A lot of marketers believe account-based marketing (ABM) is the best way to reach key stakeholders. No surprise in that — it works. People are much more likely to respond to companies that have taken the time to understand them and their needs.
But what if I told you that from a relationship perspective, ABM is just the starting line for building lasting connections that span the entire customer lifecycle? Because there’s a huge difference between marketing to a target account and engaging with them.
Enter account-based engagement (ABE).
The goal of ABE is not just to catch the attention of your VIP prospects but to engage them in a personalized experience that continues even after they have become your customers and, eventually, your advocates.
As the Global VP of Digital Marketing for STANLEY Security, I’m part of a fantastic team that is leveraging tools like Drift to transform our customer experience. Here are some key things we’ve learned on our journey so far 👇
What Is Account-Based Engagement?
Account-based engagement is a strategy that focuses on creating a highly personalized pre- and post-sales experience based on the customer’s intent with the goal of initiating and growing one-on-one relationships.
Think of it this way: You don’t interact with a customer looking for support in the same way you do with a potential buyer. ABE is just that, but at the individual account level.
In other words, ABE involves analyzing a customer’s intent — through factors like industry, buying stage, and the pages they’ve visited — and then personalizing their experience. Doing this allows you to address customer needs instantly, foster trust, and move the relationship forward.
And we’re talking about lifelong relationships. ABE spans the entire customer lifecycle which means marketers need to work in close partnership with everyone — be it inside sales, product, or customer success — to deliver a top-tier experience.
Chatbots Are the Voice of the Customer
Probably the biggest challenge in ABE is understanding intent. While firmographic data can push you in the right direction, it doesn’t give you enough information to respond to what your customer specifically needs right now.
That’s where chatbots come in.
I have to confess that I was not a fan of chatbots at first. I couldn’t see why anyone would want to use them. The light bulb went off for me when I attended a customer experience forum where I began to see that chat could be the new voice of the customer.
What that means is that chatbots are excellent for pinpointing intent because they start a conversation where your customer can tell you exactly what they want. That’s why we implemented Drift on our website and designed it to deliver one-on-one experiences using conversational and firmographic data.
How We Use Chatbots to Do ABE at Scale
Creating a hyper-personalized experience for one customer isn’t that difficult. Doing it at scale for a global business is another story.
It’s very likely that, at any one time, your website is being used by multiple individuals who want and deserve an experience that reflects their importance to your organization.
For us, the secret to doing ABE at scale is to give people a direct path to the information or support they need.
We’ve customized our chatbots so they respond to a specific buyer’s needs, whether it’s based on industry, the page they are browsing, or where they are in the buying journey. Our goal with personalization is always to add value for the user (not to creep them out).
For example, a person on our video surveillance page might see this:
But the experience goes even deeper than an engaging greeting. Using the data collected from our conversations, we can optimize our conversation flow to ensure the best service possible, such as knowing how many sales reps to have available based on seasonal intent.
And, of course, we make sure that all of the information provided by the customer is stored so that we can identify them. That way, we can continue to supply relevant and valuable content without having to repeat the same qualifying questions.
On a broad level, our chat experience ties together the many moving parts in our organization. It helps manage site traffic, generates leads, and routes customers to support, all while constantly churning out conversational insights.
This close coordination fosters alignment across teams and enables us to deliver a seamless, one-on-one experience throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
Why We Chose Drift
When we started this project four years ago, it was something of a moonshot. We took Drift for a spin just to see what it could do — and we’ve been using it ever since. There are a few reasons why Drift has been a huge part of our ABE strategy 👇
- Flexible and in-depth personalization: We were able to customize Drift’s chatbots for a hyper-targeted approach, such as targeting a specific persona, delivering a tailored greeting, or matching a buyer’s language.
- Easy onboarding: Introducing a new piece to your tech stack is always a risk. After all, you never know if your team will actually use it. That was never a problem with Drift — it’s easy to learn yet very powerful, and we’ve leveraged both those qualities to scale our ABE.
- An open API: This is a key thing to consider when looking at technology platforms. When we started with Drift, the default reporting metrics didn’t give us exactly the insight we were looking for with the voice of the customer. But the open API enabled us to customize our reporting to focus on what we needed.
- Integrations: To support our holistic approach to account engagement, we needed Drift to fit seamlessly into our tech stack. Drift easily worked with our key marketing platforms for customer relationship management, marketing automation, and intent.
ABE Is a Whole New Way of Looking at the Buyer Conversation
In the past four years, Drift has helped us have 55,000 conversations across the globe and uncover more than 2,300 opportunities. We’ve also found that, with a personalized experience, our email capture rate is 3x higher than with a generalized experience.
That said, that’s not the main reason why we use Drift. What Drift and ABE come down to is helping us better understand our customers.
Here’s a clip from Conversation Starters, where STANLEY Security’s Global Digital Experience Analytics Manager shares trends they were able to uncover by analyzing thousands of Drift conversations 💬
The insights we’ve gained through those conversations have changed the way we look at our products, our marketing, and our opportunities.
In fact, I no longer see myself as a marketing professional. I think of myself as a customer experience professional — because, at the end of the day, my team’s job is to be a conduit for a simple, connected, and frictionless experience. Though we’re still at the beginning of our journey, my hope is that, with Drift and ABE, every conversation will take us one step closer to the ideal, one-on-one customer experience.