ABMers need to get inside the heads of sales people to understand how they pitch solutions, in order to unlock new layers of content creativity – that’s according to attendees at our latest virtual roundtable on account based-marketing, sponsored by MOI Global. But, as attendees also acknowledged, salespeople aren’t always eager to have their heads read… let alone share what’s inside.
Question: What’s the secret to unlocking creativity in your account-based marketing? According to a roundtable of ABMers that we recently held, in association with MOI Global, the answer is (wait for it) better sales and marketing alignment!
Like me, you’re probably thinking right now something along the lines of: “hang on; isn’t ‘better sales and marketing alignment’ the answer to pretty much every question relating to how to do ABM better?”
And whilst I’d agree with you whole-heartedly there, that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong answer! It does, however, once again, highlight the critical nature of marketing’s relationship with sales in driving success for ABM – even outside areas where you might typically think that salespeople have a role to play or have any significant input to give.
According to roundtable attendees, sales can really impact creativity by helping marketers understand how they sell different products and services, and therefore in framing content (or other activities) to support this. As one attendee put it, effectively you’ve got to get into their heads.
So far, so simple, right? Well, of course, as all B2B marketers know, nothing that involves working with sales is simple! Or at least as simple as it ought to be. As our assembled ABMers testified, salespeople often refused to really engage in this dialogue, or flipped the conversation back to different marketing tactics and deliverables.
Various solutions were suggested to overcome this, including simple persistence (or perhaps belligerence), in the form of asking the same question in eight different ways until you get a helpful answer. Perhaps more productively, it was proposed by Julie Wisdom, global SVP of strategy at roundtable sponsor MOI Global, that a third party could be useful in getting the salesperson to think and communicate in a way that was helpful for these purposes, but with a caveat that the third party had to be informed on the dynamics of the business, as well as the inherent marketing/sales challenge. In other words, they need to understand the business before sitting down with sales in order to have credibility.
It would be wrong though to suggest that sales and marketing alignment is the solution to every creativity-related ABM challenge. As attendees at the roundtable also pointed out, in the current climate, with access to customers and prospects severely limited by Covid (and digital meeting fatigue levels high and continuing to rise steeply), B2B marketers are having to innovate as never before to create cut-through and engagement. And that shows no sign in letting up.
One area where attendees had been placing a lot of emphasis was on seeking to use non-work or business-related messages to engage customers. ABMers have experimented with a huge range of options along these lines, including membership of mindfulness apps, books on mindfulness, childcare-related options like online storytelling, etc. What these things have in common is they are yet more evidence of the breaking down of barriers between home and work, which are so clearly (and often humorously) evidenced by domestic interruptions to Zoom calls by pets or children, but increasingly on a more profound level in parallel. As we all know, the boundaries between work and home have never been more blurred.
It will be fascinating to see what happens once the Covid vaccination programme starts, and working life has the potential to return to what we might dimly recognise as ‘normal’ – what will that yet another new normal even look like? And what challenges and opportunities will it throw up for ABM and associated creativity?
Back to the top though, and, as Mike Boogaard, global SVP of growth at MOI Global, put it, creativity is essential at every stage of an ABM programme, in order for it to be successful. And that creativity has to be informed by genuine customer insight – albeit of a different type, depending on what flavour of ABM you’re running. Once you’ve got this insight, you can start having those meaningful conversations with sales.