Developing a Buyer Journey-driven Marketing Plan

Being buyer journey-driven

In this post, we will explain how to use the buyer journey to create a detailed marketing plan to engage buyers throughout their journey through a variety of tactics and content tailored to the buyers. In the previous post, we mapped out the buyer journey in detail. Now let’s put this to work! OK!

Objectives by Buyer Stage

During the Problem Definition phase, the buyers do their initial research online, tapping into their social network, and trusted peers for insights and information. As a marketer, your role at this stage is to educate them, make them aware, and start to engage them.

As they move into Solution Definition, they will continue to use the web, and their social network, both online and in-person, to research and gain ideas and insights. In addition to educating and engaging the buyers, your role is to start making connections through social media or by capturing information about them as they engage with you.

At some point, they will start Vendor Evaluation, and they will need help in presenting findings and recommendations to the buyer committee. Your role is to sell hard at this point and get them to make contact.

Finally, they will be Deciding. They will be evaluating you (hopefully), and they will want validation that you would be a good choice, and ultimately they will make a decision. Your role is to make the differentiation between you and your competitors clear, and as you move to close the deal, you will need to assure them that they are making the best decision. This means convincing the buyer collective that you will deliver on their goals. For the champion, in particular, you will need to provide them with the confidence that selecting you is going to make them look good.

The Engagement Planning Framework

The Foundation of a Marketing Plan

Below is the Engagement Planning Framework. This is designed to help you map out a tactical plan that tracks across the buyer journey. For illustration, we show a completed Plan.

Engagement marketing plan

As you can see, this 1-page framework allows you to lay out all the key information you will need to create a detailed tactical marketing plan. From left to right, it follows the buyer journey as described above as well as your objectives at each stage.

For reference, you can include your message (or messages) and the target audience. The tactics are split into

  • Paid – Tactics you will need to pay a third party to execute,e .g. a trade show or an ad campaign on LinkedIn
  • Owned – Tactics and assets that you own, such as your website and marketing content
  • Earned – These are marketing and communications tactics that earn you exposure and engagement, such as public relations, analyst relations, etc.

Lastly, we include a section to define the measures you will use at each stage.

Completing this framework can be fun. We suggest a workshop where you invite members of your sales and marketing teams and subject matter experts in digital marketing, PR, event planning, and social media.

You can brainstorm tactics using the personas and buyer journeys to provide direction and guardrails on your ideas.  The sources of trust and intent data topics should provide plenty of inspiration.

Typically, we can address the needs of all personas through a single engagement plan. However, if there are significant differences in the roles and characteristics of some of your personas, you may need to do this exercise multiple times.

As you refine the ideas, look for opportunities to develop test programs. For example, testing the use of intent data with LinkedIn ads that target a defined account list.

Also, look for opportunities to personalize. One of the tactics that we have found useful is the use of PURLs or personalized landing pages. This allows you to target engaged buyers who may be halfway along the buyer journey with content curated for them with a personalized URL.

This whole framework is dependent on content. In a future post, we will review the content planning process.

Turning This Into a Marketing Plan

So now that you have a tactical framework to engage your personas across the buyer journey, you need to turn this into a marketing plan and budget.

We start this by prioritizing what will be done by quarter, as this example shows.

marketing plan priorities

Once you have completed this prioritization, we suggest that you create a simple Gant Chart like this to describe your plan for the upcoming quarter, accompanied by a budget.

quarterly marketing plan

We hope you found this helpful. What our clients like about this process is that it is simple and systematic. It breaks down a complex process into simple tasks that build on each other.

If you need some help with your planning, give me a holler. We can take you through the whole process of developing a buyer journey and creating a detailed plan.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

How To Create A Buyer Journey

In this post, we will help you create a detailed buyer journey that you can use in your sales and marketing planning.

The buyer journey helps you define and understand how the individuals at your target accounts buy solutions like yours. This will frame how you develop your plan to identify in-market accounts, engage individual buyers and convert them into customers. If they are already customers, it will help you frame how to grow your business with them.

In this process, you will start by defining the buyer collective, the individual roles within a target account, who are involved in buying decisions, and develop personas for the key individuals. For each persona, you will map out their issues as they go through a buying process, what information they need, what they will search for online, and what sources of information they trust.

The Buyer Collective

There are many individuals involved in complex sales. According to the Conference Executive Board (now part of Gartner), the average number of people involved in a buying process is 5.4. In some markets where consensus-driven decision-making is even more of a factor, the number may be much bigger.

Here is a typical buyer collective:

buyer journey collective

In simple terms, there are three types of stakeholders:

  • Champions – They may often initiate the buying process, own the problem that the buyer collective is trying to solve, and will take the lead in the process. They are the most important stakeholder.
  • Decision-makers – The second-most important stakeholder is the decision-maker. This person is usually the budget holder and may also be the champion’s boss or at least a senior executive who is responsible for the outcomes of the decision.
  • Influencers – There are many of these, and they are typically involved throughout the process. They provide opinions and requirements and can sway which way the champion leads the process.

You will need to define the buyer collective for each of your ICPs. This could mean you have 2-3 buyer collectives, each with champions, decision-makers, and influencers. 

Once you have defined the buyer collective, the next step is to create personas for members of the multiple buyer collectives.

One issue that often comes up is how many personas to create. If you have two ICPs and each has five members of their respective buyer collective, you could create ten personas. In our view, this is unmanageable. We believe you should limit yourself to four personas, at least at first. This would include all the champions and possibly one or two key influencers.

