Technique 3 minutes, 12 second read Mark Johnson, Editor, Just.Marketing
At some point, we’re all guaranteed to be in the market for every day products and will be considering our options. But what if you’re marketing a product or service to people who never buy what you’re selling?
That’s the case for Nasdaq-listed BlackLine. It offers cloud-based software solutions to accountants to help them close their books. It’s a tough crowd in several senses.
First, they rarely – if ever – buy software. Second, they are usually very busy – especially those in the Finance departments of major players – which are obviously the most attractive customers for BlackLine.
Customizing for the select few
To reach these time-starved accountants, BlackLine Chief Marketing Officer Andres Botero uses Account-Based Marketing (ABM).
“We use ABM to proactively identify companies by geography, size, estimation of accounting needs, and how cloud-friendly they are – these are the companies who by their size and complexity would get the most value from our software,” says Andres.
ABM is about focusing resources. BlackLine uses traditional in-bound marketing for most of the market but reserves ABM – a customized approach – for those juicy prospects the company wants to focus on.
“Full customization is only possible for a few but it’s really worth it – we can do million-dollar deals,” says Andres.
Prizing open the door
So how do you convert prospects who have no interest in software into someone pleased you knocked their door?
Andres and his team start by identifying the companies they want to reach and then build data on their personas. A diet of targeted digital advertising then begins, with geo-fencing used to target particular offices or regions. Once a prospect demonstrates an interest, by downloading a White Paper say, telephone contact is made.
The relationship is also built through direct marketing – an elegant gift that explains the offer is typical.
“The process builds interest, finds a door and then receptivity so that the first meeting is about how we can help,” says Andres.
“The secret is not what you do but how it is integrated. You need digital advertising at the right time and with the right message. The direct marketing must be the right piece to generate empathy and interest. The message changes depending on the time of the month because accountants are busier in the first half closing books than in the second half of the month,” says Andres.
If the door slams shut
At this point, the campaign has used a combination of approaches, from direct marketing to paid social and paid online ads, with automation tools to orchestrate the overall activation. But if Sales meet a prospect and they raise an objection, Marketing steps in.
“We run a Deal Surgery with Sales. If a meeting with a prospect encounters an objection – say a cheaper competitor – we create custom content for that prospect,” says Andres.
A digital ad will highlight the opportunity costs of choosing a cheaper rival or list the top 10 reasons why BlackLine is better than a rival, for example.
“It’s about supporting Sales in advancing deals,” says Andres.
Not for the many but the few
Customization, like Key Account Management, is expensive. So ABM has to be for the big, juicy prospects, in the B2B case of BlackLine. Andres therefore always leaves some budget aside for the big, “full-custom deals”.
But to use it successfully, Andres says, “You have to look at prospects’ personas and understand the customer journey from the start. The difference between selling software to, say, marketing executives who are so used to buying software, and accountants who never buy it, is very different.”
As with much of marketing, the secret, he says, is understanding your customer. But by focusing your resources laser-like on the big ones, ABM can convert even some of the most unlikely prospects.