<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=118316065439938&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
David Mills
By David Mills on February 11, 2019

How Do Businesses Grow When the Prospect List is Small?

Solving the Marketing Challenge for businesses with small prospect pools.

We’ve come a long way from the days when all marketing was distributed to the entire available audience - true mass marketing. The development of technologies like targeted cable and retargeting (serving ads to people who have visited your website), has allowed more focused and cost-effective outreach. But these approaches still don’t meet the need for the many businesses, sales teams and nonprofits who need to reach a very small pool of prospects.   

For many businesses the number of potential prospects is small - from the low hundreds to the low thousands. It is difficult to use traditional marketing to reach these small groups.

A small prospect pool can result from a number of factors ranging from the nature of your business as a niche provider, small total industry, high levels of customization, limited geography, or product exclusivity. Often small prospect pools are also associated with high average sales. For some organizations, the small prospect pool is temporary-it’s just who they believe they can reach right now.

You can’t reach these small groups using common marketing tools unless the prospect already knows about you or has visited your website. All the amazing Marcom (marketing communications technologies), which now number at more than 5,000, weren’t designed for small audiences. You also can’t get granular enough with Facebook or Google Ads, and if you try you’ll discover that your ads either won’t run at all, or are very expensive for what they produce.

The traditional approaches have been to either reach out through networking or traditional sales calls, mail a catalog (or something smaller), or to get a cold email list and spam them into submission. While these options can work, it is important to build awareness and trust with these prospects before and during the sales process.

Do You Really Need Marketing for Small Prospect Pools?

Access to decision makers is not easy to maintain throughout the decision process. Since the number of decision makers has grown to 5.4 on average (HBR) with about 7 people involved in the process, ensuring that multiple players in the buying group are becoming aware of your existence and learning about what makes you different is critical. All of these players will rely on web search and information they can gather online to a large degree.

To compound the challenge, buyers no longer want to talk with an account representative first, they want to do online research and when their decision is nearly complete, they will call you.

  • 90% of B2B buyers start their purchase process with online search.
  • 74% conduct a full one-half of their researching online before purchasing.

(Forrester Research)

Helping this group of decision makers discover your product or service online is not really optional, and the earlier in the problem definition stage you make your entry the better.  The challenge is to find ways to put this information in front of the various people in the buying group.

Why marketing is important for small prospect pools:

    1. A potential buyer who is educated about your brand is a much better prospect that one who is learning about you for the first time.
    1. If you are not the dominant provider in the market, building credibility is critical.
  1. The more members of a buying group who are educated by you and about your products and services, the faster your sale can proceed.

How to Turn Traditional Marketing On Its Head

An important shift is occurring in which the powerful inbound software systems are being re-configured for the purpose of reaching small audiences. Marketing can now directly target and support the buyer’s journey even if the total number of potential buyers is very small.

If your business has a permanently small prospect pool, then your marketing should serve to increase the number of people in the buying team who are aware of and trust your solutions, and it should add value in the problem identification phase by helping buyers make sense of their challenge. This helps position you as an expert that they need and trust.

If your organization has a temporarily small prospect pool which will grow in the future, you are essentially doing the same thing that every entrepreneur needs to do. You need to win the early adopters so that you have some social proof that your service or product is a standout.

In either case, moving from a traditional advertising funnel with large numbers at the top of the awareness stage to a more account focused approach in marketing can help increase awareness among all buyers and deepen their appreciation of your expertise and value.  

What is Account Based Marketing?

Think of this highly targeted approach as “personalized narrowcasting” which uses a variety of tools to reach a very specific and fairly small audience (low hundreds to low thousands). It employs the same “value-first” approach that inbound marketing has pioneered: to serve people with valuable information that fosters trust and creates an educated buyer resulting in a qualified purchase. Narrowcasting is tied to the sales approach called Account Based Sales.

Account-based marketing (ABM) allows for personalization using automation (say that 5 times fast). Yes that means you can personalize down to the company or company plus role, or company, location, and role using automation software.

Personalized Automation with ABM - The right content, personalized for the right person at the right time.

In addition to the tried and true methods that take you to expo’s or into cold sales calls, there are a number of new opportunities that are integrated with well-established inbound marketing software to market to a very select audience. What’s new is that smaller businesses, education, and nonprofits can now deliver what only the largest enterprise budgets could pull off before.

Here’s what you can do now with Account-Based Marketing.

    • Track the behavior of the entire buying committee on your digital properties.
    • Monitoring of anonymous website visitors so that you identify companies that fit your prospect profile.
    • Reach out to specific kinds of employees at specific companies to place ads in their normal web browsing.
    • Share a pre-roll video on youtube with specific employees of specific companies.
    • Create personalization on your website and in an email that is detailed down to the role in a specific company.
  • Show ads that change based upon who is looking at them.  

Does ABM Work?

Here are a couple of stats to provide insight into the why and the value of this approach.

    • 95% of buyers chose a solution provider that “Provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process” (Demandgen).
    • In 2007, reaching a prospect took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts. Today it takes 8. (TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group).
    • Seventy percent of consumers click on the retailers they know first (searchengineland 2013)
  • Forrester research indicates that Companies that nurture leads make 50% more sales at a cost 33% less than non-nurtured leads.

ABM offers two big opportunities for small business and other organizations.

    1. It can shorten up the sales cycle for what can sometimes be very slow sales.
  1. It can work behind the scenes so that the person who has become your champion doesn’t have such an uphill battle with the rest of the buying team.

To explore how you can establish your brand more effectively with a small target audience, schedule a consultation.

About Story Collaborative

We're a growth agency that specializes in competitive advantage, inbound and account based marketing for companies in technology, cyber, healthcare, manufacturing and educational services.

Published by David Mills February 11, 2019
David Mills