By Biswajit Das, Co-Founder, Brandintelle
* The author is a founder of Mumbai-based Brandintelle Services - a central marketing platform for Marketing Departments which claims to bring analytics closer to workflow automation.
Ask any B2B company & they will tell you that they handle each customer individually. A B2B company’s engagement with its client starts with marketing - this is generally referred to as Account Based Marketing (ABM).
But most B2B companies realise that engaging with their clients cannot stop with marketing but must include sales & service to create an end-to-end experience for the client. This is called Account Based Engagement (ABE).
Account Based Engagement (ABE)
The objective of ABE is to engage customer accounts across Marketing, Sales & Service. Therefore it must synchronise the efforts of Marketing with Sales & Service. If ABE is led by Marketing, then its success rate & adoption is typically low because of weak support from Sales & Service teams.
For ABE to integrate the customer’s pre-sales and post-sales experience, the organisation’s focus must extend from generating marketing leads to closing sales and further to jointly ensure time-bound consummation of each sale by defining the first ‘goal’ followed by others.
Here are some examples of what a first ‘goal’ event could be:
The first Campaign (between Agency of Record & Client.)
Launch of the first Analytics exercise (between Consultant & Client.)
‘Go Live’ of the first ERP module (between Software Vendor & Client.)
To implement the above, the client must cooperate with the B2B vendor to successfully manage the complex ecosystem & challenges of any B2B business.
Marketing Lead Generation Platforms
Marketing platforms play an important role in automating lead generation by capturing, nurturing & prioritizing data to provide qualified leads for sales. As B2B buyers embraced the internet to evaluate vendors, research & buy online, B2B marketers naturally engaged their clients through email, messaging, social media, display advertising & web pages. (This created its own set of opportunities & problems for B2B marketers - including the need to manage the explosion of data, use it to understand customer engagement/indicators of buying intent & personalize customer journeys.)
But things are not as rosy as they seem. Even today, 50% of marketing leads are never contacted. Most companies find it a challenge to generate consistent customer responses. And only 20% of visitors to a website are likely to ever become customers. Clearly, traditional demand generation, which primarily focuses on one-to-many marketing with generalized messaging and individual lead nurturing is not enough for B2B.
Clearly, there’s a huge need for B2B companies to engage with their buyers more effectively. They need to address buyers’ specific needs better by personalizing their engagement with them, navigating the complex ecosystems of their client’s decision makers & influencers which define the collective buying behavior of a large organization.
To achieve the above, there must be a mutually accepted template to navigate the multiple challenges & opportunities of the complex B2B ecosystem.
Mutual Success Plan (MSP)
Converting a lead into a sale is just the first challenge. For B2B companies, the real challenge is a process which ensures successful implementation, which begins after closing the sale!
Ideally, a Mutual Success Plan should come in just after the client agrees to sign up (& a few steps before the client’s P.O.) This helps both buyer & seller to define the long path to the client’s own goals, with the P.O. being just one of the many steps.
The Mutual Success Plan gives a form to Account Based Engagement (ABE) as it helps engage multiple stakeholders from both the buyer’s as well as seller’s side. The MSP ensures that sellers focus on engaging with the client in a structured manner, with multiple stakeholders from the buyer’s side engaged with marketing, sales & services teams from the seller’s side.
A Mutual Success Plan begins by defining the date of the first ‘goal’ of the buyer. Working backwards from the first ‘goal’, the MSP defines all the stages with individual stakeholders & responsibilities defined. Minimum time is estimated for each stage to arrive at the expected date of the ‘buyer’ to issue the P.O. This makes it abundantly clear whether it’s possible to achieve the date of first ‘goal’ or whether it needs to be adjusted.
With a Mutual Success Plan, all stakeholders become explicitly aware of their individual roles, responsibilities & deadlines in a compelling manner, with critical dependencies highlighted. To begin with, the MSP ensures stakeholder buy-ins at sellers & buyers ends, & sharing deadlines in a transparent manner.
Advantage Seller, Benefit Buyer!
But being the key driver, the seller can go ‘out of the way’ to ensure that individual information & documents are available to different stakeholders at the buyer’s side in advance. This is in addition to generating reminders to the stakeholders when a critical deadline is threatened. Thus, the seller can not only help ensure timely execution of the MSP, but also intimate of any delay in achieving the goal - well in advance.
All this results in a more personalized interaction based on a deeper understanding of the customer’s pain points & business needs, which in turn builds deep, successful & long-lasting relationships.