How to Attract and Engage the Attention of Your B2B Audience

Companies need to build trust with potential buyers, identify the magic moments when customers are open to engaging, and then orchestrate the perfect interactions across Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success teams.

That’s where Account-Based Experience (ABX) comes in.

Account-Based Experience takes the principles from the best CX — trust, empathy, and relevance at every stage of the journey — and applies them to the account-based world.

In fact, one of the fundamental principles of Account-Based Experience (ABX) is recognizing that our buyers live in a world of information abundance and attention scarcity, making any form of interruption marketing ineffective.

The Clear & Complete Guide to ABX

Read all about ABX in my new book, The Clear & Complete Guide to Account-Based Experience

Attention scarcity

To say that modern buyers are overwhelmed with information is a cliché.

And yet, it remains more true today than ever before. Waving the Content is King banner, B2B companies have deluged our poor buyers with even more information: blogs, ebooks, webinars, product reviews, videos, emails, phone calls …

All this information can actually hurt the chances of closing a sale, as noted by Cristina Gomez, Managing Vice President of Gartner, “Information that once enabled customers to forego meeting with a sales rep has now made it significantly harder for B2B buyers to make an effective decision on their own.”

The sheer quantity of information has become overwhelming, and information from suppliers, while appearing trustworthy, is often contradictory.

Interruption marketing

Interruption Marketing describes tactics that work only if they interrupt you to get your attention. Classic B2B examples include the cold call that interrupts you working on a proposal, the unwanted email in your inbox, or the flashy booth at a tradeshow. In each example, the marketer thinks his job is to create a call script, email copy, or booth gimmick that will make people pay attention.

Of course, all the other marketers are also fighting to get the buyer’s attention, and so the battle escalates. The result is a tragedy of the commons — when everyone tries to get the customer’s attention, the customer gets a terrible experience, and nobody wins.

Challenges in capturing the modern buyer’s attention

1. Buyers are harder to reach than ever

They don’t want to be marketed to. They don’t want to feel sold to. And they will let you know by opting out, tuning out, and tossing out any unwanted interruptions. They’ll avoid forms and do everything they can to stay anonymous. Personally, I avoid putting accurate information onto a form since I know it’ll just lead to unwanted emails and phone calls. And (admittedly) I take a perverse joy in hitting the spam button on unwanted Sales outreach.

2. Buyers do their research before they talk to Sales

While it’s no longer news that buyers want to do their research online and anonymously before talking to Sales — marketers have been talking about this trend for 15 years — it, nonetheless, remains as true as ever. The biggest change is that 10 years ago the vast majority of the research happened on our own websites so we could observe the behavior.

But today, buyers do more of their research on third-party websites — which is hidden to traditional marketing automation scoring:

  • B2B buyers are typically 57 percent of the way to a buying decision before actively engaging with sales. (CEB)
  • 70 percent of buyers fully define their needs on their own before engaging with a sales representative, and 44 percent identify specific solutions before reaching out to a seller. (CSO Insights)
  • 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. (Sirius Decisions)

3. Buyers spend less time with suppliers and more with each other

Gartner research finds that B2B buyers spend only 17 percent of the buying process meeting with potential vendors — which gets shared across multiple vendors. Meaning each vendor may only get 5 percent or 6 percent of the buyer’s total attention. In contrast, buyers spend almost a quarter of the time meeting with other members of the buying committee.

Clearly, we need to find ways to influence the entire buying committee beyond direct seller-buyer interactions.

The form fill = too late

All this puts B2B companies in a remarkable quandary.

On one hand, we want to respect our buyers and not interrupt them with unwanted outreach.

On the other, prospects are conducting much of their buying journey on their own, online and anonymously. If we wait for the prospect to fill out a Contact Me form, we’ve waited too long. The prospect has learned a lot, formed opinions, and may have a preferred vendor (likely not you) in mind. Or worse, a competitor closes the deal before you even have a chance to engage. Ouch.

Aligning GTM to the account journey = just right

Account-Based Experience resolves this dilemma by aligning your go-to-market efforts to the account journey. With ABX, you know where each account is in its buying process and so you can create the right experience for them each step of the way.

  • Focus on building your brand on a foundation of trust when they are early in the journey.
  • Move from emotion to logic with thought leadership and education.
  • Find when accounts are in-market and actually interested in hearing from you — but before they raise their hand on your website.
  • Engage the entire buying committee and transform insight into action by breaking down the traditional baton pass from Marketing to Sales.
  • Enhance the post-sale experience by continuing to identify key opportunities to engage at the right time.
  • Use deep account insights to ensure each interaction is relevant and useful enough to be worthy of their attention.

According to Salesforce, in State of the Connected Customer, Fourth Edition (2020), 85 percent of business buyers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services, and 57 percent have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.

ABX lets us work with buying teams on their own terms: anonymously when they want to be, helpful and relevant when they’re ready — and always based on trust.

It’s a much better customer experience and it delivers much better long-term results.

Excerpted from The Clear & Complete Guide to Account-Based Experience, by Jon Miller

Chief Marketing and Product Officer, Demandbase

As Chief Marketing and Product Officer of Demandbase, I'm responsible for delivering Demandbase’s product vision to delight customers and fulfill its mission of transforming how B2B companies go-to-market. I have a long history of establishing and leading some of the most notable marketing technology companies. Most recently, I was co-founder and CEO of Engagio, the leading Account-Based Orchestration Platform. Earlier, I co-founded and held the position of Chief Marketing Officer for Marketo (acquired by Adobe).