What is Account-Based Experience(ABX)? Part 1 – Overcoming Barriers
If you are a B2B marketer, you have undoubtedly heard about Account-based Marketing (ABM). This has been around for a while and is becoming THE way to market for B2B firms. ABM is evolving. The next phase in the evolution is Account-based Experience or ABX. In many ways, it is more than an evolution, it’s a redefinition.
The problem with Account-based Experience (ABX) is that it’s a vague term designed to fix many misperceptions about ABM, that it’s simply a better way to do B2B advertising.
In this two-part blog post, I will do my best to define Account-based Experience (ABX). Then in part 1, I will review the issues that Account-based Experience can address that go beyond what ABM in its current form does. In part 2, I will expand on what Account-based Experience (ABX) is.
Can Account-based Experience Solve the 5Cs of Complex Selling?
If you have been selling B2B for a while, you may have the feeling that it’s getting harder, not easier, to engage buyers. I know I do!
There are many reasons what you may be feeling is reality. This is down to five macro factors that affect the way big organizations behave. I call these the 5Cs of Complex Selling:
- Complexity – Over the last few decades, markets have become increasingly complex. This is driven by many factors: Consolidation, increasing competition, globalization, changing political climates, and most recently, the pandemic. Consequently, the stakes of any decision are much higher. Buyers have more to think about in any decision.
- Consensus – Gone are the days when you could close a golf course deal or get to the C-suite. Organizations are much more consensus-driven and appoint a buyer collective to evaluate solutions and recommend what decision should be made. According to research conducted by CBE, now part of Gartner, the average number of people in a buyer collective is 5.4. No doubt, in larger deals and in more risk-averse, regulated industries, buyer collectives can be much larger.
- Compliance– Every year, it feels like there are new rules or standards to comply with. For example, in healthcare, you need to be concerned about HIPAA, anti-kickback legislation, and a host of security compliance issues. This adds more time and complexity to the buying process.
- Competition – Very few markets are dominated by a handful of mega-players and an occasional duopoly. Most markets are crammed with dozens of competitors fighting for market share. This can make the choice for a buyer collective overwhelming. For example, in recent interviews, we asked several healthcare executives about what solutions they would consider for chronic care management, and each mentioned a different set of solutions.
- Control – Lastly, buyers are more in control of the buying process than ever. They don’t need to engage with a vendor until late in the process. Why? Information is widely online. It is easy for buyers to educate themselves about the factors they need to consider. They can easily compare solutions. For a fee, they can buy analyst reports that help them in their decision-making. The net result is that they don’t engage with vendors until much later in the process. According to Forrester, 67% of buyers have formed an opinion about which vendor they will select before they engage a vendor.
The Buyer Is In Control
So, what are they up to if they aren’t talking to you? This diagram from Demandbase, paints a picture of what a typical buyer journey looks like.
In this illustration, a buyer starts by doing some initial research online. Initially, this is is most likely to explore their problem and how others have solved it. They will reach out to their peers for advice and possibly look across an extended network via social media. This will give them a set of vendors to explore (hopefully including you). Armed with this list and a partially formed impression about what they need to buy, then they will visit you and your competitor’s website.
At this point, they are looking for a great deal of specific information. We hear buyers prefer to self-serve in learning about your solution before engaging with you. They expect you to provide that information online.
After gathering all this information, they meet with their colleagues on the buying committee.
And then, maybe, just maybe, they will fill out an online form and request information.
Figuring out what a buyer’s journey truly looks like is a dark art. The diagram above is depicted as a typical buyer journey, but as we all know, there is no typical buyer journey. Everyone does this differently. Moreover, there are multiple people in a buyer collective, each with their own unique interests and buying behaviors.
But Buyers Do Need Your Help
In the book, the Challenger Customer, Brent Adamson and his colleagues refer to a study on buyer behavior across 3,000 B2B buyers. One of the most interesting findings relates to what they call buyer dysfunction.
In this study they asked B2B buyers to rate how difficult decisions were to make throughout a buying process. As this diagram shows, there are three stages to selecting a vendor: Problem definition, solution definition, and vendor evaluation.
As you can see, B2B buyers report that collectively defining the problem is hard but agreeing on how they will solve it was even tougher to achieve. They also found that this is where there was the greatest tension and dysfunction within the group.
Once they have defined the problem and what type of solution they want to look for, pick a vendor is comparatively easier.
The bad news is that buyers won’t typically engage directly with a vendor until much later in the process. The good news is that they need a great deal of help.
So, if you can get the right type of information in front of them at the right time, when they are researching the problem and how to solve it, you have a better chance of getting into the short list of vendors they will speak with.
If you are really smart, you will figure out how to get a jump to the head of the line.
And this is where Account-based Experience (ABX) comes in.
In Part 2, we will go into:
- Why Account-based Marketing (ABM) has taken hold
- Why ABM is evolving into Account-based Experience
- What Account-based Experience (ABX) is?