Using account-based marketing to create and market new solutions

B2B companies committed to selling high value solutions often struggle where the rubber meets the road: the individual customer or prospect. Their websites highlight "solutions" and marketers pump out collateral that talks about their customers' business problem, but they have a much tougher time persuading specific customers that they are truly focused on delivering tailored solutions for their unique situations and challenges. The unfortunate reality is that generic "solutions" often need a fair degree of customization if they are going to deliver substantial business value to different customers even in the same industries. A few months ago, my partner Rob Leavitt suggested that a solutions orientation is one of the keys to success with account-based marketing. Viewed from the other side, I'd like to suggest that ABM provides a powerful way to address four of the most difficult elements of solutions marketing.

Retraining the sales force to be more consultative and problem-oriented is obviously one way to bring solutions thinking down to the individual customer level. An even more effective approach is account-based marketing, which brings together marketing and sales in a focused effort to transform relationships with key accounts.

Four Keys to Solutions Marketing Success…and How ABM Can Help

Research at the industry level can only go so far in understanding what makes individual customers tick. With ABM, you can go deep into individual accounts by interviewing the sales account team and other customer-facing staff, talking with industry analysts and experts that know the account, and digging into customer-related data and coverage. A great way to put it all together is with a Situation Analysis Workbook for each account that integrates all relevant data and insight from primary and secondary sources.

A large networking company, for example, spent several months and significant resources analyzing multiple business and financial scenarios for a top telecommunications service provider, one of their most important accounts. Combined with extensive client and internal interviews, the research provided a powerful new foundation for developing tailored solutions to help their client succeed in a fast-changing industry environment.

Collaborating across business units is one of the toughest challenges with solutions marketing. By focusing on specific opportunities with specific accounts, that collaboration gains a concrete focus with the prospect of substantial near-term benefit for all involved. ABM workshops are an excellent tool to bring together relevant representatives from different business units, technical specialists, marketing, and sales to review your deep dive research and explore new ways to bring together cross-company assets to address critical customer challenges.

Marketers at a large technology company, for example, identified more than 40 internal staff from different parts of the business that might be helpful in developing new solutions for a large health care customer. Their combined thinking and expertise generated several powerful new approaches that led to new solutions sales to the customer. 

Marketing campaigns that address business issues are a good step beyond the typical feature-function messaging that still predominates in B2B; campaigns that zero in on the specific issues of individual customers and prospects are much stronger still. With deep dive research and a good idea of relevant solutions for individual customers in hand, you're able to create highly targeted value propositions and messaging that speak directly to those customers' situations, needs, and operating environment.

A document management company, for example, wanted to change its perception with key decision makers at a large financial services client. With ABM, they created new messaging that positioned them as a full document management solutions provider in precisely the areas of most interest to the client…and thereupon generated several large new opportunities for solutions sales.

Companies moving to solutions often need to reach the C-suite, and sales forces are often ill-equipped to sell at the level. Training and sales support for "executive selling" in general can help; it's even easier and more effective to focus on preparation and support for issue-based conversations with specific executives at specific companies.

A large systems integration firm, for example, was able to create new selling templates, relationship maps, and talk tracks to use at a number of individual accounts where they needed sellers to cut back on time with engineers and procurement and interact more with business leaders and executives. The shift in sales support resulted in greater confidence on the sales side, an uptick in executive conversations, and improved overall relationships and opportunities.

ABM is far from the only key to solutions marketing success. As marketers long involved in the solutions world know well, there are a host of other issues around organization, culture, and metrics. As a host of B2B industry leaders including IBM, Accenture, Xerox, Cognizant, SAP, Capgemini, and others also know, however, there is a great deal of evidence that ABM can greatly accelerate your ability to win with solutions in your most important accounts.

Do you agree? Have you used ABM to create and market new solutions? We'd love to know.

Comments (2)

Veronica Contreras

Very interesting information about how ABM can help to Solution Marketing success. I would like to highlight the importance of working with the right account for ABM. Not every account is a strategic one to apply this methodology. To find the correct account, it is important to perform a detailed assessment with the criteria of 5 to 7 key candidates. These can be either existing accounts or prospects that the company has been unable to get. Then, identify how the offer will improve the buying end customers’ experience. If both companies collaborate properly in a strategic partnership, then both can achieve growth. In the case of Xerox, one of the most important decisions was the selection of the account to apply ABM. Xerox hired an outside company to help develop account profiles. The classified the accounts in two groups according to the amount of public available information. The vice president of marketing, the vice president of sales, the account marketing manager and the industry-marketing manager made the final selection. They followed a thorough selection criterion to choose the accounts for the ABM pilot. ABM can help solution marketing, only if the account selected for the pilot is the correct one to deliver the desired results. The team can get deep understanding of the customer’s business issues and needs since the moment they start the evaluation process to select the account. It is important to have skilled marketers leading the process in order to guarantee to win with solutions in the account selected.

Naaz Tabassum

Account Based Marketing is one of the best ways to market solutions indeed. Due to the teams dedicated to working for the particular account makes the Client believe that the solutions offered to them are actually tailor made for them to solve their issues and help their business. As a good saying goes " Know the business of your customer almost as good as they know it", ABM is able to achieve that by extensive primary and secondary research and validating the findings further which are able to help the client to identify the possible opportunities and threats and thus plan their moves accordingly. The other main challenge that client faces is dealing with the multiple contact points from different departments but ABM is able to take that burden away from the client and are able to work across the different departments to still give all that client had expected. Its a good benefit that ABM is also able to help the company to position themselves according to the expectations of the client so that the client feels that they are at the right place with the right people and the most important factor that is to be able to sell to the C-level executives and if that is achieved half the battle is won, but as profitable it is to sell to them the tougher it is to reach them and make sales but as I read in this blog that ABM is able to guide and train the sales force to be able to make sales to the highest management. Thus ABM is able to install a sense of trust and dependability in the client for the company and so it is one of the good approach to be adopted and it is the most important tool for the solutions offering companies.