Most buzzwords normally induce sighs and eye-rolling, but that's no longer the case when people talk about "engagement." Once a meaningless word with no clear definition, it's more recently become an important part of the discussion around what business-to-business clients want and how sellers interact with them.
Jon Miller, CEO and co-founder of Engagio, will tell you it's simply "the time a buyer or customer spends with you, and that more time spent together leads to a stronger and more meaningful the relationship."
But there's an extra step nowadays: that engagement has to be extremely relevant to the potential customer's needs and wants. Otherwise, it's useless.
This, according to Miller, is where "Account Based Marketing" (otherwise known as "ABM") comes in.
The concept simply means that sales and marketing collaborate on reaching very specific customers instead of throwing out a net and taking any lead that swims by. Miller likens it to "fishing with a spear" as opposed to a net.
"In Account Based Marketing, engagement is the ultimate goal, the output of what we do, the thing that every sales and marketing team is trying to achieve," he says. Miller believes that companies nowadays need this targeted approach to deepen their customer relationships and grow revenue. It can also help them stand out from the competition in our inboxes and on our screens.
In order to use ABM to scale your business, companies need these three essential elements:
1. The entire company gets involved in a sale.
In account based selling, multiple branches across the entire company source a deal and close the account.
Think of this setup as you would a football team. Multiple people from one team (your company) have to interact with multiple people from another (the target account). Marketing orchestrates who does what throughout the process, and when:
- Executive Management provides the overall vision and, at some point, holds high-level talks with the potential customer.
- Marketing finds and researches each account and creates content specific to that customer.
- Frontline sales representatives kickstart the conversation.
- Members of the sales team create and show a demo of the product or service on the table.
- More senior salespeople negotiate and close the business.
- Customer Success onboards and trains accounts.
Depending on the size of your company, people may have very specific jobs or they might wear multiple hats, and that's okay. What's more important is making sure every single part of your brand works together to provide the same kind of attention to the same client or potential client.
2. Every interaction should be personalized and relevant.
To close more and bigger deals nowadays, you must provide the highest-quality interactions possible with potential customers. Remember, the Spam button is very easy to hit, so sending generic mass emails via an automation tool has zero value when it comes to reaching valuable accounts. In fact, automation can often hurt your chances of closing a deal, since it pretends to be personal. By definition, automation is not personal, and therefore not effective for building the kind of trust and rapport needed in a strong sales relationship.
Instead, Miller suggests using interactions that are personal, relevant, and timely. When you do this, you lower the natural skepticism most recipients have when they open a cold email. As the seller, you must demonstrate an understanding of that person's world. This could include helpful advice and best practices, offering to talk about current pain points, examining how similar companies attack the same problem, and offering "expert" views of a given trend or industry.
Finding this information and getting it to the right people is considerably easier when everyone in the company knows exactly what their job is, when to do it, and how it fits into the overall deal.
3. Understand when and when not to use automation.
Automated tools now play a major role in sales and marketing. But as far as Miller is concerned, sales spam is still spam, and these tools mostly just automate terrible emails by the thousands and leave our inboxes crammed with junk.
To stand out from that barrage, all content and messaging needs to be grounded in human interaction. Instead of relying on automation to do the job, let the team work together to personalize every message with relevant details. (This is where marketing really gets to shine, since they're the ones doing the research.) You might reference a hot trend in that company's market or some recent funding or personnel moves. If you can highlight you and your company's relationship to the recipient, even better.
That's not to say automation is altogether useless. Miller says that Engagio uses a combination of personal touches and automation when working with different companies. He has labeled this "marketing orchestration."
But remember, you can't automate engagement, and you can't create it simply by sending more unwanted sales emails. How much of it you use depends on your business and your chosen targets.
What are your tips for getting more meaningful relationships with potential customers?