We often question agencies about why they don’t behave like the brands they work with. One aspect they do a pretty poor job of is aligning their marketing and new business (sales), tending to separate their marketing strategy from their new business strategy. But, if they saw their clients behaving that way they would most likely give them a right bollocking. It would shock you how often we find this to be the case, and in our opinion, they really should know better.
It’s something that I talk about a lot, which is why a good friend of mine recently sent me a blog post called ‘The Essentials of Account-based Marketing’. It resonated with me, because it’s the approach we have always taken with our agency clients on this subject and it prompted me to write about this issue and demonstrate how easily you can fix it.
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is gaining in popularity in the B2B world because it has a higher yield than a lot of other marketing and sales approaches, at a fraction of the cost. In other words, you don’t need to have big budgets for it to be effective; in fact, even with no budget you can still reap fantastic financial rewards. The basic premise of ABM is about being selective with the accounts you are going after and strategic in your approach, linking new business and marketing together in order to make the sale more effective.
Let’s first look at why the two often get separated.
- Marketing and sales traditionally have different goals. Marketing will be used to drive awareness and engagement “let’s get as many leads as humanly possible – job done” (often with no thought as to how qualified these leads are or their likelihood to convert), and sales is purely focused on conversion “close, close, close” (often without thought as to whether those leads are suited to the agency, how well served they would be by working with the agency, or if they will treat the agency as a partner rather than a supplier.
- The role split. Often we find, particularly in mid to large sized agencies, that there will be a person(s) responsible for marketing or PR activity and another person(s) responsible for new business/sales and weirdly they don’t collaborate or even talk to each other. Bonkers!
So, how can you fix this ‘great divide’ and ensure that all of your marketing activity is supporting the new business, sales and ultimately conversion activity?
Taking an ABM approach is what we always advise our clients to take because you will achieve:
- A stronger brand reputation
- More focused, effective lead generation
- Effective content that will support new business
- More efficient, effective use of time, channels and resources that will lead to better conversion rates
- An increased focus on the success of the entire business rather than the narrower ‘silo effect’.
- Everything works better together and your team will be pulling in the same direction
- You will win more business
So here’s a top line of how you can sort this issue out and act like the brand’s you serve:
1. First of all you need to create a marketing and new business strategy (be honest with yourselves a) do you even have one? b) if you do, is it as comprehensive as the ones your client’s have and can it be shared with everyone in your agency?
2. Ensure that the strategy aligns business, marketing and sales objectives (remember to include the commercial targets)
3. Know your audience(s). Don’t assume you know them. You would challenge your clients if they made assumptions about their audience(s), so make sure you research who they are, what they are looking for, what their challenges and motivations to buy are (go beyond the demographics). Research and insights are the key here and we have a thorough approach to how this research should be conducted, which we share with all our clients. This way you are able to build a more holistic profile of your prospects.
4. Create your own ‘perfect client’ profile; the reasons for doing this is that you can’t and won’t appeal to everyone, so don’t even try. As an old boss of mine used to say, “Don’t run around being busy fools”. Polarise, it’s OK to narrow the potential lead base by creating a set of criteria that suits you. Think how Marmite, Yorkie and Apple made this so effective!
5. Understand the customer journey your audience(s) takes to search for an agency. What is their mind-set at each stage? When do they look for agencies? How do they search for the right agency partner? And what role do you need to play at each of those stages in order to influence your ideal prospects to engage with you? Can you disrupt the journey?
6. Focus your activities on the prospects most likely to convert. (We have a tool we’ve developed that helps our clients do this). Despite what a lot of people still think, agency new business is NOT a numbers game. It’s not about casting the widest net; it’s all about focus. Take a scientific and research led approach to understand who you should be going after. Think about which brands would be most suited to the agency and what criteria would make them more likely to convert.
7. Know your B2B marketing ecosystem. Think about all the possible touch points (channels) where you can influence your audience(s). We see a lot of agencies doing a lot of different things, but they are often in isolation, these need to work more effectively and efficiently with each other. For example, when you are doing PR are you thinking about your list of prospects before you approach publications, if not, why not? PR can massively support your outbound prospecting if you use it correctly. It’s not just for awareness, it can help support your new business strategy if you target your prospects at the right time, with the right message and then follow it up with direct sales activity. It’s about raising your brand awareness and getting them in the right mind-set before you make that call.
8. Develop a content calendar that supports the B2B marketing ecosystem and your new business prospecting and pitching. It’s great to write blogs, create guides and ‘how to’ books, videos, podcasts etc., but have you simply written something without thinking about how it is landing a clear, consistent message and is helping support the work going on at the coal face with your prospecting. Yes, your content should develop your brand awareness, but it MUST support your prospecting as well, otherwise, what is the point?
9. Leverage your existing clients. Do you have a game plan to grow the level of work you do with them? Have you realised that loyal clients can be your biggest advocates? Are you communicating with them regularly about what you are doing and new products/services you are developing? Are they all aware of everything you offer, or only the things you currently do for them? Have you communicated with them about them referring other like-minded marketers to you? Have you provided them with the tools they need to help sell you in to others?
This is of course not everything and it doesn’t take five minutes, it takes time. So, if you want to carry on the way you always have and jump straight to lead generation/sales, be my guest. But, with 25+ years in business, I can tell you it won’t be half as effective and impactful as taking this approach. We’ve tried and tested our methodology over and over again and this ABM approach works because it’s not based on guesswork or theoretical thinking, but actual experience and activation with our clients, and they are reaping the benefits from this approach with better quality leads, higher conversion rates and increased new business revenue being added to their bottom line.
So, if you want to align your marketing activity with your new business/sales activity, become way more effective and efficient in building your brand reputation and achieve the commercial success you seek, then maybe it’s time to try the Account Based Marketing approach we have developed for all of our growing clients.