My latest blog post “4 Things We Can Learn About Cyber Security from Aaron Lufkin Dennison, 1850s Watchmaker” was published today on the Hexadite blog.
At times I think we’re living in an unprecedented era as Marketers when it comes to the tools and technology allowing us to reach and understand our target audience. Yet other times, it feels like we’re living in the dark ages, as these tools allow every Marketer to blast the world with so much noise that no one pays attention.
Account-based Marketing attempts to rise above the noise to create personalized, meaningful experiences that demonstrate a deep understanding of challenges facing a set of companies. However, there are 7 obstacles facing any organization taking an account-based marketing approach.
1. Imbalance Between Personalization and Automation
Mike Troiano describes the challenge of balancing personalization and automation as “Scalable Intimacy.” From an interview:
What customers want is intimacy… they expect to be understood as individuals, and to be treated like people. What marketers want is scale, the ability to touch lots of people at the most efficient CPM possible. The reason to get excited about social marketing is that it offers the promise of “Scalable Intimacy,” really the first medium to do so.
When it comes to Account-based Marketing, there has to be a balance between exhibiting a personal interest in the prospect and being able to touch enough of them. While I would love to send handwritten notes to all prospects in named accounts, that’s probably not possible. There has to be a balance.
2. Reliance on Inaccurate Data
An issue as old as Marketing itself, the success of all outbound activity relies on the accuracy of the data you have. Sending super specific offers based on job title, industry, and buying cycle stage is wonderful…..if you actually have data you can rely on.
I can’t tell you how many emails I get that are insanely personalized up until they reference a company I left 5 years ago. That immediately turns me off, and I unsubscribe. Harsh? Yep.
3. Uncertainty of Roles and Responsibilities
Who owns prospecting? Is it sales? Marketing? Who owns sending a daily update to account owners when their accounts make headlines that would be relevant in outreach? Who sets up meetings to discuss what approaches are working in named accounts? Who decides which accounts are in the named list?
The answer doesn’t matter. Having an answer is what matters.
4. Lack of Account Knowledge
In order to produce account-specific campaigns, you need to know what initiatives are happening within the account. If there’s an account that is actively seeking to solve a problem your solution is perfect for, that’s wonderful…if you know they’re looking.
This one is a bear. It’s tough to know what’s going on inside another company when you’re not in their walls. It takes a lot of effort and time to have enough information to be able to kick out relevant campaigns. But when it happens, it’s a beautiful thing.
5. Communication Gaps Across Geographies and Business Units
Another tough one. If you’re in a company large enough to have global coverage with multiple products, it’s insanely difficult to make sure you’re on the same page with colleagues overseas and in different business units. When someone in Australia finds out that a large global account has an initiative that may be solved by a different business unit in Canada, there has to be a process in place to make the handoff warm and clear.
6. Inability to Track, Tweak, and Attribute Success
Just committing to an account-based approach isn’t enough. Being able to track what’s working, tweak things along the way, and prove successes is the only way account-based Marketing will work. And while spray and pray marketing is largely inefficient in an enterprise model, at least all activities are easily trackable. But it can be a nightmare to track how a handwritten note translates to an opportunity and subsequent sale. Because without proper tracking, you’ll be hindered by…
7. Organization Impatience
One of the hardest things about an account-based approach is the idea that you won’t see immediate results. And if expectations are not properly set at the beginning, it’s entirely possible to give up before things start to work.
There’s no silver bullet. Simply moving to an account-based marketing approach won’t immediately lead to an influx of signed deals overnight. However, if you commit to account-based marketing knowing the obstacles you are certain to face, you’ll have a much better shot at getting it right.
Cross-post from my LinkedIn profile.
I’ve written before about my fountain pen obsession. Although I use fountain pens every day, I haven’t done anything to clean and maintain them.
This weekend I decided to do the research to figure out how to give my pens a proper cleaning. In doing so, I learned the one of the biggest challenges in keeping fountain pens in perfect condition is when the ink dries. If unused for a long enough period of time, the ink stops flowing, turns solid, and you have to go to great pains to restore the pen to working order.
There’s an easy solution to this, however: don’t let the ink go dry!
It’s a simple idea with far-ranging applications:
- It’s hard to get back into shape when you’ve been lazy for so long.
- It’s hard to get back into the habit of writing every day when you’ve allowed yourself to prioritize other things.
- It’s hard to revive a meetup group that has gone dormant.
For all of these things, the easiest solution is to not let the ink go dry. To keep doing the things that are important to you.
Today’s a sad day. Robert Carmichael Burke has shed his mortal coil. A 15 year-old cat that was treated as a dog for his entire life, Bob was a great cat.
I was the world’s most reluctant cat owner. Being in college and living off campus, I couldn’t have a dog but always had a pet growing up. I figured that if I treated a cat like a dog, it would act like one. And despite that being ridiculous, it kind of worked.
Bob was part Maine Coon Cat, and it showed. He was big. Very big. And like the dog I tried to make him into, he’d greet me when I walked in the door and would jump up on my lap so I could pet him.
Unlike any other cat I’ve met, his purr was incredibly loud; you could hear him purring from two rooms away. It’s pretty difficult to be in a bad mood when a 20+ pound cat runs at you, jumps up next to you, and sings like he’s got a microphone in his throat. The guy let you know he appreciated you being there.
When Randi was pregnant with Maggie, my grandmother’s Yorkie died. She was pretty heartbroken about it. Living alone, it was nice having a companion around.
We called my grandmother and asked if she’d like Bob to live with her. Before I could give my explanation of why we thought it was a good idea, she excitedly said “Yes!”
