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Evolving your ABM strategy post-COVID – five key takeaways

As we move into a ‘Living with COVID’ phase, we’re all still feeling a little uncertain.

If COVID has pulled the rug from under you in terms of identifying the right sales and marketing strategies for your business, an ABM-type approach could be the answer. Account-Based Marketing (ABM), which targets smaller pots of qualified targets, lends itself well to a post-COVID response in terms of focusing on companies that are potentially the most valuable to you. It can align budgets and resources around priorities and forces you to adopt a more strategic way of thinking, really honing in on where value lies in terms of your own proposition and any potential target audience.

However, to warrant a share of valuable resource and maximise ROI, your ABM strategy needs to be well-defined and based on solid, accurate insight. Whether you are new to ABM, or reviewing an existing plan in the light of shifts in the market landscape, there are some key factors to consider.

Which accounts?

Most market sectors have experienced significant disruption in the past few years so it is important to avoid assumptions based on a pre-pandemic view. Hopefully, you’ll have been in touch with existing clients and know how they have fared, but consider the shifts and look at upcoming brands previously not on your radar. Consider also the fact that your proposition might offer value beyond traditional segments if it has evolved during the pandemic. Take a pragmatic approach, perhaps testing a small number of accounts or adopting a tiered approach using 1-1, 1-FEW, and 1-MANY segments, so you don’t have all eggs in one basket.

Data and insight

Forget what you think you know and make sure that any data or insight that informs your strategy is accurate and validated by current ‘Voice of Customer’ research. AI/intent data has the advantage of providing good volume but can be difficult to interpret and, given the speed of change we have experienced, may present a somewhat outdated picture. Buyer behaviour has changed dramatically since the pandemic and your targeting will miss the mark if you rely only on historical data models.

More on Voice of the Customer Research

Channels

The pandemic has certainly made buyers more comfortable with digital channels but recent research by McKinsey confirms that B2B buyers prefer a choice of channels so don’t go into digital/virtual overload. Successful ABM relies on building trust and developing closer relationships with key customers through real human interaction, whether in-person meetings where possible or a personal one-to-one channel such as the phone.

Customer experience

Your priority customers will expect an enhanced customer experience with your brand which means not only a choice of channels but a consistent message and experience across all touch points. If you are bringing more digital channels and platforms into the mix, it is likely that those touch points will be spread across a higher number of staff and departments with the risk of fragmentation. Ensure your platforms, processes and teams are all aligned and that your use of technology doesn’t impact the quality of your customer’s experience.

Human First

Whilst we are hopeful of returning to a more ‘normal’ world, the impacts of COVID have been massive and many markets are still unsettled. Some businesses will struggle to return to their pre-COVID levels of revenue for some time so your communications must continue to be supportive and empathetic. Buyers will be looking for a long-term partner they can rely on, so building trust and developing strong relationships should be a priority.

An ABM approach allows for a safe and measured response to uncertainty, because it qualifies the target before activity is launched, maximises the potential return and minimises churn with a highly-personal and tailored experience. It is a strategy, however, that must be implemented carefully and diligently. When you have a finite universe of key accounts, you don’t want to burn your bridges with an important customer by hitting the wrong note or delivering a poor experience.

More on how to maximise the success of your ABM Strategy

 

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