journey_mapFor B2B companies, their internal sales cycle is a reflection of their customers’ buying journey. This buyer’s journey involves multiple people within an organization (or account) vs. a single person. This group of individuals consists of collective decision-makers who all influence purchasing in different ways, in different degrees, and at different times on behalf of their company.

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is essential to strategic marketing because it helps marketers identify who the people are within an account. But in order to effectively serve buyers, Marketing needs to know more than just the names and titles of those in an account. That’s why ABM must be thought of as more than just retargeted advertising. Identifying groups and targeting ads are only the initial steps. From there, Marketing, in conjunction with Sales, needs to implement targeted, effective relationship building with those audiences through high quality content and interactions at each stage of their journey.

Therefore, in order for an ABM approach to be successful, marketers need to have a deep understanding of the identified targets – how they buy, how they interact with each other, their individual challenges, pain points, buying criteria, participation levels, needs and content preferences at every stage of the buying process. This level of in-depth knowledge is critical to strategic and effective marketing and selling to buyers. Journey maps are the key to unlocking this critical information into your buyers and how they buy.

The buyer’s journey is the centerpiece of ABM and without the strategic insights journey maps bring, ABM becomes just another lead-generation tactic, minimizing Marketing’s ability to support the sales process (see an example detailed journey map here).

The Road to Strategic ABM – Align Marketing and Sales on the Journey

Today’s B2B marketplace is crowded and highly competitive. Potential buyers are barraged with information, promotions, and content, making it increasingly difficult to capture their attention. On top of this information overload, B2B buying processes are complex and include multiple people – all with different roles and needs – influencing decisions at every step.

Successful companies will differentiate themselves to buyers through a unified buying experience that provides relevant, engaging content and messaging at the most appropriate and opportune times. This requires Marketing and Sales to align around the interests and outcomes important to the buyer. While ABM initiatives may help you find the right people to target, buyer’s journey maps are going to provide you with the knowledge required to effectively nurture and engage each member of the buying group with valuable, timely information relevant to their needs and desired outcomes at each stage.

For an ABM initiative to be successful, the Marketing and Sales teams need to align on who the target audience is, how they buy and how/when each team engages with buyers throughout the journey. That’s why Marketing must work hand-in-glove with Sales to develop journey maps and choreograph Marketing and Sales actions to the buyer’s journey.

Within many organizations, Marketing and Sales may not be completely aligned on the target audience, resulting in a disconnect in quality leads or the right content and messaging to support Sales’ needs. There can also be a disconnect on when and how Marketing and Sales interact with leads. Without mutual understanding of the buyer’s journey, Marketing can easily do things that interfere with the sales cycle. By Marketing refocusing its efforts on accounts vs. individuals and collaborating with Sales to build buyer’s journey maps, it ensures alignment on account audiences and its own level of interactions with leads at each stage of the buying journey.

ABM is Not Just a Marketing Tactic, it’s a Way of Life  

According to a study released last April, 20% of marketers had fully implemented ABM, while 60% were actively investing in technology over the next 12 months. With a large part of the industry ready to take the plunge, ABM is becoming a way of life for the modern-day marketer. However, B2B account-based selling has been around for a long time. For marketers to get the most out of ABM, they must begin by collaborating with Sales to define the buyer’s journey. Once you develop the insights into the individual needs and preferences of each participant and how to meet them, your campaigns, content, and sales actions will be strategically aligned. Only then can you unleash the true marketing power and revenue potential of ABM.

Read the full version of this article in Demandgen Report here.

See a Demo of Akoonu’s Journey Map Builder