What is ABM without customers? Nothing.
ABM has been around now for twenty years. (Check out the origins here - makes fascinating listening)
Its origins were in getting to know customers as deeply as possible.
Its origins were in getting under the skin of customers to know what their current (and future) problems and challenges were.
Its origins were in customer intimacy.
Fast forward twenty years, and now that ABM has become ‘mainstream’, there is much talk of ‘scaling ABM’, ‘activating ABM’ or ‘personalizing ABM at scale’.
These are all well and good...as long as you keep the customers at the heart of everything you do.
If you spend more time talking about enabling Sales, or harnessing X, Y, Z technology, you know that you have lost your focus.
And hence why so many of us are putting our efforts into not only building deep relationships with our customers, but also building a community.
Whether you’re networking with your current customers or future ones, the power that a community of like-minded professionals can provide is immense.
And it’s that community insight elevation that revenue intelligence platform, Gong, has experienced first-hand.
In a recent episode of Let’s talk ABM, I had the privilege of speaking with Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong, about the art of building an ABM community.
In the interview (full recording here), we discussed:
- Why building a community is the next step in ABM
- How to achieve alignment with Sales
- What the hardest part of ABM is
- Corrina's advice for anyone launching an ABM program
So, let’s dive into some of Corrina’s top tips for building an ABM community:
8 ways to build a community with ABM
1. Be prepared to put yourself out there
A community starts with a singular, often brave, voice. You certainly won’t be able to build a community if you choose to remain invisible!
Account-based Marketing relies on the principle of building relationships and trust among peers. It promotes thought leadership, engagement and loyalty on every level. None of this is possible, though, if you stay in the dark.
When it comes to social media, putting yourself out there is daunting. Subjecting your views and ideas to potentially millions of eyes is an overwhelming thought – especially if you’ve never particularly enjoyed the limelight.
But, progress starts with a single step. And the benefits that you and your company will reap from building a strong network of like-minded professionals will make the initial nerves more than worth it.
Start with a focus on building your personal brand. Share your expertise, give free advice, learn from other professionals and build a community of fellow ABMers who are on the same journey as you.
Not every post has to be groundbreaking. Simply being your authentic self and sharing your experiences will add immeasurable value to both your personal and brand reputations.
“There's other communities that I make sure I'm a part of so that I can hear their real voice, hear what really matters most to them and just make sure I'm actively listening, but also actively responding when I can in a meaningful way.” – Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong
2. Focus on peer-to-peer programs
Sometimes, you have to do the unscalable before you can scale. This rings particularly true for ABM.
As much as every company wants to drive revenue and growth, Account-based Marketing looks beyond quantifiable metrics and scalable tactics. ABM’s focus is on enhancing relationships, building loyalty, boosting awareness, and retaining valuable customers.
It’s about trust.
And how do you effectively build trust in a competitive industry? By showing your audience that you understand them.
Trust comes when you can empathize with their pain points, their challenges, fears and frustrations. Value shines through when you show you understand what drives them – and what keeps them up at night.
Peer-to-peer programs are all about building micro-communities in which you can share insights, establish yourself as a thought leader within your industry, and continue to network and connect with key contacts (both those within your target accounts, and other like-minded ABMers).
When done correctly, One-to-one can be incredibly powerful; able to engage target accounts on a deeper level, while allowing you to tap into the minds of those key decision-makers with personalized, meaningful content.
Of course, One-to-one ABM may not be as scalable as One-to-many.
And it certainly isn’t the kind of program you can copy and paste across a vast array of accounts. It’s a custom-fit approach! However, One-to-one is powerful, and leveraging peer-to-peer programs is bound to transform the impact of your ABM strategy.
“Involving ABM in those later stages in the cycle, you really get to understand what their problems are. You are able to better understand the personalities and the needs of the people across the buying committee.” – Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong
3. Build internal relationships between teams
Your ABM community starts from within.
Before you can expand your reach, engage with buying committees, and share your learnings with fellow ABMers, you first need to ensure total alignment within your own organization, and build internal relationships between your teams.
It’s imperative to have every team on board with the ABM program – but especially so when it comes to Sales.
Sales are your ABM veterans. They’ve seen the pain points of your target accounts first-hand, and they have a level of insight that is unmatched by any other department in your organization.
Without total alignment with Sales, your ABM program is destined to fail from the outset.
Over-communicate, share successes, share insights, share data, and have those regular one-to-one meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. Sales thrives on information – so, the more you keep them in the loop, the better.
“I always err on the side of over-communication and it's always served me really well. So I never assume that one meeting or one Slack message is going to hammer home the message. I try a variety of different things to make sure that our Sales team is always informed.” – Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong
4. 'Give' versus 'get' mentality
As Marketers, it’s easy to get sucked into the trap of focusing only on what we ‘get’. The conversions, the engagements, the closed accounts, the click rates, etc.
