As a small business, you rely on inbound marketing strategies. You expect customers to respond to your online advertisements, stop and enter your store when they see your window display, and explore your website when they come across an interesting piece of content on your blog.
Account-based marketing (ABM), on the other hand, is a type of outbound marketing strategy in which you approach customers instead of waiting for them to approach you. Yet this is far from the cold-calling techniques of the past. Using a sophisticated form of sales, you focus on a few specific customers and align your marketing and sales strategies to target their complex needs.
ABM is often like fishing with a spear instead of casting a wide net. You would be right if you expected that only large companies would invest in ABM, since its success relies on landing those few big fish; however, small businesses are also learning how the technique is essential to their growth.
How Small Businesses Use ABM
Small businesses experience fierce competition regardless of their industry. Shopkeepers struggle to find a competitive advantage, and professionals sell similar services to those offered by their colleagues.
To maintain business volume, inbound marketing has needed to bring in as many clients as possible. The focus has been on a target persona made up of general demographics, such as age, gender and location.
The idea is that the marketing is personal enough to draw in customers but not so specific as to exclude potential revenue sources. However, since many businesses go after the same fairly general persona, smaller operations are losing out.
With the ABM approach, sales and marketing teams work collaboratively on a specific strategy to identify sales goals and pique the interest of an individual client. Once you know who you want to reach and for what purpose, you use targeted advertising where you know your prospect is looking.
Some platforms like LinkedIn assist with ABM by helping you to identify target accounts. You supply the content, such as a relevant article or blog post, and the platform makes sure it is posted where it can be seen by your prospects.
Content Marketing and ABM
If you use content marketing, you probably see it as primarily an inbound strategy. SEO-optimized content drives traffic to your site through Google searches, and compelling, shareable articles increase your brand recognition through social media sharing. At the same time, there is a place for content marketing in ABM.
Small businesses must have a clear strategy in mind when choosing an account to target and deciding how to funnel their content marketing. For example, a business that sells a consumer product may want to expand its distribution by getting on the shelves of a large retailer, like Wal-Mart. The business’s content strategy could shift to writing about topics that make their argument to the retailer, directly or indirectly.
One piece could discuss the benefits to Wal-Mart of stocking the particular product, by arguing it creates a new category or increases the per-transaction spend. Instead of a straightforward sales pitch, this approach would follow content marketing principles whereby the strategy is discussed in general terms. A blog post entitled “How big-box retail benefits from implementing this new product category,” is an example.
In targeting their advertising toward a specific client, small businesses should specifically address that client’s individual pain points. This is what distinguishes ABM from the target persona of inbound marketing. You may think Wal-Mart doesn’t need anything, but you may be the only business that solves a problem they don’t yet know they have.
Choose Your Marketing Strategy
Marketing and sales are closely related, and as an experienced business owner you understand the need to shift strategy as appropriate. ABM is a “buzzword,” but at the end of the day it simply means finding the right customers and giving them exactly what they need.