It’s probably the most complex and demanding time of the last decade - when we came from pandemic to political unrest to climate change when organizations are constantly hit by unexpected events. Yet, despite all these shifts, businesses want three things - growth, digitalization, and efficiency.
When we are working on the challenges of today and simultaneously transforming to earn the right to exist tomorrow, many have already embraced the opportunity that technology brings to multiply innovations, accelerate growth, and strategically drive the organization forward. And in this environment, we are more and more realizing that we operate in a people-to-people world.
All this effort is directed toward our customers - so we become more relevant, and can bring better value in a better way, to build trust and relationships. Customers, with their purchase decision, are the ones dictating the company's success.
Yet, it’s us that need to change, to be able to achieve all that and through that effort become more resilient. To allow the change to happen we need to embrace the following facts:
·marketing function should not be seen as a support function, a communication engine only.
working in the silo is limiting customer understanding and the opportunity to scale.
building trust and relationships with customers is unlocking growth opportunities.
How do you build and sustain those relationships?
When you put the customer at the center of everything that you do, it becomes truly about understanding the customer and identifying the best way to engage with them, using all the tools and assets available to put your organization right at the front of their minds.
This puts marketing at the center of the organization – to engage effectively with all different customer levels and with different internal functions as well. Account-based strategy is one of the fundamental strategies capable to do that, because this way you can directly see the impact, you are making with customers while building the relationship. To scale the impact, the approach should become central to business strategy, and not be considered anymore a mere marketing initiative. To make it happen, you need people that want to challenge the business, but do it in a professional way that resonates, using data, and insights, to drive those customer-focused conversations.
It’s hard to believe we still need to talk about this: Sales - marketing relationship plays a critical role in making it real. It’s about having a proper conversation, speaking the same language, and understanding the full breadth of what the organization can do and how the team can support each other to drive growth. There should not be a divide, it’s part of our marketing role to re-educate people, coach and build the relationship, to make sure that we are all trying to reach the same objective while working with our customers, engaging with them, and ultimately performing the business together.
And then it comes down to how you work with the specific customer - tools, tactics, and capabilities you use. Addressing customer opportunities and challenges provides a platform for the exchange, for learning and understanding the unique customer environment, and for the power of engagement through conversations.
Scaling up – a challenge that talks about consistency, the approach. The center of excellence that you are building along the way is there to provide the framework and governance to support sharing best practices and different examples identified across the organization, where you are truly engaging with your customers. Not an easy task, but having this framework is important to ensure that fantastic examples are shared across the organization to build a community for sharing experiences, and views, where people can build a consistent approach toward customers on how to engage with them in the best way possible.
How do you shift the focus to impact and stimulate growth?
A lot of the customers are going through their own transformation and because of that they need to trust vendors, there needs to be a level of confidence. Using data helps to unlock those opportunities and then gradually build that confidence - well, some businesses are going faster than others through their digital transformation, some industries are more progressive, and some are more traditional.
Account-based approach, as the company-wide strategy, has allowed us to have different conversations vs. the ones we were used to having before. ultimately it comes to the impact you are having directly on your customers. It’s about the engagements you are having with them and how those relate to the business performance and purpose you want to achieve.
Through these interactions, the marketing role is evolving and transforming through learning about what we need to produce, do differently to influence the industry, and educate customers based on segment insights. During this development process you will also notice four kinds of shifts - all influencing marketing perception, impact, and contribution to business:
a shift from marketing initiatives to business ownership,
personalization at scale,
creation of new opportunities, as you go deeper into account, becoming a problem solver based on insights,
a shift from silo delivery to pipeline contribution.
The complexity of increasingly blended marketing strategies is evident and the challenge to managing this complexity lies in simplification - going as deep as you can with a 1 : 1 approach but wanting to do more with 1: few/many, standardizing what you can, governing, and developing based on insights.
Moving toward delivering tangible valued account-based experience, you need to realize that those interactions are about people. To generate new business opportunities, you need to orient yourself around the transformation of your customers. and when going deep into the account you become more and more able to understand their business.
In B2B the account-based strategy is becoming a necessary drive behind meaningful conversations with customers, a business imperative that impacts everything that you do. Ultimately doing the things that are important to the customer, things that are relevant and meaningful.