architect account based marketingOperating as a small or medium-sized firm means you may struggle to get noticed when it comes to being considered for large, high-value projects. To keep your business healthy and help it grow, you need to get the attention of big clients while using a much smaller marketing budget than your larger competitors. If you want to improve your chances of attracting larger, high-value customers using a limited marketing budget, you should try account-based marketing.

Account-based marketing, or ABM, means you’re marketing to specific companies you’d like to work with, instead of blasting out a single, more generalized message to your entire target market. Think of it as a 100-percent personalized approach to marketing. But ABM isn’t for every situation. It works best for businesses-to-businesses, or B2B marketing.

Why Use Account-Based Marketing?

While ABM requires more time and energy than general mass marketing, it produces a higher return on investment (ROI), in part because it creates a relationship that generates familiarity and trust. For example, if a small architecture firm uses ABM to create a relationship that leads to preferred vendor status with a general design or design/build firm doing large projects, it can produce much more revenue over a longer time compared to one-off jobs with two or three smaller clients that low-cost marketing efforts might attract.

Although all the content you’ll create for ABM is personalized and not directly reusable, nothing goes to waste. You’ll find that you can frequently re-purpose the basic content for multiple targets. For example, a proven track record of on-time, on-budget product delivery, including case studies, is a key selling point you can use with multiple target customers.

Companies often prefer ABM to traditional marketing tactics because ABM communications focus on how you can solve your client’s specific problems, not you trying to sell them your product. ABM should feel to your targets like you’re a trusted consultant offering a personalized solution to their problems. Give your leads the royal treatment – in the form of valuable content and tailored solutions – and they’re more likely to respond.

Does ABM sound like an effective approach yet? If so, here are six steps to help you get started with effective account-based marketing:

1. Identify Your Accounts.

Start by making a list of high-value accounts. These accounts should be companies, not individuals, and must be worth pursuing seriously. Eliminate companies that are too small – in name or budget – from this list. You can reach these smaller companies through general marketing, but high-value, hard-to-reach companies require ABM. But be sure to target individuals within these high value companies. Sending your marketing pieces to “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To the person in charge of subcontracting” isn’t going to get the results you want.

2. Conduct In-Depth Research.

Once you’ve identified your target accounts, start learning about these companies. You can consider their history and growth, any recent changes, and more importantly, their pain points. Then, spend time on their people. Map out the company structure. Identify key personnel within the company, especially influencers and decision makers.

A company website might be all you need for your research, but if it’s not, branch out to tools like LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn allows you to search by company, and search within a company by job title or even seniority level. Facebook may tell you more about each individual’s interests and personal information that will help you understand what their individual priorities are and will help you more accurately tailor your message to an actual person instead of a “customer”. Also be sure to do a general search for the company’s name to see if there have been any articles written about them. For example, if you find an article that says the company plans to expand, a piece of ABM might mention how you can help them with the increased demands of more business without having to hire more internal staff.

3. Create Valuable, Customized Content

In this step, you must first inventory the strengths of your company, see how what you do best dovetails with what your client’s needs are, then draw on what you learned about the company to create targeted material that describes in detail how you can solve their problems or reduce their pain. Be sure to include soft-skills strengths such as excellent customer service or a proven ability to interface well with other subcontractors.

Produce content that has the goal of directing the company back to you. You can tailor your content for specific decision makers or make it applicable to the company as a whole.

4. Prepare Your Content for the Best Platforms

After you’ve created your content, you need to find the best place to post it. Emailing the individuals in the target company is one way to share your message, but it may be seen as intrusive or never be opened, so it’s vital to use multiple platforms.

Social media is an invaluable tool with which to reach companies and individuals without requiring an opt-in. Consider which platforms your account uses, as well as the platforms that the company’s influencers and high-level employees use. Join LinkedIn and other industry user groups your target customers belong to so they can get to know you a bit before receiving your marketing materials. But be sure not to market through these forums, which are designed primarily for information sharing, not as sales tools. If your potential customer has a Twitter account, sign up to receive their tweets. You never know when they may tweet key information about an upcoming project that allows you to customize your communication or get to your client before your competition.

According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of American adults who use the Internet are on Facebook. In contrast, only 25 percent of the population is on LinkedIn, but the age demographic is higher than any other online platform, so you’re more likely to find senior management personnel there. Architect and design firms may also be on Instagram, due to the highly visual nature of the work.

And of course, you can always use old-fashioned snail-mail to get their attention. A catchy postcard may get more notice than plugging your pitch into the firehose of electronic communication most executives deal with every day. Because it’s so seldom used, snail-mail can really stand out.

5. Coordinate with Sales to Execute Your Campaign

Account-based marketing requires an approach very similar to sales. Both departments work with the goal of obtaining a specific client. Coordinate with sales to ensure that your content is complementary and not repetitive, and ask your sales staff for information about the prospective client you can use to tailor your approach. Sales staff can also be instrumental in helping you develop your list of ideal accounts.

6. Keep Track of Analytics

Don’t forget to measure your success. Record what works and what you can do better in the next campaign. Trying a marketing strategy for the first time always involves an element of trial and error. As you develop your ABM methodology, aim at just one client at a time until your have your system in place and feedback indicates it’s effective. It’s much better to make a mistake with only one client than with lots of them. Make adjustments as needed and continue to go after those high-value accounts.

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