Picture this: You have the opportunity to build a demand gen engine at a fast-growing company that’s brand new to marketing.
Where do you start?
That’s exactly the question Daniel Englebretson had to answer when he joined the Phononic team in 2017. Less than one year later, he was walking across the stage to receive an ABMie for Best Demand Generation Campaign.
So, how did Daniel and the Phononic team build an award-winning marketing program in under a year? Let’s a take a look.
A Niche Vertical and a Blank Slate
Phononic sells into several different verticals, but their ABMie win was based on their work in one in particular: optoelectronics.
Never heard of optoelectronics? Don’t worry — I hadn’t either. To put it simply, Daniel describes their optoelectronics product as a chip that helps transmit data more quickly through fiber optic cables.
Sounds valuable, right? It is! But the total addressable market for this particular product is very small — roughly 100 possible purchasers.
That’s where Daniel started: A new team, a new product, a niche audience, and virtually no foundation for marketing at Phononic. He was starting with a blank slate, and anything was possible.
Go Big or Go Home
With a target account list of around 100 companies, the Phononic team knew exactly who they needed to be going after. The question was, how?
They decided to galvanize around a trade show. Daniel and his team set what they thought was a realistic goal of landing 14 appointments with their prospective buyers at the event.
One of their biggest challenges as a startup was building awareness and trust with their target accounts. Daniel explains, “As you can image, someone who’s building cell towers can’t afford to have a failure in the product, so there’s a fear of working with a small supplier.”
They knew their product was the best on the market. But how could they make sure their target customers knew that, too?
“We needed to come off like we were bigger than we were,” says Daniel. “We needed to engage the right accounts in a fairly tight timeline, considering the show was a couple of months out. We had never done any marketing to these folks before, so generally speaking, we were kind of unknown.”
With no formal marketing collateral in their arsenal, Daniel’s team put together a key piece of collateral that would help them win: a competitive “fight sheet” designed to show the benefits of their product versus their competitors’.
Then, they took a multichannel approach to engaging their target accounts before, during, and after the trade show.
Rules of (Target Account) Engagement
Here comes the fun part: getting their value prop in front of their target accounts.
Daniel and team came at this challenge from all angles.
Prior to the trade show, they obtained the attendee list and reached out to them via email. But not mass email blasts. No, they were much more personal than that.
They sent a personalized message to their key personas at each of the companies, explaining they were looking to meet up with people like them at the show to find out more about their buying style — very non-salesy and low pressure.
Then, they used account-based advertising across display to expand their reach to all the decision-makers at their target accounts without wasting ad dollars on the wrong people. At the same time, their sales team was selectively reaching out to their target accounts via phone. They also put out press releases and webinars to build recognition and momentum around their brand.
Sales Was Shocked When People Started Walking Up to Them
Now, the results. Phononic set 17 meetings at the event, blowing well past their goal of 14. And they blew their advertising cost per click and CTRs out of the water.
Because of the air cover from their targeted ads and outreach, sales was shocked at how easily they were able to build relationships with future customers. People began walking up to them at the trade show and saying, “Hey, we recognize that logo. Tell us more.”
Case in point: One salesperson was on a plane when a prospect came by and started chatting with them because they recognized the logo on their shirt from an ad they’d seen online.
Building their brand, building trust, and building relationships? Check, check, check.
These may seem like small, one-off anecdotes, but there’s a huge lesson here: Sales saw the value marketing was providing, and it made their job significantly easier. From day one, Phononic’s sales and marketing teams have been rowing in the same direction. They’re working the same accounts and they have the same goals, so they’re able to achieve those goals more quickly.
Daniel’s Top 2 Takeaways from an Award-Winning Year
Daniel had a lot of wisdom to share, and he left us with two specific pieces of advice that all marketers should follow.
1. Find what works and replicate it.
Creating marketing campaigns can be time-consuming, but that doesn’t faze Daniel. When you’re just getting started with an account-based strategy, you can’t be afraid to try new things. “You’re better off doing lots of things and seeing what works than trying just one thing,” he explains. When you know what works, replicating it at scale is infinitely easier.
2. Just start somewhere.
“This is kind of cliched, but I believe it: Don’t let perfect get in the way of better,” says Daniel. “Just get started.”