In our digital landscape, awareness isn’t enough when it comes to marketing. Today’s brands must continuously engage their target customers, and traditional mediums just don’t deliver on that the way customers are expecting. A lack of engagement among customers often arises because marketers focus too much on price, product and promotion – three of the four P’s of marketing. In reality, marketers should really be devoting their attention to an entirely different P – people.
Whether online or off, the customer comes first, and one approach that puts people front and center is account-based marketing (ABM). This approach is more focused on specific customers, or accounts, than traditional marketing. In traditional marketing, a company uses advertising to help draw interest in their company before eventually learning which customers are most likely to result in a sale. Once the business knows which customers are most interested and willing to purchase, they try to sell to them. ABM takes a different approach. In ABM, a company starts the process by identifying a potential target and then markets specifially to those targets with a more personalized approach.
Instead of driving an endless parade of nameless, faceless personas to your site, cobbling together a broad list of potential customers and blasting out blanket emails to anyone and everyone, you take a far more personalized approach. You locate your target first.
That way, you can offer content tailored to the person and avoid chasing dead-end leads as well. You still collect customer insights, segment your data and test your messaging, but you take targeting to a micro level. This allows you to speak to specific pain points and make prospects feel as if you truly get them. Best of all? It works. Altera Group found that 97 percent of marketers said the ABM approach yielded a higher return on investment.
ABM just makes sense.
As a business leader, you may have read the title of this article and started panicking. Either that, or it made you think, “I’m doing just fine on my own.” Those responses are often the result of the misconceptions swirling around ABM. Here are the top three misconceptions about account-based marketing.
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1. ABM is a nascent strategy.
While surprising to some, the concept of ABM has been actually around for years — the Information Technology Services Marketing Association coined the term more than a decade ago. More than that, though, companies have long been whittling down their lists of prospects to the most viable and lucrative candidates, then doing everything they could to bring them into the fold. It’s just that we’ve now applied technology and systematic processes to make it more accessible. ABM isn’t as young a strategy as some skeptics believe.
All that’s to say, don’t overthink ABM. Although you might be scaling back to enhance engagement, you’re actually learning more about your target audience with each new interaction. This allows you to thoughtfully expand your marketing efforts and improve a campaign’s effectiveness as you grow your business.
Learning from the interactions also enables you to better leverage technology — the key to any successful ABM campaign. If, for example, you want to perfectly time your marketing message, predictive analytics can serve as a crystal ball into your target audience’s future needs, while programmatic buying can help consolidate customer interactions and message only those who meet a certain criterion.
2. ABM is reserved for big accounts.
Sure, you’re targeting fewer prospects, many with the potential for bigger paydays. But like many other marketing tactics, ABM is scalable. You can still target numerous prospects without sacrificing any earning potential.
Because ABM relies on hypertargeting, I recommend starting small and scaling from there. To give you an idea, most companies new to ABM start with a few hundred prospects. As things take off, they branch out and begin to target other potential customers – customers qualified by what you’ve gleaned from interactions with the first set of prospects.
This scalability also allows you to scale within a company. As you know, business-to-business marketing rarely has you working with a single point person. ABM makes it possible to delve deeper into accounts and target each decision maker with tailored messaging that speaks to his or her pain points. Try it with a few of your existing accounts to help fine-tune your strategy.
3. ABM is just about sales.
ABM is a strategy built on the idea of uniting sales and marketing to identify and qualify leads, ensuring that their efforts complement, rather than work against, one another. If marketing, for instance, has developed a top-of-the-funnel whitepaper, then sales should be leveraging this collateral to show leads how your offering can address their problems. Once leads download the whitepaper, they’ll be dropped into a drip campaign, where the marketing team can further nurture them.
That means you must help make and keep the peace between marketing and sales. Think about it: sales will have all the nitty-gritty details about the true pain points of prospects because they speak with them directly. Once those are relayed to marketing, the team can craft messages that address the pain points and resonate with readers. When the two teams are intertwined, it’s been shown that your customer retention rates could receive a 36 percent boost and your sales win rate could increase by 38 percent.
As online retail gains more share at the expense of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, entrepreneurs should be aware of the following trends in consumers’ online purchasing habits and what it means for targeting these individuals.
1. It is a multi-device, omnichannel world now.
Going online does not just mean using desktops and laptops anymore. It is anytime, anywhere connectivity afforded by tablets, smartphones and smart watches. Customers use multiple devices on their path to purchase – starting their search on mobile phones, purchasing products using tablets or laptops, and interacting with their friends about their purchases using all these devices. In a multi-device, omnichannel world, a firm cannot operate a website optimized only for the desktop or laptop. It has to be accessible with smartphones and tablets. Firms need to provide as seamless an integration as possible for an optimal customer experience.
