Today’s marketing technology is a double-edged sword for startups. On the one hand, marketing technology gave startups new channels and strategies that allow them to engage with their target market without breaking the bank.
At the same time, advancements in marketing technology also gave customers easy access to an abundance of information. Now, consumer buying decisions are no longer based on the ads and branded content you publish. They now turn to social media channels and review sites to dig deeper and learn more about who you are and what you have to offer.
The expectations of your customers have also significantly changed. Thanks to popular marketing strategies like influencer marketing and referral marketing, your customers now realize that they also have the power to make your brand a resounding success or a complete failure.
As a result, they now expect more from the businesses they patronize. They no longer want to be another face in the crowd. Instead, they assume that your startup treats them as essential and valuable.
The rise of account-based marketing
These marketing trends have now prompted startups to consider using account-based marketing (ABM). Instead of trying to get the furthest reach possible, ABM does the exact opposite. ABM focuses on targeting high-value accounts to prospect, nurture, and convert into paying customers.
For many, account-based marketing might sound like another buzzword. But it isn’t. In fact, account-based marketing is a strategy that has been around for a very long time.
Until recently, only established corporations and enterprise were able to use this marketing strategy. The reason is that they were the only ones that have the capability and capacity to get hold of the technology required to carry out a successful ABM campaign.
These days, marketing technology is now cheaper and easier to get than ever before. As a result, it’s now possible for startup founders like you to tap into the power of account-based marketing to help them reach their business goals.
In this in-depth guide, I will be sharing with you what is account-based marketing, why should you consider implementing this to your startup, and how to create an effective ABM strategy to scale.
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing is a strategic marketing technique where you combine your startup’s sales and marketing efforts. It focuses on sending personalize messages so that you effectively connect and engage with specific segments of your target market.
What makes account-based marketing different from other traditional marketing strategies is in its approach.
Traditional strategies like inbound marketing start off with a wide top of the funnel (TOFU) because this is where you attempt to reach out to everyone that matches your startup’s buyer persona. As these prospects make their way through your buyer’s journey, the begin to decrease in number until you’re left with a handful of people that convert into customers.
In the case with account-based marketing, the sales funnel is turned upside-down. This stems from the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. The idea here is that when focus your engagement towards these customers, you’re able to increase your revenue more quickly.
Account-based marketing vs. inbound marketing
Ever since account-based marketing began to gain popularity as an effective marketing strategy, there has been so much talk and debate on whether or not it’s much better than inbound marketing.
The truth is that account-based marketing and inbound marketing are two marketing strategies that aren’t at odds with each other. In fact, if you correctly set up your account-based marketing strategy, it can effectively take over where your startup’s inbound marketing funnel ends.
Much of this is because of the two main differences between inbound marketing and account-based marketing.
Both account-based marketing and inbound marketing build their campaigns based on a buyer persona. However, account-based marketing’s persona is based on the demographics, traits, and behaviors of those accounts that have been found to be the most lucrative. In some cases, these are developed using data derived from predictive analysis methods.
On the other hand, inbound marketing’s buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of the ideal customer based on general data and educated assumptions.
Focus on campaigns
Inbound marketing campaigns are designed to target prospects within a specific niche or industry.
Account-based marketing campaigns are more specific than other marketing strategies. In addition to the niche or industry, account-based marketers take this one step further by targeting a company’s particular accounts.
Benefits of account-based marketing
1. More effective use of your resources.
As a startup, chances are you have minimal resources that you can work with. If you want to scale quickly, you need to make sure that get the most from the strategy where you allocate your resources.
Since account-based marketing strategies focus on decision-makers and those that can quickly make a purchase, you minimize the risk of wasting your valuable resources towards those that will not convert.
2. Aligns your sales and marketing teams.
Your sales and marketing teams are among your key players when it comes to customer acquisition, generating revenue, and scaling your business. Ironically, there’s a bitter rivalry between these two teams. Unfortunately, all these finger-pointing and head-butting won’t help your startup reach your set business goals. In fact, this can even stunt your startup’s growth.
Account-based marketing “forces” your sales and marketing teams to work together smoothly and cohesively by ensuring that they both agree on what metrics to and how to analyze them.
Startups with aligned sales and marketing teams are not only able to see things on the same level. They also experience 67 times more closed sales and 32 times more revenue.
More important, aligned sales and marketing teams can generate 208% more revenue.
3. Increased personalization.
Since you’ll only be targeting specific segments in your audience with account-based marketing, the data you gather is more focused. As a result, you’re able to create more personalized content that your customers will be more willing to engage with.