But, what if we told you that the real value lies in what you give, rather than what you receive?
As Corrina Owens has so clearly demonstrated from her online success (both from a personal and professional standpoint), the power of communication is unparalleled.
Meeting your buyers where they are is the key to building trust and boosting awareness.
So, build communities and go into online conversations with the aim of educating, not converting. Remember to give, rather than aiming to receive!
To do so, answer questions, share your expertise willingly, establish yourself as an expert, and you will not only find that it boosts your personal brand considerably, but people will also be far more willing to listen and engage with you in the long run.
“Only 5% of your buyers are ever really in market at any given time. Focus on that other 95%. And you do that by constantly showing up and being active in places where your buyers are.” – Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong
5. Move towards hyper-personalization
In an industry oversaturated with technology, automated advertising, and ‘set it and forget it’ strategies, leaning into personalization is exactly what will set you apart.
Using the same cookie-cutter approach for your accounts is no longer going to cut it! C-suite leaders are getting wise to ‘copy and paste’ techniques – from templated emails to generic video messages – and they can detect them from a mile away.
To stay original, look for ways to hyper-personalize your content, and go beyond the go-to strategies of digital selling. Step away from scalability, and focus on providing the highest value you can for that account.
Ask yourself: How can I grab the reader’s attention in a way that is personal, concise and valuable to them and their team?
It may be more time-consuming to roll out, but the result will be far more beneficial to your program, cutting through the noise and landing with true impact.
“I do think practitioners of ABM are realizing that they have to stand out a bit differently. And so, they can't continue to do the same cookie-cutter approach that maybe some of these tech vendors would like us to do.” – Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong
6. Align with Demand Gen
The ongoing debate of Demand Gen versus ABM has many sides. Some see these strategies as synonymous, while others see them as separate with a need to align.
Corrina Owens sits within the latter.
Much as with Marketing aligned to Sales, the success of your ABM program relies heavily on your alignment with the Demand Gen team.
After all, both teams work closely with target accounts, with the aim to land and expand. But while ABM arguably comes in towards the end of the funnel, Demand Generation comes in much earlier, setting the groundwork for further engagement and relationship-building.
With alignment, your Demand Gen and Account-based Marketing teams can not only coexist, but work together seamlessly for a smoother and more engaging account experience.
“I do think that they should be separate disciplines, but I do think they should sit together. I think it's important that ABM knows what Demand Generation is doing on the other side of the house and vice versa, because you're ultimately touching all of these accounts.” – Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong
7. Favor the long-term
With the C-suite breathing down your necks, Sales constantly asking for updates, and the ever-increasing pressure to deliver an effective ABM program, it’s natural that you will want to be able to show results quickly.
With ABM, though, it’s all about the long game.
If you’re looking for instant wins, immediate results, and speedy victories, ABM is not for you.
Launching an ABM program is time-consuming, effort-intensive, and requires considerable investment. After all, you’re forging new relationships and fostering existing ones to build a whole community of trust and engagement with your target accounts.
And naturally, this doesn’t come overnight.
As such, maintaining motivation can be challenging. So, focus on sharing those small wins, those little milestones, with your teams – whether it’s more visits to a landing page or engaging a new contact within the buying committee.
And remember that, just because you may not see results immediately, it doesn’t mean your program is failing. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any successful ABM program.
“I think the hardest part of ABM is not being able to show revenue results quickly enough, which is often a struggle for Marketing in general, but it is a long game.” – Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong
8. Throw out the acronyms
A community thrives on communication, but how can you effectively communicate when no one is speaking the same language?
In ABM, it’s important to break down those siloes to bring each department into one unified team: all focused on ABM. Success means uniting departments under the one common goal of landing and expanding your most valuable accounts.
However, to do that, you must also break down internal communication barriers.
And the first thing to go should be over-complex jargon and acronyms.
From MQLs to SQLs, to CPL and CTR – the Marketing world is drowning in confusing terminology, outdated jargon and unnecessary over-embellishment that simply gets in the way of securing the buy-in you need to succeed.
Not everyone in your organization will understand the language of Marketing; not everyone will understand the language of Sales. It’s your job to translate the language of ABM into something that can be easily understood by every department – from the C-suite to Customer Success and Product teams.
Ditch the jargon, and focus instead on the business outcome. What are you looking to achieve? How can ABM help you achieve it? And how is it going to make their jobs easier in the long run?
“You would be surprised how many seasoned Marketing leaders still lead with metrics that are acronym-based and they don't speak to the broader business value.” – Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager at Gong
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