What does this mean for entrepreneurs? If you are going online, then optimize the experience for all devices, providing clear guidance for a seamless customer experience. Remember, if you are targeting them with an email, they could open it on any device, especially on a mobile device, and your website should be ready for access from that device.
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2. Customers shop around much more than before.
Smartphones and mobile apps allow quick searches for products and services across different retailers and firms, so shopping becomes very easy for customers. These devices also allow retailers to target customers with attractive offers, coupons and deals while they are on the go. Researchers have found that all these conveniences have made customers heavier shoppers than ever before. Even if they are loyal to some retailers, they easily switch to competitors when inundated with attractive offers. These trends are not easy to fight, but it also means retailers need to fight for a share of customers’ attention early in the purchase funnel as customers shop around.
3. Consumers expect personalized experiences.
Devices and channels also provide more opportunities for customizing the customer experience. Collecting data on customer preferences and shopping habits and making use of their past purchase data allow retailers to tailor the experience customers have at their websites. Such customization can lead to increased conversions and is the best way to counter shopper promiscuity and keep customers coming back. Retailers do not need to spend thousands on marketing analytics software – systematic collection and analysis with common tools can get retailers 80 percent of the advantage that personalization can provide.
4. Word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends are still powerful.
This is the age of social media and networks, where customers share their experiences, likes and dislikes with their friends and acquaintances online – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. Retailers should have a clear social media strategy to cultivate their customer base. Retailers can harness the power of word-of-mouth to increase their reach and reduce their marketing budget on paid media by earning their reputation through customer satisfaction. This also makes retailers take a long-term view of their customer relationships and reputation rather than depend on short-term gimmicks to increase revenue.
5. Consumers take their privacy very seriously.
Finally, as much as the online environment provides opportunities to collect data and information on customers’ preferences, likes and dislikes, and to enable customization and personalized experiences, it is important to take customers’ privacy concerns seriously. Do not sell their email addresses to others, do not spam them, and make sure you manage their data securely.
Diversity may be one of Pepsi’s touted tenets, but that didn’t keep the corporation out of hot water in 2017. Its Kendall Jenner #Resistance-style advertisement turned in a tone-deaf performance, leaving Pepsi reeling under a barrage of social media attacks.
Therein lies a deep truth about running a business in the modern era: Consumers no longer play a passive role in product placement or branding. They’re cutting through all the hype in an effort to get to the truth, such as whether a food is truly organic or whether a brand is being genuine and authentic when it pushes an ad aiming to show that it’s socially conscious. The wisest companies that realize this sooner rather than later.
Today’s consumers want to work with organizations that support their core beliefs, and they expect their chosen products and services to be in alignment. And it’s working to change the world. For instance, LGBTQ activism has made such strong headway that only 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies lack a policy surrounding specific LGBTQ rights.
The rise of portable devices means practically instant access to anything, including whether or not a brand is sincere. The organizations that live their principles thrive. Those that don’t will struggle. Pepsi managed to weather the Jenner storm, but most companies can’t afford such missteps. With one major fiasco, they could be crushed like an empty can of soda. It’s a truism in an era when everyone’s peering behind the curtain.
The Positive Side of Authenticity
Although it’s plain to see that consumers have more clout, organizations shouldn’t view the change as all negative. In fact, knowing that 57 percent of people make purchase decisions based on how well a company echoes their principles allows companies to drive loyalty like never before.
A great example is Subaru’s “Love” campaign. The underlying promise of “Love” was that Subaru has deep ties to its consumers despite not being the most exciting vehicle on the market. My family can attest to the power of this simple yet enduring promotion. My first car, inherited from my sister, was a Subaru with no power steering, a stick shift and no power windows or doors. The bottom rusted out. Yet it ran and ran, getting us both through high school and college. That’s love. That’s commitment. That’s why the brand is doing well.
Whirlpool is another brand that understands the difference between spending marketing dollars and weighing in. The “Care Counts” program donates washers and dryers to schools so kids from low-income families can always have clean clothes. Whirlpool’s goal isn’t necessarily to sell products; it’s to give these children the chance to confidently integrate with their peers and teachers without worrying about being bullied because their clothes smell. It’s an innovative way to woo new customers with a distinct, heartfelt competitive differentiator.
