What is ABM without the customer?
The answer: nothing.
It’s all in the name: Account-based Marketing. Without an account focus, you’re simply doing marketing – and often, without that relevant focus, it’s the kind that fails to resonate, engage or capture the decision-makers who matter.
Your customer drives every aspect of your program – from the pain points you address to the channels you use, and the messaging you create.
Your account is your North Star in all things ABM – and keeping them at the very center of your program is the key to long-term success.
In a recent episode of Let’s talk ABM, Agency CMO, Declan Mulkeen spoke with Keith Pranghofer, Director of Marketing and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft, about why the customer should always be front and center of your ABM programs.
In the interview (full recording here), they discussed:
- How Keith is deploying ABM to develop Microsoft's channel partners
- Why ABM is all about the customer
- How Keith is using ABM as a business growth strategy
- His advice for anyone starting on their ABM journey
So, let’s dive into some of Keith’s top tips for keeping the customer at the center of your ABM program.
7 ways to keep your customer at the center
1. Be customer-obsessed
It doesn’t matter whether it’s ABM or any other function of Marketing – you should always be customer and client obsessed.
It’s no longer about standing out. It’s about survival.
The world of B2B is increasingly driven by personalization and customer-centric strategies. Templated emails, automated outreach and generic messaging is being swapped out for meaningful, more valuable interactions with key decision-makers – and it’s easy to see why!
In such a fast-evolving online environment, if you don’t understand your customers, you can’t respond. Every decision should be driven by your customers and their pain points.
The key to thriving in ABM isn’t just closing deals. It’s crucial to build long-lasting relationships with your accounts that are founded on trust, loyalty and mutual understanding.
“I think the biggest change that I've seen is this pivot to really need to be customer and client obsessed. And this isn't just about ABM, but it's all functions of Marketing.” – Keith Pranghofer, Director of Marketing and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft
2. Team up with Sales
Adopting a Sales mindset will not only help you achieve better alignment with the Sales team, but will also help you better connect with your target accounts. After all, when it comes to understanding your accounts, your Sales team holds the key.
And while all Sales teams have end-quarter metrics and quotas to meet, the best salespeople are those who also understand that closing high-value accounts is a long game.
This means that Sales and Marketing teams should recognize that ABM success won’t fall into place overnight – and the journey isn’t over once the deal is closed. Instead, teams should focus on the pain points and challenges of the account, build a human connection, and look to form a relationship with the key decision-makers.
ABM is not just about winning the accounts. It’s also about winning over the Sales team. After all, without their input and expertise, your ABM program will struggle to gather enough momentum to take flight.
Marketers should look to over-communicate with Sales teams, share small victories, get them to buy into the process, and then you will be in a much better position to start engaging with your target accounts.
“I think for winning Sales, those are the two key things. Understand their core metrics, what they're trying to achieve, and then understand their customer/client.” – Keith Pranghofer, Director of Marketing and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft
3. Focus on building successful relationships
As one of the notorious 3 Rs of ABM measurement, it’s hardly surprising that relationships are front and center of Account-based programs.
Relationships with your customers. Relationships with Sales. Relationships with your C-suite. Relationships with your entire organization – this is what drives true value.
With ABM, it should never feel like you’re working against the customer. You shouldn’t be fighting to keep them engaged and invested in your brand – you should be working in partnership with them to solve their pain points.
If it feels like you’re rowing upstream, chances are you aren’t targeting the right accounts.
It’s a two-way relationship. And while it’s your goal to close the deal and land the account, you need a good account fit in order to build a durable relationship. Otherwise, that relationship is destined to crumble.
“Not only do you have to have the trust of the customer to build that relationship, you have to have a strong relationship with Sales.” – Keith Pranghofer, Director of Marketing and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft
4. Dive into the right partnerships
ABM should never be a one-person band – and having the right partners to support you throughout your program makes a world of difference.
From insights to data management to technology and creative media platforms, the right partnerships can help you scale your programs, drive personalization, engage target accounts, and build longer-lasting relationships through high-value interactions.
ISV (independent software vendor) partnerships are an ABMer’s best friend. While technology isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of a successful program, the right supporting tech stack can take your program from zero to sixty, all while allowing you to focus on nurturing relationships and expanding within accounts.
“The partner ecosystem is so important from a technology perspective, for how we're going to sell into new accounts, but also go deeper.” – Keith Pranghofer, Director of Marketing and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft
5. Never lose sight of the customer
ABM is not ABM without the customer. Remember, the clue’s in the name: Account-based Marketing!
With both Marketing and Sales, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the numbers, statistics, technologies and trends. In such a rapidly moving industry, there’s a lot to keep tabs on, and your team can only be stretched so thin.
In doing so, however, businesses often lose sight of the one thing that truly matters: the customer.
The moment your language shifts to ‘revenue’, ‘win rate’, ‘closed deals’ and ‘conversions’ is the moment you lose the human touch that ABM promises. Your language should center around building durable relationships and aiding the customer.
Of course, the numbers matter, too. But the customer should be front and center, always.
“When people execute ABM really well without MarTech, they have kept the customer at the center, and they're able to do great things and scale it in wonderful ways.” – Keith Pranghofer, Director of Marketing and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft
6. Build internal advocates
Retaining clients is far more valuable and profitable than trying to win new ones. The key focus of your ABM program should always be to build trust and loyalty, and ultimately gain customers for life.
Building long-lasting relationships with your target accounts goes beyond expansion and profitability. It also provides you with internal advocates that will work alongside you to drive success.
Their successes are your successes, and vice versa.
And there is nothing more valuable than the word of mouth from a loyal customer. No amount of webinar sign-ups, ad clicks or social post engagements can match the praise of a customer that feels valued and understood.
“That is what gains you a customer for life. You are no longer just a solution provider or a vendor, you're a partner helping them achieve their mission and their values. And ABM can do that when you are able to go in this deep, and you play that long game.” – Keith Pranghofer, Director of Marketing and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft
7. Be patient
We’ve all heard the much-loved adage, “patience is a virtue”. While usually used in reference to life as a whole, it couldn’t be more true for ABM.
We all want results. We all want to scale. But, the best results come from programs that have been carefully crafted – not those that are rushed in the hopes of getting results quicker.
Understanding that ABM is a long game puts you in a better place to make mistakes, learn from them, listen to your teams and your customers, and put your business in a position of growth and progression.
“‘Nobody ever died from a Marketing emergency’, right? So be patient, understand that this is a long game. And if you do that, you will keep the customer at the center and you'll be successful.” – Keith Pranghofer, Director of Marketing and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft
Got the taste for ABM? Check out our monthly e-newsletter, DashDot, where we share the hottest topics and trends in the ABM space, with industry-leading insight from some of the top ABMers out there.