'Businesses need to understand what 'customer-centric’ means to them' says Barry Richards, VP Global Strategy at Transmission.

Interview with Barry Richards
Barry Richards is the VP Global Strategist at Transmission, London. With over 25 years’ experience in the B2B Marketing industry, Barry is a seasoned strategist with a specialism in Account Based Marketing programmes. As part of the leadership team Barry has helped establish and develop the ABM planning, research and insight functions at the agency (including an Insight's Centre of Excellence). He has worked across all accounts and regions helping clients create the right ABM strategy and programmes to meet their goals.



We need the agility to respond to the audience as they progress along the journey, be it through a predetermined route or otherwise.

Media 7:  Congratulations! Transmission has been recently named Large Agency of the Year by ANA's B2 Awards! How does Transmission ensure audience interactions from different channels are seamless and purposed to drive target accounts in the consideration stage?
Barry Richards:
So, the absolute baseline or table stakes, if you will, to anticipating and plotting seamless interactions are:

  • Data-led audience insights and planning. These are essential foundations, especially when pulling in Sales and accounts teams for their intelligence
  • Integrated and omnichannel planning and delivery that reflects the audience insights (on and offline, above and below the line)
  • Engaging customer journeys (content and messaging to take them through the buying cycle) that are personalised and customised where appropriate
  • A good creative wrapper and narrative that is engaging across the customer journey

But the ABM landscape is constantly shifting. We need the agility to respond to the audience as they progress along the journey, be it through a predetermined route or otherwise. We also need to integrate Sales into the motion to ensure a seamless handover between teams. Actively managing this stage and avoiding the assumption that it will run on its own is key. Look at any elite relay team – if they don’t pass the baton in the box they are out of the race. It’s the same here. What can help is the collection and reporting of metrics that let you know where people are on their journey (so you can react), how it’s being used, and how it can be optimised.

M7. While addressing the relevancy of ABM in your blog, you have anticipated the transition of ABM to ABE-'Account-Based Everything'; what are some of the most significant changes you see in this transition?
BR:
As ABM has become pervasive throughout marketing departments, each function frames it in a way that reflects their role, their interests, and their experience – whether they’re in Sales and Marketing operations, data teams, account teams, or inside sales. All of these nuances are as valid as each other and ABM needs to consider that. One of our aims in ABM is to be aligned in how we address a single or small set of accounts. For that reason, we should be more inclusive in the way we refer to our programmes – avoiding alienating people across the business by simply calling it a ‘marketing’ programme. ABE is an acronym that can accommodate this. To a certain extent, I think the name change reflects what’s already happening. You’ve got lots of other teams involved and the acronym should reflect for it to be relevant going forward. A slightly different take on ABE is that, ultimately, it’s not hard to see a future where B2B Sales and Marketing in medium-sized organisations (or larger) will always be account-based to some degree. Again, ABE is an acronym that has the breadth to accommodate this.

Read more: L&T Technology Services' Sarita Bahety explains why adopting cloud is an opportunity to make existing processes more agile for organizations


Ultimately, it’s not hard to see a future where B2B Sales and Marketing in medium-sized organisations (or larger) will always be account-based to some degree.

M7: According to you, what does it mean to be 'customer-centric' in the context of ABM?
BR:
ABM is about focusing on one account or a small set of accounts, so by definition, it needs to be customer-centric. However, there is a cultural implication here. One that assumes organisations understand the value of an approach that puts customers at the heart, believing that it’s the best way to succeed. Businesses need to understand what 'customer-centric’ means to them - and need to be all aligned around that definition. In ABM, we base our initial research and insights around the needs of accounts and the people inside them. Naturally, all the decisions made from there would imply the customer is at the heart of everything. I would also particularly focus on:

  • Needs-based messaging
  • Customised and personalised content
  • Activation channels that match the consumption habits of the audience (on and offline)
  • Using tech to bring the journey and experience to life for individual accounts and the people inside them
In a sense, ABM is no different to any other time you are being customer-centric. The insights, planning, strategy, and creative/content production stages should have the customer at the heart of your thinking. Start there and you (hopefully) can’t go wrong.


M7: How does Transmission anticipate gaps within the market and use this knowledge and research to identify a niche to target?
BR:
At Transmission, we use a variety of techniques to spot opportunities and identify different customer groups for our clients, especially those with nascent offers that have no defined market:
  1. Third-party data – there are a wealth of platforms and tools we use with clients across intent, firmographic, technographic, and more, that let us create Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs). We then identify the right accounts to populate them. We use ICP workshops to create and develop these accounts together with our clients, prioritise them, and then agree on where to take them next.
  2. The emergence of highly effective B2B Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) has allowed us to automate the combining of these data sets into a single platform. We then operationalise them into ICP segmentation exercises, creating sales intelligence or real-time feeds of these segments with signals into digital marketing activation/outreach (e.g., paid media & social).
  3. We have developed our own Digital Landscape Analysis that lets us understand key conversations and who is participating (organisations, publishers, etc.) in the digital space. This is another layer that allows us to create a set of insights for use with ICPs and key personas to drive messaging, content, and targeting considerations.
  4. Primary and secondary desk research allows us to dig down into these ICPs. This allows us to confirm and enrich them, while also letting us identify and better understand the needs and preferences of the personas in the groups that we need to target and engage.

Read more: Customize and target content based on the buyer's journey, says Mark Ogne, CMO at MRP


Businesses need to understand what 'customer-centric’ means to them - and need to be all aligned around that definition.

M7: Large enterprises generally have long and complex sales cycles. So how do you think they can streamline their purchase decisions as a buying committee?
BR:
Research has shown that there could be anything from 6.2, 7, 6-10, possibly more decision makers in the buying process. If we look at technology sales into large organisations, cycles can take anything from 3 to 24 months. With the range of buying processes and areas this covers, I think there are two clear strategies that most organisations should follow:

A. Create a purchasing policy with clear guidelines as to:

  • Who has the authority to make the buying decision?
  • What are their budget limitations?
  • What are the vendor’s criteria for selection?
  • How many suppliers will be approached and asked to quote?
  • What are the terms of a supplier contract?
  • What’s the quality control process?
  • How to turn this into a scoring process across all buyers anonymously

B. Digitise the process with a clear workflow, incorporating the above policy and relevant buying decision makers and sign-off steps

M7: If you had to advise our readers on tackling ABM in the present market landscape, what are the top 3 priorities they should focus on?
BR: There are three key pointers:
  1. De-risk your portfolio and avoid putting all your eggs into one basket by having too few prospect accounts 
  2. Align your marketing function around what ABM is for your organisation. Then do the same for Sales and Marketing, and other teams across the rest of your business
  3. Find the right skills and experience, and have a plan for how to make up for the lack of availability in the marketplace (the lack of skills and experience makes alignment and strategy tougher)
Focus on:
  • ABM strategy and programme structure – what is your North Star?
  • Understanding and using technology – creating a clear technology roadmap
  • Focusing on creating personalised & creative experiences
  • Creating the right data-led insights

Read more: 'SaaS today is characterized by speed and quality' says Assaf Eisenstein, Co-Founder at Lusha

ABOUT TRANSMISSION AGENCY

Transmission is the world’s largest independent global B2B marketing agency. Its award-winning, full-service offering combines data-driven intelligence, innovation, and creativity across brand, demand, and sales, enabling us to craft powerful, behaviour-changing marketing that drives business performance.
With offices in eight countries worldwide, Transmission has the global agility and experience to help B2B brands drive the now and define the next.

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