Account Based Marketing for SMB & Startups

I have the benefit of working with a variety of small businesses and startups in the tech sector, and I often find these type of companies making the same mistakes when it comes to sales. They often rely too much on sales and have little to no marketing air cover to support them. If you have a small technology company and you either don’t see the value in marketing or don’t spend any money at all on marketing, then you are not utilizing marketing to your advantage.

Marketing and sales in an SMB tech company should not be looked at like they are in large enterprise companies. Marketing and sales should be considered as a function of the business that drives revenue growth. Too many SMB (not just) companies focus too much of their effort hiring sales people to “dial and smile” from a list they purchased for $5000 from some random list company that cold-called you. If you are doing this, please stop already! It is the time that you considered putting your big boy pants on and build a collaborative marketing and sales team that focuses on driving revenue using Account Based Marketing strategies.

What is Account Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing or ABM is a long known and used strategy for B2B marketing in which each organization is considered an individual market and treated as such. Your messaging, strategies and tactics should be tailored to each specific accounts. The old days of throwing the fishing net into the water and catching ten thousand fish to find the one big fish are gone (stop cold calling and mass list emailing too). You need to learn how to spearfish, and not only spearfish, but point your ship in the direction of the fishing grounds that have the biggest fish that will bite using the most suitable bait.

ABM also looks at each account with the understanding that decisions are made by a collective decision-making process and not by a single buyer. Business decisions today are made by a collective group of people within a particular department and sometimes across various departments within each account. This means that when you market to these groups, you need to have specific messages targeted to each buyer persona within the business, and using the channel most frequently utilized by those persons. Sending a email drip campaign to a purchased list no longer works, people are ignoring your emails, and if your messaging isn’t targeted to their problems and needs, they will continue to ignore your marketing efforts.

Why ABM for Small Businesses and Startups

The goal of most startups initially is to get reference customers and to meet the goals and objectives set by your investors. For existing small and medium businesses, the goal is to generate revenue. Building a massive pipeline of leads is not a metric that most investors care about, they want to you closing deals and see your revenue grow. If you are using a traditional funnel sales method, then marketing is measured by the number of leads generated into the funnel, but are not measured on the outcome of those leads.

So how do you get reference customers? By working a huge list of unknown companies in multiple market sectors that may or may not be potential clients of yours? That method of selling is absolutely crazy to me! The idea that you are casting the net and hoping that a few fish in the net end up being a potential customer is an absurd concept to me. It’s time that you invest into marketing and implementing ABM where your sales and marketing teams (which might be just a couple people) start working as one team, not two separate teams.

For small businesses and startups, you want to get the most out of your marketing and ABM offers a much higher ROI over traditional “spray and pray” marketing and sales methods. If you implement the best MARTECH for the size of your business and apply the right targeted ABM programs, you can get away with reducing your sales force while having the budget to pay for the software tools needed to execute your strategy.

Increasing revenue without hiring dozens of sales members

When you use account-based marketing to reach target accounts, marketing and sales working together create the opportunity to create better conversations with the RIGHT buyers in the sales cycle. ABM works best by having your marketing team put the right message in front of the different buyer persona before your sales team ever reaches out to the target accounts. When your sales team contacts the customer for the first time, they should, in theory, be familiar with your brand, and potentially what problems you solve for them.

This is turn reduces the number of cold calls and unnecessary sales introductions. Using ABM both marketing and sales create a personalized buying experience for the customers, this improves the chance that the deal will close, and usually with a shorter sales cycle. Both sales and marketing should focus on increasing revenue. The usual process is that marketing provides leads, and sales will tell marketing that the leads are unqualified, and marketing points to sales and says they don’t now how to sell. This conflict could change if you look at marketing and sales as one team. If you think your marketing team offers no value, it most likely because you received either a limited number of leads from them or poor quality leads. You should bring your sales and marketing (or hire a marketing team with ABM experience) teams together, and develop an ABM strategy and develop programs that works for both sales and marketing.

Preventing your executive leadership from freaking out

Most SMB and startup leaders are afraid to move away from the traditional top-down sales funnel method of selling, and this is understandable. Today your marketing team might hand you a thousand leads (qualified or not), and then your sales team starts working them with usually poor results. If your marketing team handed over your sales team a list of twenty accounts to each sales team member and when they reported to the executive team each week, your executive leadership and board members might freak out because of the limited number of leads being worked. The goal shouldn’t be lead quantity; it should be lead quality and revenue potential for each lead. Every account handled over to sales should be aware of your company, your product and value proposition. Your marketing team should be focused pitching the “why story” of your products and services, not the “what and how” story.

Ongoing Marketing Air-Cover

Marketing should build content tailored to the needs of your target accounts, to educate them through the sales cycle. Whitepapers and Ebooks that each persona can relate to, content that helps align their needs with your solutions and the benefits of those solutions. Then customer advocates come into place; they will tell your prospective accounts how great you are, because they are more believable than you are. Marketing should not just be involved in pre-sales, they should also be equally involved in your post sales activity, developing customer testimonials, driving cross-sell/upsell opportunities. It is important to build trust in your current accounts and to get them adopt your product and see value in using more of the features in the product. The goal should be to prevent them from switching to a competitive solution and to educate them so your product is sticky and they can’t imagine not using your solution.

Same Goals, Same Objective, Agreed Tactics

You need to stop looking at marketing as an expense and utilize it as a critical part of your business. You must consider looking at marketing different than you ever have, and that is making marketing and sales an essential component of your business, as one team. This doesn’t mean that marketing “works” for sales, this means they are on the same team, driving toward the same goals and objectives, implementing strategies and tactics that drive revenue for the business.

About the Author: Jesse J Frye is the Chief Marketing Strategist for Avvocatto Solutions which is focused on helping tech startups and small businesses identify areas of improvement in their product marketing and to find ways to improve their revenue growth through realistic product marketing strategies. Jesse is also an adjunct professor focused on Business Management and Marketing in Asheville, North Carolina.