Recent research by ITSMA suggests that senior executives will only have three solution providers who will achieve trusted advisor status. So how do you set about becoming one of your clients most trusted suppliers?
Well, we know that one one way is to use Account-Based Marketing (ABM). In 2018, ITSMA’s ABM Benchmarking research (PDF) showed that 66% of marketers said accounts in their ABM program were more likely to be advocates for their company.
But what if you’re not ready for ABM? Or you’ve gone as far as you can with it? Just over a year ago, I was working with four companies who said they simply couldn’t extend their ABM programs any further—they had to create a more efficient way of engaging executives across all of their most important accounts. And to do this, they started building executive engagement programs.
One company called it their ‘best client strategy,’ a couple called it their ‘executive engagement strategy,’ and the fourth called it their ‘advocacy program.’
Essentially, what they all did was look across the tiers of accounts their company was focused on and create a single executive engagement approach with ‘tiers’ of benefits to match.
Now, I’m sure your company is already doing some of this. Your executives will be signing new contracts or reviewing another year gone by on the existing contract. Your account directors will be meeting them to suggest what else you can do to help them. Your marketing colleagues may be sending them invitations to virtual events or thought pieces on the issues facing their industry. But I’m willing to bet that none of this is coordinated. Like most companies, you’re probably busy with what I call ‘random acts of engagement.’ Anyone recognize that?
So, an Executive Engagement Program is about moving from those random acts of engagement to an orchestrated program.
To build the right executive engagement strategy for your business, start by setting your objectives. Is this about deepening relationships with existing customers or starting new ones with prospects? Or both? Then select the executives you will include in the accounts that matter and among the influencers that these executives rely on when making decisions.
Next, take the time to understand these executives and what they care about. Use internet searches and conversations with people who know them—and research if you need to—building a picture of their lives and their passions.
Recruit and brief the people who will be involved on your side. Choose them carefully—chemistry matters here and not all executives are great relationship builders. You may need to broach the subject of a bit of coaching (carefully).
Use the deep understanding of your target executives you’ve built to help you decide on the content and themes you will develop and use to engage them in conversation.
Also, it will help you to decide which online and offline channels you will use to reach them. For inspiration, think of the World Economic Forum and their excellent peer group engagement through Davos, or read about Microsoft’s Services Executive Board for ideas on engaging smaller groups (learn more by viewing ITSMA’s webcast, Engaging Executives with Thought Leadership & Innovation, which highlights their award-winning program). And check out Source Global Research and their ‘Women in Professional Services’ program to understand how to emotionally engage with executives one at a time.
Finally, create the success metrics that you’ll use to track how your program is doing and what you might need to change to meet your objectives.
Nothing too scary here, or different from any other program. But the stakes are high when executives are involved, and the devil is in the detail of the execution.
You may know that one way of becoming one of your clients most trusted suppliers is through ABM, but what if you’re not ready for it or you've gone as far as you can with it?