Account based marketing for SMEs

Account based marketing or as it is sometimes called in Swedish, Account Based Marketing (ABM), is a strategic and focused approach to establishing new specific customer relationships instead of general marketing to everyone.

Account based marketing is based on pointing out a number of strategically important customers you as a company want to get. However, account based marketing is a broad area that can be handled in several different ways.

Traditionally, many companies have engaged in general marketing, even though they apply account based marketing. However, we at 20NINE believe that personal communication is not enough, but that it must also be role-specific, ie relevant to the recipient.

All communication aims for one thing, get more business with the right customers. The communication must secure your potential customer gains trust in both the company and the customer manager, it must build an understanding that you as a company and the customer manager are relevant for the customer to work with. This can be achieved in several ways and historically, much has been communicated through conversations and meetings.

With modern digital technology, however, you can communicate in more ways without meetings or phone calls to each other. The digital technology also makes it possible to easily categorize all customer contacts. It is important to remember that it is people who do business with people, not companies with companies. We humans base our decisions largely on emotions and this is where role-based marketing comes in.

This article is about how the customer managers and the marketing people can use their Information Hub and collaborate to achieve the desired goals, i.e. bring in more strategically important customers. This together with a more stream lined and structured way of working.

Benefits with Account based marketing for SMEs

Account based marking helps you as a small business to:

  • Create both personal AND relevant customer communication
  • Build trust with customers without meeting or talking on the phone
  • Work in a more structured way and gain control over new customer processing
  • Significantly streamline the work with new customer processing
  • Build the company’s brand as a knowledgeable and relevant supplier
  • Build the customer manager’s brand as a relevant expert
  • Get caught up in the customer’s consciousness so they can contact you when it’s time
  • Avoid chasing and nagging customers
  • Identify which roles you have no relation to with your potential customers

What is the purpose of account based marketing?

British research shows that decision-makers believe that marketing from new suppliers is poorly targeted and that it makes it easy to justify staying with their current supplier.

Communicating only general messages regardless of who receives the message is not targeted and relevant communication. Being able to direct and personalize the messages depending on the recipient is important to

  • Build relationships with customer representatives
  • Build customer trust
  • Build yourself in as an expert in the customer’s consciousness
  • Show that you care and that the customer’s representatives mean something to you

With account based marketing, the communication becomes individual and targets more precisely the right person with the right message and not the more traditional general direct marketing.

NOTE. Sending out marketing materials with the person’s first name is not to be considered individual. It was a good approach in 2010 but in 2021 people expect your messages to be both personal and relevant. No one has time to read general information that provides no value.

Building trust requires knowledge and expertise and that is what you as a small business must communicate. The knowledge also applies to understanding the challenges of the different roles within their respective industries.

A CFO in Retail most likely has very different challenges than a CTO in the construction industry. Sending the same message to both of these simply becomes irrelevant. On the other hand, being able to identify the challenges the different roles have in their respective industries makes it possible for you as a small business to offer relevant knowledge and information with the aim of making you an expert in the customer’s mind, so the first they will think of the day they will take action within your area is YOU.

When is account based marketing a suitable approach?

This type of marketing is especially suitable for the small businesses as it takes a long time to fp in new customers. It can be anything from six months up to several years.

It is also suitable for small businesses whose customers cannot say when their needs arise, such as recruitment companies.

If you as a small business largely sell your services to customers whose needs exist just when you happen to call or email the customer, account based marketing can be a very good way of working.

One of the purposes of account based marketing is to reduce the need for timing in your communications or meetings. With this way of working, you can build trust and create an awareness of your knowledge, your brand and your representative (customer manager) at the customer without having to call or meet your potential customer as often as without this way of working.

If this is done correctly, your potential customer will know you well and you are included as perhaps the customer’s first choice to contact at the time they need to buy what you can offer.

What do we do to get started with account based marketing?

To succeed, it is necessary to carry out a number of preparations and to ensure that you have good tools that make it possible to carry out the work in a structured and efficient manner.

Business related

  • Decide which customers you want to start processing to get in
  • Map and decide which roles are important to build a relationship with in order to bring in the customer. For example, CEO, CFO, Technical Manager, HR Manager, engineer, economist, etc.
  • Map out what challenges these roles have in each industry they work in
  • Develop materials that address these challenges and how you can help these roles overcome the challenges. This can be done through reference stories, stories if you can solve these problems in new ways, etc.
  • Decide which material is to be communicated as a document, possibly via videos and eg webinars. It is always good with a mix to make the communication more lively and attractive to the recipient.
  • Based on how long it normally takes from the time you have your first contact with a strategic customer until they are ready to go through a purchasing process, you need to decide how many mailings you should make. The appropriate interval is one mailing per month or every other month so as not to fall into oblivion with the people you process.
  • Develop a good mailing / documentation / template per role / industry to warm up your recipients before you make the first call to book the initial meeting.

