Episode #68: Unleash the Power of Social Account-Based Marketing

Grad Conn

February 2, 202114 min read

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How do you get prospects to engage with you— before they engage with you? If you’re relying solely on email or content marketing, you’re probably doing it wrong. But a social account-based marketing (ABM) strategy can help you engage with the all-important buying committee, building connections and trust that pay off in the long run.

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All right, welcome back to the CXM Experience. I have just escaped New York in the nick of time. And I’m back in sunny, gorgeous Florida. Getting my pool to heat back up to 90 degrees, it’s about 85 right now. And a beautiful day in Florida. I think it’s about 72. A little chilly. People in Florida are wearing like, winter parkas. But I’m celebrating in shorts and Birks.

Anyway, so I’m looking forward to talking today. I’ve got a topic really close to my heart, and close to a lot of things that I’ve done, which is how to use modern channels and modern CXM systems to drive B2B pipeline. A lot of our examples are B2C, but the ability to use this stuff for account-based marketing and generate B2B pipeline is quite extraordinary. So, buckle up, here we go.

Let me try to draw a quick analogy just to get us into this. If you think about marketing, I’d say marketing for the most part, in most cases is like using a fork or a spoon, when you’re eating. You’re getting somewhat targeted, you’re somewhat focused. But you’re picking up a lot of stuff as you scoop it into your mouth, ABM, or account-based marketing, it’s like using chopsticks. You’re really getting focused in on the individual items. Very precise, very focused. A little hard to use, takes a bit of practice, and doesn’t necessarily intuitively come to you. And it’s very hard when you’re young. So, I think I’ve probably beaten that analogy to death. But I like it, it’s kind of cool. So, let’s talk a little bit about what this all means.

The generally accepted wisdom in B2B marketing, which I’d say is overall, deeply, deeply broken, is using content marketing to attract people to your site using SEO. You can do SEM. I like SEM a lot, I’ll come back to that in a second. And then you can do demand gen using advertising to get people to click on your stuff. And classically, you bring them to a white paper, or you bring them to some sort of piece of content. And they’ll download. That content is gated, they’ll give you their name. And you then mercilessly pound them with emails until they beg for forgiveness or buy your product.

And that’s been vogue for about 10 to 15 years. Marketo started in 2006, Eloqua in 2002. And so that’s been state of the art for a while. A couple problems with that state of the art. Problem, number one, people figured this out. So, people figured out that if you give someone your name to download a white paper, you’re going to get mercilessly pounded with emails for the rest of your life. Most people don’t like that very much. And so, they’re cautious about doing it. Number two, it’s not a true reflection of the way the buyer’s journey works. I’ll talk about that in a second, and what that means in terms of the way people actually contact sites. And number three, it’s super expensive, and tends to be not very well targeted. And you’ll see a lot of things in download forums where people put in their name as Darth Vader at Alderaan Boulevard, that kind of stuff. And so, you don’t have a lot of particularly useful information.

And I would say that the real buyer’s journey now occurs at a very different stage. I started my career at Procter & Gamble, I’ve probably talked about that once or twice. And at Procter & Gamble, we have this concept of first and second moments of truth. And the first moment of truth was when you would stand in front of the product aisle. So, you’re standing there, you’re gonna buy detergent, let’s say. And this idea of the first moment of truth, to a certain extent, was built to counter a lot of the negativity we would get from agencies. A lot of agency creators would say things like, nobody cares about detergent, no one’s interested in detergent. So, they tend to produce a lot of ads with irrelevant drama in them, because they were trying to be interesting.

And the argument that we would make is that, well, people may not spend a tremendous amount of time talking about detergent in the bar. You know, except for me, maybe, which would explain why I’ve been single for a long time. But actually, what they really do is they only think about detergent when they’re buying it. Right? So maybe it’s not the conversation topic day to day. But for 20 seconds, 30 seconds while they’re standing in the aisle, looking at bottles and boxes of detergent, it’s the only thing they’re thinking about. And you better have occupied a strategic part of that mind so that you can cut through that moment, that first moment of truth.

