The Ultimate Guide to Account Based Marketing for Small Businesses

Illustration of the letters ABM in all capitals and white.

Small business owners know that account-based marketing (ABM) is the latest strategy helping companies reach target accounts and maximize their marketing budgets.

They read the articles. They see all the statistics. They know that 85 percent of marketers measuring ROI claim account based marketing outperforms all other marketing investments. Yet, only 23 percent of small businesses are even testing ABM as part of their marketing strategy today. Why?

The simple answer is that many small business marketing teams misunderstand account based marketing. They hear the success stories from big companies targeting multinational corporations with account based marketing and think either:  

  1. Account based marketing is too expensive; or
  2. Account based marketing won’t work for the clients I’m targeting.

The truth is that neither concern is actually true. Account based marketing can actually be a more affordable way for small businesses to make the most of their marketing budgets. And when done correctly, ABM can work on just about any B2B company, regardless of size, industry, or location. The key phrase there, of course, is “done correctly.”

Account based marketing is about more than just following the CEO of a target account on Twitter and sending him random emails. ABM is a strategy — it requires serious thought, planning, and most of all: quality data to drive decisions. But for the small businesses willing to make the time investment, account based marketing can pay off in a big way. 

And so, the ReachForce team put together this guide for small business owners and marketing teams to help you better understand the role account based marketing can play within your organization and how to get started rolling out your own ABM strategy today. 

But before we get into the “how,” let’s first take a look at the “why”:

Why Account-Based Marketing Makes Sense for Small Businesses

While SMBs may be somewhat late to ABM adoption, many analysts believe small businesses stand to benefit the most from what account based marketing has to offer. 

First, account based marketing focuses your marketing dollars on a revenue-based outcome. All companies — large and small — rely on their sales and marketing teams to generate revenue for the company. But larger corporations spending thousands (if not millions) on marketing are mostly interested in traditional sales funnels that start with a high volume of inbound leads. Marketing success is often tied to the number of leads generated by a specific campaign, regardless of whether those leads actually convert to customers or not. 

Small businesses don’t have the luxury of collecting leads in hopes that they convert someday down the road. SMBs need revenue, to demonstrate proof-of-concept to investors or keep the lights on (or both). As a result, the focused approach of account based marketing assures small business owners that the dollars funneled into marketing are being used on existing, qualified leads — not the effort of lead generation itself. 

Second, account based marketing levels the playing field for small businesses to compete with large marketing teams in the area of customer experience. Today, 89 percent of companies expect to compete for new clients based on the customer experience they provide. Four years ago, that number was just 36 percent. 

So clearly, the market is shifting. As big data marketing becomes more accessible to SMEs, large corporations can no longer use their big budgets to “out-market” mom and pop shops. A good customer experience can cost next to nothing, and account based marketing is the first step in making that happen.

How to Get Started with Account Based Marketing as a Small Business

Even if you’re sold on the benefits of account based marketing, getting started can admittedly feel like quite the undertaking. First, you’re likely wondering:

How do I know which accounts to target?

To answer that question, however, small business owners need to first understand how data impacts targeting in account based marketing. That’s where this first step comes in:

#1. Conduct a Data Quality Health Check

Illustration of person looking at a document with a magnifying glass.

Understanding the data you already have on your target audience will open the door to figuring out where you should spend your time and money with account based marketing. To do that, small businesses should start with a data quality health check that tells them:

  • What data they already have
  • The quality of their existing data
  • What data they need
  • How they can improve their data quality

ReachForce SmartSuite helps small businesses by providing a platform for data management that automatically conducts regular data quality health checks. That means smarter insights and more efficient usage of the tools in your martech stack. 

With quality data in place, you can then make an informed decision about the accounts you choose to target with your account based marketing techniques. 