System related

  • Decide what your data structure should look like to be able to easily search for these people in your Information Hub
  • Some simple but very relevant data points are, for example, Role Category, Industry, Type of contact, What mailing they should receive next and Date of last mailing
    • Get a system that can structure your data as above and that in a simple and efficient way can also handle the following:
    • Can easily bring in the people you are missing for processing from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the place where you are likely to find the people you want to start communicating with
    • Be able to send out personal mass emails via Office 365 or Gmail, ie not via e-mail marketing tools as communication should be carried out by the customer manager and not the market. It is also important for the recipient to feel that it is really personal and not a general communication from your company’s market people. Do not forget that one of the purposes is to build a relationship between the customer manager and the recipient.
    • Can track which of the recipients have opened or clicked on links in your mailings
    • Make it easy to transfer your recipients to call lists, so you can effectively call through and try to get in-depth meetings with those you have sent information to.

Process related

  • Develop a guide for those who work with customers so it is clear what material they should send to what role and in what order this should happen.
  • Introduce routines to try to contact those who open your mailings and book a meeting where you can go through those you have communicated via email in more depth in a personal dialogue.

The above points can certainly feel like many and if you are above maybe even overpowering. On the other hand, it is worth the effort to get through these as the probability that you will reach your desired customers increases significantly if you start working in this way.

How do we do this in 20NINE?

To work with account based marketing in 20NINE, you can do the following.

Add the following custom fields:

  • “Role category” in the form of a drop-down list that contains all the roles you have mapped
  • “Next send out” in the form of a drop-down list that contains all the different mailings you must send according to the plan. Then you can tag the contact with which next mailing it will receive.
  • “Last send out” in the form of a date field so you can date stamp the contact when you make the current mailing.

Process – Book first meeting

  • Find a list of the recipients you want to book a first meeting with (All new contacts should be marked with a mailing eg Next mailing = Book first meeting, 1st relationship mailing, 2nd relationship mailing etc.
  • Select these in the list and click the three-point button above the names of the contacts
  • Select Personal Mass Email
  • Paste your finished message and add “Hello” above and click on the first name tag to get the first names of the selected people
  • Check Trace Open and Click on the link at the bottom of the form before you send
  • Then you also do the following: Select “bulk update” further down in the same menu as personal bulk email and set today’s date for “Latest mailings” and select the next mailing from the “Next mailings” list
  • The next day, you look for everyone who has opened yesterday’s mailing.
  • Click on the magnifying glass with a plus sign above the contact list
    • In the field drop-down list, select E-mail – opened, Like and yesterday’s date (If you have sent to more roles, you can also click on the “AND” button to the right and add “Role category” Like and the role you want to get as search criteria
    • Select all in the result and add as Ring List
  • Go to the contact list for contacts and call through your hot list to book first appointments

Process – build the relations over time

  • The first week of each month or every other month: Find the recipients who belong to a certain role category and who will receive a certain next mailing
  • Select all and
    • Send the mailing according to your specific flow
    • “Select mass-update” and set today’s date for “Latest mailings” and select the next mailing from the “Next mailings” list
    • Put everyone on a new ring list and name it Role_Send_name_date
  • The next day, call through the list to book a new meeting or just to follow up the mailing for an in-depth dialogue if that mailing is about

Repeat the above per role you address and also spread these over a number of days at the beginning of each new mailing period so that not all roles receive their mailings on the same day.

Also remember to mix what you send out so that it does not become one-sided. Examples of things you can send are:

  • Relevant reference stories where you have solved a problem that the recipient is likely to recognize
  • Articles on how to solve similar problems the recipient experiences in different situations
  • Invite to webinars where someone from you tells you how you solved a similar problem

The important thing is to always start from the recipient’s personal challenges in their role and not start from the company. Different roles can have different challenges around the same problem.

For the above working method to work, you need 20NINE Information Hub plus the add-on for Office 365 or Google.

In addition to the following parts of 20NINE, it may also be worth looking at these two additions to 20NINE to increase your efficiency even more.

  • 20NINE Leadclipper for LinkedIn so you can quickly and easily import any of the roles you have identified as important to you on the strategic customers you want to begin working with
  • 20NINE lead generation forms for WordPress so you can publish your own, customised, forms on different parts of your web to capture interested visitors. If, for example, you receive an interest from a certain role, then you can easily search for the other roles at the same company on LinkedIn and easily import these into 20NINE and begin your account based marketing journey to get a new strategic customer (Given that the first person who was interested belong to a company that is strategic for you).