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Marketing professionals and agencies use a language the rest of your company might struggle to understand. Expressions like ABM, customer journeys, personas, activation, etcetera. Or even worse non-marketers associate these words with different things than intended. Let’s dive into twelve common marketing expressions and what your B2B organization needs to know about them.
Traditional marketing focuses on promoting a message to a specific market or market segment. Account-based marketing focuses on a customer. Resulting in a marketing approach where you:
- Start from the customer end rather than your offerings.
- Focus on opportunities where customers need to take action now.
- Customize messages account by account for prioritized customer stakeholders.
It is not about what you sell to them that matters the most to these accounts; it is to support your customers in buying from you that is key, where your whole organization plays a role in creating a great buying experience. When you hear this term, expect to see a shift in focus toward becoming an outside-in-driven marketing organization, adding higher value to sales teams.
Customer decision journey
Larger organizations have well-articulated sales processes. Where each step indicates, you are one step closer to making the sale. But the map used in account-based marketing is a customer decision journey. Actions by customers define steps along the journey. The final buying decision results from many small decisions along the road. A powerful customer decision journey has
- a manageable amount of steps characterizing a complex buying process.
- Clarity on what type of decisions customers take in each step.
- Powerful content supporting and influencing customers’ micro-decisions at each step in the journey.
When fully implemented, you will measure pursuit progress towards where customers are on their buying journey. Not where you are in your sales journey. And semantics matter and customer decision journeys differ from generic customer journeys or customer buying journeys.
B2C marketing focuses on personas representing a group of consumers with similar needs. Personas for B2B marketing serve a similar purpose but are defined differently. In B2B or B2B2C, you sell into larger organizations, targeting stakeholders playing different roles along the decision journey. You can find these personas in a few different ways.
- Based on functional responsibility, e.g., VP/Director of Finance, Technology, Sales, Marketing, Operations, or Customer support.
- Based on roles critical to driving change, e.g., Teacher, Go-Getter, or Skeptic.
- Based on groups driving collaborative efforts in cross-company functions, e.g., Strategy definition, Solution procurement, or Solution implementation.
Personas go beyond defining who a person is, and Personas address multiple persons/roles/stakeholders as well as their role in the decision journey. Articulating the personas your marketing should target is a critical task in modern marketing, enabling and a foundation for tailoring messages.
To create effective marketing content, you need market insights as fuel for creative work. Insights addressing broader market developments and business imperatives for specific customer opportunities. Great marketing insights to build content from are:
- Market disruptions of technology, business model, or regulatory nature.
- Business imperatives in your customers’ existing business force them to take action soon.
- Vital questions that your customers are seeking answers to in interactions.
- Strategic choices your customers need to make and the available options.
Previously, you could craft content towards broad sweeping market trends combined with high-level business challenges. Now, your insights need to be one or two levels deeper and aim to understand what will drive customer decisions related to the opportunities you pursue.
In the past, creating dedicated plans per executing function was common. Account-based sales plan. Market or market segment-based marketing plans and channel-based activation plans. Modern marketing call for tighter integration of sales, marketing, and activation plans. Expect to see the following programs as you move to an account-based marketing model
- An account-based marketing plan defining all brand-building initiatives and pursuits marketing must support.
- A menu of content assets you know you can create consistently with short turnaround times.
- A customer buying journey per marketing initiative, tying together personas and required content assets.
Turning individual yearly plans into crisp and holistic execution plans has become a core skill. Great teams execute in short stints with predictable outcomes for each marketing initiative. The link between proven asset types and holistic plans is essential to growing and for predictable results from your endeavors.
Digital and human touch-points
Marketing relies more on indirect, and sales rely more on human touch-points in classic business set-ups. At the same time, modern businesses rely on digital and human interactions. Marketers need to plan to leverage both interaction types at different stages in the customer decision journey. And expect customers to go back and forth between digital and human.
Your best content derivatives work in both digital and human channels. Aspire to design all content to work in both scenarios with small adaptation efforts.
Mass marketing relied on few assets, purposes, and straightforward activations. Account-based marketing requires more sophisticated content architectures. Where the inter-relationships between assets are clear and pave the road towards effortless content management. Great content architectures rely on
- Clear content categories are a base for sorting content in a way that makes it easy to find. Think genres in a book library.
- Internal and external database structures match your content architecture.
- All employees can access content with familiar and widely adopted database tools.
- Market message frameworks that span across your architecture.
See your architecture as a vital part of your marketing structure. Search tools are great but can not be used to create content structures.
Each content asset shall serve a well-defined purpose in the customer decision journey. Marketers with a clear idea of the intended purpose for each deliverable will craft better content assets. Answering a few simple questions can help you forward:
- Which persona/s do we want to influence?
- Which step in the customer buying journey do we want to affect?
- Which content format is best suited for this asset?
- How will this asset be activated?
- Which actions do we think this asset can trigger?
Specific purposes for each asset make your asset tagging easy. 4-6 tags with predefined options take us a long way in securing each asset deliver expected results.
Content creation relies on a mix of internal and agency-created content assets. Internal content creation requires professionals with different skills operating like an internal agency. Highly outsourced marketing operations might focus on content strategies and project management.
Establish explicit operational models for internal and agency-based content creation. The two require different sets of core skills in your organization.
Marketers use the word activation for the work required to get content assets spread and used. The activation process requires as much attention as the content creation itself. A process growing in complexity as available channels and the need for customization grows. An effective multi-channel activation strategy address
- A well-thought-through mix of digital and human channels to customers.
- Leverage the digital channels your customers already use
- Identify an appropriate mix of paid, earned, shared, and owned routes to market that works for your business.
- Amplify corporate activation with employee advocacy to increase trust and reach.
Crafting content is like creating a movie; activating is like marketing a movie and ensuring it hits the proper cinemas at the right time.
Compelling content and activation drive the engagement you create with customers. Feedback loops measure customer engagement continuously, which allows you to refine your focus and priorities based on impact rather than effort.
Each piece of content you create and activate must target to engage your customers and take them one step further in their decision journey.
Marketing without metrics is a wasted effort. The challenge is to select metrics supporting your overall goals, not just metrics that are easy to measure, like social media likes or shares. The metrics definition task changes as you move from lead generation to account-based marketing. Where account-based marketing aims to measure:
- Level of engagement for each asset/activation.
- Efficiency in advancing customers to the next step in the customer decision journey.
- Efficiency in the use of marketing resources.
Measure how you expect to make a difference. Not just metrics that are each to measure or illusions of success.
Questions to ask yourself and your team
- Do we have a clear and straightforward terminology that your whole organization can understand? It is essential to link marketing to adjacent business operations.
- Who are the key internal and external stakeholders you need to align on terminologies? Expect both sales and agencies to have different views on each expression.
- Have we made it simple enough to secure execution? Adopting too complex models and terms works against execution efficiencies.
Additional reading suggestions
- The ultimate dictionary of marketing terms your should know [BLOGPOST] – by Alec Biedrzycki
- Digital marketing lingo: 50 terms to know [BLOGPOST] – by BigWing
- marketing taxonomy
- 14 complex digital marketing terms explained in 4 bullets or less [BLOGPOST] – by Ramona Sukhraj
- The top digital marketing terms you need to know [BLOGPOST] – by Keran Smith, Lyfe Marketing
- 60 Marketing terms beginners need to know [BLOGPOST] – by Patrick Flavin