Now that we’ve had a chance to build content for the top of funnel, let’s talk about what happens once we’ve engaged with the target audience. Many marketers view this as the passoff point where sales owns the communications with prospects. Marketing needs to be involved to support and accelerate pipeline using content that is relevant to the right person at the right time. Understanding the buying center and engaging in a way that makes them feel understood is imperative. This is where account based marketing shines.
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Continuing the Conversion
The definition of “down funnel” changes by organization. Depending on the sales operation structure, opportunities can be opened at multiple stages of the buying process. Here we’ll define it as prospects that have met the BANT criteria. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline and is oftentimes used as a guideline for opening opportunities.
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Once the opportunity is established, there are various stages that will usually include an in-depth assessment, tailored demonstration, a proposal and contract negotiations. Regardless of which opportunity standards you have in place, at one point or another you will need to help the prospect to build a business case for your product. The business case is a valuable opportunity to shape the conversation moving forward. Software buying typically follows a process that starts with compiling and ranking the criteria that meet the business and technical needs of the organization. This creates a standard to evaluate multiple vendors. Take this opportunity to shape the conversation by providing content on how to build a business case. If this is an acquisition account, help shape the conversation by having a checklist or a technical specifications chart that conveniently showcases unique features of your company that your competitors don’t have. If it’s an expansion account, this is a great opportunity to reuse the work that was developed for the first department and create a business case for the additional business units you’re selling into. This type of content has proven extremely valuable as most buyers are not technically-minded. Guiding them through the process influences the conversation and reinforces your position as a partner, not an order taker.
Introducing the Buying Center
Once you’ve built the business case, and the prospect is exploring multiple vendors, marketing to the buying center becomes imperative. In any large deal there will be decision makers, influencers and key stakeholders. Ensuring that these contacts are properly identified and messaged to in a relevant manner is key to gaining buy in on the deal.
While the buying center changes dramatically by industry, product integration, use, and cost. In general, you’ll find the following roles in an enterprise deal:
Created as the gatekeepers to ensure consistency in the purchasing process, procurement cares most about value. For them it’s important to show why you’re the best choice in both meeting the needs of the organization and cost. If you’re a cost leader, show competitive pricing. If you’re a premium product, show how you differentiate from competitors both in features and operational efficiency. Make this relevant to the company’s needs while ensuring that you’re addressing their unique process. Long term success in an enterprise organization means making procurement happy, especially if you’re seeking a vendor license or master service agreement (MSA).
Operations have a lot on their mind. While they play a key stakeholder role in the buying process, they mainly focus on product onboarding and maintenance, integrations, security and eliminating redundancies between products. They will want to know the level of effort they’ll need to put into the software to ramp, and ongoing maintenance, so they can determine if they have the resources to work on this project and where it fits into their priorities. The best content for operations is documentation. They want highly detailed technical instructions rather than marketing pieces, videos or case studies. Be sure to create a company-specific technical guide that outlines the details of data mapping, security and operations’ role in the maintenance of the software. Be sure to have a sales engineer look over the document to ensure that it addresses the subtle nuances of operations.
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Executive sponsorship is an important part of every deal. Leadership will rarely be the internal champion, but will need to sign off on the product. Similar to procurement, they are concerned with value, but moreso with the benefits that the product will bring. Will this increase productivity? Does this make the users happy? Collateral for the executive team needs to be short and very high level, but detailed enough for them to understand the situation, including competitive positioning. An executive briefing piece is extremely important and should be done on an individual account basis so that it can address the unique concerns of that particular company.
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If the product will be widely used by multiple departments or organizations, it’s imperative to have a user adoption plan. Companies will want to see specific documentation and how-to-guides for onboarding and continued training. Working with your internal champion, identify how training and communications are done within that organization and craft company-specific plans to ensure a successful launch and continued use. Having a personalized user adoption plan demonstrates a commitment to a successful partnership.
Once you’ve identified your buying center, be sure to examine the level of influence each role has when creating personalized assets. Be sure to keep a careful watch on your metrics. Marketing can help to accelerate pipeline and increase win rates. Be sure to test different levels of personalization to optimize for ROI.
Finally, it’s important to remember the human equation. We tend to buy from people we like, so be sure and let prospects know that they’re important to you. In additional to digital assets, look at gifts and direct mail as a way to differentiate your company. Supporting the decision maker is imperative to building trust and making them feel important is key. Ensure that it’s something they care about, like donating to their favorite charity or sending a basket of fruit if they tend to eat healthy. Make it personal to take your organization from being just another vendor to a true partner.
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