If you’re tired of a shotgun approach to sales and business development, it’s time to change your plan of attack.
Account-based marketing (ABM) offers small and medium-sized contractors a critical opportunity to pivot from selling to everyone to capturing the right projects with high-value accounts.
With limited resources for business development, ABM is targeted and measurable. Use this guide to start building your account-based marketing plan.
What is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a targeted approach to business development efforts, and it is directly applicable to the construction industry. Whereas traditional marketing includes strategies and tactics based on mass appeal (talking to a large number of prospects), ABM dials in the approach. You identify high-value clients, customize sales plans to well-defined accounts and measure the results.
High-value accounts are defined by more than sales metrics. They are profitable relationships on many levels, and your firm becomes the customer’s strategic problem-solver and solution-provider. You hold a deep understanding of their problems, and you know what they buy, how they buy and how to differentiate (i.e. maintain a high margin). This level of account insight is invaluable, and it begs the question: Why wouldn’t you target more of the same?
ABM can be implemented on varying scales:
- One-to-one ABM assigns one account manager to 1-4 accounts.
- One-to-few ABM assigns 5-15 accounts to an account manager who knows and understands the industry segment.
- One-to-many ABM is performed at scale (50-100+ accounts) and generally leverages software, advanced tracking and AI to develop a sales funnel driven by automation.
The logical starting point for most contractors is the one-to-few model, which blends sales accountability and strategic thinking around your high value customers.
How to Start Account-Based Marketing
ABM expands sales thinking beyond the typical metrics: leads, bid volume, sales, hit rate. ABM is built around a target customer profile and the 3-R framework. The 3-R framework defines account management in terms of reputation, relationships and revenue through a customer list.
Use the format below to begin building your plan. Generally, you can use the data you already have in place. What’s most important is to commit to consistent long-term measurement. ABM works best with a long-range approach, ensuring everyone on the team is aligned on strategic initiatives and measurement that matters.
Target Customer Profile
What % of your revenue do they account for?
What is your bid volume?
What are your sales?
What is your hit rate (based on sales $ / bid volume $)?
What is your kill rate (based on number of projects bid)?
What is the ideal project size?
What is the ideal gross margin?
Are you able to hold your numbers from bid to budget to actuals?
How many projects do they award each year?
How many projects have they awarded to your firm? (1-2 as a trial user or 3+ as a loyal user)
Who knows your firm in your established markets?
What market position do you hold?
What is your reputation with targeted accounts?
What level of credibility do you hold with your targeted accounts?
How do you build your reputation in new markets?
How do you measure brand awareness and visibility?
How do you measure engagement?
Create a relationship map within each targeted account.
Who do you know? What is their title?
What is their level of influence inside their organization?
What is the strength of your relationship with each contact?
Are there executive-level relationships in place?
Beyond business development, who else should hold a relationship? (safety, operations, marketing?)
Which customer contacts are willing to serve as a reference?
Even better, which customer contacts are willing to provide referrals? How many have you earned?
What is the value of your pipeline at each time interval?
What is your growth in sales?
What is the size of your average contract award? How do you want it to grow?
What is your sales plan for the year, and how will you target jobs that meet that plan?
How to Involve Your Team in ABM
Customer engagement isn’t a solo gig. You need a team to bring ABM to life. Engage your team in writing account-specific goals and generating ideas to reach them. Consider tactics like:
- Back to basics presentations
- Executive engagement
- Jobsite walks (executive, safety, operations and marketing all involved)
- Account-specific content (education or collaborative marketing)
Achieving Results with ABM
ABM is targeted and sophisticated, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You don’t need specialized software to undertake this process. You stand the best chance for success by identifying a few accounts and defining strategic goals around them. Once you are able to measure and report on those goals, you can expand your efforts.
Remember, no one likes to be sold, and your high-value targets will appreciate an approach that is truly customized to their team. ABM will position your firm to strengthen relationships, differentiate, gain market share and generate results.
About the Author
Leah Gradl is the Chief Business Officer at Kent Companies, where she oversees Business Development and Marketing. Gradl is an industry leader in business development, branding, and leadership of strategic initiatives. Within her 10+ year construction career, she’s built a successful track record of collaborating with cross functional teams across Kent Companies’ ten offices nationwide. Gradl is active in in the AGC, ASCC and regional economic development associations in the Southeast.
Kent Companies is a full-service concrete contractor with expertise in commercial, industrial and mixed-use construction. Kent Companies consistently ranks in ENR’s top 10 concrete firms nationwide. Learn more by visiting www.kentcompanies.com