As a startup, if you look at some ABM heavy-hitters – be that agencies or software providers – you might feel a bit put off. These guys are working with big names – enterprise level, blue chip, multinational businesses. Historically, this isn’t a coincidence – the tools and platforms behind ABM were (and in many cases, still are) pricey. The dedicated sales resource needed to build target lists and find contacts within those accounts, was not insignificant. I remember speaking with an agency in a previous job – “we only do £4k retainers, minimum”.
Well, I’m here, on this disappointingly grey July day in 2019, to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Account-based marketing can be for startups and small businesses too. In fact, it’s a great fit. But, in the interest of balance, and honestly answering the question I’ve posed in the title (‘cause that’s the way we do things around here) – I’ll take a look at both the fors and againsts for ABM for startups.
For: it’s so much more accessible now
Remember earlier, when I mentioned how expensive ABM used to be, both from a platform and a consultancy perspective? That’s because when it was emerging as a strategy, the kind of technology needed to run campaigns and personalisation at scale was complex, and closely guarded by a handful of software businesses. Just like anything in marketing – well, any industry – disruptors have arisen and developed tools which make it more accessible and more affordable for a wider range of businesses. Platforms like Albacross, which offers visitor tracking and ABM campaign creation at a fraction of the cost of its competitors. You can integrate this seamlessly with your marketing automation system to drive personalisation in email and nurture campaigns, and with relatively inexpensive plugins that help you bring that personalisation to your website and landing pages. With a sprinkle of that startup, growth hacking spirit, it’s entirely possible to run an ABM campaign on a smaller budget.
For: if you pull it off, it could change EVERYTHING
You know the deal. ABM is about trying to land BIG accounts. It’s selecting a company or companies you think are a great fit for your product or service, increasing your reach within that company with highly targeted marketing and sales, and ultimately landing that marquee prospect. With ABM, landing one account changes everything, especially in a smaller business. The odds are stacked in your favour too – 97% of marketers have said that ABM has a higher ROI than other strategies. It’s high effort, sure, but it’s very high reward if you get it right – like Serena Williams’ style of tennis, or making food when you’ve got a hangover.
For: it’s easy to do at scale
When you haven’t got many eggs anyway, it might not seem like a good idea to put them all on one basket. Traditionally, because of its relative complexity, ABM has really been about a very small number of accounts. Maybe even one account. But now, with technology on your side, ABM-at-scale is easier to achieve. That way, as a startup or small business that needs growth, you’re not limiting yourself right away – you can get a highly personalised message out to 30 or 40 companies, and quickly hone in on the most engaged accounts.
Against: you do need some sales resource
There is no use running an ABM campaign if you don’t have the sales resource. I’d like to preface this point by saying you don’t necessarily need a whole team, but you do need at least one guy or girl within the business to be able to help a) identify target accounts b) tip in any contacts they already have at those account and c) follow up on campaigns and build relationships within the account. If you’re not a traditional business, this doesn’t have to be a “traditional” sales role, but it needs to be someone willing to dedicate this time and to be jointly accountable for the success of the campaign. If we can’t see or find that within a business, that usually tells us to steer them away (or avoid steering them towards) ABM as a strategy.
Against: it’s not a quick win
I get that sometimes in a startup or a smaller business, it can be about getting that “low-hanging” fruit that helps you build some momentum. ABM isn’t that – it’s the juiciest apples at the top of the tree you want, and you’re going to have to work for them. There are a lot of food analogies in this blog post. I must be hungry. As I’ve alluded to in this post, ABM takes an investment of time and energy upfront, which really needs to be sustained, in order to be successful. You need to spend time deciding on the right target accounts. Then the right campaign, and the right way to deliver your messaging. Then time on execution. Then time on following up and building relationships within the accounts. Luckily, with the right partner in running the strategy, you make the chance of success that much bigger, and they take on a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
There we have it. I think the definitive answer to the central question of this blog post “does account-based marketing work for startups?” is a resounding yes. With a caveat – pick the right partner, make sure you’ve got the right product, and be willing to wait it out and keep up the momentum. If you’d like to chat more about we could help you run an amazing ABM campaign – get in touch.