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You want amazing customers. Customers you enjoy working with, that love your product, and stay with your business for years to come.
If you want to consistently engage and close your best-fit customers, account-based marketing could be the strategy you need to start sustainably growing your revenue.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to get started with Account-Based Marketing.
Table of Contents
What is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-Based Marketing, or ABM, is a proven B2B marketing strategy that gets your sales and marketing teams aligned and impacting the bottom line. Identify and target the accounts you value most, using account-based data to attract, engage, convert, and measure progress against customers and prospects at scale.
With account-based marketing, your marketing takes an incredibly focused approach. Instead of focusing on generating as much traffic as possible, you focus on producing quality traffic. So instead of trying to get 1000 leads at the top of the funnel, you focus on engaging 100 accounts.
That may sound terrifying. And quite frankly, it breaks the safety marketers feel in having 1000 leads. But as a result of no longer focusing on broad, general information, you create such a helpful experience that your target accounts are significantly more likely to close.
ABM cuts out the vanity metrics and focuses both marketing and sales on revenue to ensure alignment. One of the critical aspects of ABM comes from marketing and sales aligning to function more as one team driving revenue. Yes, marketing and sales still have other metrics they measure, but these metrics are focused on target account engagement and buyer intent instead of website sessions.
ABM focuses on the most high-value accounts. Most B2B businesses would rather have a smaller number of customers they serve incredibly well than a constant churn of customers leaving. By targeting your best-fit customers from the start, you have the opportunity to ensure you get the customers you can serve best and partner with for years to come.
What are the Benefits of Account-Based Marketing?
ABM works insanely well for B2B Marketers. Here are a few facts that come from Inbox Insight.
marketers saw a decrease in ROI
have been able to build strong relationships with top-tier clients
saw better alignment between the sales and marketing departments
were able to accelerate their sales pipelines
of B2B marketers saw larger average deal sizes
generated higher quality opportunities
With ABM you get:
When you match your best-fit customers to your products, your customers will like your business more. You help them overcome the problem they were facing. Everyone likes a problem solver.
People recognize you can help them overcome their problems, so they buy the better versions of your products and services so they can overcome their problems more quickly. They are bought in before they buy instead of buying so they “can try it out for a year.”
When people are experiencing a problem, they typically want to solve the problem quickly. Because an ABM strategy helps position your brand as the clear solution to your target accounts, they buy more quickly to see their problems disappear.
Better internal alignment
There has sometimes been a rivalry between marketing and sales. This rivalry is a bit counterproductive. Both departments want to benefit the company. By implementing ABM, your teams will align towards driving revenue.
ABM is exclusive to B2B
ABM is exclusive to B2B for numerous reasons.
By the nature that your marketing focuses on developing a relationship with numerous individuals within an account, ABM won’t work well in the B2C space.
ABM requires a list of real target accounts, not just semi-fictional representations.
With most other marketing approaches, you create an ideal customer profile and buyer persona and stop there. The ICP becomes the filter you run accounts through as they start sales conversations. The ICP becomes a qualifying tool after an account has said they want to start a sales conversation.
With ABM, you still create an ICP, but you use your ICP as the filter for creating a target account list. Once the list is created, the sales qualification process (if there’s any qualifying) focuses more on intangible aspects like culture fit. This target account list allows your sales process to go significantly faster because you know from the onset that every target account matches the businesses you want to work with.
ABM Requires Specific Data and Technology to Implement at Scale
Targeting the right accounts is crucial for effective ABM. That’s why you need specific data and technology to implement ABM at scale.
You need the ability to serve ads to the contacts at your target accounts through advanced segmentation. You need the ability to reach out to them directly. You need to track their movements to see if there are any levels of potential buyer intent.
Simply put, without the right technology, you won’t have the data and tools you need to actively engage with numerous target accounts through various digital channels.
ABM is Highly Personalized
To engage target accounts effectively, you need to create content specifically to address their needs as an account. ABM is different from an inbound marketing approach that focuses on creating content that’s helpful and easily found in search engines.
With ABM, you aren’t trying to attract thousands anymore. You are trying to attract just those on your target account list. If you continued to send more general content to only 100 accounts instead of 1000, you likely wouldn’t see the increased revenue attributed to effective ABM.
By focusing on attracting fewer leads, you should have an expanded bandwidth to focus more on personalized content for target accounts. By prioritizing personalized content, you create a more engaging experience and invite your target accounts into doing business with you. They are no longer just a number. They feel valued because you took the time to identify that your product would benefit them, and you want to help them succeed.
ABM requires internal alignment cross-functionally
If you are going to focus your efforts, you need to ensure that once a target account shows a likelihood to buy that all hands are on deck to close the account. Once this account has closed, you don’t want to hand them over to your customer success team and have the success team not know the context of the customer.
From start to finish, your customers should have a frictionless experience where they always feel prioritized and that your company is advocating for their success. As a result, you need internal alignment from start to finish. If you can’t align your teams around your customers’ success, your ABM efforts won’t work.