The Buyer Journey Process

There has been some debate of the value of personas. Frankly, it’s a good question. In our view, there is little point in creating beautifully designed, highly researched personas that sit on the shelf. If they are not actively used in your sales and marketing activities, why bother?

We go through the hard work of creating personas because they are a useful way to define the buyer journey compellingly. To us, the buyer journey is the single most important activity in the process of defining your ABM/ABX strategy. It is the foundation for building an effective engagement plan.

There are 5 steps in the process of defining a buyer’s journey.

Step 1 – Creating The Buyer Persona: This is where you will create a persona that represents your buyer collective stakeholder.

Step 2 – Defining Their Issues and Questions: In this step, you will brainstorm a list of questions and issues they have as they go through their buying process.

Step 3 – Determining What Information They Need: Here, you will list the types of information and content they found useful at each step of the journey.

Step 4 – Identifying What They Search For: As the buyer will be actively searching for information throughout the buying process, here you will develop an initial list of search terms and intent topics that you believe the buyer will use.

Step 5 – Defining Their Trusted Sources of Information: Lastly, you will create a list of content and information sources that the buyer will go for ideas, insight, and inspiration.

We believe that this process should be collaborative and can be best executed as a workshop that includes subject matter experts from your organization who have real experience and insight about the buyers. It should include sales, marketing, and customer representatives.

If you can afford the time and investment, these should be informed by customer insight interviews.

Step 1 – Creating The Buyer Persona

Your aim here is to create as real and credible a persona as possible. You are trying to create an artifact that will be used to train people to understand the buyer. It can also be used to gain alignment when discussing issues related to target audiences.

Here is an example of a persona:

buyer journey persona

As you can see, this includes:

  • Name
  • Title
  • Where she works
  • What are her responsibilities are
  • What is her role in the buying process
  • How she describes herself and other characteristics

The latter point is based on customer insight gleaned from the collective expertise of the team and possibly customer research.

We also find that it helps to find a real buyer on LinkedIn and use their information to populate the framework.

Step 2 – Defining Their Issues and Questions

Now we get into the most important step in this process, defining what’s important to them and what they need to get answers to as they go through their buying process. 

We break this into four stages that the buyer collective goes through:

  • Problem Definition – Where the buyer collective is trying to frame the problem they are trying to solve as specifically as possible.
  • Solution Definition – Once they have agreed on what problem they are solving, the buyer collective will then evaluate different types of solutions. They need a lot of help here.
  • Vendor Evaluation – This will be where they compare and contrast different options that address the solution they seek to implement.
  • Decision-making – Lastly, the buyer collective must align and decide which vendor to appoint.

Note: Traditionally, the steps used in this process are Awareness>Consideration>Interest>Decision. We prefer to use our proposed approach as this focuses the attention on how the persona buys rather than how you want to move them through your funnel. 

In this step, you will brainstorm the questions and issues you think the persona is trying to get answers to. Again base this on the best facts you have but try to be disciplined about what the buyer is looking for answers to rather than what you hope they are looking for.

Here is an example of the output of this exercise for the persona defined in Step 1.

buyer journey questions

Step 3 – Determining What Information They Need

The next step is to brainstorm the different types of information they need. This will be especially helpful when you get to the next phase and start engagement planning. 

If you put yourself in the shoes of the champion, think about the type of information that will be helpful to them as they work with the rest of the buyer collective. Think beyond the content that you can create. While they might find that useful, they will be looking for information outside of your domain. This could include:

  • Market Research
  • Analysts Reports
  • Articles by key opinion leaders
  • Conference presentations
  • The opinions of people in their network
  • Buying guides
  • RFP frameworks
  • Customer reviews
  • Implementation guides

Step 4 – Identifying What They Search For

Don’t forget that for most of the buyer journey, the champion and influencers will not be on your website or speaking with your salespeople. They will search and browse the Internet for information that will help them long before they engage with you. 

Two key questions to answer in creating the buyer journey:

  • What search terms and key phrases will they use as they research?
  • What intent topics are available and relevant to the buyer journey you are working on? 

We won’t spend a lot of time on the first question. We covered this is a prior post. The key thing is when you are creating your search strategy, you build it around the personas.

On the second topic, we expanded on Intent Data in a previous post. The vendors of third-party data can provide you with the topics they cover. As you can see in this example, we have captured what we believe to be the most relevant topics for the Population Health persona if they are researching patient engagement solutions. We have also included information they will need throughout the process:

info and topics

Step 5 – Defining Their Trusted Sources of Information

The last step will also be very helpful as you plan how to engage the buyers. This is to define what sources they trust as they search for information to help them in their quest to find the best solution.

As you can see in this example for the Population Health persona, this includes people (peers, analysts, opinion leaders), trade shows, conferences, and various types of publications:

buyer journey trusted sources

Once you have conducted the workshop to create the persona, you should document this as a shareable asset. Use it as a training tool for sales, marketing, and customer success. 

We suggest that you re-evaluate these at least annually. What have you learned? What new insights have been gathered? What new additions to the team have perspectives? All of this can help you refine these personas as part of your planning process.

In a future post, we will explain how to use these buyer journeys to create an engagement and content plan.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

The Four A’s to Weather the Coming Downturn

Yup, it’s here again. The R word.

