Account-based marketing (ABM) is a buzzword that has been used in the industry for some time, but ABM as a strategic marketing approach has just recently increased in popularity.
For B2B vendors, their internal sales cycle is a reflection of their customers’ buying journey. The buyers’ 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. ABM represents a major shift in the traditional Marketing focus from pure lead generation across all companies to lead generation AND ongoing nurturing specifically to a named set of accounts that the Sales team is also targeting.
ABM is essential to strategic marketing because it helps marketers identify who the people are within an account and then provide them with high quality content and opportunities for appropriate interactions at each stage of their journey. But in order to effectively serve buyers, Marketing needs to know more than just the names and titles of those in an account. They need an in-depth understanding of these buyers and how they buy. That’s why Marketing must work hand-in-glove with Sales to develop persona-based journey maps and choreograph Marketing and Sales actions to the buyers’ journey.
Journey maps are the centerpiece of ABM and without the strategic insights they bring, ABM becomes just another lead-generation tactic, minimizing Marketing’s ability to support the sales process. In this article, we will define the buyers’ journey and discuss strategies for Marketing and Sales to align to create journey maps and work closely together along the way to realize ABM success.
The Road to Strategic ABM: Understand the Buyers’ Journey
ABM tools that help Sales and Marketing better identify targets do currently exist. But 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.
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. Persona-based buyers’ journey maps are the key to unlocking this critical information into your buyers and how they buy.
What is a Journey Map?
A journey map is a framework that describes, in detail, the steps that each buyer persona executes from initial consideration of a solution to its purchase, implementation, and use. Buyer personas are representations of the actual buyers influencing purchasing decisions and are based on real people, data, insights, and experiences.
Journey maps are not just vendor checklists detailing what Sales has to say or provide and when they have to do it. In today’s buyer-centric B2B environment, vendors can no longer view the buying journey solely from their own perspectives. Today’s journey maps must be from the buyer’s point of view and detail the collective path that each buyer persona – and all personas together as a group – go through to solve their business challenges. They provide a rich understanding of how buyers discover, learn about, and choose solutions and, over time, how they use those solutions to improve their business.
Why Are Journey Maps So Critical?
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, 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.
How Do Marketers Create Journey Maps?
The first step in creating journey maps is to develop buyer personas. This includes defining individual challenges, goals, concerns and buying criteria – basically all the attributes that make them unique and will help marketers create different content and messages that will resonate with one persona vs. another.