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Why Your ABM Strategy Needs More of the “In” in Insight

It's not enough to understand what business problems a customer is facing, suppliers need to help a customer understand their own business and operating environment in new ways

A previous post addressed the relationship between Challenger and account-based marketing (ABM). The two approaches certainly do complement each other, but the point at which Challenger most strengthens the impact of ABM is on providing relevant insight on which to base marketing and sales interactions.

This is because insight must span two dimensions. The psychological dimension covers what is “in” the mind of a customer, and the behavioral dimension covers the “sight” or the observable customer action. In any insight, both dimensions must be present and clearly connected so that providing information based on an understanding of what’s in a customer’s mind causes them to take action.

As we noted in the previous post, ABM conventional wisdom typically focuses on the “sight” part of insight — the account level or contact level information and the visibility it provides into what is going on inside target accounts. While this kind of information is necessary to do ABM well, it doesn’t touch on what is sufficient to truly boost a sales team’s odds of winning high quality deals. And this is where Challenger comes in.

Why the ‘In’ is So Important

Challenger has much more to say about the “in” part of insight. This is because if suppliers are to generate and deliver “commercial insights” that reframe the way customers think about their own business (i.e., they “challenge” them), they have to understand what customers think, believe and assume about their own business. That requires moving beyond what you can visibly observe about a customer and, instead, get into the customer’s mind.

Challenging customers in this way is important because – as extensive CEB analysis shows – customers give their loyalty to suppliers who consistently provide insights that help them move their business forward, open new vistas for the business, or identify unseen ways that the customer is unwittingly experiencing pain or risk.

Suppliers who stop short, and only have a view on the “sight” part of insight, won’t gain very much by way of loyalty. In the end, they are really just observing that which the customer almost certainly already knows.

To illustrate the point, take a look at Engagio’s useful “The Clear & Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing”. On page 48, you’ll find an “ABM Account Insight Checklist”. Every item on that list falls into the “sight” category.

As you read it, ask yourself, “Will this information help me engage the customer on more relevant terms as a supplier?” and the answer is almost certainly “yes.” Then ask, “Will any of that information reframe the way a customer thinks about her own business, which is the key driver of a high quality sale?” and the answer is probably, “Not at all.”

Ultimately, sales and marketing teams need commercial insight to reframe how the customer sees business problems in a way that earns their loyalty. And, that’s where the Challenger approach brings the critical extra firepower that is needed to make ABM successful.

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