There are a million blog posts with advice on how to best prepare for the coming Recession. Many of them will tell you a recession is the best time to invest in marketing. This is true, but it’s also the worst best piece of advice anyone can give you. Why?

If you invest more than your competition in a recession, you will likely gain market share. The problem is that your CFO has other plans. Marketing is the first thing to get cut because it’s less painful than most other budget items to cut, and it shows up on the bottom line immediately. Unless you can prove with 100% certainty that every dollar spent on marketing will deliver a positive return, your marketing budget is highly vulnerable.

To any CEO who bucks this trend, I salute you! Most won’t.

So if you are the poor schmuck who has to deliver top-line growth on a smaller budget, what the H-E-Double-Two-Toothpicks do you do?

Here are four things you can do. And conveniently, they all have an A in them.

  1. Focus on Current Accounts

The most obvious advice is that there is nothing more important than keeping the accounts you have. If you do this well, you may even grow your business organically.

Marketing can play a critical role in this. How? By being the experts in turning insight about your customers into action.

The foundation of this is a robust way of measuring customer commitment. Netpromoter Score (NPS) is the most commonly used way to do that, but in my view, it doesn’t go deep enough.

One thing you can start immediately is a program to understand how your customers are preparing for the Recession. Call this a Future Needs Assessment and position it to your customers as a way that you ensure you are well-prepared to serve them best during the downturn. The program will be one-on-one interviews with key executives at each of your most important customers. In these interviews, you will probe them on how they see their priorities changing, what they see as their biggest challenges, what they will need the most help with, and, of course, how, they view you as a resource to help them.

Use the findings from this to develop a plan for how customer success, account management, and marketing will work together to keep and grow current accounts.

Note: Hiring an independent consultant may be the best way to get the most objective view on this. We do this at healthlaunchpad, please email me if you would like to know more.

2. Get Agile

Being nimble and flexible is critical in a recession. If you react faster than your competition, you will beat them more often. If you don’t react fast enough to what’s happening at your customers, you are at a high risk of losing them.

Start with a clean slate. How you do things today may be great for a time when demand is high, but it may be the biggest obstacle you have to be successful in a recession. Ask yourself if your current processes are impediments to agility.

Borrow from the world of software and develop an agile marketing process. Agile marketing has grown in popularity, and it could save your bacon in a recession.

One of the smartest practitioners of agile marketing is Kaycee Kalpin, who leads marketing for Premier Inc. You can hear Kaycee talk about how they do it in this podcast I recorded with Kaycee earlier this year (hint, skip to the 30-minute mark).

Re-think how you work with outside partners. If your marketing budget has been cut, the first thought may be to chop your agency budget. Before you do that (and you may inevitably have no choice but to do that), give your agency partners a chance to propose a different way of working. For example, rather than having a year-long retainer, how about 90-day engagements with a shared focus on quarterly goals and outcomes? I wrote about this in an article for HITMC last year in a post called “Why you Should Fire your Agency Every 90-days”. This did not win me a lot of friends, but it’s how we run healthlaunchpad and I firmly believe it’s a better model for clients.

3. Double-down on Account-based Marketing (ABM)

A recession may seem like the worst time to try something that may still be new or unproven in your organization but hear me out on this. A recession is the most important time to get ABM working. Why? At its essence, ABM is about a strategic focus on best-fit customers. It is less wasteful than traditional B2B marketing.

Many marketers feel that while the promise of ABM is great, it’s too expensive. Personally, I don’t believe that it has to be. We do ABM programs for clients that don’t involve high-priced ABM platforms, and they work well. For example, we recently helped a firm generate more than $1 million in pipeline by switching on intent data and training their SDRs on how to use this to identify in-market prospects.

The reason I am such a big believer in ABM is that it is about being hyper-targeted in how you acquire new accounts. It forces you to focus precisely on which accounts have a higher likelihood of becoming customers. You waste less on “spray and pray marketing” to generate upper funnel leads. You focus your marketing spend on accounts that are signaling intent to buy and partner with sales in moving them through the pipeline.

One of the best things about ABM in my view that it forces greater collaboration between sales, marketing, and customer success in working more effectively together towards a common purpose.

4. Go on the Attack

Retreating into your shell may be a natural reaction to a recession but don’t do it. Go on the attack.

Create a War Room. Especially if you operate virtually, having a dedicated space (even if it’s virtual) where you and your colleagues can collaborate on new ideas could be a great way to mobilize everyone toward weathering the storm. For example, brainstorm about your competitors’ weaknesses and how you can exploit them.

Many of your competitors, especially the big ones, may be roiling and struggling. If you are agile and focused on best-fit customers, and confident that your current customers will stay with you, you will be in a great position to be more aggressive in winning new accounts.

Every deal is precious, and leads may be harder to generate. When you get a good lead, get sales, marketing, and customer success hyper-focused on working together on what it will take to convert it.

Use the insights from your current customers about what’s most important to them to weather the recession and create new content that addresses this specifically.

Market the crap out of that content! Get creative and aggressive about how you get that content in front of prospects and current customers. This post reviews 11 ways to market your content.

Are we in a recession now, or will we be in it in 2023? Will it be deep? How long will it last? No one knows but in the words of Ben Franklin:

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

What is ABX? Part 2 Why ABX is the Answer

This is part 2 in answering the question, what is ABX? In part 1, we explained the problems that ABX addresses. In part 2, we go into what ABX is, but first, why is ABM so effective?