4. Value-added customer service.
84% of companies using account-based marketing have reported seeing significant improvements in their relationships with clients.
This is crucial in today’s digital marketplace. According to a study published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 73% of consumers today consider customer service as one of the significant factors that will affect their buying decisions.
On top of that, customer retention is up to 25 times cheaper than customer acquisition. Also, since repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers, you not only lower your cost per acquisition but also give your revenue generation a much-needed boost.
5. Generate more revenue.
Of the companies—startups and established businesses alike—that have started using account-based marketing, 97% of them have reported generating a significantly higher ROI compared with other marketing strategies.
The reason is simple. Account-based marketing emphasizes targeting quality customers that not have the capacity and motivation not just to make a one-time purchase, but make repeated purchases and even refer you to others.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what makes account-based marketing an effective strategy for your startup, the question is: how do I do it?
That is what we’ll talk about next.
Steps to create an ABM strategy for your startup
1. Get everyone on board.
If you want your account-based marketing strategy to become successful, it needs to have the full support and backing from everyone in your startup. That includes your co-founders, shareholders, and investors.
This should not come as a surprise. After all, change is something that’s not readily accepted, even among startups. It’s even more challenging if the marketing strategy you’ve been using has been successful in bringing in leads and revenues.
To get everyone on board to start using an account-based marketing strategy, you first need to prove that the results your startup will gain from implementing this new strategy will far outweigh the results you’re experiencing with your current approach.
The most effective way to prove this is by running an experiment on a sample of your target market and compare the results with your current marketing strategy. When they see how account-based marketing can supplement your current marketing strategy, you’ll be able to get their support.
2. Create your ABM team.
Your ABM team will be responsible not just for implementing your account-based marketing strategy, but also in defining the goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), expectations, and the role it will play within your startup.
A core ABM team should include the following:
Marketing Operations Manager
Your marketing operations manager serves as the administrator of your startup’s marketing automation platform. He or she is also responsible for making sure that the contacts and accounts here are aligned adequately with marketing activities based on what stage they are in your buyer’s journey.
Sales Database Administrator
This member of your core ABM is in charge of monitoring and updating the contact details of your accounts so that they are current.
He or she works alongside your marketing operations manager to implement your account-based marketing strategy.
Content plays a crucial role in your account-based marketing strategy because it’s what will compel your target accounts to take the right kind of action. Your ABM core team’s content manager is responsible for creating valuable and compelling content to help drive your accounts from one stage of the buyer’s journey to another.
Adding graphics and other kinds of visual content to an article, blog post, or report makes it 65% more memorable than a piece of material that only contains text. That’s why your core ABM team needs to include a graphic designer. He or she will be in charge of creating the right visuals to complement your text content to make this more compelling and engaging to the accounts you’ll be targeting.
3. Align your sales and marketing teams.
As I mentioned earlier, your sales and marketing teams need to work together in perfect harmony for your account-based marketing strategy to work and deliver results.
Here are the steps to help you achieve this.
Get your sales and marketing teams in the same room.
Bringing your startup’s sales and marketing teams either on the same room or video conference is crucial for several reasons.
First, it gives both teams the opportunity to discuss the different pain points, challenges, and roadblocks experienced while working with each other professionally. By dealing with this at the onset of your account-based marketing strategy, you’ll be able to come up with ways to eliminate—if not, minimize—these from happening.
Second, your sales and marketing teams will start learning to speak the same language by agreeing on the definition of the common terms that they will be using. That way, they would understand each other better and avoid instances of miscommunication.
Finally, since the core ABM team is made up of representatives from these two teams, having both sides in the room allow them to choose the right people to fill each position in the core team.
Set shared goals and metrics
Your marketing and sales teams share one common goal: generate revenue for your startup by converting leads to paying customers. However, each team has its own metrics and milestones to monitor and follow.
Since both teams will have to work together, it follows that they should agree to terms of the account-based marketing goals and metrics.
A practical approach to do this is to ask members from each team what they consider to be the primary goal of the account-based marketing strategy and write these down for everyone to see. Do the same with the KPIs they believe to be the most important to monitor.
By doing this, you’ll be able to spot several common goals and metrics coming from both teams. Write these in a separate list and make a unified decision based on this shortlist.
Set weekly meetings for both teams
Doing weekly check-ins with both teams can help you monitor the progress of your account-based marketing strategy. At the same time, it gives both teams the chance to address specific challenges and areas where they are stuck so these can be quickly resolved.
