Reaching a broad audience with your marketing is difficult and expensive. For companies with niche products that only appeal to a small, specific audience, it’s wasteful. Account-based marketing (ABM) is the practice of narrowing your marketing efforts to emphasize a short list of key accounts. For many business-to-business (B2B) brands, particularly those selling high-value products, it’s a compelling approach.
But the software products many companies employ to support ABM campaigns can cost thousands of dollars a year. For teams on a budget, that could make ABM feel out of reach.
For businesses that can afford it, ABM software provides useful features for making ABM campaigns more effective and efficient. But it’s more a nice-to-have option than something required to launch an ABM initiative.
Your marketing team can get started with ABM without making a big investment in anything new. In fact, you can craft an ABM strategy around tools you already have access to and may even use every day.
At a basic level, ABM is simply a matter of researching the specific individuals that best match your target audience and crafting unique messaging for them based on what you learn. While that can translate into complex tactics in some cases, it doesn’t have to.
Here are 10 steps you can take now that require little more than time and the basic business tools you already use.
Every customer you gain feels like a win, but some of those customers are more valuable to your business than others. Start your ABM journey with an analysis of your customers. Consider:
All this step requires is access to internal data about your current customers and the analytical brainpower of your team.
Now open up your go-to spreadsheet program and figure out how best to collect and organize information about all the accounts you target. This may include fields for:
A well-organized spreadsheet will help you stay on top of all the work you’ve already done, and identify which opportunities to prioritize and when.
If you have the internet, you have a valuable tool for ABM research at your fingertips: Google. It’s an obvious place to start and may seem almost too easy, but it’s one that can yield big results. Consult your list of most valuable customers (we’ll call them MVCs), and use the search engine to start building a list of their top competitors.
To figure out search terms to try, head to an MVC’s website to see what language they use. If your MVC is Acme Corp and they talk a lot about anvils on the site, that’s a good term to plug into Google to see who else comes up. You can also use Google’s related search function to find websites Google sees as similar to your customer’s. Just put “related:” in front of the URL, as in related:acmecorp.com.
A lot of business publications and blogs also put together lists of businesses in a particular industry. So if your customer research suggests that companies making medical devices should be on your target list, a search for “list of medical device companies” will give you a lot of names all at once to add to your spreadsheet. Although these names may require more research to figure out if they fit your target profile than the companies that show up as close competitors to your MVCs.
LinkedIn is a valuable tool for ABM. It’s a free, easy-to-use treasure trove of company information you can use to gain details about each company on your list. Perform a search for the company, then click the About section to gain information like:
Some company pages will also include stock and funding information. And there on the same page, you can click to see all of the company’s employees.
Use the website’s filtering options to find the people in the specific positions you want to reach. If your customer research confirmed that the main decision-maker at your MVCs was the chief financial officer, click on “All Filters,” and put that into the “Title” field.
In some cases, you may need to try out a few variations of the title to find the one your target contact uses. Add all the information you find to the relevant fields of your spreadsheet.
Once you have a good list of companies and contacts, find as many of them as you can on social media—both the company accounts and those of the individuals. Review their feeds to learn as much as possible. What do their updates reveal about their wants, needs and interests? Pay attention to what they follow and share—they may reveal other accounts worth adding to your list.
Note everything that seems potentially valuable in your spreadsheet. And continue monitoring their social feeds— this isn’t a one-time step. Much of successful marketing is about timing. If you can see what a prospect is thinking or feeling via their social posts, you’ll be better at timing your messaging based on what they’re dealing with at a particular moment.
Check out Part 2 of this blog where I talk about how to use all of this research to cater to your accounts and create lasting, fruitful relationships with your clients.