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Last year, my team ran a series of tests to see whether we could reach multiple people at an organization with coordinated messages.

The result was a strong YES. Creating marketing messages for a specific group was not only a possibility but also a better approach because we could have more control over our ABM campaigns.

I'm now in charge of orchestrating a transition from individual lead-driven marketing to buying-group marketing, and I've given myself and my team three months to do it.

Why Switch to Buying Groups?

First and foremost, marketers need buy-in from their leadership, sales teams, and IT teams for a shift to happen. So it's important to share the value of moving from a lead-based outreach plan to one that coordinates messaging across the entire team of people that are responsible for the purchase decision.

Even if it's not possible to run a true end-to-end test before making the switch, there are resources that show the value of buying groups. Forrester put it well when it featured an article titled "Your buyer is a group, not a person. What are you doing about it?"

It's also important to understand the steps needed to enable buying-group marketing. Reaching out to a buying group requires orchestration across individual profiles:

  • First, buying groups need to be identified.
  • Then, customer databases, marketing technology, and sales technology must be updated and coordinated.
  • Then, marketing processes, messaging, and content plans need to be shifted.

I'm sharing my plans here so any other B2B marketers with a desire to shift to buying-group marketing have a road map they can use to get there and to get their company on board.

Three Steps to Buying-Group Marketing

1. Find your buying groups

  1. Do a closed/won analysis of your last full year of pipeline data. Run the report, ensure it is as enriched and appended as possible, then jump into a pivot table. Once there, segment your data based on the products purchased, then break it down again by industry and once more by company size, then layer in job titles associated with those opportunities. Looking at all of the job titles that are associated with different purchases is a good place to start in determining your buying groups.
  2. Determine your ideal customer profile, which includes each individual stakeholder in the organization. The typical buying group has 6-10 people, Gartner notes, so this process is critical to ensuring everyone important is included. You can look to any industry leader to find a template that can help you with this effort.
  3. Consider creating a buying-group scoring vs. individual lead scoring model. It is a mature approach and you will need a combination of data touchpoints and automation technology to support it. However, by creating such a model, you will be able to identify when an account is read for sellers vs. an individual lead. Salesforce also has some built-in tags and views to support that type of model. Partner with your sales team and your operations team to make it a strategic approach.
  4. Create an audience identification and targeting plan. Now you know who your groups are and what their patterns look like. At Anteriad, we use a combination of two approaches, one using a target list and another using intent behavior. By using intent behavior, you are ensuring that you are targeting accounts and buying groups that are interested in your offering now.

2. Tackle technical changes

  1. Map out and document your strategy, then identify where you need data and tools to make it happen.
  2. Meet with your operations team, your data team, and someone from the sales department to get everyone on the same page.
  3. Run a gap analysis of what you have already and what your team will need to build to achieve success.
  4. Determine the best way to customize contact and account records in the CRM; also, create the appropriate rules and workflows in your marketing automation platform (MAP). This one requires many stakeholders to manage a pretty heavy lift. It's important to work across marketing operations, sales operations, MAP tech support, and CRM tech support.

4. Update campaign plans

  1. Start with a subset of your campaign so you don't feel overwhelmed updating all of your campaign assets and messaging.
  2. Design a content and program workflow to support what you have learned from the work described in Steps 1 and 2.
  3. Weave in intent behavior and topics.
  4. Target clusters of groups that show similar intent behavior or are at similar companies.
  5. Run the programs for 60-90 days.
  6. Once you have the outcome, you can take the learnings and start applying them to other parts of your campaign strategy and targeting tactics.

Welcome to the Future of B2B Marketing

As a key stakeholder, I'm focused on orchestrating all the steps outlined in this article and testing the process. I keep people focused on the end goal and make sure that each step is coordinated so it all adds up to a solution that works end-to-end. Once we complete the work, I'll also be the first one to share results so that leaders see the value in making the shift.

Over the long term, I'll also be keeping a close eye on the movement of buying groups through the funnel. That will help inform any updates we need to make to our content and marketing programs, sales handoff, sales messaging, and nurturing. We will also use data to keep our buying groups up-to-date and to make sure that we have the most recent activity to trigger our activity and that we're as relevant as possible.

This is just the beginning of the journey, and we'll be open to making it better and better along the way.

More Resources on Buying Groups

Marketing's Important Role in Accelerating Sales to Large Buying Groups

How to Drive Key-Account Growth With Omnichannel Account-Based Marketing

Beyond ABM: Why You Shouldn't Spread Marketing Messages Like Peanut Butter

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image of Nikki Candito

Nikki Candito is the vice president of integrated marketing at Anteriad, a full-funnel B2B marketing solutions company.

LinkedIn: Nikki Candito