If your startup or SME is looking to acquire larger clients and customers such as medium-sized companies, corporates or government departments, then Account-Based Marketing (ABM) must be a cornerstone component of your company’s growth strategy.
What is Account Based Marketing?
Account Based Marketing is a B2B marketing strategy that focuses on identifying who your most important customers or prospects are and learning about them, enabling you to develop a personalised, tailored approach to addressing their key objectives and challenges.
ABM has been given lots of focus and attention over the past few years. It is regarded as being “The Strategy” that large corporates should be implementing to drive business performance.
However, ABM can and should be adopted as a core component of SMEs and start-ups looking to acquire large customers.
Why ABM is not just for the big end of town
Specificity and focus
Most SMEs and start-ups have limited resources in terms of both budget and size of their teams.
Account Based Marketing keeps SMEs and start-ups focused on specific key customers (as opposed to individuals), identifying their core objectives and challenges and then tailoring the content, messages, solutions and approach to customer engagement that will both help buyers with those objectives and challenges but also make them want to buy.
When executed correctly, ABM can help SMEs and start-ups maximize their marketing resources.
Levels the playing field for acquiring large customers
By executing an effective ABM plan, SMEs and start-ups will be able to deliver the customer experience that their target customers are looking for. Business buyers are being increasingly demanding.
The customer experience that B2B buyers receive has a significant impact on their buying behaviour.
For instance, 95% of business buyers go with organisations that provide relevant, informative content at each stage of the buyer’s journey. 83% of B2B buyers say excellent customer service leads to repurchases.
Therefore, effectively executing an ABM approach will enable your SME or start-up to not only acquire but retain the business clients and customers you seek.
Getting started with your ABM strategy
In order for your SME or start-up to implement ABM within your company, you need to undertake the following:
Identify your company goals
Be sure that your management team and staff are both clear and aligned as to what the vision, goals and objectives that you are all trying to achieve
Identify and understand your target customers
- Know who are your:
- MVPs (i.e. Best Customers)
- Your ideal client
- Gain an understanding of their:
- Preferences and Requirements
- Buyer Behaviours
- Key challenges and problems they are trying to solve
- Goals and objectives
Assemble your cross-functional ABM teams
Executing ABM requires a cross-functional team to effectively attract, nurture and manage the clients and customers you seek.
Your ABM teams will comprise of representatives from the following:
- Account management
- Customer Service and Support (often referred to as ‘customer success’)
Develop your B2B customer plan
A B2B Customer Plan is your roadmap and action plan for how to acquire, manage and hopefully grow your target customers and prospects.
It is based on the principles and best practice of strategic account management
Key components of the B2B customer plan
The customer plans for your key strategic customers and prospects should be detailed and include the following:
Overall competitive positioning
Why should customers choose your company?
Your company’s account goals
These should be measurable and include:
- Number of additional products and services purchased
- Number of referrals, references, user reviews
- Increase in spend
- Contract renewals
- Trials of new products and services
- Collaboration/Co-investment in innovation projects
- Ownership structure
- Organizational structure
- Industries and Geographic markets service
- Their target customers
Key buying stakeholders
- Identification of ‘buying group’: i.e Buyers, Users, Influencers and Change Agents
- Objectives, priorities, key motivations and drivers of buying group members
- Opportunities to create value with existing offerings
- Opportunities to ‘business innovate’ to provide more value. Consider the following:
- Product Innovation
- Service Innovation
- Process Innovation
- Marketing Innovation
- Organizational Innovation
Client engagement and feedback plan
- Buyer engagement and feedback
- User-level feedback
- Schedule for customer plan reviews
Important considerations for executing Account Based Marketing
Use Face to Face Interactions to Build and Nurture the Customer Relationships
There is no doubt that your B2B customer strategy will need to have a digital component as B2B buyers do much of their purchase decision-making activities (eg researching and evaluating alternatives) online.
However, having face to face interactions is a great way to build trust, deliver value, develop and solidify relationships.
Consider hosting events such as breakfasts or decision-maker forums. These can be organised at relatively low cost and can be highly effective ways to get in front of current customers and prospects, deliver value by teach them new things as well as providing you an opportunity to learn more about them.
Regularly Review and Adjust Your ABM and B2B Customer Plans
To gain the greatest benefit from ABM, it is recommended that the ABM teams meet regularly (suggest at least quarterly) to discuss:
- Developments and issues within the customers’ organizations
- Customer feedback obtained through customer meetings and visits
- Key actions and priorities for the next quarter
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About Michael Haynes
B2B Customer Acquisition & Growth Strategy Consultant
For over 20 years, Michael has worked with micro-businesses to large corporates alike across Australia and Canada, developing and implementing business growth strategies and programs.