Have you heard of account-based selling or account-based marketing? With this approach to prospecting, you target just a few companies that could make a big impact on your business.
You may know it as niche marketing.
I’ve written quite a bit about finding your niche, and the importance of focusing on a niche market. By a niche market, what I mean is that you are targeting your efforts by focusing in on a specific industry within B2B. Or perhaps a sub-industry of that specific industry. Or you might even focus on a geographic area.
So, for example, with a niche focus, you could be focusing on local B2B companies in your area, as a geographic niche. Or you could be focusing on the software industry, or a sub-category of that. Perhaps you want to focus on the fast-growing cloud and big data technology side of the software industry.
The benefits of niche marketing are obvious. You learn quickly how things work in that industry. You learn which are the best companies to target. You quickly find out what sort of copywriting these companies need and you learn what to say and how to say it and how to approach them and how to work with them.
A good example of marketing in a particular niche is Casey Demchak. My pal Casey is a very successful copywriter. If you go to his website, you’ll see he’s very active in the niche market of medical copywriting.
The copy on his website clearly indicates how much he knows about that niche market and what companies in that industry want to hear from a potential copywriter.
What is account-based selling?
Well, account-based selling is similar to niche marketing, with this exception: instead of focusing on an industry or a geographic niche, you’re focusing on a single company.
You’re treating that one company like a niche in and of itself. You’re giving them all the attention you would give a niche market. Obviously, this one company would be one where there’s a lot of opportunity for you, if you were to break in.
The idea here is that you’re targeting one company, and getting to know the players in that company, especially the players in the marketing department. You’re building relationships with those people with the goal of eventually landing an opportunity to get your foot in the door of this big, dream client you’d love to land.
By the way, one of the definitions of account-based selling is focusing on a dream client. A big client that makes you think, “Wow, if I landed a client like that, my business would just boom.”
Account-based selling is nothing new. Companies do this all the time. Lots of companies focus on a dream list of five to 10 companies that they constantly target.
In fact, some companies even create separate targeted marketing materials or campaigns for that one company or that one account. That’s why they call it “account-based selling” or “account-based marketing,” because they’re focusing their attention on landing that one account.
As copywriters, we can do that ourselves. We can focus on a dream list of four or five companies we’d love to land and put all our attention on those companies. That’s what account-based selling is all about.
Let me give you an example from my own business…
Years ago, I accidentally landed a copywriting gig with UPS. They’re a Fortune 100 company with branches all around the world. UPS is the largest transportation and logistics company in the world. It’s an almost inconceivably huge company. So obviously, there are a lot of opportunities.
I landed a copywriting gig with one of the marketing directors of UPS. Then I realized there are probably many other marketing directors in UPS working at branch offices all over the world that could benefit from my copywriting services.
So I started targeting UPS almost like I would target an industry niche. I targeted UPS as a source of potential new business. I started to get to know other marketing directors, and I showed them my portfolio and I sent them letters.
I did all the things you do to market your copywriting services. But I did it just to UPS. And I worked on that account.
My business grew to a point where, for a time, well over half my business was with UPS.
Now, UPS has dozens of marketing directors. Even though some of those marketing directors were on the same floor of the same building, because they were working on very different projects, they weren’t always aware that several of them were using my services.
In fact, one marketing director told me a funny story. She said she was talking to another marketing director and was telling her she was working with this great copywriter. The other marketing director said, “Yeah, I’m working with a great copywriter, too.”
They compared notes, and I was working with both marketing directors. It was nice to hear they thought of me as a great copywriter. It just goes to show how much business a company like that can give you.
I didn’t call it account-based marketing at the time, but I was using account-based techniques to expand my business within that one company. I was targeting UPS almost as a separate niche market in and of itself.
Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a humungous company, but it does need to be the kind of company that you’d love to break into. A company you’d love to write for and have in your client base. One that would give you lots of business on a regular basis and really transform your business.
That’s what makes that company worth the effort of spending a lot of time targeting them, because if you land them, the reward could be huge for your business.
Another reason why account-based selling and marketing can be a useful strategy is that sometimes these bigger companies are almost impossible to break into through your regular marketing.
Your regular marketing might include your blog, your website, being active on social media, and perhaps writing articles here and there. But that might not be enough to break into these dream clients because they may never respond to your regular marketing.
With account-based selling, you’re targeting these companies specifically. And putting a lot of your marketing energies into reaching out to these potential clients. Therefore, you have a much greater chance of getting an opportunity someday to write for them, and landing them as clients.
So, how do you do this account-based selling and account-based marketing? Let me give you four strategies for kicking this off…
#1. Make a list of five dream clients
You want five companies that would be fantastic for your business if you landed them. It would be great if they give you lots of repeat business. Companies you’d love to work with.
This probably can’t be a small business that can’t give you a lot of copywriting work. They have to be a larger business.
You want to put all your energies into targeting these five companies. If it turns out you’re not getting a lot of traction or things aren’t really working out, you can take some of those companies off the list and add more later.
Start with just five. Not 10 or 15. Realistically, you really can’t focus effectively on more than five prospects at a time with this account-based selling approach.
#2. Study those companies
Spend a lot of time becoming an expert on each company. Find out who the players are in the marketing department. Do some digging on LinkedIn and other sources. Find out the names of the people you need to speak to.
This may take some effort. You’ve got to invest a lot of time and energy to learn about the company you’d love to land someday.
Find out how these companies market themselves and market their products and services. Start by visiting their website and see how else they advertise their services. What trade shows do they attend as exhibitors? What else do they do for marketing?
If there’s anything to sign up for on their website, sign up so you start receiving their emails and other marketing materials. That lets you study them and see what they’re doing.
Remember, you’re only focusing on five, so you have time.
#3. Introduce yourself to the marketing team
Think of ways to reach out and introduce yourself and your services to the marketing people in these companies. You want to find a way to keep in touch and build those relationships.
You may have to try a multitude of ways. There’s no “one size fits all” formula for this strategy. You can’t just make a list, then send them a letter, and follow up, and at the end you get a client.
That works for a larger market, but for account-based selling, it has to be more personalized and strategic.
You have to really sit back and think about the best way to contact Carol, the marketing director for new products at company X.
How do I contact her? How do I find out more about her? How do I introduce myself and my services to her? Is she on LinkedIn? Should I send her a letter?
Maybe I can send her an email. I see that Carol has an assistant. Maybe I can call and introduce myself to her assistant and she might be able to get me in.
You have to be thinking this way and you have to be willing to try every angle to get into this company.
#4. Keep reaching out
This can sometimes be a long-term strategy. Yes, you might get a quick win. You might contact a company, and in a couple of weeks, you get to quote on a job. But in most cases, this is a long-term strategy. This does take some sweat equity on your part.
You might be working on building relationships with these companies for months, or maybe even a year. It can take that long, but eventually you’ll get an opportunity to quote on a project for one or more of these companies.
When you do, that’s when your foot is in the door of a potential dream client. That’s why all this time and effort is important, because these aren’t just any companies.
These are potential dream clients that could transform your business. Clients that if you had two or three in your client base, that could be your whole business. The payoff is worth it, and I can’t emphasize this enough.
If you land one great client who likes your work, likes working with you, and likes the copy you write, this could be worth tens of thousands of dollars, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more for you over the course of your business.
This is account-based marketing in a nutshell. Try it and see how it works for you and your copywriting business.