The evolution from ABM (account-based marketing) to ABX (account-based experience) is far more significant than changing one letter on a client presentation.
Done right, it can drive greater value from top customers and demonstrate the commercial impact of a marketers’ work, at a time when ROI has rarely been more important.
The good news, though, is that isn’t a complete overhaul of ABM. Think of it instead as a refinement of the ABM model, one that’s better designed to adapt and respond to two big strategic shifts in the B2B market.
More purchase influencers
The first is the ongoing transition from a lead-based view to an account-based view.
B2B brands increasingly understand that buying decisions are rarely made by an individual, but instead come from a group of people within an organisation. Influencing the purchase therefore requires a far more joined-up view of the customer and their journey, as well as more detailed insights into the correlation between engagement and commercial results, to understand which marketing efforts are hitting the mark.
In the current economic climate, in particular, that last bit is really important. Being able to demonstrate impact at an account level is increasingly a key way for marketers to show the correlation between their work and commercial success. It’s why we’re seeing metrics such as ARR (annual recurring revenue) and NRR (net revenue retention) develop into core measures of effectiveness for B2B marketing teams.
The ‘rule of thirds’
The second shift to which ABX responds is the behaviour of the buyer within the buying process. With the shift to digital, only exacerbated by the pandemic, it’s more and more common for the buyer to call the shots, leveraging multiple different channels to make their decision. McKinsey refers to this as the ‘rule of thirds’: the idea that buyers now use a mix of roughly a third traditional in-person sales meetings; a third remote tools, such as video conferencing; and a third self-service channels, such as ecommerce or social.
As a result, B2B organisations need to be engaging with these buyers across multiple touchpoints too. In fact, McKinsey found that those enabling purchase over more channels grew market share at a faster rate than those who used less. To achieve this, though, marketers need to understand: What does each of their interactions look like? And where can value be added? Appreciating that requires a far more joined-up approach, bringing in marketing and sales naturally, but also service, product and the whole front office.
ABX helps deliver this. In short, it makes the customer the anchor point of all decisions and prioritises, creating a single view of what their experience is across multiple channels at each stage of their journey.
In other words, it takes all the good bits of ABM – the targeted approach and level of personalisation – and ramps it up a notch, with a far more holistic strategy. Rather than scheduling a campaign of personalised ads targeted to 200 key accounts on LinkedIn, for instance, an ABX strategy would comprise an always-on approach, combining engagement on digital channels with physical experiences without a firm start and end point, and collaborating throughout with sales and all other customer-facing functions.
Technology has helped make this a reality – because, though ABM may have been on marketers’ radar for a while, it’s only thanks to a maturing of available tech that this approach can really deliver. Yes, it’s a complex, crowded ecosystem but, if you can simplify and bring the right tools together, it can make personalisation and orchestration more achievable at greater pace and scale.
So, how should you go about it?
Data is central
The starting point must be to create a clear, comprehensive picture of customers’ journeys, mapping them across multiple channels and multiple functions. With these touchpoints often dispersed across an organisation, this can require new levels of co-ordination and collaboration, but it’s critical in moving to an ABX model.
Data will be central to this. It isn’t hard to come by nowadays – in fact, most organisations are overflowing with everything from CRM to advertising data and website analytics – but it will need to consolidated and unified into a single view for each target account. It must also record how these accounts’ engagement is changing over time, in order to demonstrate the impact that marketing is really having.
The next step is to use this understanding and insight into the customer and their journey, and turn it into a seamless multichannel experience, with creativity and storytelling at the core. This story needs to be clearly executed across both physical and digital platforms, rather than planned in silos.
This element could require a level of upskilling within marketing teams, all of whom will need an excellent understanding of both the overarching strategy and the execution across all different touchpoints.
Though it can require a big change in mentality – for marketing teams and, indeed, all customer-facing functions – the payoff of making the move to ABX can be truly significant. The move to ABX can help achieve bigger deal sizes, faster pipeline velocity and increases in customer value.
If you’ve only just wrapped your head around ABM, don’t think of ABX as a brand-new approach. Instead, see it as an expansion and evolution of ABM, one that can help B2B organisations respond to market needs, help marketing teams prove their commercial clout in a tough economic climate and deliver an elevated experience for customers too.
Would you like to talk to The Marketing Practice about your ABM needs? Get in touch.
David van Schaick is CMO at The Marketing Practice.