Why ABM Is Taking Hold

There are many definitions of Account-based Marketing. In our view, ABM is about three things:

  1. Identifying accounts who are in-market for your solution
  2. Focusing attention on the accounts that are the best fit for your business
  3. Targeting the buyer collective at these accounts in a personalized way

Identifying who is in-market is made possible through the use of intent data. We will dive into this more deeply later in the book. Intent data is like magic that provides signals about accounts who are researching information related to your solution. There are many types of intent data, but third-party sources like Bombora have gained much attention.

Based on these signals, you can narrow down which accounts within your target account list should get the most attention.

You then run sales and marketing campaigns that can be tailored to these accounts more precisely than a mass campaign to your entire target account list.

For example, the entire hospital market may be fair game for your solution if you are selling a virtual hospital solution. However, using intent data may ascertain that only 5% of hospitals are actively researching this topic.

So, rather than market to the entire market with a more generalized message, you can develop a much more precisely targeted and aggressively focused campaign for the 5% who are in-market.

And it truly works.

Why ABX Is The Future

If you have been using ABM as a better way to generate demand, now is the time to think bigger. Not only how can you use the principles of ABM to acquire customers, but how can ABM underpin a better end-to-end growth model? 

This is ABX.

So what the heck is ABX?

Demandbase defines it as:

“Account-based experience (ABX) is a go-to-market strategy that uses data and insights to orchestrate relevant, trusted marketing and sales actions throughout the B2B customer journey.”

The first part of this sentence describes ABM. The key is the end of the sentence: “throughout the B2B customer journey.”

In our view, ABX is also about using ABM techniques to acquire customers but goes beyond that. ABX includes how you grow that customer once you have acquired them and how you turn them into evangelists for your business. It also includes identifying at-risk customers and getting them back on track.

In the previous chapter, we referred to a couple of buyer journeys developed by Demandbase and the Conference Executive Board (CEB), now part of Gartner. They are both helpful ways of thinking about the process an individual and a buyer committee or buyer collective go through to buy a solution.

The problem with both of these buyer journeys is that they are incomplete. 

As sales and marketing people, we tend to think about the customer journey ending when the deal is signed. To us, this is the finish line. To our customers, this is the starting line. When a buyer goes through this process, they are not thinking about the job being done when they select you as their partner, they look at this as the start of a long-term relationship.

If this were a marriage, it’s as if we think about developing a relationship until the wedding. After that it’s someone else’s problem. Our customers think about the wedding day as the start of a marriage. 

The Total Buyer JourneyWhat is ABX the buyer journey

We would like to propose a more complete way of looking at the buyer journey, the way a buyer thinks about their relationship with you.

You can see that the blue line starts with the typical buyer journey phases, where the buyer goes through a process to define what the problem is and how to solve it. They then evaluate vendors and make a decision.

Then they go through an onboarding process to learn how to use your solution, integrate it with other systems, train their teams and grow adoption. They are then using the solution day-to-day (hopefully), and as your solution becomes embedded in their organization, they expand use. This includes adding more users, adding features, upgrading etc.

Lastly, as they use your solution and work with your firm, they develop opinions about you and share those with others. This influence can be negative or positive (and neutral too).

What’s Different?

what is abx rolesOrganizations tend to think and act in silos. Marketing is primarily responsible for the early part of the buyer journey, sales is responsible for the middle, and customer success is responsible for the relationship after the deal is closed. Marketing brings people to the door, sales gets them to come into the house, and customer success is responsible once they are inside.

Account-based marketing (ABM) supports the marketing and sales phases of the buyer journey. And over the last decade, it has proven to be a very effective strategy in this regard. Account-based Experience (ABX) spans the entire customer journey, and in addition to helping win new accounts, it can help you grow your existing business. We will go into how shortly.

This changes the focus from new customer acquisition to lifetime customer value. It changes the way sales, marketing, and customer success operate. It puts as much value on customer satisfaction as the sales pipeline. And it puts as much attention on turning customers into positive advocates as it does on generating demand at the front of the process. It also emphasizes the role of marketing in helping to upsell. what is abx v abn

Lastly, ABX is about thinking about finding and growing highly profitable relationships with the right customers.

As a marketer, what does not change is focusing on getting the right message in front of the right customer at the right time.

What’s Next

In part 1, we described Why ABM had taken hold; in part 2, we described what ABX is. In future posts, we will go into How to implement it and a framework we have developed for this.

Healthtech Marketing Podcast – The Power of Ethnography, Dean Browell, Ph.D.

“Living among gorillas” is an expression you will hardly come across when it comes to healthcare marketing. But you will in this podcast. Talking to Adams Turinas, the CEO & Founder of healthlaunchpad, Dean Browell, Ph.D. , an ethnographer and Chief Behavioral Officer of Feedback, reveals how their innovative ethnographic firm relies on customers’ insights.

In this episode brought to you in partnership with HIMSS, you will learn what ethnography is and how it can be applied in selling to healthcare. As an example, Dr. Dean sheds light on nurse burnout and looks at the issue from a very different and interesting perspective.

Healthtech Marketing – Understanding of Buyers

From the video podcast, you will also learn how to use online listening to gain a better understanding of what your buyers are looking for.

Dean reveals how through observation within various online channels such as Facebook and Instagram, their firm, Feedback, can tap on users’ behaviors and interactions within the online space.

 Healthtech Marketing  Podcast – The Role of Ethnography By Dean Browell, Ph.D.

