By Maria Geokezas, VP of Client Services at Heinz Marketing
The convergence of technology and big data have made ABM accessible for big and small companies alike. This trend is getting a lot of attention. Regardless, TOPO (Sept 2016) found that the key difference in companies claiming ABM success and those that are not is successful programs rely on a solid strategy and process to guide their efforts.
Makes sense – if you don’t have a strong foundation in place, no amount of budget, resource or technology is going to drive success for your ABM program. One of the key strategic inputs many organizations fail to consider or leverage is the buying committee. It is the crux of ABM. Consider the following:
Understanding the Buying Committee
The buying committee has grown to include, on average, 6.8 people (CEB 2016 Thought Leader Roundtable). These people represent 3.7 different functions. For most organizations, it’s hard enough dealing with one persona let alone understanding the other people involved in internal buying decisions. Similar to the ideal customer persona, buying committee personas should include each role, their title or level of responsibility within the organization as well as their functional role and key objectives.
It’s one thing to understand the personas in a purchase decision, it’s another to understand the dynamics at play within an organization’s buying committee. Are they a decision maker, executive sponsor, project champion or internal influencer? How do the communications flow between committee members? Is it a formal committee that meets on a regular basis or is it more casual in its approach to consensus building. CEB found the bigger the internal buying committee, the less likely they will be to buy. And it’s difficult to create consensus or willingness to advocate for a particular vendor or solution when 51% of prospects are willing to buy but will not advocate for your particular solution internally. The more you understand about the buying committee, the better you can navigate through the hurdles to build consensus.
Content Strategy for Buying Committees
Maybe this stems from this issue highlighted above, but it seems that a superficial view of the buying committee persona impacts the organization’s ability to differentiate in messaging and offers when targeting a buying group. It’s difficult to step outside the four walls of your organization and voice the customer’s pain in a meaningful way, especially when there are 3-4 different types of roles and motivations involved.
Most organizations don’t have the wherewithal to develop persona-specific content let alone content that considers each role in the buying committee. But the lack of insight here can negatively impact your ability to get to the right people and spread your influence. Executive sponsors, typically C-suite titles, are motivated by different issues and experience different pains than someone like a project manager or an individual contributor who is more directly affected by the purchase decision and probably immersed daily in the pain your product could solve. Fortunately, many organizations understand this and are reportedly pouring more resources into content initiatives.
ABM Throughout the Buyer’s Journey
So you’ve mapped out the buying committee and you’ve identified appropriate content for each role. Now you’ve got to put it into play. For many organizations, this is when their ABM strategy tends to break down. Because ABM has evolved from a sales strategy – the named account strategy – implementation is relatively straightforward at the bottom-funnel stages but becomes more hazy as you move up the funnel.
This is where a collaborative sales and marketing relationship really pays off for organizations. Instead of getting caught up in the specific personalities and dynamics within each account, successful marketing and sales teams find the similarities between accounts and are able to apply the intelligence gained through sales development efforts to their marketing efforts at the top of the funnel. For example, instead of focusing on a title like ‘VP of Finance’ or ‘controller’ as your decision-maker, focus on that person’s role within the buying committee. That person will have specific requirements for the project to pass with approval that you can leverage in messaging and content offers no matter their title.
Working an ABM strategy into your current demand generation program is no small feat. But, if you put a solid foundation in place, with a robust understanding of the buying committee and each role’s pains at each stage of their decision process, and encourage collaboration between marketing and sales to drive value throughout the sales funnel, the odds will be stacked in your favor.
Want to learn more about how to implement a fool-proof strategy in your organization? Join Matt Heinz and Robert Pease for an interactive online workshop ABM: From Strategy to Action and Results to learn the strategies, pitfalls and best practices that make a successful ABM program.