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Account Based Marketing Is Not Just For The FTSE 100

If set up properly and structured in a way that is suited to smaller businesses, account based marketing can really give sales and revenue a boost. That’s because Account Based Marketing is all about being targeted.

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Source: Helen Brown

You don’t need to be a global corporate to use Account Based Marketing to grow your business.
Account based marketing is a business to business (B2B) marketing approach that is widely used by big multi-nationals and for that reason, many smaller firms think it’s a strategy they can’t use.

Some of this perception is wrapped up in the fact that it can take years to get the process right.

If set up properly and structured in a way that is suited to smaller businesses, account based marketing can really give sales and revenue a boost.
That’s because ABM is all about being targeted. It’s much easier to create marketing communications that will resonate with groups of prospects and customers when you have a deeper understanding of your buyers’ needs and pain points and can identify when they are likely to be interested in your product or service.

You can then tailor what you want to say to each group by appealing to the needs they have in common.
But as well as taking the approach of creating one campaign for a small number of companies, you might also get very specific and create campaigns that are only targeted at one.
But it doesn’t matter if you follow a process of 1:1 interactions, 1:few or 1:many, the principle is the same – you know exactly who to target and with what.

In doing so, you have far more control over marketing effort and spend. The result is higher response rates, and a greater return on the investment.
It makes perfect sense if you have tight budgets and limited resource. By being very clever about who you target and how, you create more chance that a prospect will at least want to have a conversation with you, if not buy. At the moment a ‘spray and pray’ approach that many SMEs can be guilty of just won’t cut it – in uncertain times, you need more certainty.

Lots of SMEs also think that upping their spend on a Google ad or paid media campaign is what the pros would do. But in all honesty, if you are targeting larger value deals with a longer sales cycle, an account based approach can give a much greater ROI, more quickly and help to move prospects through the funnel.

Getting it right
We usually suggest starting with a pilot. It is absolutely possible to achieve 80% open rates on emails and a 30% conversion to meeting, which can happen in less than 12 hours.
However, you only get those kinds of response rates when you have optimised everything in the process and have matched customer need, pain point and value very directly.

To achieve that, there are four recommended phases to follow: develop a strategy, understand the buyers, develop content and then deliver the plan.

Develop a strategy

This is all about mindset. Who are the companies you want to target? What challenge you can help them address? When you put yourself in the buyer’s shoes you can do more thorough research and find out precisely who you need to contact.

Lots of people think picking up the phone to the most senior person is the route in. But in my experience, it’s not always the case. There’s usually someone else weighing up the options and responsible for creating a strategy the board signs off.

Understanding this will help you create an image of what it is you need to say and do to capture people’s attention and their imagination as to how the business can achieve its goals with your help.

When you’ve researched the targets on the list, it’s best to narrow down the field. This helps you focus time and energy on getting everything just right.

But it’s also important to work on the assumption that sometimes a target isn’t what you thought it would be – perhaps the intel is outdated, or a change of personnel provokes an outcome you hadn’t expected.

You will therefore need a back-up plan. Be agile enough to recognise you might need to switch one of your top three targets for another one.

Understand the buyer

This the point when you ask what’s the market context, how are decisions made, who makes them, how does the supply chain fit in to the purchasing process? You need to think like the person you want to sell to – what would you say to them to show you understand the context?

What’s the conversation you want to have specifically with them? What will make them listen? There are lots of ways you can get ready, such as reading LinkedIn posts they make.

It’s a great source of ideas for discussion topics, but it will also help you work out their preferred communication style. If they share videos a lot then your 24 page guide isn’t going to be of interest, even if it is expertly written.

There are two things to think about now

One is your brand and whether people have heard of it, the other is producing the content that will resonate with your target audience. So put together a range of materials and formats that tell different parts of the story and can be used at different points in the conversation – a short video could be followed up with a customer case study for instance.

Whatever it is, it can’t be a vanity project. It needs to add value so write it from the perspective of the reader using the research you’ve done on them. You don’t need to spend vast sums on creating content worthy of the Oscars. Sometimes the best thought provoking pieces are simple plain text emails or short C-level reports.

Occasionally you might find you need a ‘challenger approach’ to alter your prospect’s understanding of the status quo. Perhaps what they are doing now is best practice but will fast become outdated when new 5G technology becomes available. In which case, your goal will be to develop content that uses commercial insight that sparks a concern.

It’s good to stay factual not fearmongering though, so provide evidence that market dynamics are changing specifically in relation to the business or sector your prospect is in.

Make calculations on savings or efficiency gains as they relate to individual businesses and include these in your content. You really will stand out for the right reasons if you do this well.

Firstly, everything you do needs to match your objectives and the world your prospect operates in. Starting with brand awareness, if they use social media then that’s where you need to be visible.

Sharing relevant and well timed reports and articles will also help. This is a crucial phase – if people have heard or seen of your company then they are more likely to engage in what you have to say.

Next, when the time is right, we advise a series of emails that direct people to a personalised landing page. This page should feature the content that best matches the strategy and goals your prospect needs to deliver on.

It can use a combination of video case studies, white papers that demystify a problem or technology, or an infographic that summarises the gains to be made from different approaches.

A range of resources that can be explored will pull people in, and that’s the point at which you start the conversation and get on your journey to converting a sale.

The good news for SMEs is that desk-based research, a simple Hubspot licence and a few key pieces of digital content can be all you need to get started – and that makes it affordable.

If you only have the budget to target five accounts then start with that and evolve your programme over time. Proving ROI on a pilot can be the ammunition you need to get the wider business buy-in to invest more.

But above all, it will help illustrate that when times are uncertain or pressured, broad based marketing campaigns that try to be a one size fits all just won’t get the return that’s needed to grow a business.

Instead, by using ABM you can control the process and the outcomes, and best of all convert the most valuable prospects.

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