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Marketing is the soul of any startup, let alone in the early stage. It’s how you get new news out, gain new customers and later on retain existing ones.
However, the traditional startup marketing funnel isn’t always relevant to today’s reality. In its traditional form, it takes a broad approach that begins with generating a large number of prospects and leads, then gradually narrows down the funnel to convert as many of these as possible.
The main problem with this approach is how wasteful it can be. The funnel thins down towards the bottom as a vast majority of leads are irrelevant.
According to Forrester’s research, up to 99% of leads don’t end up becoming customers at the end of the day.
This warrants a better approach to marketing that cuts directly to the chase and yields more satisfying results. Hence Account-bsed marketing.
The basic form of Account-based marketing allows you to start your sales process by marketing directly (as much as possible) to high-value accounts that are the best fit for your startup. This way, no time is wasted on marketing to unqualified prospects who may hardly be an ideal fit for the business. Here’s how it works and how it can benefit your startup.
What exactly is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-Based Marketing is a focused approach to marketing that involves a collaboration between the sales and the marketing efforts to identify, right from the start, the accounts that are best-fit to become our customers (by name and domain address), and target them specifically.
Account-based marketing is different from the traditional funnel approach in the sense that it skips the process of shooting for reaching wide audiences for prospecting, generating leads, and only evaluate the account relevance later in the process or even after the fact.
Skip the lead-to-MQL step…
Instead, the focus of ABM is to start with identifying the accounts that present the highest value potential for the startup and start with listing all these accounts. Then, both the marketers and salespeople focus on them, deploying personalized ads and messages that target the right personas, influencers and decision-makers, through the channels these people are most active on – this allows for much stricter segmentation.
An ABM strategy may also include specific outreach, using personalized one-to-one messages – to specific accounts with the goal of converting them.
How does Account-Based Marketing work?
Account-based marketing is a multi-channel approach to B2B (and B2B startup marketing) that involves close collaboration between an organization’s sales and marketing KPIs. To get the most out of your Account-Based Marketing strategy, you’ll have to implement an effective strategy that follows these steps:
1. Aligning your sales and marketing teams
This is crucial to the success of any Account-Based Marketing strategy, even a basic one. The sales and marketing stakeholders in your startup will have to collaborate to identify the high-value accounts. They will need to work together on generating high-quality lists that will serve both sides.
This collaboration also helps to create a custom-built journey that ensures a seamless transition from lead to customer. The goal here is to identify the key accounts that are most likely to want to buy the products or service and will contribute the highest revenue to the company. Of course, such calibration is an ongoing process and not a one-time effort.
2. Research and tweak to determine account personas
Once you have identified the right accounts to pursue, the next stage is to carry out comprehensive research to get solid persona profiles of the accounts. This helps determine who they are, their needs, and their pain points. These pieces of information will be used to create their personas and map their customer journey. Again, this demands feedback from the salespeople, a look at existing customers, and tweaks according to market feedback. Sometimes, early stage startups are not 100% sure who their buying personas are. It’s OK to start with the set of assumptions you are working with, and tweak over time based on feedback from the field.
3. Create account plans / customized marketing campaigns
Once you have determined the accounts to target and gathered as much information about them and created a list, the next phase is to develop a creative marketing strategy that will resonate with the target accounts and personas. In more advanced stages, this can even be done specifically per target account.
When you’ve moved from basic ABM to more advanced stages, you may start creating a plan per segment per account. Although account plans for different customers share similarities, each plan should be personalized and tailored to the specific account you’re targeting. Usually, an ABM campaign targets specific decision-makers that are involved in the buying process and creates content specifically for these members of the “buying committee”.
4. Launch marketing campaigns
With your plan in place, you now proceed to run your customized marketing campaigns. The plan is usually to reach target accounts using the channels they’re currently using and provide targeting options. This doesn’t only imply paid campaigns. It could include industry events, webinars, industry-specific publications, and so on.
Of course, when using ABM tactics that leverage technology such as direct email, mobile and personalized ads, inbound marketing campaigns, and so on, you should also plan on how to measure the impact. Some tools such as Influ2 were specifically created to serve such strategies.
5. Measure results, use data signals, and optimize campaigns
As you execute your Account-Based Marketing plans, be sure to measure results, take feedback and optimize your marketing efforts accordingly. Individual campaigns should be analyzed separately but you should also track the trends across all target accounts for a more accurate picture of how your campaign is performing.
LinkedIn ads, for example, include important data on the accounts that clicked on the ads – these are critical ABM signals that you should let the sales team know about.
** LinkedIn remarketing ads also include data of impressions shared per account, which means you can know which accounts visited your website
Benefits of Account-Based Marketing for startups
Although Account-Based Marketing has been around for a while, it has recently become popular, especially among B2B companies looking to target enterprise accounts. Some of the benefits of opting for an Account-Based Marketing approach for your company include:
1. Personalized marketing and enhanced results
ABM takes a more personalized approach to marketing. Instead of the traditional approach of casting the nest and hoping to gather generic leads, and praying for quality, marketers and salespeople work together to identify and focus on target accounts. They create personalized messaging based on what they know about the target’s specific needs and attributes. This improves the chances of success quite significantly and boosts lead quality as well as the branding impact among target accounts.
2. Sales & marketing alignment – increased efficiency
Account-based marketing encourages the sales and marketing team of an organization to work together. According to a report by Hubspot, companies that align their sales and marketing this way see an increase in of up to 208% in revenue.
3. Shorter sales cycles
In almost any B2B enterprise, purchasing decisions often involve multiple stakeholders. This is one of the major reasons why the sales process is slow. Startups are especially susceptible to struggling with such long sales cycles.
ABM aims at identifying the primary decision-makers and nurtures them simultaneously to get them to make purchasing decisions faster, shortening the sales cycle as a result.
4. Clearer and higher ROI
With Account-Based Marketing, you know what you’re spending money on and what you’re getting in return. It is more precise and results are many times more measurable compared to other marketing tactics. Not only is it easier to track results, but Account-Based Marketing also delivers returns on investment faster. According to the ITSMA, up to 85% of marketers say Account-Based Marketing delivers a higher return than other marketing strategies.
5. Saves resources
An account-based approach to marketing helps to conserve resources. Your marketing efforts will be focused on a smaller number of accounts that are more likely to buy from you than others.
Full-disclosure; Account-Based Marketing works best when selling to B2B enterprises. However, that’s not to say that it cannot work when selling to smaller organizations or startups as well.
With the right help and solid knowledge base, you can implement an Account-Based Marketing strategy as part of your startup marketing efforts and reap some of its benefits.
If you’re interested in learning more or implementing an Account-Based Marketing strategy, G2Mteam can help – We are a boutique all-in-one startup marketing company that implements Account-Based Marketing processes and work every step of the way to ensure it’s done smartly.
Tsipi Joseph is a co-founder of G2M. She has been in the global tech marketing industry for 'oh so many years', dealing with technical products and services in almost any industry you can think of, including mobile apps, augmented reality, telecommunications, finance, medical, cyber and more.