In a recent planning session with a B2B customer, we were discussing how to create more customer engagement with a very specific set of customer prospects. Here’s a quick overview of the scenario:

  • The company is familiar with these customers but not currently doing business with them.
  • The customers are aware of the company and its products, as well as the other primary competitors and their products.
  • The company has a solid value proposition and differentiation.
  • The company knows that on average there are five people involved in the buying process. They know the roles within the organization associated with the process but not the specific steps in the process, nor the specific people in the roles at each prospective customer.
  • There have been some random initial conversations with some of the people inside the customer base, but these conversations have stalled out.

Perhaps this feels similar to your own scenario. As we huddled in the working session, we discussed the team’s need to map the customer journey to gain greater clarity about the buying process and the idea of leveraging Account-Based Marketing (ABM). Some of the team members were unsure about the differences between these two ideas and questioned whether both were necessary. Here’s a quick recap of how we articulated the differences and explained why both are needed to maximize revenue and increase customer engagement.

Create more customer engagement.

There’s a process and a destination to create more customer conversations.

There’s a Destination and Process to Customer Engagement

With so many different people from the company in the room, we wanted a relatively easy way to explain these two ideas. We settled on these explanations:

ABM is a strategic approach the Marketing team employs to support strategic and named accounts that are critical to the company’s success and therefore receive extra special care by the Sales team. These accounts represent a limited number of key customers with whom the organization wants to develop long-term, sustained, significant, and measurable business relationships. It is as close to 1:1 Marketing and Sales that many companies can achieve. In ABM, the Marketing and Sales teams work together at a granular level to devise an appropriate customer engagement strategy for each opportunity. Ideally, they also collaborate to map the buying journey for each account.

Customer buying journey mapping is a way to capture the progression of steps a customer goes through when considering, purchasing, using, and/or maintaining loyalty to a product or service. If you serve more than one market or region, and your product requires a consultative approach, it’s very likely that the different personas and segments you serve will have different journeys.

Ah ha – the working session team came to a realization: Mapping the customer buying journey is a process that can be incorporated into ABM. But ABM is more than mapping the customer buying journey, and the customer buying journey is its own process that can be used by marketing outside of ABM. Exactly!

The Processes: Similarities and Differences

Now that we understand what each of these are, the chart below captures what’s the same and what’s different. Notice that a successful ABM effort incorporates the buying process. The customer buying journey mapping is focused on synchronizing engagement efforts to ensure that your content investments are not wasted and that you deploy them in the right channels and touchpoints at the right time.

Account-Based Marketing Customer Buying Journey Mapping
Define your high-value accounts. Determine the segment/person to map.
Develop a personalized value-based strategy for each account Define the buying behaviors for each stage in the process.
Create a contact plan for each account and try to time it with triggering events (budgets, acquisitions, etc.) Determine the preferred channels, touchpoints, and content needed to create engagement at each stage.
Implement and optimize the contact plan and match it to the specific account’s buying process. Implement and optimize an engagement plan that synchronizes the content, channels, and touchpoints with each stage.
Measure and modify. Measure and modify.


ABM and Journey Mapping interplay.

Improve customer engagement by taking the best parts from ABM and Journey Mapping.

Understand the Interplay and Increase Customer Engagement

When you’re given the task to create your Marketing plan and supporting strategies and tactics, it is crucial to understand how they relate and what sets them apart. As marketers, you must understand BOTH the customer buying journey and the characteristics of a compelling ABM initiative. Both are designed to increase customer engagement and conversations. The tactical elements you deploy for each should reflect your customers’ content and channel preferences all with one aim in mind, to increase engagements that convert to buying conversations. When you combine them to support specific strategic named accounts, you can develop a powerful approach.

Now that you understand the merits of combining these efforts, the real value lies in putting this knowledge into practice. Discover how to get started with our white paper Don’t Waste Your Bullets . Or better yet, tap our expertise and take off with our Customer Journey Mapping Workshop.


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