Looking to work your way into tough-to-crack ABM target accounts?
Let me tell you something. No volume of banner ads, emails, LinkedIn messages, or cold calls will establish the trust you need to start those conversations.
Your prospects crave relevancy and authenticity, and they will ignore any messages that don’t speak to them. They want authentic messages that solve their most pressing problems. And these messages are the most effective when they come from trusted sources like their peers.
At Influitive, we firmly believe that using your existing customers should be the key to every successful ABM strategy. Think about it—customers offer the trusted information that buyers value most when making purchasing decisions. Plus, your customers’ professional networks are rich with potential prospects and good fit leads for your company.
“Advocates have been instrumental in our ABM efforts. By infusing the authentic voices of our advocates into our campaigns, we’ve been able to send messages that resonate to key accounts. Plus, getting warm introductions from advocates into tough-to-crack accounts has been a game changer.”
—Darayus Divecha, VP of Sales at Influitive
Drawing on your customer community is an underutilized tactic in ABM that can bolster both your messaging and your outreach strategy.
In this blog, I’ll share my personal best practices in three levels of ascending complexity. You can dip your toe in with level one to see firsthand the power of this approach, and eventually work your way towards more sophisticated strategies pioneered by industry leaders in level three. Once you can confidently source, incorporate, and align customer voices in your sales and ABM strategy, you’ll be way ahead of the ABM pack.
Level 1: Use customer evidence
Using social proof is the most common way to incorporate customers in your ABM campaigns. Leveraging the authentic voice of your customers is an effective way to capture the attention of your prospects, and deliver messages that will truly resonate. When you have an AdvocateHub or online customer community, it’s easier to collect customer testimonials and proof points as you begin developing your ABM campaigns.
Here are some simple assets you can collect that feature customer proof:
- case studies (especially those that put customers front and centres as heros of the story)
- customer testimonials (bonus points if you can include headshots and logos)
- customer reviews collected from sites like TrustRadius and G2Crowd
Once you’ve identified the key customer assets you want to use, try these three strategic plays to reach your target audience:
a) Email outreach
When sending emails to target ABM accounts, make sure your email lists are segmented by persona and industry or other qualifying criteria your company uses. When creating the email nurture campaign, include content and quotes from customers who match those target personas.
For example, if you’re reaching out to CTOs at cybersecurity companies, it’s best to include a customer testimonial from another cybersecurity CTO for their message to really resonate.
Ideally, you have both a client testimonial and corresponding web asset to further engage the prospect beyond email, such as a customer case study or blog post written about that client’s success using your product or service.
When crafting the copy for your email be sure the copy and format of your mailer speaks to the individual and uses language they would use themselves.
A case study we sent out to CS folks, with tailored messaging and content
b) Direct mail
Yes, it’s true—direct mail is coming back! Think about how nice it is when you receive a handwritten card from a friend in the mail, instead of a text or Facebook message for your birthday or other special occasion. This same resurgence is happening in the business world and leading companies are using creative direct mail campaigns as a part of their ABM strategy.
And with good reason. The Data & Marketing Association found that the response rate for direct mail is 4.4 percent, compared to 0.12 percent for email.
“You have to remember that the whole point of ABM is that it’s spearfishing, says Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio. “You have to reach out to the right people at the account. That means outbound channels like direct mail, which is a great door opener. People get hundreds of emails a day, and probably get one or two packages a week. Direct mail is a really good way to break through the noise.”
An example of part of a bookmark we sent tucked into a copy of CEO Mark Organ’s book: The Messenger Is The Message.
Then there’s the package you want to send. Swag boxes shipped to the office of your target buyers that include items sporting your logo are a classic example. Not only does everyone love unpacking a big box full of goodies, now people in that department will see their coworker walking around the office wearing your company’s brand and cool swag.
Fun, out-of-the-ordinary gifts also stand out, especially when they’re closely tied to your brand and offering.
Boston-based cybersecurity firm Cybereason got on the radar of CISOs in target accounts, by sending direct mail piece featuring custom Nerf guns last fall. They even included batteries and a tiny screwdriver featuring the Cybereason logo. “The package ‘got a lot of cool social love,” says Pat Shea, VP Demand Gen, and it also proved to be very effective in helping increase year-over-year pipeline traffic for the company.
Thanks @cybereason for the sweet nerf gun. pic.twitter.com/QNn9f65AD6
— chad cragle (@Kra_Gl_e) February 16, 2017
c) Retargeting ads:
After your initial touchpoints, you may want to run an online campaign to retarget contacts at key ABM accounts to keep your brand and related offer top-of-mind. Set up a pixel tracking those who interacted with key pages in the campaign, and use those to target your pool of ABM accounts.
To make these ads as effective as possible, make sure to keep your messaging and visual branding cohesive across all touchpoints for a seamless experience. Make sure to showcase a customer testimonial and a CTA linking to the related asset on your website that matches the target prospect’s persona.
We’ve found that our best performing social and display ads were those that prominently featured our advocates’ faces and words. This social proof is invaluable not only in attracting eyeballs, but also in establishing authenticity and credibility with prospect.
Level 2: Use customer advocates IRL
Some customers love to be in the spotlight and would be happy to share their success story publicly at industry events, while others prefer to have one-on-one conversations with peers about the process and results of using your solution.