The second moment of truth is when they take the product home, and they use it. And this explains why companies like P&G and other CPGs spend billions of dollars a year on scent research. Because scent is a really important way that people initially experience a product like detergent. It’s the way they judge the smell of the clothes — do they smell clean? Yeah, it’s hard to tell by look. I mean, they always look clean when they come out in the wash, right? You can’t really tell. Maybe there’s a ring around the collar or things like that. But you know, it’s really tricky. But the smell really gives it away. And that’s the second moment of truth. And the combination of the first and second moments of truth, help people rebuy.

Google introduced a concept in 2010 or so, called zero moment of truth. And the zero moment truth… and they actually pitched it originally to packaged goods firms, although it’s much more broad scale now. A number of verticals in there. And I would encourage you to do a quick search on zero moment of truth and you’ll go to that Google page. It’s very robust. And the concept of the zero moment of truth was that people research in advance of going to the store, so that customer research before they end up in the aisle is the zero moment of truth. And that’s exactly what’s happened. In almost all products, people research, read reviews, try to understand who buys what, sizing, all that kind of stuff. For everything, from toilet paper to knives, to any kind of consumer product. But it’s particularly true in B2B. And in B2B, a lot of that search occurs on the review sites, G2 Crowd, Capterra, sites like that. Or it’s with analysts, Forrester, Gartner, Constellation. They’ll consult with them. Or influencers. And there are a lot of influencers in the space that people follow. Or sites like Chiefmartech.com would people follow that has a lot of influencers connected to it.

And so a lot of the research that goes on in these categories occurs long before people ever come to your site. I always find it kind of funny when people spend a lot of time optimizing their site and spending a ton of money on their site. And they get super excited about the site, because it’s within their locus of control, right? So, the mindset is, that’s the thing that needs to be perfect. But in fact, you should be spending most of your money, most of your time, on analysts, on review sites, and on influencers. That’s where the real cash should go. Because by the time someone comes to your site, they’ve actually, about 60% of the time, already decided to buy your product. Isn’t that an amazing stat? They’ve already decided to buy your product. And so, in fact, what you really want to do is make sure they’re really easy to get ahold of you. So, lots of contact us, live chat, and making sure people can get to you quickly, because they’re actually in buying mode at this point, they really need to talk to a salesperson. They probably don’t want to pound their way through tons of content, downloading things, etc. So that’s my worldview of it and supported by some evidence.

So ABM, so account based marketing is really like how do you get people to engage with you, before they engage with you. I like search engine marketing, I mentioned this before, because with SEM, people are looking for your product, so make sure you appear high. It’s a good way to spend money. The other thing that’s nice about SEM is there’s a limit. There’s only so many searches going on in your category. So, at a certain point you can’t buy anymore. So you can optimize that building block really quickly, and get to everyone who’s looking for your product in your product category. But what about people who are a target for your product, but may not know you exist, may not know that you can solve a problem they have, may not know that they need to think about changing their stack or do some digital transformation. How do you get to them? That’s where account-based marketing comes in.

There are almost 5 billion people online now. 5 billion people, isn’t that amazing? We’re getting to almost everybody. And there’s hundreds of billions of public online conversations going on. So in any typical B2B company, there’s a number of named accounts, and it’s a limited list. It could be 6,000, 10,000, whatever, accounts. And certainly, in the enterprise space, which is where this motion applies, it’s never more than 6,000 to 12,000 accounts. And so, what you’ll do is you’ll say, Hey, you know, we really need to get into XYZ account. Haven’t had a chance to talk to them, they won’t respond to our traditional means of contact. We really think we could help them. They’re not even looking at us right now. We need to form a connection. And so, what social ABM does is it basically targets an account that doesn’t have success with traditional outreach. Focuses on companies that have, in our case, a primary issue like digital transformation. And we’d like to find people who’ve got a highly active social presence.

