Recently, I had a virtual launch party for my book, and amid cocktails and digital mingling we hosted a concert with Michael Franti. As everyone swayed at home to his set, one of his songs really stood out to me. "Start Small Think Big" is my new theme song—and here's why.

Today's B2B buyers are smarter, and they expect meaningful, personalized experiences when they search for solutions. We've been talking about meaningful personalization for years—and now technology is helping us turn it into reality. That makes it an exciting time to be a B2B marketer!

Still, the task can feel daunting. When I first talked with my team about our bold vision to remove forms, spam, and cold calls from our account-based engagement, they said it was a worthy pursuit—but impractical.

What if a bunch of leads went right past us? What would Sales think? How would we nurture our prospects?

I don't think anybody expected to just pull the plug on Day One. It was meant to shock the system—to get us thinking about what we could achieve, and to set a strategic goal centered on the customer experience. And like any massive undertaking, it would require a bunch of small steps to reach the end.

If we want to transform our buyer experiences, then we have to—like Franti's song says—think big but start small.

Here are four small steps you can take before you start thinking about taking big steps.

1. Know whom not to target

When we say "account-based," most people think it's about whom you actively target in your prospecting strategy. It is... but we often don't consider whom not to target.

Every team has a limited budget and the same number of hours in a day, so the first step toward delivering great buyer experiences is to figure out where you should focus and where you shouldn't.

For example, direct mail is a popular play. Who doesn't love getting champagne bottles delivered to their door? But are you targeting the absolute best accounts for that play? Are they in a segment warranting that customer acquisition cost (CAC)? Are they in-market for what you do?

Before popping champagne corks, think about tiering your open opportunities and determining which accounts get how much attention.

Now, that doesn't mean only your high-yield accounts get personalized attention. Accounts not quite in that range yet might be one day; plus, you don't want to treat any prospect like dirt! But this is about optimizing your valuable resources.

So map out a low-touch process with lower-yield accounts that's still on-brand. Automating orchestration allows you to send those kinds of prospects relevant content without needing an intensive, hands-on approach.

2. Learn key segments' intent

Once you get specific on whom to target, it's still not quite time to send the champagne. Focus on your key segments and pick apart the details. Can you tell what the accounts in your key segments actually care about?

I love a good persona map as much as the next marketer, but in reality they're time-consuming and static. Your prospects' needs and wants change so fast, there's no way your map can be updated as often as it should be.

A more reliable method to understanding your buyers is using keyword-based intent data. Capturing signals from your buyers and interpreting them gives you more accurate data that your teams can use when approaching targeted prospects.

Plus, intent data is updated continually, as the market changes, and the most important bits of information bubble to the top. That will help you figure out whether nobody is consuming certain content, or whether emails are missing the mark—leading to a better buyer experience.

3. Know who's in your house

Third-party intent data is part of your data collection, but there's so much still out there waiting to be captured. In fact, much of the buying journey happens in what my company calls the "dark funnel"—the mass of anonymous data most sales and marketing teams have yet to touch. Which, honestly, stinks for them. What if your top prospect is on your website, but you have no idea that's the case?

Even companies that think they have company identification capabilities often find their results shoddy and inaccurate. That leaves a cryptic view of who's "in your house." It's like leaving teenagers in your basement and never going back down to check on them: It's just irresponsible.

We don't want to be those kinds of parents—or marketers.

Your small step is to evaluate and compare technology that provides company identification. Pick one that works best for you and your customer base (and gets the highest number of accurately matched accounts).

Gather data about who's visiting your website so you can orchestrate an amazing digital experience that speaks accurately to a prospect's top priorities. Bonus points if you can match rich information such as industry, geography, persona, and buying stage.

The more data you can dynamically surface, the more personalized an experience you can create: Chat bots, content hubs, and ads all become more personal and meaningful to prospects.

4. Use insights to deliver on ABX

So far, the small steps in this article will empower your marketing team to orchestrate incredible experiences. But we shouldn't forget about Sales, either!

In fact, let's delete the M from ABM, because it's really about sales and customer service, too.

I love that Gary Survis of Insight Partners is calling it account-based experience (ABX). It puts the customer front and center in everything your teams do—something increasingly important in today's market.

One of my first sales mentors drilled this into my head: "He or she who knows the customer best, wins." ABX is designed to help your team know your customer inside and out to serve them best—to be their hero and provide them the solution they need. And the greatest way to be a hero to your customers, your future customers, and your sales and customer support teams is to surface valuable insights.

That's tougher to do than you'd expect, since buyers aren't always up front about what they want. It's like an iceberg: There's what they tell you (about 10% of the story), and then there's the rest, lurking under the water (the other 90%).

To uncover the entire iceberg, ensure your tech stack easily delivers rich insights about accounts to the front lines in real-time. Your team needs those to prepare for meetings, ensure they're multi-threading their deals, be aware of competitive factors, and focus on the right things every day.

Insights lead to great ABX, which leads to fulfilled prospects and satisfied customers.

It's time to send the champagne

Small steps are how you deliver on better customer experiences. Once you nail them, then it's time to send the champagne because thanks to your data and insights you'll know exactly which accounts and personas need that special touch to bolster engagement with you.

Plus, you'll find other opportunities—maybe a special customer worth celebrating with an extra gift.

* * *

Knowing your buyers and crafting exceptional ABX is the foundation of your bigger, bolder future plans. Personally, I'd love for everyone to embrace no forms, no spam, and no cold calls as a rallying cry, but if you need to start small, go for it! Just don't forget to think big.

So put on some Franti, get happy, and get to it!

More Resources on Customer and Buyer Experience

What Makes Customer Experience: Jeannie Walters on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Five Keys to Building Better Buyer Experiences

Five Tips for Enhancing the B2B Customer Experience to Generate More Sales

4 Ways to Show Interest in Your Buyers: Lessons from Bono

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image of Latane Conant

Latane Conant is CMO of 6sense, a leading AI-powered account engagement platform.

LinkedIn: Latane Conant

Twitter: @LataneConant