The next morning we got up at 4am, and with Bob in a carrier we drove the 4 hours to drop him off. We stayed for less than an hour and headed back. He was a great cat for my grandmother, and I can’t count the number of times she said “I just can’t get over Bob. He has such a great personality and he always wants attention!”
15 years is a long time to have a pet, especially when you’re in college and constantly bouncing from apartment to apartment. But nothing ever seemed to bother him. He was always the cat that didn’t act like a cat, and every single friend I have has a story about Bob.
That’s the funny thing about our animals: It hurts so bad when they leave us, but until they do we take for granted the impact they have on our lives. Thanks for being you, Bob. You’ll be missed by everyone.
The first in a series of posts highlighting meaningful advice from people I respect.
In the face of such hopelessness as our eventual, unavoidable death, there is little sense in not at least trying to accomplish all of your wildest dreams in life.
Kevin Smith takes risks. To make his first film Clerks, sold a large portion of his extensive comic book collection, maxed out eight to ten credit cards with $2,000 limits, dipped into a portion of funds set aside for his college education and spent insurance money awarded for a car he and a friend lost in a flood. (source: Wikipedia)
There was absolutely no guarantee that the movie would do well enough to cover the bet he made, but he took a shot at what he wanted to do.
The quote above is a simple, yet powerful one. Knowing that the clock is ticking, why not spend the time we have trying to reach our craziest of goals? In many cases I think it’s because we are afraid to fail – and we’re afraid what others will think of us if we do fail.
But I like Smith’s conclusion that there’s no excuse:
If you’re not working on what you love and trying to accomplish your dreams, there’s no one else to blame.
The advantages of account based marketing are obvious: greater focus and specialization lead to increased quality, attention, and clarity.
But without discipline and follow-through, the smaller universe of prospects means that each missed opportunity is a big blow.
That said, here are 10 rules practitioners of account based marketing must follow:
- Understand the logic of named accounts – An account based approach requires a logical set of rules to select which accounts belong on the “named” list. While this could be as simple as industry and employee size, having buy-in and acceptance of the guidelines is key.
- Build a process to review exceptions – Understanding why an account doesn’t belong is just as important as knowing why another does belong in the named account list. Since a decent percentage of inbound leads will belong to companies outside of the named list, you must build a process to review exceptions to decide whether to add certain companies as named accounts, and to understand whether the named account criteria should be adjusted.
- Understand the roles involved in the buying process – Since the account based model significantly shrinks the number of target companies, it is critical to understand which roles within named accounts are involved in the purchase cycle. In the B2B software world, this often includes the primary user of the software, the economic buyer, the purchase approver, an IT person, and so on. As each person involved in the purchase decision has his or her own motivations and requirements, understanding what each participant wants and needs cannot be understated and must be addressed throughout the funnel. ‘One size fits all’ is dead. Condolences.
- Do not ignore contacts from named accounts – This should be the biggest no-brainer in the history of earth, but is worth stating. If you are doing all the work to attract contacts from named accounts to visit your site, download content, ask for a call, etc., don’t let that effort go to waste by ignoring people from your target accounts. Even if the person isn’t from the right department or has a suboptimal title, you’re bound to learn something from engaging with them; at the very least, you’ll understand more about the organization. At best, ask for a warm introduction to someone up the chain.
- Never let the database go stale – Depending on who you’re asking, data either goes bad at 5% per month or higher. Pounding the same database over and over without getting rid of bounces and people who have left the company is a recipe for disaster. At best, you’re wasting effort. At worst, you’re ensuring a trip to the spam filter of death and disillusionment.
- Don’t propose on the 1st date – You may get lucky by talking to someone the first time they engage with your brand. You may be talking to the right person at the exact right time and they may beg you to take their money. Probably not. Instead, it takes time for a prospect to believe they have a problem worth solving, that there’s some urgency, and that you have a viable solution. Rather than trying to get the sale top of funnel, it is important to……
- Look for every opportunity to add value – The absolute best example of a company that does nurturing well is HubSpot. Their #1 rule in all of their content is to help prospects do their job. They do so by adding value at every step, giving free downloads, templates, and best practices. They do so without asking for anything in return, knowing the importance of being seen as a company that understands their market. Once a prospect has been favorably exposed to HubSpot, they’re much more likely to use the HubSpot software down the line.
- Track everything and report on that which is actionable – Track every interaction and activity along the buyer’s journey. Understand which set of actions make prospects convert throughout the funnel and in what sequence they do so. Then report on that which is able to drive action. Leave out the rest.
- Warm up leads for sales – With a well-defined, segmented database of contacts with challenges you understand, it is up to marketing to deliver compelling and insightful content that adds value and gives leads a positive impression of your brand.
- Make intelligent use of technology to cover named accounts – Use technology to scale intimacy and understand what works.
Photo via Scott Costello Lucky Ducks – Minnesota State Fair
As I start my 4th week in my new role at Intralinks, I wanted to get back to writing more. Rather than starting by creating new posts, I thought it would be easier to simply share the types of articles I’ve been finding interesting and useful lately for anyone interested in account-based marketing in a B2B setting. Here goes.
Account-based Marketing Tools
Email Hunter – Give the tool a domain, it tells you the verified email addresses in the database.
B2B Inbound Marketing
Growth Hacking and Demand Generation
What I Learned from Sending 300+ Emails Manually – I could have automated everything instead of staying up late reaching out to every new user. But I went with the old-school option.
SaaS Company Metrics
Public SaaS Companies Retention and Renewal Rates – From Pacific Crest Securities’ annual SaaS survey.
Why does your business exist ? If people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it, this guides creating the “why”.
The Princess Bride Formula for Memorable Welcome Emails – Three simple things that should be in every welcome email.
5 Keys to Welcome Emails that Make Rewarding First Impressions – Setting the right context matters.