The Interplay Between Buyer Journey Mapping and Account-Based Marketing

Over coffee, a colleague and I were discussing Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and buyer journey mapping.  He said, “I’ve often thought these were the same, but as we’re talking, I realize there are important nuances.”  Having been in both sales and marketing, I agreed.  Here’s a quick recap of our conversation and how we validated that they are indeed different, and that both are needed to maximize revenue.

ABM is a Destination, Mapping the Customer Buying Process is Part of the Journey

ABM is a strategic approach the marketing team employs to support the strategic and named accounts on which some members of the sales team is focused.  These accounts represent a limited number of key customers with whom the organization wants to develop long term, sustained, significant, and measurable business relationship. It is as close to 1:1 marketing and sales that many companies can achieve.  In ABM, marketing and sales work together at a granular level to devise an appropriate customer contact strategy for each opportunity. Ideally, they also collaborate to map the buying journey for each account.

Ah ha, my colleague just had an epiphany at this point, when he realized, “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!

So that takes us to mapping the customer buying journey and understanding what this process entails.   What is the customer-buying journey?  It is defined as 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. Not each of these will be key accounts, but each of these segments and personas are comprised of a multitude of potential customer opportunities.

As marketers, we can and must understand the customer buying journey and use the customer lifecycle as the basis for every marketing investment decision we make.  Every program we develop and fund should be designed to acquire, retain, upsell, cross-sell, and create customer advocates.  The customer preferences associated with each stage in their buying process should be reflected in the touchpoint, content and channel decisions we make.

The Processes: What’s the Same and What’s Different

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.

When you’re given the task to create marketing strategies and plans, it is crucial to understand how they relate and what sets them apart. This article describes the differences, but 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 Pipeline Engineering Lab.