As a small-to-midsize business owner or marketer, you've likely faced the dilemma of not having the same tools as the bigger guys. You may think that they're playing an entirely different ballgame, but that's not necessarily true. They might have more employees, resources, and tools at their disposal, but there is one strategy that every business, big and small, can rely on to make a significant impact on revenue goals: account-based marketing (ABM).
ABM might be thought of as an enterprise-level tactic, and its relevance and impact are more evident in larger corporations, but that doesn't mean an ABM solution, albeit scaled down, can't provide the same kind of results for your SMB.
Ultimately, an ABM strategy, no matter the size of the company adopting it, relies on three things:
If you can clearly define those components, orchestrating an ABM program for your SMB can be as easy as 1-2-3.
The first component of constructing your ABM strategy is defining how much you're willing to spend to acquire a new customer. There's no golden number here, it all depends on your business and the value of the targets you're marketing to. How much are these new customers worth to you? How much money, time, and energy are you willing to spend to get them on board?
Too often, people think that an ABM strategy has to cost thousands of dollars, but not so. There's no minimum spend requirement in an ABM strategy.
Ultimately, ABM, and business practices in general, all come back to a basic understanding that people respond to people. And the most common, and arguably most effective, tool you have at your disposal is a telephone.
Don't let monetary molehills turn your ABM strategy on its back. Start small, map out your targets' worth, and scale outwards once you begin to hit your threshold.
The core of your targeting strategy comes down to understanding the buying committee. In an ABM program, general marketing and awareness aren't going to cut it. To really see the impact of your efforts, you need to ensure that you know who the stakeholders and decision makers are, and that includes possessing a confident knowledge of their interests, focus areas, and pains.
The discovery phase of your targeting strategy is essential; it will lay the foundation for your entire messaging approach. But you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on the newest data-gathering systems; and, although investing in case studies can be useful, there are also many free channels available to you to get the information you need.
Google is your best friend for good, "old-fashioned" research. A quick search can reveal a treasure trove of blog posts and articles that you can use. Pair those with a healthy dose of empathy, and you can begin to piece together the puzzle of how your prospects think, what they care about, and what issues they deal with on a day-to-day basis.
The final component to develop for your ABM strategy is the content. There's a reason this piece comes last: You should start to develop the content of your ABM strategy only after you've identified and understand your targets' pain points. Ask yourself how you can provide value to their organization, and let your content follow.
Creating content that converts is a difficult task, primarily because it's hard to know how prospects will actually react when they see something on their screen. But meaningful content isn't dependent on your business size. The best you can do is use your research findings and discoveries to create content that aligns itself with those findings.
However, it's important to understand that this is not a time for product pitches and hard sells. If you want your prospect to consider what you have to say is valuable, you need to prove it. Prove that you have knowledge and expertise in their field, that you have credible information to give, that you're not just like every other company out there. If you can find the same topic with a ten-second Google search, then you need to find a new topic.
An ABM strategy takes time. You're not going to see any immediate uptake from any single source. And this is where your patience is put to the test.
I like to think of ABM as the sales funnel: Before you can make any kind of sale, you need to make people aware that you even exist; after that, you need to educate, validate, and prove your worth. And all that takes time. Depending on the target company, it could be months before you start seeing any kind of engagement, but if you've done the math correctly, the ROI will be well worth the wait.
For an ABM program to deliver, you need to develop meaningful relationships with each prospect within your target accounts. Become their on-call expert—their source of knowledge and council. To fill that role, you can't rely solely on the traditional cold call and sales email. It will take dedication and energy to build trust and credibility, but the results are well worth the time.
So what will you do to make your SMB stand out among the thousands of other companies in your industry? How will you differentiate yourself? How will you make yourself known? How will you ensure that your name is remembered?
No size is too small for an ABM program; its effectiveness is determined by the hands that guide it.
(To learn more about orchestrating an ABM program, register now for the "Modern Marketer's Workshop: ABM—From Action to Strategy and Results" by Matt Heinz and Robert Pease of Heinz Marketing.)