ABM focuses on revenue over leads
This concept was mentioned before, but it’s that important. Your North Star Metric in ABM is revenue, not leads.
This concept becomes difficult for many marketers. In most companies, it’s the role of marketing to get leads and pass those leads to sales. Then it’s sales’ job to get the revenue.
With ABM, everyone is on the hook for getting revenue to increase year over year. That’s why everything mentioned above is imperative for success. Leads aren’t the metric marketing is measured against. The leading metric marketing is measured against is target account engagement.
When you have target accounts engaging, that will lead towards sales. So you can host a webinar that gets you 1000 leads. If none of them were on the target account list, the webinar didn’t work. If you host a webinar and 10% of your target accounts show up, it was a success.
When marketing can create opportunities for account engagement, sales will have the opportunity to reach out and close the deal.
You have an ongoing business relationship with your customers.
One of the crucial aspects of effective ABM is the development of relationships. You have transitioned your thinking from getting as many leads as possible to identifying the accounts you want to work with.
By focusing on fewer accounts, relationship development is crucial. You are trying to acquire your best-fit customers that will have a high lifetime value for your business. If you have a more transactional relationship with your customers, you probably shouldn’t consider implementing ABM.
In most transactional relationships, you won’t have the ability to create an ongoing relationship with your customers. Most transactional relationships would focus on selling a higher volume of products since the only way to increase revenue is through new sales.
With that said, there are exceptions to this rule. The only way to justify implementing ABM in a transactional relationship is if the cost of the product is a high-cost product. If you are selling incredibly expensive manufacturing equipment that costs upwards of $100,000, you could potentially justify implementing an ABM strategy.
You solve a specific problem for an industry, a company role, or a stage of business growth.
When you are creating your target account list, you need to have identified the problem you solve for who you are targeting. If you don’t know the solution you offer or the problem you solve, you won’t have the ability to create personalized messaging for your key accounts.
Most companies solve problems within an industry, a business function, or a stage of growth. Here are a few examples:
There are numerous consultants that specifically work with tech start-ups because they know those are their best-fit customers.
There are numerous hiring agencies that specialize in hiring for a specific industry.
There are numerous manufacturing companies that only sell to residential home builders.
If you are a bit apprehensive at the idea of no longer trying to work with everyone, that’s normal. But for ABM to work, you need to identify a group of accounts that you can help solve their problems and solve their problems well.
Identify the problem you solve, then create a list of specific accounts that would most benefit if that problem disappeared.
The further you can niche down into a problem, the more effectively you will be able to target the accounts with personalized messaging that will resonate.
You have larger deal sizes ($25,000+)
ABM produces a higher ROI because you close larger deals faster by developing relationships and speaking directly to each account’s needs. With that said, it also generates a higher ROI because the deals are larger in size.
If you have to close 100 deals to reach $100,000 in revenue, ABM isn’t for you. The minimum threshold for success with ABM is a deal size of $25,000 ARR. To reach a $1M ARR, you would still have to close 40 deals. That’s still a large number of closes, but it’s feasible if you also have a longer customer lifetime.
Additionally, the right technology to create an effective ABM strategy is expensive. The full suite of ABM technology can range from $40,000 to $300,000 a year. That’s just in the technology itself.
If you don’t have the appropriate deal size to justify the costs associated with an ABM program, you won’t see the ROI you need for long-term success.
You have a longer sales cycle with a buying committee (3 weeks at least)
ABM functions well when there’s a longer sales cycle involving a buying committee. ABM programs are typically launched from organizations that have a more complex product that needs input from numerous parts of the organization.
As a result of the longer sales cycle, effective ABM programs will serve relevant content to the various decision-makers to answer any questions that typically arise and overcome objections before they are voiced.
With a longer sales cycle, your marketing team has the opportunity to learn the decision-makers involved, and market directly to them in the midst of sales conversations.
As a result, the sales cycle typically moves more quickly and results in larger deals.
Feel Like You Need to Take Some Notes?
Create an Ideal Customer Profile:
This task sounds daunting. That’s why many companies don’t have an ICP or haven’t looked at their ICP in quite some time.
To create an ICP:
Look at your current customers
Identify the ones you love working with (Speak with Finance, Operations, Support, Sales, and Marketing)
Identify the trends between your favorite accounts
Write the trends down
And now you have an Ideal Customer Profile.
Your ICP should include aspects like annual revenue, industry, technology, location, and any other trends you have seen are indicators of long-term success.
Create a Target List based on your Ideal Customer Profile:
Find more companies like the current companies you love working with.
This idea sounds a bit basic but is clearly more difficult to implement. This is where the right tools and technology come into play.
If you don’t have ABM-specific tech, look within your existing CRM. Use your ICP as the filter on the contacts within your CRM to identify those you already have the contact information for. From there, you can launch an ABM campaign to show the effectiveness of ABM.
