Getting a prospect to commit to a deal is challenging enough. What if your prospect isn’t just one person, but a team of people who all have some say or influence in a purchasing decision?
That’s exactly where an ABM strategy offers advantages.
Some people think ABM, or account-based marketing, is only for selling to big enterprises. But here at HELLO Marketing, we’ve found it can be adapted to smaller scale B2B marketing for niche audiences.
Why use an ABM strategy for B2B?
According to HubSpot, ABM is “a highly focused business strategy in which a marketing team treats an individual prospect or customer like its very own market.” This approach allows you to create content and marketing activities specifically for the people who are associated with an account. (Source: The Ultimate Guide to Account-Based Marketing [ABM])
Unlike consumer marketing, which usually targets individual buyers, B2B marketing frequently involves speaking to a lot of different people who have input on the buying decision within a company, department, or organization.
That means B2B marketing often needs to appeal to multiple stakeholders. For example, a single campaign might need to speak to the needs of:
- Numerous end users who can benefit directly from using your product or service
- Department managers who are looking for ways to increase productivity or efficiency
- The number cruncher who is charge of the budget and can influence purchasing decisions
- The boss who has the ultimate say in whether to buy what you’re selling
Together, all the stakeholders — both influencers and decision makers — are what put the “account” in ABM and make it a strategy that is well suited to B2B marketing.
Why niche audiences?
In addition to targeting an account consisting of multiple stakeholders, an ABM strategy focuses on a highly specific audience, often in a defined geographic area.
This narrow yet deep “niche” approach is what allows you to deliver different content and activities to meet the needs of the different stakeholders within an account.
With an ABM strategy, it is not enough to know what you are selling and to whom. Success depends on having a clear understanding of:
- How many stakeholders there are
- Who has input in the buying decision
- Where they spend their time online
- What topics and type of content they want to consume
- How to win their trust
- Who makes the final decision to buy
How do you describe the niche audience for your ABM strategy?
To build your understanding of the niche audience for an ABM strategy, you need to begin by defining your ideal client and what is important to them.
Think about not only the types of customers you want the most and why, but also what makes them the best fit for what you offer. For instance, there may be customers who want what you sell, but they want it at a bargain price that will not be profitable for your business.
Next, create a profile of your ideal client — the accounts you want to target — based on characteristics such as:
- Industry or type of business/organization
- Annual revenue/budget
- Sales/profit potential
- Identified business challenges or needs
There might also be criteria that are harder to uncover yet helpful if identified, such as the culture of a company or goals/objectives a company is trying to reach.
For example, perhaps your ideal client is a manufacturing company in your state with fewer than 200 employees, annual revenues of at least $5 million, and a history of outsourcing tasks that your product or service is designed to handle.
From there, you can use sales data, market research, and other resources to identify a short list of accounts that fit your ideal client criteria.
Next, it’s time to drill down to the buyer persona level — creating profiles of the stakeholders involved in the account. Here, you want to know who the important players are (by title), the roles they play, and whether they are influencers or decision makers.
Understanding your buyer personas is vital to creating content that will be meaningful to the different stakeholders you’ll need to reach.
Where do stakeholders fit in the buyer journey?
Additionally, you need to clearly identify the stages of a deal — the buyer journey — for your ideal client and where the different buyer personas/stakeholders fit in that process. This helps you:
- Establish which stakeholder(s) to target at each stage of the deal/journey
- Plan how many activities are needed at each stage to move the deal forward to the next stage/next stakeholder
- Decide what content and tactics to deploy for which stage/stakeholder
- Build trust by delivering on stakeholder interests and needs throughout the process
- Determine when the account is a qualified lead and ready to begin the sales discussion
For instance, is one of your stakeholders an influencer who (1) does a lot of research, (2) often attends educational webinars, and (3) works in an environment where there are opportunities to share information up the chain of command, so your message can reach decision makers?
With this knowledge, you not only can identify the specific employees you want to reach within each account, but also can provide content that speaks to their specific pain points and the needs of their business.
Where does all this knowledge come from? Marketing and sales alignment!
An ABM strategy also requires collaboration between your marketing and sales teams, with important input from both in:
- Defining the ideal client
- Choosing customer accounts to target
- Creating buyer personas
- Describing the deal stages/buyer journey
- Establishing sales qualified lead criteria
For example, while market research can help you come up with a list of potential customer accounts, your sales team will probably have some unique industry and personal insights to offer.
Having the marketing and sales teams work together allows you to combine quantitative data and qualitative information to create a more detailed picture of your target audience. Sharing of information can also help your teams identify new customers or markets.
Although ABM is targeted to an account, the strategy still requires one-on-one relationship building with stakeholders at different levels of the buyer journey. That means an ABM strategy involves a more complex sales process — one that benefits when the sales team understands what stakeholders need at different deal stages and how marketing can help meet those needs.
In turn, understanding the challenges that salespeople face empowers the marketing team to provide content and tactics that align with sales goals and support the sales process while meeting stakeholder needs.
What are the key components of an ABM strategy?
An effective ABM strategy is built on a narrower, deeper focus that delivers more qualified, high-value leads through:
- An understanding of your target audience, who the influencers and decision makers are, and how their decisions are made
- Content that’s personalized for your audience — helping to build trust and create an experience that’s engaging and meaningful to the people you want to reach at each stage
- More time for building relationships that can continue to generate sales and turn buyers into advocates
- Alignment between marketing and sales that makes both processes more efficient and effective
To begin exploring whether an ABM strategy might be a good fit for your marketing and sales process, you can contact HELLO Marketing for a free 20-minute consultation. Just call Lauren at 973.214.5942 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.