account-based marketing

The Startup Playbook for Account-Based Marketing

Latest posts by Jonathan Herrick (see all)

For years, inbound marketing has been the go-to marketing strategy for budding businesses wanting to drive results. The playbook was simple: Create content and cast a wide net in hopes of driving traffic and loading up sales funnels. The more traffic you could attract, the better your chances of finding the keepers, even if you had to sort through the duds along the way.

Today, successful startups are winning with a new playbook — it’s called account-based marketing, or ABM. Account-based marketing shifts the focus away from a wide-net approach to a more highly targeted, customized approach, trading your net for a harpoon.

Why startups need account-based marketing

At its core, account-based marketing is a focus on specific accounts and companies. Rather than attracting wide swaths of people to your site, nurturing them through emails, and then finding your targets, you flip the equation: finding your targets first, then engaging them with tailored campaigns to cultivate lasting relationships.

ABM is necessary in an increasingly digital landscape that, up until now, has largely been geared toward the biggest players. It levels the playing field for startups by resurrecting marketing principles like targeting, segmenting, collecting customer insights, testing results and acting in response.

It abandons the anonymous B2B marketing play by using technology to microtarget potential customers. This allows businesses, even ones just starting out, to personalize their sales messages efficiently.

And it works: According to a study from ITSMA, nearly all B2B companies say that account-based marketing delivers higher returns. And a study by the Altera Group backs that up; it found that a whopping 97 percent of marketers see “somewhat higher” or “much higher” returns from account-based marketing strategies when compared to other marketing initiatives.

A guide to ABM implementation

If you’re ready to take the leap into ABM, here are some tips to create the best strategy to boost engagement and, ultimately, sales for your startup:

1. Prioritize relevancy and personalization

If you run a newer startup, there are likely a limited number of accounts for you to target, meaning it’s that much more important to create immediate value for those you do. At every touchpoint along the buyer’s journey, prioritize relevancy and context.

Personalization should go beyond referencing prospects’ industries or market trends. Take the time to create landing pages that are account-specific. Provide images, offers and reports that are entirely focused on the individual visiting the page. This level of personalization takes time, but the returns will be that much higher.

2. Aim for relationships, not conversions

Too often, businesses zero in on creating content that compels leads to immediately convert, but rushing your targets through the sales pipeline before you’ve earned their trust can do more harm than good in the long term. That’s not to say content has no place in building relationships — just that it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

Instead of using your B2B content, such as reports or evaluations, exclusively to sell, use it to generate a personal sales meeting with key decision makers. As you build rapport, you’ll understand when the time is right to make a pitch.

3. Talk person to person

Ultimately, account-based marketing is people-based marketing. Take the time to learn a little bit about your contact’s role at the company. A simple job title doesn’t tell you the full story; organize your contacts by what they do, and you’ll have a much more valuable list.

Then, focus on specific personas. As a startup founder, you can reach out to other founders at target accounts, for example, to increase your chances of getting a response and engagement. This like-minded targeting is more likely to form deeper relationships and trust between you and your target.

4. Retarget, retarget, retarget

If you don’t want to be forgotten (and you don’t), you need to regularly re-engage with your targets as they consume other information online. Social media platforms can be excellent resources for retargeting, allowing you to reappear to any target who has engaged with your website. This is where your personalized message has the best chance of further encouraging a buy.

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Let’s be clear: This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Account-based marketing takes time, but if you’re willing to invest, it could be a key strategy in locking down accounts that might have otherwise passed you by.

If you haven’t already, take the time to evaluate your marketing strategy. Where are your opportunities to really focus on specific accounts? Where can you do a better job of retargeting accounts you’ve already had exposure to? Where else can you invest time to better personalize?

These are the questions that can make ABM a tool that truly works for your startup.

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