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The development of account-based marketing to account-based experience and how accurateintent data can drive it through greater levels of engagement.Written by Jon Clarke (pictured) , Founder & CPO, Cyance.

From the very beginning of a customer’s digital journey, data accuracy provides the key to far more insightful, relevant and meaningful account engagement. As a result, brands can build a stronger two-way dialogue with their prospects and existing customers, based on the specific needs, profile and buying criteria of each individual account. These powerful account insights can lead to being able to target the message and content you offer to meet the exact g needs of each account. This can accelerate the discovery process and lead to a higher and quicker customer conversion rate. By taking this principle and continuing to leverage data-driven account level insights deeper into the account lifecycle, marketers have the ability to develop stronger ongoing engagement with clients, to broaden and diversify relationships within the client organization and, ultimately, to expose more opportunities.

This is where Account-based marketing (ABM) can evolve to become Account-based experience (ABX). ABX is where the principles of data-driven engagement extend across every account touchpoint (from onboarding to renewals and account management to customer success),to create a consistent, relevant and high value experience for customers. Is Account-based marketing outdated? Account-based marketing (ABM) is a term that has been around for a while but it only started making headway about five years ago. The main issue with its effectiveness in this current marketplace is right there in the name ‘marketing’ – there is no indication or link to sales.

Yet, sales and marketing have always been and will always be so intrinsically linked, particularly when it comes to their primary drivers. How do we encourage engagement? How do we focus on our most important accounts? How do we define our ideal customer? In the established ABM model, it has been the marketing team gathering the insights to disperse amongst sales teams and to tell sales where to focus their efforts. But it is always the sales teams who have more direct contact and dialogue with both potential and existing customers. As a model it doesn’t make a lot of sense. ABX addresses this issue head on, pushing ABM to the next level, a 2.0 version if you will. It starts by acknowledging that it’s not just marketing that is important in any relationship with the customer. What matters is how the whole organisation interacts with each customer across the full customer lifecycle, taking into account the entire customer journey.

Customer journey, again though, is an outdated marketing term, which generally focuses only on the stage from initial customer interest all the way through to sale,and rarely takes into account the renewal cycles or ongoing opportunities to upsell or cross sell. Though that first deal with a new customer is important, it should only be the start of the journey, the beginning of an ongoing relationship that develops a deeper understanding of the account and delivers a lifetime of value. That means, in order for marketers to be more effective in the longer term, they need to engage and collaborate with sales and customer success teams and, to some extent, customer services as well. These functions need to work seamlessly together to ensure a single pane of glass view on each customer, so there is consistency and continuity in every customer interaction. As many of us know from bitter experience, as a sales rep, there’s nothing worse than walking into a quarterly review to find out that there’s churn risk that was completely unexpected but totally avoidable.

This is where ABX is a real game-changer. Account-based Experience, the next step When it comes to Account-Based Experience, it’s important to understand what it is and what it isn’t. My own definition is as follows: “Account-based experience (ABX) is a methodology that leverages marketing, sales and customer success teams to build customised customer journeys centered around individual accounts. ABX, the next generation of ABM, ensures that all brand interactions through the customer experience are focused on end-users and their needs”. ‘ It’s important to note that ABX is not a replacement for ABM; it’s more of an evolution. I’m not saying that brands should no longer do ABM but I do believe that we’ll see ABM maturing to become ABX over the next few years. Companies need to recognise this, especially those that are just starting out with ABM. They should be thinking about their approach and exploring the benefits of accelerating straight to ABX in order to future-proof their ABM and demonstrate greater ROI from their strategy.

As it has with ABM, intent data has an important role to play in ABX. Though we started looking at intent as ‘here’s a company in the market that’s interested in your products or services today’, which is important, it can also be used to identify those companies that might be interested six months or a year from now. Accurate intent data and engagement can drive the evolution of ABM Data might show that a company isn't ready for a particular solution just yet, or that it’s currently deploying a competitor’s product. Or it may reveal that potential buyers simply aren’t aware of the technology a company sells or the services it offers. What ABX does is to allow businesses to prioritise those ‘ready’ or ‘hot’ accounts, but also keep a close eye on these other accounts which aren’t suitable targets now but could well be at a later date – and to continue to target them with relevant marketing messages.

Once intent signals indicate that they are now at the buying stage e.g they may have just received investment or started searching for relevant technologies. It is at this stage the customer can be handed off to the sales team with the relevant data. It’s also important to make sure that any ABX strategy can be embedded and mapped into their tech stack so that account touchpoints are captured and fully visible within a connected sales and martech ecosystem. An ABX strategy incorporating intent data can help to identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling to existing customers and, in turn, reduce churn. For example, an existing customer could be deploying a product in their head office but intent data shows that they are looking at opening another location – this could be an opportunity to sell the same solution to the new office. Again, it’s about considering the full customer lifecycle approach, working out who within the organisation (whether that’s sales, marketing, customer success or even senior leadership) should be talking to whom on the client side and when. Intent data allows for this constant assessment of risks and opportunities and that really can have a profound impact on how a client relationship deepens over time.

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