The Marketing Strategist:

Building Stronger Relationships: Account-Based Marketing at Xerox

July 10, 2007

  • News

In early 2004, Xerox Global Services faced a number of challenges as it worked to build stronger relationships with its largest accounts. Sales teams were confident about how to sell Xerox equipment but hadn’t found an effective way to talk about and sell the company’s consulting and outsourcing expertise. Sales were made opportunistically, with little planning or strategy around how to sell the company’s consulting services, and marketing was underused, viewed simply as a source for collateral and sales tools.

Aware that it needed to make changes, Xerox decided to pilot ITSMA Account-Based Marketing (ABM)—a strategic approach ITSMA introduced four years ago that treats an individual account as a market in its own right—in order to:

  • Compel marketing and sales to work more closely with each other
  • Increase services opportunities and revenue within Xerox’s largest accounts
  • Strengthen and deepen relationships with the company’s top customers

ITSMA Account-Based Marketing Framework

Phase 1: Program Planning and Design

It was immediately clear that Xerox lacked sufficient information to select the right pilot accounts for its ABM program. The company hired an outside firm to help develop account profiles, which contain publicly held information such as account financials and organization structure, as well as deeper research into such issues as the account’s perceptions of Xerox, its buying behaviors, and its cultural dynamics.

Using the account profiles as a common source of information, Xerox selected three pilot accounts—two in financial services and one in manufacturing—based on two major criteria:

  • Which accounts presented the best opportunities for growth
  • Which accounts had Xerox sales teams that were:
    • Ready to embrace services as their selling focus
    • Ready to embrace marketing as a full partner

Phase 2: Account-Specific Project Implementation

Understanding and Analyzing Accounts

The account profiles carried their importance past the account selection phase, becoming an ongoing information resource for sales representatives, sales support staff, and even marketing managers.

After considering the profiles, the ABM teams for each of the pilot accounts entered into account-specific workshops facilitated by ITSMA. A unique aspect of this process is the involvement of executives from the target account, who help define, quantify, and validate the business issues the target account is facing.

Defining and Selecting Plays

Next, the ABM team focused on how an expanded relationship with Xerox would be beneficial for the target accounts. The approach centered on stepping into the customer’s perspective and identifying the services niche it needed to fill. As a result, Xerox was later able to tailor its offerings and sales efforts directly to that need, rather than trying to create a need for Xerox’s preexisting offerings. In ABM lingo, these tailored offerings are known as “plays.”

Building, Executing, and Measuring the Sales and Marketing Plan

Within the account-specific workshops, the Xerox ABM teams evaluated a variety of campaigns and tactics, ultimately selecting those most appropriate for each account, each play, and specific individuals within each account.

Like any initiative, ABM plans are only as good as their execution. At Xerox, the key success factors during the implementation of the pilots included:

  • Committed resources from both sales and marketing
  • Strong project management
  • Close collaboration between sales and marketing

To measure success, Xerox built a scorecard that included, among other things, new executive relationships formed and new opportunities generated for consulting sales. Xerox determined a baseline for each criterion and designated performance targets over multiple years.

Phase 3: Program Management and Evaluation

Xerox’s initial three pilots were very successful, generating:

  • A 200% increase in new services opportunities
  • A 400% increase in new executive meetings
  • A 200% increase in making the shortlist for services

With these results under its belt, Xerox decided to continue to invest in ABM and is in the midst of scaling the program. Its goals for 2007 include 100% growth in the number of accounts year over year and expanded geographical reach.

Overall, Account-Based Marketing has allowed Xerox to build stronger relationships with key clients, form a new strategic partnership between sales and marketing, and broaden awareness of Xerox’s consulting capabilities.

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