#2. Choose Your Target Accounts

Selecting the right clients can feel daunting for any business engaging in account based marketing. But for small businesses, choosing the wrong accounts can be a serious problem. SMBs work with small teams and limited budgets. Putting all your effort into an account that either doesn’t yield as much spend as you’d hoped or worse, doesn’t convert into a customer for your business at all, means a lot of misplaced effort. Small businesses need safe bets when it comes to account based marketing. And your data is what will provide them.

Here are a few ways you can leverage customer data to determine target accounts for ABM:

  • Find companies similar to existing clients. Who are your MVP clients today? What firmographic and behavioral data could you find mirrored in potential customers? It’s about digging deeper than the basics like location and industry and instead, finding commonalities that are below the surface. Revenue growth, changes in executive leadership, and the usage of certain tools and technologies can all be indicators of an ideal client for your business. Finding those attributes in other companies can help you narrow into your target.
  • Target your competitors’ customers. Figuring out which clients yield the highest revenue for your biggest competitors can be a great way to identify target accounts for ABM. Just remember: it’s the customer experience that matters most. The customer experience you provide needs to far-outshine that of your competitors if you have any hope of winning their business. 
  • Find the strongest internal connections. Sometimes, relationships between members of your team and their networks can be the best source of target customers for account based marketing. LinkedIn can be a great source for identifying potential connections between your employees and the higher-ups at a potential client. 

In fact, small businesses should look at getting the whole team involved throughout the entire ABM process. Here’s how:

#3. Get the Whole Company Involved

From your CEO all the way down to that intern answering the phones, small businesses need to make use of the entire team to make account based marketing a success. Building brand awareness, developing internal champions, and providing a best-in-class customer experience are responsibilities that your entire team should share. Have the founder of your company reach out to the founder of the target account. Same goes for your sales and marketing directors, your technology team, and anyone else who can find a counterpart within the company you’re going after. Demonstrate that the whole team is involved in this effort. And don’t be afraid to be transparent about what you’re doing and why...

#4. Be Transparent (aka Show Them the Love)

In today’s digital world, there’s no use in pretending you’re something you’re not. If you’re a small fish in a big pond, it only takes one Google search for a potential client to uncover that. So rather than trying to put on a facade, be transparent about who you are and why you’re specifically interested in working with them. Highlight the level of service you’re able to provide and what makes your company special compared to your competitors. That level of white-glove treatment could be enough for you to win their business.

Of course, this doesn’t work for every client, so be sure to use your discretion on whether or not you think the target account would respond positively to your transparency. But for those that do, this step can be just the thing that creates a lasting relationship and turns your ABM strategy into a success.

#5. Create High-Value Custom Content

Personalization is at the center of account based marketing. And while larger businesses with extensive marketing budgets might have the flexibility to do cool stuff like website personalization and targeted advertisements, small businesses with lesser budgets can still get personal, too. Offering personalized assessments or evaluations of the target account’s business is a great way to grab the attention of a decision-maker. You can also create a custom landing page tailored toward your target account, write blog posts that focus either on their organization or industry as a whole and offer up valuable feedback and insights to the client that demonstrate the value you would provide should they do business with you. The key is creating high-quality content (which is easy to do — even with a small team). 

#6. Work on Face-to-Face Interactions

Despite the fact that account based marketing is largely a digital strategy for most companies, opportunities for face-to-face interactions are always a smart way to have a lasting impact on the customers you want to reach the most. Attending live events (or even hosting your own) is an effective way to get in front of your potential customers at a time when they’re open to new ideas about how to make their business better. 


ReachForce helps marketers increase revenue contribution by solving some of their toughest data management problems. We understand the challenges of results-driven marketers and provide solutions to make initiatives like marketing automation, personalization, and predictive marketing better. Whether you have an acute pain to solve today or prefer to grow your capabilities over time, ReachForce can unify, clean and enrich prospect and customer lifecycle data in your business, and do it at your own pace.

To learn more about how ReachForce can help you optimize demand generation and your impact on revenue, get a free data assessment and get a demo today.

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