 Dr. Dean On How They Apply Ethnography 

In the podcast, Browell illustrates how their firm, Feedback used ethnography to internally assess clinician burnout, especially during COVID.

This was possible by assessing what the nurses shared about where they work, how they work, and their general feelings.

Further, Browell discusses how ethnography also comes in handy, especially for new healthcare recruits who are doing their research before they finally join an organization.

Dr. Dean also talks about how their firm, Feedback, approaches the external side of healthcare through their ethnographic technique.

For instance, they can have a better understanding of the journey of a newly diagnosed cancer patient within a particular region. This is made possible by the nature of the information they share online and their general interactions.

Dr. Dean BrowellEthnography & Healthcare Marketing.

Further in the podcast, Dr. Dean discusses how ethnography has enabled them to:

  • Partner with firms for qualitative and quantitative marketing research
  • Identify different personas through their online interactions, and their buying journey
  • Assist organizations in identifying those they ought to sell to and the collective behavior of the buyer
  • Identify regional communities and people with common interests for a deeper understanding of their behaviors
  • “Leave among gorillas” by capturing critical human behaviors through peer-to-peer online interactions

Brownell’s  Advice

As an ethnographer, one key lesson that Dr. Dean has learned and shared in this podcast is that people with similar interests will always stick around.

For instance, patients in a cancer forum will always stick around to help those who have been just been diagnosed.

Podcast Subscription

You can subscribe to the podcast on AppleSpotify, or other channels. We are always looking for great guests, ideas, and things that you think the community would value. So, feel free to email me at Adams@healthlaunchpad.com.

Other Relevant Links

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

abx buyer journey

Source: Demandbase

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:

  1. Why Account-based Marketing (ABM) has taken hold
  2. Why ABM is evolving into Account-based Experience
  3. What Account-based Experience (ABX) is?

Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

How to Create an ABM Playbook For Healthcare

In this post, I will describe how we create an ABM Playbook. This is our method for defining your account-based marketing plan. This is typically done over 4-6 weeks through multiple collaborative workshops with our clients. 

These workshops are where we learn about your business and share ideas, insights, and experiences from other projects. We translate this collaboration into the ABM Playbook.

Goal-setting

smart goals

The first step in the ABM Playbook is defining clear goals. We start by understanding the issues you face in your business, your aspirations, and the external and internal barriers to achieving them. Then we help you to define high-level goals for the current and next year. In addition, we will define a clear 90-day ABM goal. We typically use the SMART goal framework for this.

This blog post includes a video that will help you understand this better and provides an example of a SMART goal.

ICPs and Best-Fit Customers

The next step is the targeting process, where we define your Ideal Customer Profile. We have written specifically about ICPs here, here, and here. This is fundamental to a sound ABM Playbook. 

If we start with a clean slate, the process begins by understanding which market segments you are addressing. We help you prioritize which segments to focus on and how to define the characteristics of each segment in a way that is relevant to your business. We can also help you size the opportunity represented by each segment.

Lastly, we work with you to define what a Best-fit Customer looks like for your business. This art and science. The art part is to define the qualities that help you recognize a best-fit customer. The science part is how to score these so that you can target marketing at these more precisely.

Personas and Buyer Journeys

There is a great deal of debate about the value of Personas. I believe they are a critical part of your ABM Playbook if you create them using an ABM mindset. There are several steps to creating a good ABM Persona.

abm playbook personas

First is defining the buyer collective of your best-fit customer. These are the champions and influencers who are involved in the process of buying your solution. The trick is to prioritize these in order of importance. We recommend trying to limit yourself to four personas. Too many personas can make it very confusing when creating your content and engagement strategies (below).

Next, for each of the four personas, we find a real person on LinkedIn who represents a persona. This makes them much more real. Based on their profile, we outline their role, responsibilities, and background information. We include their role in the buying process.

Now for their Buyer Journey. Many firms use Awareness/Consideration/Decision as the steps in the buyer journey. In our ABM Playbook process, we frame the buyer’s journey in terms of the steps a B2B buyer goes through, specifically:

  • Problem Definition
  • Solution Definition
  • Vendor Evaluation
  • Decision-making 

We feel that this is better for a B2B or ABM strategy than the more generic A/C/D approach.

buyer journey questionWe start by brainstorming the questions they have throughout the buying process. Here are generic questions are each stage. We create much more specific questions for each persona.

Next, for each step in the buyer journey, we brainstorm types of information they might look for (e.g., information on trends, case studies, RFP templates, buyer guides). We give some thought to keywords and key phrases they search for, and we look at available intent topics via Bombora and Zoominfo. We also determine their trusted sources of information at each stage.

The net result is a persona and buyer journey more effectively designed for ABM.

Content Strategy

Once we have a clearly defined buyer journey, we create the content strategy. Content is as important in ABM as it is in inbound marketing. We spend so much effort on the personas’ questions at each stage of the buyer journey because we turn these into content topics.content strategy for abm playbook

We take the view that the role of content is to answer questions. This is based on the awesome book, They Ask. You Answer by Marcus Sheridan.

We ask our clients to prioritize which questions we feel are the most important. We then develop a content plan for 90-180 days that address those questions. Here is an example:

If you have more than four personas, your list of content topics may be unwieldy and hard to prioritize.

