Applying Account Based Marketing to Membership

Almost any person involved in sales will tell you that the concept of Account Based Marketing (ABM) has been around for a long time.  However, of late, the term has come into prominence as organizations move from a stand-alone sales philosophy to building a strategy around the integration of sales and marketing efforts.
And in a membership context, the synergy offered by Account Based Marketing is very appropriate for business-to-business membership marketing efforts particularly for trade associations with high dues paying members.  That is because Account Based Marketing is designed to establish and deepen engagement when the purchasing decision involves a lengthy sales cycle and multiple decision makers.
It is not surprising that a company is not normally going to make a decision to join a membership organization for thousands of dollars in dues payments based on a one time contact or from a single letter or email effort.  But the regular communications, relationship development, and prospect knowledge built into Account Based Marketing program empowers this process.
Here is how Account Based Marketing works for membership recruitment.
The first step is to identify prospects that fit into the membership profile and capture them in a database.  The records for these companies or institutions can be leased from third party data compilers.  But at this point these organizations may have little or no awareness or even interest in membership.  So a process is needed to turn these generic listings in a database into warm prospective members using both new and classic marketing efforts.   This is where the integration of sales and marketing is critical and both outbound and inbound marketing are effective.
·        Outbound – Instead of using outbound efforts in the traditional method to close the sale, with Account Based Marketing these channels are used to build awareness and support a sales cycle.  Direct mail can reach almost everyone even if you do not have an email opt-in for communication.  Email can present highly targeted messages and be automated to respond to a pre-set deployment schedule or the recipient’s clicks with relevant follow-up content.  Telemarketing can be used for scheduling an initial conversation or a face-to- face appointment with a prospective member. 

·        Inbound – Using online tools provides the opportunity to stay in front of prospects.  Remarketing presents content through Google and Facebook to prospects who have visited your website offering them additional information.  And Google and Facebook custom audiences display ads driven by emails in your database pushing online ads to the very people you are in conversation with about joining. When a prospect raises their hand by clicking on an ad and requesting content from, it may indicate that they are ready to buy. 

As these marketing interactions take place, the responses can be catalogued in the prospect database.  Additional points of contact can be added.  Notes from conversations with prospects can be recorded.  And third party data can be appended. This data builds a profile of the decision makers, needs, and timing for a membership offer.   

All of these marketing efforts keep the membership product in front of a prospective member and invites them to accept a sales presentation that is built on a knowledge base offering a high value membership proposal to the decision makers of a company. It turns the process from traditional cold calling to a solutions based conversation with a prospect.  And even if the answer to a sales message is “no” it maintains ongoing communications so the membership is available when the prospect’s need or interest changes.

Here is one example of how effective Account Based Marketing can be used effectively.  One association, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers Inc. (SCTE), following this approach established a Corporate Alliance Partner Program to allow their individual members to self-select into a managed accounts relationship as companies.  Once a firm becomes an Alliance Partner, the association provides staff members to serve them as account executives who maintained close, ongoing relationships with these companies. With this change, over a two year period, SCTE  saw training revenue to double and membership to grow by 40%.
When the economics make it possible to combine both marketing and sales efforts, the tandem can be a powerful tool to produce not only more members, but members who have a long-term highly engaged relationship with an association.  This is the ultimate goal of using Account Based Marketing as a membership marketing strategy.

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