content marketing to populate that consideration journey with what folks need to move on to the next step and eventually engage with sales.

The next step is qualitative research to generate specific and in-depth personas. Who are the people making the decisions and what are their personal and professional concerns and information needs? 

Then, we engage and have real conversations. We probe and learn and create the customer experience personalized to the company, the customer and the buying team. Let’s not forget that B2B has always been, and always will be, personal.

Now, here’s where marketing and sales have to collaborate and coordinate. to deliver this increasingly personalized experience. They need to share intelligence and collaborate on strategies, tactics and implementation to understand and satisfy the prospects’ drivers and articulate solutions in how they describe their challenges.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that you have to talk to those annoying customers, now marketing has to hold hands, share and collaborate with sales.

The successful integration of marketing and sales is the topic for another day. But I’ll give you three hints:

  • Management must walk the talk.
  • There must be shared measurements.
  • There must be shared compensation.

As we move closer to conversion to customer, you should begin an even deeper immersion in the personalized customer experience by introducing the customer success team.

The end game

I was part of a team doing NPS (Net Promoter Score) research but with a strong qualitative component. Not only do we ask if you would recommend Company A, but we spend most of our time probing why.

I was interviewing the C-suite decision maker of one of the sponsoring company’s best customers. I asked him, what is the most important benefit you receive as a customer?

His answer was short and direct, “Our salesman. He’s part of our team and helps us to solve problems. He knows what we need and goes out and gets it.”

That is where you want to be. That is where ABM can bring you. ABM is a more efficient and productive use of resources and generates the highest ROI of all marketing strategies. Find, invest and create your next, best customers.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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Being position-less secures a marketer’s position for a lifetime

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Optimove Positionless Marketer Optimove

On March 20, 2024, the Position-less Marketer was introduced on MarTech.org and my keynote address at Optimove’s user conference.

Since that initial announcement, we have introduced the term “Position-less Marketer” to hundreds of leading marketing executives and learned that readers and the audience interpreted it in several ways. This article will document a few of those interpretations and clarify what “position-less” means regarding marketing prowess.

As a reminder, data analytics and AI, integrated marketing platforms, automation and more make the Position-less Marketer possible. Plus, new generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Canna-GPT, Github, Copilot and DALL-E offer human access to powerful new capabilities that generate computer code, images, songs and videos, respectively, with human guidance.

Position-less Marketer does not mean a marketer without a role; quite the opposite

Speaking with a senior-level marketer at a global retailer, their first interpretation may be a marketer without a role/position. This was a first-glance definition from more than 60% of the marketers who first heard the term. But on hearing the story and relating it to “be position-less” in other professions, including music and sports, most understood it as a multidimensional marketer — or, as we noted, realizing your multipotentiality. 

One executive said, phrasing position-less in a way that clarified it for me was “unlocking your multidimensionality.” She said, “I like this phrase immensely.” In reality, the word we used was “multipotentiality,” and the fact that she landed on multidimensionality is correct. As we noted, you can do more than one thing.

The other 40% of marketing executives did think of the “Position-less Marketer” as a marketing professional who is not confined or defined by traditional marketing roles or boundaries. In that sense, they are not focused only on branding or digital marketing; instead, they are versatile and agile enough to adjust to the new conditions created by the tools that new technology has to offer. As a result, the Position-less Marketer should be comfortable working across channels, platforms and strategies, integrating different approaches to achieve marketing goals effectively.

Navigating the spectrum: Balancing specialization and Position-less Marketing

Some of the most in-depth feedback came from data analytic experts from consulting firms and Chief Marketing Officers who took a more holistic view.

Most discussions of the “Position-less Marketer” concept began with a nuanced perspective on the dichotomy between entrepreneurial companies and large enterprises.

They noted that entrepreneurial companies are agile and innovative, but lack scalability and efficiency. Conversely, large enterprises excel at execution but struggle with innovation due to rigid processes.

Drawing parallels, many related this to marketing functionality, with specialists excelling in their domain, but needing a more holistic perspective and Position-less Marketers having a broader understanding but needing deep expertise.

Some argued that neither extreme is ideal and emphasized the importance of balancing specialization and generalization based on the company’s growth stage and competitive landscape.

They highlight the need for leaders to protect processes while fostering innovation, citing Steve Jobs’ approach of creating separate teams to drive innovation within Apple. They stress the significance of breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration across functions, even if it means challenging existing paradigms.

Ultimately, these experts recommended adopting a Position-less Marketing approach as a competitive advantage in today’s landscape, where tight specialization is common. They suggest that by connecting dots across different functions, companies can offer unique value to customers. However, they caution against viewing generalization as an absolute solution, emphasizing the importance of context and competitive positioning.

These marketing leaders advocate for a balanced marketing approach that leverages specialization and generalization to drive innovation and competitive advantage while acknowledging the need to adapt strategies based on industry dynamics and competitive positioning.

Be position-less, but not too position-less — realize your multipotentiality

This supports what was noted in the March 20th article: to be position-less, but not too position-less. When we realize our multipotentiality and multidimensionality, we excel as humans. AI becomes an augmentation.

But just because you can individually execute on all cylinders in marketing and perform data analytics, writing, graphics and more from your desktop does not mean you should.

Learn when being position-less is best for the organization and when it isn’t. Just because you can write copy with ChatGPT does not mean you will write with the same skill and finesse as a professional copywriter. So be position-less, but not too position-less.

Position-less vs. being pigeonholed

At the same time, if you are a manager, do not pigeonhole people. Let them spread their wings using today’s latest AI tools for human augmentation.

For managers, finding the right balance between guiding marketing pros to be position-less and, at other times, holding their position as specialists and bringing in specialists from different marketing disciplines will take a lot of work. We are at the beginning of this new era. However, working toward the right balance is a step forward in a new world where humans and AI work hand-in-hand to optimize marketing teams.

We are at a pivot point for the marketing profession. Those who can be position-less and managers who can optimize teams with flawless position-less execution will secure their position for a lifetime.

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