What sales and marketing professionals have in common with reporters

July 23, 2015 Mark Emmons


There’s an old-time expression among sports journalists to describe writing an article when the main subject won’t agree to be interviewed. Reporters sometimes will call it a “horse” story.

Perhaps the writer has been assigned an article about a star athlete who, for whatever reason, just won’t speak with the media. Or maybe it is, quite literally, a story about a horse. Thoroughbreds competing at the Triple Crown level are wondrous, incredible animals. But as captivating as they may be on the racetrack, a reporter isn’t going to get much when he or she sticks a microphone in front of a horse’s muzzle.

So what does a reporter do when the subject of a story cannot be interviewed? Talk to everyone around the horse. The trainer. The owner. The grooms. Racing analysts. Anyone at the barn who sees the horse on a daily basis. The goal is to collect as much relevant information as possible — from as many sources as possible — so you can write a rich, engaging article that draws in readers, accurately describes why this particular horse is so fast, and ultimately make people care. It’s all about creating an emotional connection.

The challenge in front of today’s marketing and sales professionals isn’t all that different than a reporter approaching an article about a horse.

The goal facing all of us is to gather as much information as possible — data, if you will — about an entity that also cannot “speak” for itself: A company. So we do something very similar to what journalists do. We try to find out who are the key players — the decision-makers — inside the company. We engage them. Through those individuals, we hear the company’s story. What they are facing on a daily basis. We listen to their description of pain points. We find out what solutions they are seeking. And the more we know, the better we can tailor our conversation about how we can help make their lives easier and improve business for the company.

The new buzz phrase to describe this philosophy is Account-Based Marketing (ABM). If you are in the B2B space, you undoubtedly have heard it. In fact, analyst firm SiriusDecisions has found that 92 percent of B2B marketers believe ABM is extremely important to how they strategically approach companies.

Just the way a good reporter would never think of talking to only a single source about that horse, good marketing and sales professionals understand that having only one lead is no way to properly engage a potential customer. Instead, ABM is all about narrowing your focus and identifying a smaller number of target companies that best fit the profile of possible customers. Then, you learn as much information as you can about the many people inside those companies who could influence a deal. Essentially what has occurred is a profound shift from thinking about “leads” and instead concentrating on “accounts.”

LeanData is at the forefront of this growing trend with software technology that matches leads to accounts. A solitary lead might be a foot in the door. But it’s still like walking into a dimly lit room. LeanData’s matching algorithm, in effect, turns on the light and gives you a more comprehensive view of everyone at the company that you should be engaging. That extra layer of reporting can make all the difference because the decision-making process at any company is a team exercise. And if you’re not talking to the right people, that’s a problem.

Sometimes it can be hard for reporters to know if they have written a good “horse” story. Sure, there’s feedback from readers. Or an article may generate strong social-media conversation. But it’s still difficult to quantify if the article has been a success. For sales and marketing professionals, though, it’s much more clear-cut if you have accomplished your goal.

You’re closing more deals and generating more revenue. You know when you have reached the finish line first.

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