Engagement Strategy (Our ABM Playbook Secret Sauce)

Now we get into the Engagement part of the ABM Playbook. The Content Strategy is step 1 in this process. The next step is to define the tactical mix.

abm playbook engagement frameworkWe have developed a proprietary Engagement Framework. This maps tactics along the buyer journey. As you can see in this diagram, this framework allows you to map tactics to each stage of the buyer’s journey by trusted sources, categorized into Paid, Owned, and Earned tactics.

This provides a clear and holistic view of what tactics you will need to engage and convert a customer. It also allows you to prioritize tactics. We convert this framework into a project roadmap based on the priority of tactics.

In developing this framework, we try to take into account the differences between personas. Again having too many processes makes this much harder to do well.

PR Strategy

As we mentioned in the prior section, Earned tactics are an important consideration. We hold a separate session with our PR specialist to discuss how PR and Influencer marketing wil be used. This includes:

  • Stories
  • Types of PR
  • Which outlets and writers to pursue
  • Pay-to-play options
  • Key influencers

Sales Process

A critical issue for us to understand is our client’s sales process. This is important in developing an appropriate measurement strategy. It is also important in helping us understand what needs to happen for ABM to operationalized in your organization.

It is well-known that the single biggest reason ABM fails is a lack of alignment between sales and marketing.  One of our biggest priorities in the ABM Playbook process is to foster that alignment and sense of shared ownership in the outcome.

Measurement

ABM Playbook MeasurementABM requires a different and more strategic way of marketing of measuring the impact of marketing. 

The pyramid diagram is the ABM measurement framework from Demandbase that focuses on measuring performance in 3 different levels:

  • Level #1 is Revenue performance measurement. This includes deal close rates, deal size, and pipeline velocity.
  • Level #2 is Marketing Performance measurement. Measures include target account engagement, the % of pipeline accounted for by ABM, and cost per opportunity.
  • Level #3 are all the different Marketing Campaigns and Web performance measurements such as traffic, time on site, etc.

This interview with Ben Person from Nuvolo will give you a flavor of what’s different in how they measure the impact of ABM. The key is developing a set of KPIs that suit your business. It will take a while for you to perfect this.

The ABM Playbook (Roadmap and Plan)

Lastly, we take all the outputs from the steps above and create a consolidated document. This is very detailed and can run to 50-60 pages that dive into your goals, your market, your buyers, and their behaviors and recommend a detailed plan about how to use ABM to engage and convert them.

This includes a 1-2 year ABM roadmap, providing a vision of how you will transition into a full-fledged ABM marketer. It also includes a detailed project plan and set of priorities to get started within the next 90-days.

The ABM playbook should be a living, breathing document. You should return to it every 90-days to reflect on what is and is not working. We recommend a complete update of the ABM Playbook annually.

We hope this provides a clear understanding of how to develop an ABM Playbook. Please let us know how we can help. Would you like to schedule a call to discuss your ABM strategy?

Healthtech Marketing Podcast – Making a Successful Pivot – Guy Friedman, CEO of SteadyMD.

In this video podcast, Guy Friedman, Co-Founder & CEO of Steady MD,  talks about how they made a successful pivot by creating a network of physicians who are licensed in every state and provide care via telehealth

Speaking to Adam(CEO & Founder of healthlauchpad, Guy shares valuable insights about their company’s inbound marketing. Friedman explains their approach to selling, building a strong brand, and marketing their services.

The podcast is brought to you in partnership with HIMSS

Podcast Highlights With Timestamps

1:26 – Guy Friedman & Steady MD –  Introduction

4: 55 -Guy Friedman Talks About Competition & Dynamics

9:04 – SteadyMD – Target Customers

10:25 – How SteadyMD Sells To Its Market

13:06 – Guy Friedman On How They Get Their Story Out?

16:32 – Brand Building – Customers & Prospects Vs Physicians

21:25 – Strategy for Clinician & Patients’ Long-term Relationships

23:39 –  SteadmanMD – Building Brand From Inside Out

25:16 – Guy Friedman – One Piece of Advice

Podcast  Video – Successful Pivot – Guy Friedman, CEO, SteadyMD

Podcast Briefs With Time Stamps – Guy Friedman

1:26 Introduction – Guy Friedman & SteadyMD 

The podcast begins with Adam, CEO & Founder of healthlauchpad making an introductory statement, thanking HIMSS for its partnership.

He then welcomes Guy Friedman (Co-founder & CEO of SteadyMD) to introduce himself and their company

1:26 Guy Friedman & SteadyMD –  Introduction

As the podcast begins, Guy introduces himself and the company by explaining that:

  • Their company, SteadyMD is a 6-year-old startup
  • They started as a virtual primary care company focusing on high-end consumers
  • They charge a monthly subscription fee to patients that get unlimited access to dedicated clinicians
  • By 2020, they had built a robust infrastructure to power digital health companies with their on-demand clinician network
  • They have a network of doctors, nurses, and therapists that are all licensed and able to attend to patients in all 50 States.
  • Through their network, companies can now easily scale without having to spend in building a new clinician workforce

4: 55Guy Friedman Talks About Competition & Dynamics

In the video podcast, Guy goes ahead to explain how:

  • They do not face much competition because setting up a network like theirs takes time and has no shortcut
  • COVID created an opportunity for some players who needed urgent solutions to embrace their network

9:04SteadyMD – Target Customers

Having started with B2C and embracing the B2B model:

  • Their customers are digital healthcare companies
  • They also serve direct consumers and end-users like hospitals, payers, and pharmaceutical players
  • Their platform makes it easier for their customers to easily scale up because they can cost-effectively link patients with clinicians.

