- April 21, 2015
- Sales and Marketing Alignment
Insert Here: Integrating the RIGHT Marketing into Strategic Account Plans
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is part of our “Smarter Sales and Marketing” series, a regular feature where technology marketing and sales experts will be sharing insight, tools, and best practices to help today’s leaders better integrate marketing and sales strategies for maximum success.
Strategic Account Planning is one of those tried and true methods to grow your most strategic accounts and broaden your reach and revenue opportunities. It’s not a new idea, but it takes some real effort, a solid strategy, and a lot of collaboration between marketing, sales and the account itself to make it worth the effort and expense. While account planning is typically driven and developed by sales for sales, the best plans have account teams where marketing plays a key role in the development of an engagement strategy that will enable sales to deepen the overall account relationship and open the door to new relationships and opportunities.
Attributes of successful account planning: Broaden account access and challenge your sales teams to go deeper
Having worked over the years with hundreds of sales executives focused on key accounts, I can tell you that there are three attributes that I frequently see in major account owners:
- Has one or two deep, long term relationships within the account
- Takes account ownership very seriously and is protective of access to key players
- Focuses on revenue generating activities, particularly short term (1 year or less) opportunities
On the face of it, these three attributes would seem to spell a successful approach. But there is another way to view them. First, in an account that is large enough to warrant a strategic account plan, one or two key relationships is definitely not enough. Particularly if they both reside in the same division or group. Awareness and interest needs to be generated in other areas of the account to broaden your account reach and to have access to broader opportunities and budget. Secondly, being protective of account access can often leave marketing knocking on the door, left out of key strategic discussions, which doesn’t give them what they need to develop customized thought leadership content, relevant activities, and messaging that speaks directly to account’s goals and objectives. And finally, marketing can prime the pump across all four quarters and into the next year. Building awareness and interest within the account is where Marketing can play a significant role in opening the door to new relationships who may have little or no knowledge of your company’s involvement with the account.
What role should marketing play in account planning?
So what role should Marketing play in the account planning process? Here are some ways NOT to engage with them that I see happen almost all the time.
- Ask them to come up with some campaigns, and then just “insert” them to the account plan.
- Invite them to the account planning session, but only for an hour or two, rather than to the entire planning session.
- Decide on the overall account strategy, and then just tell marketing what it is so they can tailor their programs accordingly.
The best account plans use a divide-and-conquer approach that maximizes the skill sets of everyone on the account team. In many instances, Marketing can both augment and add vital account intelligence.
By bringing marketing in early to planning, they can provide significant value throughout the planning process:
Developing a set of marketing initiatives that are designed and delivered specifically to the account can take real insight into not only what is going on within the account, but also on industry drivers and changes. Marketing can broaden reach within the account via thought leadership content that is centered on current challenges and goals within the account itself. What market or industry trends is the account seeking to address or capitalize on? Who within the organization is most concerned with these areas? Content focused on new trends or industry drivers can help your account team begin conversations to help the account prepare for what is coming down the pike. Being able to provide both current and long-term value is a sure way to demonstrate account commitment to its key players. Since sales has to concentrate on driving revenue quarter by quarter, Marketing can not only help in the near term, but can lay the foundation for conversations much further down the road.
The right account planning approach involves customization and more consistent communication
The right marketing approach for a strategic account is not only about customization, it is also about consistent communications. Marketing can build a stream of engagement activities that cover all the buying stages, aimed at the different personas on the buying team. A marketing plan that focuses solely on the front end of funnel doesn’t give the account team a let up to getting deals closed. Tailored content, events, and tools designed for the end of the funnel can go a long way to deepening engagement, can move internal prospects forward in considering your offerings, and can be a set of additional levers that sales can rely on.
Marketing needs to to be at the account planning table early and often
Strategic account success is about collaboration, an account team that is multi-disciplinary, and includes a set of campaign activities that drive to the account’s goals and objectives from the inside out. It’s too easy to design a plan that is only about what your sales executive’s goals are. The right marketing goes beyond that to integrate the thinking within the account itself – helping to drive the value conversation deep and wide.
An experienced salesperson and marketer, Lisa Dennis is president and founder of Knowledgence Associates, a sales and marketing consultancy. Pairing hands-on marketing and selling of information and high technology products and services, she understands what the customer imperative needs to be for communicating information about products and services to varied audiences. Lisa’s philosophy is that the core of successful marketing and sales initiatives is “doing the homework” – making sure that the information side of programs and campaigns are solid.
Prior to founding Knowledgence in 1997, she held publishing, product management and marketing/sales roles at Bolt Beranek and Newman, Thomson & Thomson (a member company of The Thomson Corporation), The Center for Business Intelligence, and World Congress. You can follow Lisa and Knowledgence on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Account planning image via Shutterstock