Two major trends are dominating the B2B marketing and sales landscape in 2018 – Account Based Marketing and Relationship Intelligence. In many ways they are like peanut butter and jelly, yin and yang, or chocolate and peanut butter – whatever metaphor you’d like to choose. Each complements the other, and together they allow organizations to drive substantially more revenue and have much more predictability in their pipeline.
Long-Term Relationships, not Churn & Burn
The core motivation of both ABM and relationship intelligence is simple: to create and grow the right long-term relationships with the right companies that will ultimately lead to sales. Organizations who embrace the philosophies behind ABM and relationship intelligence don’t see the buyer universe as an unlimited universe of potential buyers who can be aggressively spammed with automated outreach in the hopes that one or two might be interested. Rather, they see each potential customer as a unique set of relationships to be developed in the hopes of presenting a new way of thinking about the problem that they solve.
As such, access to new relationships are crucial. Account-based marketers will craft highly personalized (and costly) campaigns with the hope of starting a new relationship for their sales teams. At the same time, sales professionals, enabled by relationship intelligence, will look to understand the relationship graph and how they can access each organization through their executives, advocates, influencers, or internal team.
Each reach-out in an ABM strategy is focused on starting a relationship, so it carries strong evidence of the investment in that relationship. Marketing might use dimensional mailers or other costly campaign strategies to show their investment in the relationship. Sales teams will do deep research on a company and the individuals who might purchase to position their offering in context of that business’s specific needs an situation. Upfront investment in the hopes of creating a relationship is the norm in both philosophies.
Replicate Great Customers
The “flip the funnel” philosophy that is talked about frequently in ABM conversations is based on the idea that it is most effective to find a small number of amazingly successful customers, understand what brought them that success, and then replicate that with the most similar customers you can find.
Sales teams focused on relationship intelligence have a very similar philosophy. When looking at companies to approach, they look at companies who were driven to make a change to their offering in the past. Often, those transition points were triggered by events in the company, such as executive changes, new product releases, periods of growth, or even scandals and decline. By understanding those trigger events, seeking out other companies with similar trigger events taking place, and then carefully crafting a point of view that reflects how they can help, those sales professionals are able to create new relationships and begin the right discussions.
Results Not Activity as a Core Measurement
Measurement is another area where ABM and Relationship Intelligence find a lot of common ground. The level of effort and investment in each relationship is significant, so outdated measurements like raw outbound sales activity or email open rates are poor proxies for success, and generally tend to reward behaviour that is the the opposite of what is desired.
Measurements must hone in on the key proxy for success; strong relationships with the right buyers in the organization. Both marketing and sales leaders prefer to focus on indicators that show new relationships being created, stronger relationships being developed on active accounts, broad and deep relationship networks growing in any active opportunity, and robust multi-threaded relationship coverage on any deals in pipeline. Those measurements, rather than raw activity, give an accurate assessment of upcoming success.
ABM and Relationship Intelligence
Today’s leading B2B marketing and sales organizations are embracing a new approach to their customers. It’s an approach that respects the unique situation of each customer, maps that to existing success stories, and works hard to build deep, trusting relationships across the organization. Whether it’s looked at through the lens of Account Based Marketing or relationship intelligence, the customer approach is similar and the journey involves many of the same steps.