ABM + CSM = customer ROI

Nancy Harlan, senior director in account-based marketing at Qlik, explains how to use ABM to support customer success to drive expansion and renewal in a SaaS world.

One of the hottest areas in marketing these days is account-based marketing (ABM). True ABM delivers custom messaging and content that is aligned to the customer’s strategic initiatives. It showcases your solution’s value proposition in a way that differentiates you from your competitors, raises awareness and drives demand in your top customers or prospects. ABM is one-to-one marketing focused on the accounts where your company can drive the highest revenue growth. At Qlik, our ABM programme is in its sixth year and has proven to grow revenue by 82% when we focus on an account for three years.

The role of the customer success manager (CSM) has become critical as customers move to the world of Software as a Service (SaaS). The CSM is the ‘Sherpa’ (aka guide) for the customer’s journey with your company. He/she helps make certain that the customer optimises the value of your solution throughout the lifecycle of the relationship. 

To ensure that the customer realises the expected return on investment (ROI), the CSM becomes integrated into the customer environment as an advocate, technical expert and facilitator. A synergistic customer/CSM relationship will ensure that, when the time comes, the subscription/contract is bigger than the initial contract.

When you align these two efforts, customer success management and ABM, you can not only deliver revenue growth, but also, increase customer satisfaction. Most importantly, you can convert a customer into a true partner and advocate. ABM activities designed to drive awareness and demand align perfectly with the CSM’s charter of ensuring customer success. ABM plus customer success equals accelerated ROI for the customer. ABM + CSM = ^customer ROI. 

Best practices show that if the ABMer and CSM develop and execute a joint ‘customer plan’, both revenue and customer satisfaction will grow exponentially. The plan must include a:

  • Clear picture of today’s state of the account and specific goals for growth.
  • Deep understanding of the customer’s world — competitors, markets, value proposition, differentiators, challenges, opportunities and, most importantly, their cross-company strategic initiatives.
  • Defined and specific value proposition on how your solution maps to the customer’s strategic initiatives. How can you provide value to ensure their strategic initiatives are successful?

When you get these basics documented and aligned, the ABMer must then create an ABM plan that packages the specific value proposition and tweaks the message to align with the target audiences – c-suite, line of business executives (i.e. HR, sales, marketing, supply chain, finance, IT, etc), existing users and target users. 

If you have a strong customer champion who also wants to promote the use of your solution, you can include that person in your CSM/ABM plan. You can work with the champion to drive awareness and demand through a series of communications (email, direct mail), events and training that help find the pockets of need and get users onboard fast. When you successfully onboard new users and keep them engaged, you will see customer satisfaction increase and use of your solution will grow. Everyone wins! The customer gets more happy users using your solution to deliver increased business value and your company increases revenue while creating a great reference.

How to get started?  Take the first step of bringing your ABM team and your customer success team together. Align the teams under a single customer plan. Reach out to your customer champion to work together to ensure your plan meets or exceeds the customer’s goals. 

Aligning customer success and ABM will ensure that not only will your revenue grow, but your renewals will be seamless.

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