Becoming a Socially and Ethically Responsible Organization
Your company might be decades old like mine, or it might be a fledgling startup. Either way, you can add a conscience to your corporate identity by taking a few steps:
1. Share and embrace differences.
Moms never say, “Oh, I really wish kids would keep their toys to themselves and not share!” Yet many of us stay “safe” and are unwilling to share our viewpoints as adults so we don’t make “waves.” Open yourself up to the world and learn to both give away your own ideas and embrace those of others.
Be bold. You don’t have to love someone’s differences or interests to respect them. For example, modern art might not be my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful to someone else. Differences matter, and when you embrace those differences, everyone learns and grows.
2. Lead by example.
Is your company doing its best to live up to its vision statement? If not, innovate as a team to become more responsible. For instance, many retailers that claim to be supportive of the environment haven’t even considered adding solar panels, using wind power, or recycling water and other resources. In other words, they’re not venturing outside of their own bubble, which leaves them at risk for losing eco-conscious consumers.
The brands that see a gap outside their bubble will be the ones who make the greatest impact. Whirlpool, for instance, realized that kids not having clean clothes for school was a problem, so the company took a step outside its comfort zone to create a solution.
3. Take a stand.
Research from the Global Strategy Group shows that 81 percent of buyers want corporations to take sides on political and social issues. Brands are taking notice, and there has been a noticeable surge in ads touching on everything from immigrant stories to racial bias to gender equality.
However, it’s not enough to simply jump on the bandwagon because it’s what consumers expect. The GSG study also found that half of buyers expect responses to major events like school shootings in 24 hours or less. Consequently, you must be willing to make a strong stance on hot-button issues — without waiting a week to see what everyone else is saying to make sure you’re making the “right” response. In fact, the world expects it now like never before, and customers will call you out internationally if you try to straddle the fence.
You don’t have to run a perfect company; truly, such a corporation doesn’t exist. However, you should operate from a platform of pure genuineness. The stronger your organizational mantras, the easier it will be to position your marketing and grow a tribe of advocates.
A minimum viable product, or MVP, is the most basic version of a product which a company wants to launch in the market. It includes the features that solve an essential problem for your users. The final and complete set of features is developed after collecting your learnings from the product’s initial users.
The product, therefore, will not be fully mature upon release to market, or your initial launch. For this reason, it’s important to understand your product launch differently when releasing an MVP to the market.
Marketing a minimum viable product can be especially difficult because your tactics need to align with the value you’re providing your users.
What I mean by this is that every time you’re rolling out a new version or feature update of your app, you’re providing more value. Alternatively, if your MVP pivots, and goes in a different direction, your marketing plan must also shift to accommodate the changes. Your messaging, unique value proposition and positioning will most likely change over time.
Take Instagram, for example. The company’s first introduction to the market was much different than it is today. Its messaging and brand positioning has changed to coincide with the direction of the product. So the question is, how do you plan an iterative marketing strategy?
Rethink your hard launch
When I think of the term hard launch, I think of a multi-billion dollar company hosting events, securing speaking engagements and investing in commercials for the launch of their new product. This makes sense because large corporations can afford to take these risks.
Traditional hard launches require massive budgets and many resources. They usually include the following:
With this approach, you are showcasing your product and relying heavily on the first impression. In order for this to be effective, you need to provide significant value for users immediately. An MVP, however, is a product that is iteratively improved upon, and its purpose is to receive feedback from consumers which will drive the direction of the final product.
Your marketing plan should, therefore, align with the product roadmap. It wouldn’t make sense to spend the majority of your budget launching your MVP when that is the starting point of your product. Your product development is iterative which means your marketing efforts need to coincide.
For the launch or rollout of your MVP, you want to start building buzz around your brand. You want to aim to secure free placements, backlinks and other low-cost tactics. Start building a community around your brand and cultivate trust. Here are a few tactics you could use to launch your MVP:
Start a blog
Outreach to secure backlinks to build your domain authority
Build relationships with other companies, influencers and publications
Start posting valuable content on your social platforms and cross-promoting to build partnerships
Build out your website to have a press kit, impactful copy and a story behind your brand. Here’s an example.
With your next iteration, you might want to invest a little more, and consider changing your messaging to showcase the value of the updated product. Once you’re ready for your app to be seen by the masses, invest in tactics that demonstrate value to leave a lasting impression. Some tactics I recommend include:
Outreach to publications to cover your app
Once you have more value, and a reason for users to continue to use your product (also known as the stickiness), these tactics will be more effective. This is because these tactics rely on that first impression to convince your user to stick with your brand. They don’t have the power to build a community like a blog does. You have one chance to wow your audience with these tactics. If you blow it by not offering enough value right off the bat, you’ll waste a lot of time and money, and they might not give your brand a second chance.