10:25How SteadyMD Sells To Its Market

Further in the podcast, Guy Friedman reveals that their marketing strategy is based on the value proposition and that:

  • They share with customers how expensive it will be if they decide to build their own network.
  • Customers in their network see financial sense without a drop in quality or clinical effectiveness.

13:06Guy Friedman On How They Get Their Story Out?

Guy takes note that their current lack of a formidable competitor within their space will not last for long because the market continues to grow.

And so, in telling their story, SteadyMD:

  • Continuously brand themselves by focusing on the quality of their services
  • Ensure they gain trust from patients and partners
  • Prioritize the creation of a better clinician experience than typical telehealth, or digital health company

16:32 Brand Building – Customers & Prospects Vs. Physicians

Also in the podcast, Guy talks about the following as their brand strategy:

  • Targeting both customers and prospects through various marketing channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Social Media, conferences, and outbound sales
  • Continuously talking about value proposition to clinicians

He goes ahead to reveal some of the core reasons that drive clinicians to embrace telehealth

21:25Strategy for Clinician & Patients’ Long-term Relationships

As a strategy to acquire long-term partnerships with its customers, Guy explains that:

  • In their B2B business, they still focus on their original virtual primary care which is consumer focused
  • For a greater clinician experience, they allow clients to work with their day-to-day patients as well as their long-term patients

23:39 –  SteadyMD – Building Brand From Inside Out

SteadyMD’s success is because they:

  • Build their brand from the inside out
  • Have clear value prepositions, including clear value to the clinicians
  • Sell a better patient experience

25:16Guy Friedman – One Piece of Advice

The podcast ends with Guy sharing one of the main lessons he has learned.

He advises that to drive a successful startup, you must find a network of friends who understands you and what you can brainstorm with instead of doing it alone.

Podcast Subscription

You can subscribe to any of the podcasts through Apple, Spotify, or other channels

And if you’re listening to this and you think you’ve got an idea you would wish to share, or know somebody you wish to be in this podcast, let me know.

Simply email me at Adam@healthlaunchpad.com or get in touch through LinkedIn here

Other Relevant Links:

 

 

25 ABM Use Cases and Ideas To Provide ABM Inspiration

Whether you are working out how to get started or scaling up your ABM program, I hope that this list of ABM Use Cases will give you new ideas and inspiration.

By the way, I will be adding to this list as I learn about new ones.

The ABM Use Case and ABM Examples List

1. Providing In-market Alerts to SDRs – (A great ABM Use case to try first)

You can do this without an ABM platform. You license intent data from either Bombora or Zoominfo and set up the appropriate topics and filters to identify in-market healthcare organizations. Then integrate this into your CRM and create an in-market report that shows who is showing interest in relevant topics.

2. Building your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) 

This is a foundational step in creating an ABM strategy. This blog post describes how to do this. This post provides a healthcare market segmentation that will be valuable in defining the target market.

3. Determining If Third-party Intent Data Can Reach Your Market

Third-party data from firms like Bombora and ZoomInfo, can be like magic in identifying in-market prospects. However, it’s not for everyone. If you operate in a very small niche, they may not cover your most relevant topics. You can determine if your topic is covered by examining the vendor’s topic list. Here is Bombora’s list.

4. Using First-party Intent Data to Cross-sell to Existing Customers (One of My Favorite ABM Uses Cases)

This is an underutilized ABM Use Case. Intent Data will help you identify new in-market prospects, and it can very helpful in helping you identify opportunities to sell your existing customers more products and services. You can do this in your ABM platform, your CRM, or the third-party intent data platform. Create a list of current customers who have not purchased a particular product. Determine intent topics for this product. Then configure the system to determine and identify which of these customers is showing intent for this product.

5. Using Gifting to Engage High Priority Target Accounts

In this increasingly digital world, old-school tactics like sending physical mail or gifts have gone out of vogue. Companies like Sendoso make it simple to send gifts to high-value prospects.

6. Run ABM Campaigns in Hubspot

Firms like Demandbase, Terminus, and 6Sense are designed for ABM. Hubspot is getting in the game and, in the two years, has improved its system to make it a viable way to run your ABM program. This post goes into how.

7. Determining your Best-Fit Customer Profile

Once you have developed your ICP, you must determine what a best-fit customer is. This is nuanced. Here is an example from my experience doing this [video case] [blog post]. This post explains how to do it dynamically using Demandbase’s FIRE framework.

8. Developing Qualifying Questions Best Fit Accounts

And once you have determined your best fit accounts, the next thing is to develop a set of questions to qualify them. For example, if you have a novel solution and run a start-up, ask the buyers how many startup solutions they have purchased in the last two years.

9. Using Intent Data to Target In-Market Prospects Via an ABM Platform (A Widely Used Example of ABM) 

One of the reasons many organizations buy an ABM platform like Terminus is to run targeted ABM advertising. This is a very common ABM Use Case. These platforms enable you to run display ad campaigns to select targets, for example, based on intent for certain topics. In this case study, Nuvolo explains how they use this 1:Many technique as part of a competitive switching program.

10. Building Sales and Marketing Alignment With a 1:1 ABM Pilot

The single biggest reason ABM programs fail is through poor alignment between sales and marketing. One way to build this from the start is to pilot 1:1 ABM with a simple pilot targeting a few accounts. Sales and marketing partner to identify which accounts to target first and then develop a program to test this out.