And so, a bunch of listening queues get built, and they basically listen to the social activity around these target accounts, and help you identify the key players and the social accounts that they have. This key player thing is really critical, because there’s an economic buyer, who will be someone who eventually will have to sign a check. But more importantly, there’s this buying committee. And the buying committee influences the economic buyer. And it can be up to 17 different people on that buying committee. And so getting to all of them is also really important as well.

In our case, with social ABM, you activate multiple teams, because they all have to work together. The inside sales team has to work closely with the customer experience center, and all the people who are working in community management. And the community managers will target and start to profile and then engage with people online who are prospects, and then pass that information back and forth to the inside sales team. The inside sales team partners very closely with the sales team. And they work as a team together to get that prospect to a meeting and a conversation. So what kind of interactions does the CXC have? And this is where I think that the conception of B2B, in a classic demand gen format is deeply wrong. And there’s a better way, because I’ll speak as someone who gets targeted all the time, it’s just damned irritating, quite frankly, and it doesn’t make me feel great about a company. Being pounded with messages and being constantly like, Hey, you didn’t respond to my message, are you okay? One person actually quoted When Harry Met Sally and said, I’m assuming you’re either stuck under something heavy, or you’re waiting to get back to me. I was thinking to myself… neither.

And so what we do is we don’t engage with the prospect on a “buy me,” we engage with the prospect based on what they’re talking about. So, as they tweet things, or post things or talk about things on LinkedIn, we’ll start to have a conversation with them about the things that they talk about. Not about the things we want to talk about. People talk about customer-first, we just finished a big series on digital customer-first transformation, if you really want to be customer-first, you have to talk to the customer in their own terms about the things that they care about. If you really want to engage with me like, I’m very easy to engage with, because I’ve got a wide variety of interests. Spend five minutes understanding me, and then we could probably have an interesting conversation. But if you want to just sell me something, the same old thing I see all the time, you’re very unlikely to get my intention.

And so what will happen is the community managers will start this prospect of engagement, or process, excuse me, of engagement, and go back and forth with the prospect and not actually try to sell anything, right? Not try to sell anything. Until at some point, the prospect will say, Hey, you know, we’re thinking of doing something new, or what do you all do? Or, can we talk about something I need some help with… Let the prospect actually open the door to let you in, as opposed to you trying to smash the door down with your foot, which you’ll find is very difficult to do, because those are steel reinforced doors. And then once that happens, we call that a handshake. So the handshake is akin to what happens at a conference. If you think about conferences, if you can remember back to a time when we saw each other face to face, you go to a conference, and you’d go up to somebody and you wouldn’t just say, Hey, I got something to sell ya. Which is the way we treat people in B2B marketing. Right? No, you wouldn’t do that at all. What you would do is you’d say, Hi, my name is Grad, I’m from here, and you would look for that commonality. What school did they go to? Where do they live? Oh, you know, I’m a big Disney fan. I’m a big Disney fan. You find that, and it’s amazing. If you think about all your engagements, how quickly you can find something in common with someone else. And you create an engagement, an opportunity to be connected. Sometimes you’ll say, hey, you want to grab a drink? Or what do you do? What do you do? And then that can sometimes lead to business. But it doesn’t get there by whipping open your coat and saying, Do you want a watch? It gets there because you seem like someone I might want to do business with.

And you think about B2B, you’re selling one thing. In B2B you’re selling career success. A person, if they buy this product, could succeed beyond their dreams in their career, because a product could help them be more effective. Also, it could get them fired. When they’re making a B2B sale, they need to know that that person is someone that they can trust. They need to know that this is a situation and a company that they can trust. And they will then lean forward. And so this social interaction creates a trust circle, where someone feels like hey, they get me, they understand me, and they know me. And they’ve been interacting with me in a noncommercial way for some extended period of time. That is social ABM.

So, we’ll probably talk about this a bit more because I think it’s probably the most revolutionary thing happening in B2B marketing today. We’ll come back to it. But that’s enough for today. And for the CXM Experience, I am Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr’s and I’ll talk to you next time.

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