Moreover, these weekly meetings encourage your sales and marketing teams to become accountable towards reaching the agreed goals and metrics.
4. Identifying your accounts.
Now that you have the groundwork for your account-based strategy all laid out, it’s time to choose which accounts you’ll target. There are several ways to do this:
Gather data from your sales team.
Since your sales team is responsible for converting qualified leads into customers, they will be in the best position to give you insights on the leads they considered the quickest and easiest to convert. Review these leads and take note of their common traits, behaviors, and demographics, and use this to create a persona to serve as a guide in choosing which accounts to target.
Check your CRM history.
Review the CRM your sales and marketing teams are using to engage with and convert leads to customers. Again, take note of the common traits shared by those that your sales and marketing teams have identified as accounts that those that they categorize as either a quick win or a provided a high-yield in revenue.
Look-alike modeling is a technique that helps you find accounts that share the same characteristics and demographics of your target market. In the case with account-based marketing, these are the most profitable accounts and customers.
Investing in customer acquisition tools like Colibri and LeadCrunch can help you with this.
5. Identify key decision makers.
Once you’ve determined which accounts to target, the next step is to pinpoint who are the key decision makers in a particular account.
This is crucial since studies show that salespeople that directly communicate with key decision makers are increases not only their chances to connect by up to 147%, but also stand a better chance in making the sale.
6. Create your content.
When creating the content for your account-based marketing strategy, it’s not enough that you craft one that’s helpful and informative. It also needs to be written such that it addresses the specific pain points of the high-converting accounts you’ve identified.
I’ve recently written a blog post where I shared my personal strategy on how to create compelling and highly-targeted content. Be sure to check that out.
7. Select the right distribution channels.
As with any marketing strategy, it’s crucial that you carefully choose the distribution channel that will put your content in front of your targeted accounts.
In addition to your website, one highly effective channel to use in your account-based marketing strategy is LinkedIn.
Aside from being the primary social media channel used by key decision makers of your targeted accounts, LinkedIn’s marketing solutions allow you to run native account-based marketing campaigns.
Screenshot from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions
So not only can you focus your identified target accounts, but also find who are the critical decision makers your ABM team should reach out and engage with.
8. Run your account-based marketing strategy and sales outreach.
Now that you have everything set, it’s time for you to execute your account-based marketing strategy.
Implementing your account-based marketing strategy is a two-fold process. The first part focuses on promoting your brand and products to your target account through the content you’ve created. The goal here is to get these key decision makers to convert from a prospective account into a lead.
Rather than asking these key decision makers to fill up a lead form like everyone else, opt to invest in a tool like Drift’s ABM.
With this, you can continue providing key decision makers by greeting them with a personalized message the moment they arrive on your website.
At the same time, it alerts your sales team that a key decision maker you targeted in on your website. That way, your sales team can immediately jump in and begin engaging with them.
But perhaps the best part of this tool is that engagement still happens even after office hours. Drift’s ABM launches a chatbot that will personally greet them and encourage them to leave a message when they visit your site after office hours.
So when your sales team reports back to work the following day, they’ll still have the details and ability to reach out and engage with these key decision makers.
9. Monitor and evaluate your results.
Just like with any marketing strategy, you’ll need to carefully monitor the progress of your account-based marketing strategy. Evaluate your progress using the metrics your sales and marketing team agreed at the start. That way, you and your ABM can see which parts of your plan are effective in helping you reach your startup’s business goals and which ones need to be improved.
Account-based marketing is not a new marketing strategy. However, it’s only become popular in recent years. This is because marketing technology has become more accessible to startups and fledgling companies.
The power and ability of account-based marketing strategies to generate significant revenues lie in its focus on quality over quantity. That’s why you’ll only have to close a fraction of the number of leads you’d otherwise generate using other marketing strategies.
That doesn’t mean to say that you’ll need to completely abandon inbound marketing or any other kind of strategy your startup is currently doing. On the contrary, implementing an account-based marketing strategy should be done alongside them. That way, you can further optimize your current inbound marketing strategy by acting as a continuation of the decision phase.
In this guide, I’ve shared to you just the basics of how to set up an account-based marketing strategy for your startup. The steps I’ve shared here can help you get started. But there’s still so much more into developing, executing, monitoring, and evaluating an account-based marketing strategy so that your startup can experience the results you’re expecting.
These are the things that I go into more details in my growth marketing course for startups. If you are seriously considering running an account-based marketing strategy for your startup but prefer to have someone to guide you through the process, get in touch with me. I can help you out.