Today’s empowered customers expect the interactions they have with your sales and marketing teams to be highly personalized and relevant—which can make striking up valuable conversations with prospects challenging.
That’s one reason why account-based marketing has become a popular strategy in recent years.
Although not a new approach, ABM has been given a shot in the arm with the rise of marketing automation—and marketers are taking note. Calling ABM a “B2B marketing must-have,” 58 percent of marketers plan to invest in ABM technology or services this year, according to SiriusDecisions.
Instead of “spraying and praying” broad marketing messages, ABM requires brands spend time crafting ultra-personalized campaigns targeted at specific accounts.
However, ABM can be so much more than retargeting ads and specially-branded landing pages with your target account’s logo on it. The best ABM campaigns leverage social proof to capture the attention of your target accounts and validate purchasing decisions among buying committees.
To generate this social proof at scale, you’ll need to marry your ABM efforts with advocate marketing. (If you want to learn what advocate marketing is, read this primer.) Together, these two strategies deliver a powerful one-two punch that results in higher engagement, shorter sales cycles and more revenue.
“Account-based marketing relies on ‘surrounding’ contacts with content and experiences,” says Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at InsightSquared. “Advocates are key to this strategy because the content they produce and experiences they convey are inherently more trustworthy than what the vendor says about itself.”
In this blog, we’ll outline how advocate marketing can improve your ABM strategy and how you can start using these complementary strategies together ASAP.
In this free eBook, we’ll share how your advocates can give your account-based marketing strategy an extra boost and explain why these two customer-centric marketing strategies work better together.
Advocate marketing: social proof, stronger relationships
While some may see customer advocacy as something that happens at the end of the buying cycle (through references), companies that incorporate their advocates throughout the process can gain even higher returns.
Advocacy comes in many forms. When customers are so thrilled with your company that they’re willing to share their experiences with their peers, they’re advocating for your brand. For example, they could recommend your products to others, provide positive online reviews, or refer new business.
Getting advocates to talk about your company ensures that marketers who are sick of constantly being sold to will see genuine endorsements rather than advertisements. “Social proof can’t come from the company. It must come from customers,” says Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President of Customer Success at Ceridian.
And advocacy works. Here’s how:
- 84% of B2B decision makers start off the buying process with a referral
- Advocates help companies grow 2.5 times faster than competitors
- 38% of B2B marketers say they see higher conversion rates, more qualified leads, and greater sales efficiency when they involved advocates in the buying process
Those are impressive numbers, but imagine how much higher they would be if you could focus your advocacy efforts on just those potential customers who are the best fit for your offering. While defining personas and attempting to customize content is a good start, it can only get you so far. What you need is a laser focus on your most promising potential customers—and account-based marketing can help you get it.
Account-based marketing: best-fit accounts, higher relevancy
Account-based marketing involves identifying specific target accounts or customers, rather than just general personas, and then developing personalized marketing programs around each account. Examples of these target customers include:
- Named accounts that you want to convert (new business)
- Existing accounts that you want to penetrate further
- Industry segments in the same vertical (new or existing accounts)
But let’s face it: targeting your ideal prospects is hard. They may never have visited your website, read a piece of your content, or even heard of your company. That’s why, in order to really see the benefit of ABM, you can’t just blindly choose your target accounts, send them the same content as your other leads, and pray that you’ll magically connect with all of the decision-makers in one company.
Here’s where advocacy comes in. “Advocate marketing complements an account-based strategy in that it helps marketers better understand what types of accounts make for the best customers,” says Joe. “Without this fundamental understanding, an account-based marketing strategy has a much lower chance of success.”
By getting your advocates involved at the beginning of the buying process, you can catch the attention of target accounts that didn’t previously have you on their radar. Advocates can help you establish credibility and trust with those accounts so you can get the sales conversation started earlier in the buyer’s journey.
ABM and advocate marketing: go for the quick wins
So how can organizations use account-based marketing and advocacy to accelerate results? Starting small and finding ways to gain immediate benefits will go a long way in helping you get organizational support for larger efforts later on.
Here are a few simple ways you can get started using ABM and advocate marketing in your own organization.
1. Get warm introductions from advocates
Instead of thinking about advocacy as a bottom-of-the-funnel strategy, mobilize your advocates to help you identify and make initial contact with those companies most likely to buy from you.
You’re probably already familiar with the idea of referrals, but what about ‘proactive’ referrals? Look at the connections of your target accounts and see if there are advocates either within or outside of those accounts who can surround them with social proof.
Once you’ve identified which advocates are connected with which accounts, you can ask your advocates to contact them directly via email, phone or at in-person events to recommend your solution.
2. Make your content even more personal
ABM is all about developing highly targeted messages for your top prospects that make them feel like everything you do is focused on addressing their specific concerns. This requires a lot of content, especially if you sell across many verticals or buyers.
Luckily, advocates can help you generate lots of content quickly. Instead of using random customer testimonials in your communications for the sake of social proof, you can carefully choose quotes and success stories about advocates who are similar to your target accounts and use their narratives to encourage new customers.
“One of the most powerful ways to make prospects remember you is through storytelling, and when it comes from an advocate it’s even more impactful,” says Daniel Gaugler, VP of Marketing at PFL. “Create connections between advocates and prospects, and create channels for your advocates to share these stories at in-person events, webinars or in your collateral.”
By including in your content only people and companies that are relevant to each account or type of account, you add value to the interaction and position yourself as a trusted source. Best of all, you help your prospects see that they can rely on you to come up with the most appropriate solution to their problems and will help them develop new connections within their field.
3. Use advocates to extend your reach
Did you know that it typically takes more than five decision-makers in an organization to make a B2B purchase? With so many cooks in the kitchen, getting them to agree on anything is no easy task.
If your goal is to reach more decision-makers in a target account—either to gain new business or upsell—look for advocates within that company who can help stakeholders uncover shared goals so they can move one step closer to agreeing on a solution. Examples of this include:
- Hosting a virtual coffee time where advocates can share experiences with a small group of key decision-makers at target accounts, and answer their questions in a non-salesy environment
- Publicizing your list of target accounts, and ask advocates to help you get introductions, like Influitive did at Dreamforce
- Providing your advocates with sales enablement tools customized for their company
- Featuring advocates in your advertising to make your messaging more authentic and relevant (you could increase conversions by up to 150 percent or more!)
And how do these strategies work out overall? “One of our customers saw over 260% higher engagement from their ABM and retargeting display ads by featuring case study results and testimonials from peer firms within the target account’s industry,” says Mani Iyer, CEO of Kwanzoo.
Incorporating social proof from members of your prospect’s community encourages them to engage with your marketing more than generic messages from your sales reps and marketing team. Using both account-based marketing and advocacy in your marketing program can help you get further ahead than using only one.
For more advocate marketing tips and tricks, read The Advocate Marketing Playbook for a blueprint on how to build and manage a successful advocate marketing program.
The five-part Playbook is a detailed “how-to” guide based on proven best practices.