11. Targeting In-market Prospects with LinkedIn Ads

This is one of my favorite simple ABM Use Cases. You can still run an ABM ad campaign if you have licensed intent data but don’t have an ABM platform. First, create a list of accounts that are in-market for your solutions. Then import this list into the LinkedIn Marketing Platform and create a campaign. Select relevant titles and run your ads exclusively to the list of in-market accounts.

12. Creating Personalized Pages for Top Prospects (I love this ABM Example)

If you have an email list of contacts from your ABM Target Account List, you can target them with a personalized experience by using a Personalized URL. This sends these contacts a link to a web page with a personalized URL, e.g., johnsmith.healthlaunchpad.com. You can do this typically in marketing automation systems like ontraport. The web page should be curated to address their needs. For example, we recently ran a campaign targeting hospital accounts that switched to Epic in the last two years. The content and offerings were exclusively about issues faced by new Epic customers. The email performed 2-3X baseline open and clickthrough rates.

13. Engaging Top Target Accounts With Customzied Resource Pages

You can also create customized and branded pages for your highest priority accounts. In this case study, Nuvolo explains how this is part of their approach to 1:1 ABM. It’s a creat example of a strategic ABM Use Case.

14. Targeting Accounts Based on Interest in Key Categories

One of the approaches to ABM is 1:Few or Segment-based. Typically, this targets sub-segments of an ICP, e.g., West Coast-based IDNs. Another example is segmenting based on need. For example, if a company sells solutions that address Remote Patient Monitoring, Telehealth, Language Services and Physician credentialing, you can segment your intent topics for these separate categories. When an account appears interested in one of the categories, for example, language services, you can “drop” key contacts from this account into a language services campaign or email sequence.

15. Running a Competitive Switching Program

One ABM Use Case I am asked about frequently is how to use ABM for competitive switching. If you have a list of accounts that are running your competitors’ solution, you can run a campaign targeting these accounts with a competitive switching message. You can do this through an ABM platform or simply via LinkedIn ads. Here is how Nuvolo does this.

16. Advertising to Epic Customers

Epic makes its customer list publicly available. If you have an offering that is hyper-relevant to Epic customers or a recent case study, you can use this list to run a targeted ABM campaign.

17. Using LinkedIn to Nurture Relationships with High Priority Target Accounts

LinkedIn is an effective platform for building relationships with prospects. In an ABM program, you can use it to make connections and nurture relationships with contacts at high-priority accounts.

18. Running a LinkedIn InMail Ad Campaign to High Priority Target Accounts

One of the challenges with LinkedIn is that most people won’t accept your invitation. We have found that acceptance rates run from as low as 15% to as high as 40%. This means you won’t be able to directly nurture relationships with 60-85% of your prospects. This is where InMail comes in. While I don’t like getting InMail solicitations, I don’t mind sponsored ads via InMail. This is at least a more honest way of trying to get a message in front of me.

19. Creating a Simple ABM Dashboard

If you haven’t adopted an ABM platform and your CRM is not well-suited to creating an ABM dashboard, you can create a Google Sheet to track account engagement. For example, if you are running a 1:1 campaign to 20 accounts, you can create a dashboard that tracks engagement across all your tactics, e.g., ad engagement, email CTRs, downloads, LinkedIn acceptances, and score the 20 accounts based on aggregate engagement. 

20. Using an ABM Platform to Measure the Impact of Your ABM Campaign

If you have adopted an ABM platform, you will want to create a more sophisticated ABM dashboard that will enable you to build a set of ABM of KPIs. This post explains the ABM measurement framework. 

21. Using Content To Identify In-Market Prospects with Netline

One of my favorite B2B marketing tools that is perfect for ABM is Netline. It’s a great example of how to execute ABM without limited resources. This B2B content syndication platform enables you to get your long-form downloadable content in front of your audience using first-party data to target them.

22. Identifying At-Risk Customers with Intent Data

One ABM Use Case you may not have considered is how to use ABM as a retention tool. While ABM and Intent Data are typically associated with account growth, you can also use them to retain customers. For example, if you sell Telehealth Solutions, you can monitor your current customers to see if they show “spikes” for Telehealth intent topics. This may signal that they are actively looking to switch.

23. Using Intent Data to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

Many are unfamiliar with ABM Use Case: how to use intent data in your content strategy. Intent Data signals what customers are interested in. For example, you can monitor a long list of topics for your target account list. If you notice that many are spiking for a specific topic, e.g., cybersecurity, adjust your content marketing strategy and focus on marketing your cybersecurity content or creating new content. 

24. How to Make Your Personas ABM-ready

I always feel that the most valuable thing about your personas is understanding their buyer journey. This includes understanding their questions at each stage of the buyer’s journey. One way to make this more ABM-ready is to add intent topics that are most likely to be relevant at each stage too

25. How to Design an ABM Pilot

ABM is hard to do well. It takes time to perfect. The first step is to run a pilot. In the ABM Resource Center, you will find the tools, templates, and guidance on how to create a 90-day ABM Pilot.

And Lest I Forget

I hope you found these ABM Use Cases helpful. I can help you grow your healthcare customer business. Here are some ways to get started:

1. Check out the ABM Resource Center. It is chock-full of templates, tools, and ideas to get you started on your ABM journey.
2. Follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn. I publish videos and articles on ABM and healthtech marketing.
3. Work with me directly. Let’s book a growth session, and we can explore ways you can improve your marketing using the latest techniques in B2B marketing.

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