27 June 2021|Latest Posts, Marketing, PR, Promotion
By Helen Brown, co-founder of Seeblue Marketing. For as long as I can remember, account based marketing – the process of one to one marketing – has always been assumed as a marketing discipline that only the multi-nationals of the world should use. It’s discussed as a B2B marketing strategy that only big, complex organisations should use because it can take years to get right.
However, I think we need to ditch that mindset. For companies that are just starting out, or about to go through a high growth phase it can pay real dividends.
When you strip back ABM to its bare bones, it works because it is targeted. At its heart, is the notion that you structure your prospects and customers into groups and then focus activities, campaigns and outreach based on their specific needs. It could be the communications you develop are run specifically for 1:1 interactions, 1:few or 1:many. But the overriding factor is that you know exactly who to target and with what.
Prospects only get the marketing messages that are relevant and specific to their needs. The net result is that the response rates are much higher, so the return on the investment is much greater. The deals are significant and affiliation to the brand is stronger.
So why wouldn’t scale ups, who have tight budgets and limited resources, take the same approach by getting really clever about who they target and how? Why would they go down the ‘spray and pray’ approach? What use would it be to spend money on a Google ad or paid media campaign to target businesses that are going to hand over a four, five or six-figure sum?
Put it like that and the scepticism I receive wanes. Indeed, when SMEs and scale-ups pilot a one to one marketing approach, they see 80% open rates on comms and go on to secure meetings with 30%. In uncertain times, these numbers are not to be sniffed at.
Getting it right.
These numbers don’t just happen overnight. It still takes time to get right – but this time we are talking weeks of precise planning not years.
There are four phases: develop a strategy, understand the buyers, content and delivery.
1. Develop a strategy. This is all about the list of target companies you want to go after, what challenge you can help them address, and then doing the research to find out precisely who you need to contact. Lots of people think going direct to the c-suite is the route in. Actually, it’s not always the case and there’s someone else influencing the decisions made at board level. Knowing this you need to put yourself in their shoes and work out a plan as if you were going to meet them face to face. What’s the story each individual wants to hear?
This will help you narrow down the top three companies you really want to speak to initially. Work on the assumption that you need to be agile enough to switch out a top three target for another if you encounter some intel later on that means the prospect isn’t want you thought it would be.
2. Understand the buyer. This is the phase in which you get under the skin of the target company. What’s the market context, how are decisions made, who makes them, how does the supply chain fit in to the purchasing process? Then get down to the nitty gritty, if you pick up the phone to the person you identified as influential, how would you build the rapport? There are lots of ways you can research this – reading posts on LinkedIn will show their interests and the topics they are interested in, watching videos, or reading interviews will help you understand their communication style.
3. Content. Brand awareness with new customers is critical at this stage, but so too is providing content that will help you grow an existing account. So, you need to be savvy and have pieces of thought leadership, case studies and guides that meet different needs and points of the sales journey.
All of it needs to add value so write it from the perspective of the reader – you know from phase 2 what they are interested in and how they approach decision-making so reflect this. Bear in mind this doesn’t have to be costly, sometimes the best thought provoking pieces are pithy emails or blog posts.
In some instances, it can be advantageous to take the ‘challenger approach’ and disrupt your prospect’s understanding of the status quo. In which case, your goal will be to develop content that uses commercial insight that sparks a concern, provides evidence market dynamics are changing or presents a problem as it specifically relates to a customer’s business or sector. Ultimately you are putting forward the view there is a better way to do things, and, if you can personalise it for the individual, you’ll stand out far more.
4. Delivery. When it comes to delivery, the first thing to emphasise is that tactics need to match your objectives and the world your prospect operates in. If they use social media then that’s where you need to be to build up awareness. If they share reports and articles they’ve read then you need to deliver similar content. It can take a while to build up awareness but it’s a worthwhile investment as it will make the initial engagement much easier.
Generally, when the time is right, we advise a series of emails that direct people to a personalised landing page, which includes the content you believe matches their goals. It could be video case studies, white papers that address a thorny issue the sector is facing, an infographic that summarises the gains to be made from different approaches. This all contributes to getting you on the list of companies they would consider engaging with.
COVID-19 has meant different things, good and bad, to different businesses depending on industry focus and circumstances. But more often than not it’s meant that broad based campaigns, advertising or content are hard to get a return on.
ABM changes all this and offers a very practical way to convert the most valuable prospects. The companies that have used it through covid are reaping the dividends and growing, something none of them expected a year ago.
About the Author:
Helen Brown is co-founder of Seeblue Marketing, a specialist B2B digital tech marketing consultancy that helps companies generate new business and establish consistent and profitable revenue streams. Prior to setting up Seeblue Marketing, Helen lead teams in a global FTSE 100 business and was chair of the Vodafone Group Women’s Network set up to support and drive the company’s strategic vision for diversity.