Buying group marketing: The next evolution of ABM
Account-based marketing must adopt buying group strategies to secure B2B buy-in.
For years, marketers have engaged audiences with account-based marketing strategies to better align sales and marketing practices and, in turn, provide more relevant, personalized content and messaging. In the B2B space, this process has naturally evolved into buying group marketing, which focuses these tactics toward multiple decision-makers within accounts.
“What it means is looking at identifying and engaging those buying groups and key decision-makers inside your target accounts,” said Nirosha Methananda, VP of marketing at Influ2, in a recent webinar. “It’s about looking at the people who actually want to talk to you.”
“The way to do that is by monitoring their engagement signals and their sentiments, making sure those insights are coming back to sales and marketing,” she added.
Customers don’t care whether the communication comes from marketing or sales, says Methananda, they just want a “holistic experience.” And in the B2B space, treating business prospects as buying groups can help brands work toward that goal.
B2B as a buying group
Many marketers still view B2B marketing as one-to-one interactions, but Methananda pointed to Forrester’s Buying Groups Manifesto, which claims that B2B is also a buying group. And, the data backs this up.
“According to Gartner, the average buying team size is between 14 and 23 people, and that depends on the size of the spend,” she said. “From Forrester’s perspective, 66% of B2B are more than six people.”
She added, “That’s why it’s important to focus on buying groups.”
B2B purchases are almost never made by one person — marketers need to be able to build strategies with groups of stakeholders in mind. And, since these buyers often come from different departments, the need for a holistic purchasing experience becomes even more important.
In response to the 2020 pandemic, Methananda’s team enacted a B2B strategy with these buying groups in mind, driving brand awareness through a “digital everywhere” strategy.
“When COVID-19 hit, it was a shock to everyone,” she said. “From a marketing perspective, we had to go entirely digital to be able to reach our audience. So Influ2 launched a campaign that helped show its capabilities to its audience … our platform allowed us to track engagement for each target, which allowed our SDRs [sales development representatives] to be able to follow up with those contacts who were engaged.”
“This approach allowed us to extend our marketing efforts and connect the top-of-funnel to the bottom-of-funnel and drive measurable results,” she added.
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B2B buying group engagement throughout the sales funnel
Methananda emphasized the necessity of buying group engagement when seeking to connect with and drive leads through sales funnels. Recognizing that the B2B accounts you’re marketing to comprise multiple people can help sales and marketing teams coordinate their efforts.
“[Buying group marketing] starts to make your marketing more tangible when you’re able to pipe those insights between sales and marketing,” she said.
Influ2’s buying group marketing strategy focuses on driving awareness and demand with top-of-funnel audiences with social media ads and relevant landing pages. Each of these is designed to highlight its digital capabilities for buying groups.
The next stage — the middle of the funnel — is the ideal place to engage and educate these buying groups. To foster greater interaction, Methananda’s team used social media to provide relevant content for these accounts.
“This was supported through the LinkedIn messages sent from our SDRs, which were supported by ads and landing pages,” she said. “It started to humanize the SDR by proposing relevant content before they’ve even spoken with the prospect.”
Methananda then highlighted her team’s tactics for converting buyer groups that made up bottom-of-funnel audiences: ”The campaign moved to the bottom of the funnel to support our account executives in the conversations they were having, essentially helping them convince and convert key decision-makers. What this means is engagement across the buying group with content that is personalized to what the needs are of that account.”
She then gave an example of Influ2’s work with Autodesk, a company that performs its own 3D rendering work (shown above). The company used a T-Rex image on their website to give customers an idea of what their product output looked like. To foster engagement, Influ2 made an adjustment to the image and sent it over with a message that related its brand message to the priorities of Autodesk. They also included a landing page that spoke to the potential client’s key pain points.
“This helped in terms of being able to back up the conversations happening at the bottom of the funnel and convert the account,” Methananda said.
Although buying groups are made up of multiple people, B2B strategies targeting them must be laser-focused. These buyers are trying to determine their organization’s specific needs, and marketers need a certain level of maturity to understand their audience and secure buy-in.
“Buyer group marketing is dependent on the maturity of an organization,” Methananda said. “There needs to be some maturity in terms of understanding your audience — it is an approach that will help with precision.”
Account-based marketing: A snapshot
What it is. Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts to focus on high-value accounts.
This customer acquisition strategy focuses on delivering promotions — advertising, direct mail, content syndication, etc. — to targeted accounts. Individuals who may be involved in the purchase decision are targeted in a variety of ways, in order to soften the earth for the sales organization.
Why it’s hot. Account-based marketing addresses changes in B2B buyer behavior. Buyers now do extensive online research before contacting sales, a trend that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of marketing’s tasks in an ABM strategy is to make certain its company’s message is reaching potential customers while they are doing their research.
Why we care. Account engagement, win rate, average deal size, and ROI increase after implementing account-based marketing, according to a recent Forrester/SiriusDecisions survey. While B2B marketers benefit from that win rate, ABM vendors are also reaping the benefits as B2B marketers invest in these technologies and apply them to their channels.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.