Once you build a community and elicit trust and credibility around your brand, your audience is more likely to choose your brand over competitors. What’s more, is that trust and credibility breed word-of-mouth virality. If your brand resonates with your audience and appeals to their emotions, they’re more likely to become brand advocates.
Take a targeted approach and scale up
Large-scale hard launches might be the right choice for large companies such as Apple or Microsoft, who have the time, money and resources for extravagant events and impactful commercials. However, for startups with limited resources and experience, I always recommend a soft launch or a targeted approach and scaling up later.
Ultimately, an MVP is a process and not a result. The way that you approach your marketing strategy heavily depends on the stage of your product and the value it provides. You should assess each marketing initiative with the value proposition of your product. For example, if your product isn’t ready to be exposed to the world, you’ll want to take a lower risk, slower traction approach. This includes tactics such as blogging to build an audience and domain authority. When your product is ready to meet the world, a harder push with advertising and pitching to publications to cover a story about your product will be more effective.
The marketing landscape is always changing, and the way people consume information is a lot different than it was a few years ago. For this reason, it’s important to remember that your marketing plan is not a one and done, especially when marketing a minimum viable product. You should always be conducting research and adapting to changing market demands and user behaviors.
Iterative marketing campaigns will help you respond to feedback from your users so you can adjust your marketing strategy as necessary. Once you start to experience traction, you can take calculated risks and invest in the methods that are working.
Most of us have been guilty of checking work email while on vacation, whether from the airport, the beach or a cafe. While the intentions are positive – scanning for urgent emails, keeping inboxes under control, etc. – employees may in fact be putting the network at risk, and IT teams need to be prepared.
When employees access accounts and information while on vacation, they’re often operating on a personal, unpatched and vulnerable device. On the flip side, if employees decide to bring their corporate-issued devices on vacation with them, local files are at risk in addition to information on the corporate network. If an employee is charging their company smartphone or laptop while waiting at the airport, this offers hackers an opportunity to gain access to files, emails and even passwords. Furthermore, responding to an attack can be more complex when it occurs in a foreign country due to time-zone differences, language barriers, lack of in-person support and other factors.
Risky Wi-Fi connections
Personal devices on a public Wi-Fi connection are a hacker’s dream. Devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones are not likely to be equipped with the same security measures as your company-issued devices, offering an easier route for hackers to access files, accounts, data and more. The risk is heightened by free and unsecure Wi-Fi networks, which creates the possibility for hackers to clone accounts, and therefore gain access to sensitive company data.
Passive attacks on neglected devices
Your IT staff should remind employees to unplug before a trip and stay unplugged, no matter the work emergency at hand. But when employees travel for extended periods, this tactic can be a double-edged sword. While employees who fully disconnect from their devices on vacation may seem like less of a threat than their colleagues logging on from anywhere and everywhere, these “neglected” devices may also put the network at risk. When a device sits unused for a longer period, the device is not automatically updating for missing patches.
This leaves the device vulnerable to a passive attack, where hackers take advantage of the out-of-date OS and security measures. In this case, hackers are on the lookout for missing patches and open ports, and use such vulnerabilities to gain access to information on the system. Once the device is finally opened and back in use, the hacker is ready to rumble with a phishing email. Sure, this scenario may seem less likely than the other potential attacks summer travel presents, but it should not be ignored.
Securing every device before summer travel
Given the increased vulnerabilities that devices are susceptible to during travel, your IT teams must do the upfront work to keep these devices secure. This includes making sure all endpoints are patched with the latest OS and antivirus updates, equipped with unique and complex passwords, and encrypted.
Furthermore, IT teams must implement monitoring as well as onboarding and offboarding security policies to gain control of the entire enterprise network. If an employee’s device falls victim to a hack while they’re out working on their tan without any idea of what is happening to their device, this type of network control will deny the hacker access.
While summer vacations offer employees a chance to unwind, they have the opposite effect on IT staff. Whether these are the employees who stay logged on while traveling the globe or are totally unplugged for extended periods, on-the-go devices bring a slew of potential security vulnerabilities. IT teams are responsible for implementing preventative measures such as automated updates and patches and implementing security maintenance protocols that include constant device monitoring and control, especially in the event that a hack does occur. Don’t let your summer vacation land you on IT’s bad side!