You can leverage customers “in real life” in a few different ways:
- Connect customers with prospects for reference calls or one-to-many hangouts
- Have customers speak on your behalf at industry events where you know key prospects will be present
- Ask customers to make referrals or introductions to their contacts within target ABM accounts.
Advocacy is not one-size-fits-all. We like to present lots of different advocacy opportunities for our customers so there’s something for everyone.
For example, Influitive recently enlisted Carlos Gonzalez, VP of CS Operations at Ceridian and one of our top advocates, to speak about his advocacy journey at the SiriusDecisions Summit in 2018, an event we knew where many of our key prospects would be in attendance. This presentation demonstrated to our audience the immense value of an advocacy program and how powerful the AdvocateHub platform has been at Ceridian, which led to dozens of great conversations at the Influitive booth later on.
The Influitive team at SiriusDecisions Summit 2018
We also ask our advocates to volunteer to reach out to peers via our own community, Influitive VIP. We created a series of opportunities for customers to help identify if they had any personal connections within our set list of 75 target ABM accounts.
From there, we asked those customers for introductions to those contacts that we felt could leverage our solutions and benefit from an advocacy community and program. When a customer made a personal introduction for us, we saw a much higher response rate from the prospect, averaging 80%, as opposed to the 20% seen with traditional marketing email or cold BDR outreach.
We made it super easy for advocates to send out this email by including a template that they could simply copy and paste so we’re not asking too much of their time or effort. By reducing the effort on their part, customers are much more likely to be inclined to take a few seconds to help out and get our foot in the door.
Here’s an example of a template we’ve used before:
I’d like to introduce you to one of the friendly folks at Influitive, Avi Rothschild.
We’ve been using Influitive’s software for some time now to support our customer community and are seeing some really great results with customer advocacy including X, Y and Z.
I thought you might be interested in learning more about their customer engagement platform and how it might be able to help you achieve your growth goals this year. Even if you might not be the right person, it would be great to connect and help point them in the right direction.
I’ll leave you two to connect here, but if you’d like to chat more about what I’m doing with customer advocacy, I’d be happy to hop on a quick call.
Recently, we took customer advocacy to the next level by asking our our top Influitive VIP advocates to help us better navigate their own social connections by sharing their entire LinkedIn networks with us. We were skeptical at first that they would be willing to go through the complicated process (learn how to export your LinkedIn network list here) of doing so, but were happily surprised when nearly two dozen advocates were willing to help out. This really showed us how much our advocates want to help us succeed and believe in the movement we have sparked with customer advocacy.
After we received their list of social connections, we shared it with our business development team. And after some vlookup magic, they were able to identify nearly 75 contacts at key accounts they had been dying to get into.
Via our community, we created targeted activities for those advocates to ask for introductions to their peers within those accounts and it worked like a charm. As a result of this LinkedIn ABM advocacy campaign, we were able to create 11 new opportunities at key accounts within just three weeks. This is advocacy in action!
Level 3: Create customized experiences for top ABM targets
Influitive has an exclusive section of our customer community that is solely dedicated to our key ABM accounts. In these sections those key contacts can learn about customer advocacy, how Influitive works and how to get the most benefits from products and services, plus they can connect with customers and users in-real-time. This has also helped our cross-sell efforts because it introduces us to other areas of a business that may also benefit from leveraging our technology. For example, although we already work with one business unit at Oracle, we know there are several others that could benefit from launching an advocate program or online community. We then ask our customers to invite their Oracle peers or colleague into our hub to learn more about Influitive. This is also a great resource for sales when they’re prospecting into large Enterprise accounts because it allows new contacts to see the success of their peers in other business units and explore a hub first-hand.
Presenting customized experiences within the customer community allows ABM targets to explore content created just for them.
Another ABM tactic we leverage at Influitive is to surround our key prospects with customer advocates. To do this, we recently opened the doors to our customer-facing community, Influitive VIP, to prospects who want to test out an AdvocateHub for themselves. (Psst, if you’re interested in joining our VIP community, you can sign up here.)
By inviting prospects into our advocate community, we’re giving them the chance to learn directly from their peers and get advice first-hand. We facilitate peer-to-peer learning and conversations within our open Discussions forum, where prospects can directly ask any questions they might have to our customers. Typically, prospects want to better understand what it’s like to get started with an advocate program, how much support is provided during onboarding and how to best demonstrate the return-on-investment for Influitive. We then provide opportunities to drive customers over to respond to those questions and give advice first-hand.
We create content challenges specifically designed for prospects to help answer those common buying questions. For example, we published content for prospects to get or ask advice on getting started with an advocacy program so they can better understand the level of support we provide and what to expect early on.
We also direct prospects into our community Discussions forum to read real answers from customers. This tactic is much better because it uses the authentic voice of our customers who have “been there and done that,” and we find information shared this way, via an advocate community, really resonates with our audience as opposed to sales or marketing emails.
An example of a discussion forum
Customer involvement is the future of ABM
While ABM is arguably the buzzword marketing trend of the past 5 years, many companies that are allocating major resources to it are still struggling to make this strategy a success. The simple yet effective answer to this problem lies in customer involvement, in the form of outreach and social proof.
Personalization is key to making any ABM campaign effective, but so are the genuine voices of your prospects’ peers. At the end of the day, customers are the missing ingredient that will take your ABM campaigns from a disappointing flop to a powerful force to be reckoned with.