For a sustainable and scalable approach to ABM, use a data enrichment platform to create a target account list. From there, you can use your ICP as the filter for pulling this list of potential new target accounts. The data enrichment platform will provide you with the companies and relevant contacts to reach out to for your ABM campaigns.
Understand the Accounts on the list:
Assess how likely each account is to buy from you. Even though every company is a good fit, they probably aren’t all likely to close quickly.
This is another area in which the right technology can dramatically improve your ABM efforts. With an ABM platform, you can see each account’s buyer intent.
What is buyer intent? Good question. Buyer intent is the ability to see when a target account has a spike in activity surrounding topics similar to your product service. This could be on your website or really anywhere on the internet.
When you are trying to understand where you should focus your time, focus your time on the accounts that have the highest likelihood of buying your product.
Create a tiered approach:
This tiered approach will help you to prioritize your efforts accordingly.
You should prioritize your efforts predominantly based on two aspects.
1. You need to prioritize based on the largest propensity to close.
2. You need to prioritize based on the accounts that are the best fit for your business.
Even though your target account list is made up of best-fit potential customers, there are still accounts that are likely a better fit than others. You want to ensure you aren’t missing out on opportunities to close your absolute best fits.
Once you’ve tiered your accounts, you should create personalized content accordingly. Not every account can get incredibly personalized content all the time. Most companies don’t have the bandwidth. So the higher the tier, the more personalized the content.
Align your Team:
By this point, you have a detailed list of accounts you are targeting.
You have tiered the accounts to prioritize who should get the most sales attention. Make sure everyone understands their responsibilities, then go close some deals.
WHAT TECHNOLOGY IS ESSENTIAL FOR ABM?
To create a long-term, sustainable, scalable, and systematic account-based marketing strategy, you need the right technology. Start with your ABM strategy, then add in the technology to support your it.
Almost every ABM strategy will need four pieces of technology.
A Customer Relationship Management software (CRM)
In reality, a CRM is essential in the modern marketing and sales environment. You need technology to organize all of your customer information in one place.
With a robust CRM, you can set up the appropriate integrations to ensure all of your company contact data flows seamlessly in and out of this one source of truth. Operation entirely out of a CRM will ensure you maintain consistency and have aligned teams.
When everyone has access to the same information and operates their day-to-day from the same data, your teams will naturally become more aligned.
A marketing automation software (MAS)
As mentioned before, this technology is truly essential for any marketing and sales in the modern day. A marketing automation software will equip your marketers to automate many of their tasks so they can focus their efforts on high-impact areas.
If you want to create an effective ABM campaign, you need the ability to automate your campaigns. Without automation, you can’t scale. If you can’t scale, ABM won’t work long-term.
An ABM Platform
You need the technology to run your ABM campaigns effectively at scale. An ABM platform will give you the ability to run the most commonly used ABM tactics all in one place.
These tactics often include data management, target account list creation, targeted ads, website personalization, and chat.
With this platform, you will have better internal alignment through real-time account alerts, comprehensive reporting across channels, and increase visibility into what’s working.
You need easy ways to create target account lists, then contact the accounts.
Data enrichment platforms let you filter down to a list of companies that meet a highly specific set of criteria and then get the key decision-maker’s contact information.
Additionally, many data enrichment platforms can integrate with your CRM to ensure your sales and marketing teams always have the most accurate information.
Bonus: A Gifting Platform
You love getting gifts. So do your customers, especially when the gift is personalized to their preferences.
A gifting platform can equip you to send gifts at scale so every customer and prospect can develop a one-to-one relationship with your company.
When it comes to what is absolutely essential, a gifting platform opens the opportunity for a new ABM tactic. It’s not essential to get started, but when you implement programmatic gifting into your ABM strategy, the results are massive.
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HOW DO I CREATE AN ABM LEADERSHIP TEAM?
Account-based marketing is more than a marketing approach. It’s a cross-functional business decision. Your ABM leadership team will provide you with the leaders across each department that can champion ABM and help to foster cross-functional internal alignment.
When you build an ABM leadership team, you want...
People from Marketing, Sales, Operations, Finance, Customer Success, and Product Development.
The goal is to get enough people to have a comprehensive view of your customers without creating a team so large that you end up losing the ability for everyone to be heard.
People that are team players.
Most people come in to do their job and want to do their job well. You need to find people that are invested in the overall betterment of the company and are willing to do something a bit outside of their job description to help the business.
People that are curious
This goes right along with people that are team players. You need people that desire to learn more about how the business works. Additionally, ABM goes against the grain of how marketing has been done for the past 2 decades.
You need people that look at the business, identify the levers that can be pulled, and say “I wonder what would happen if..” Once you find a few people that are willing to experiment and aren’t afraid if something goes wrong, you’ve got a winning team.
People that will advocate for ABM
Employees across the organization may start to grumble and worry about the future of the company when marketing and sales stop engaging so many leads. You need leaders cross-functionally that will affirm the efforts of ABM, and will ensure that alignment stays intact.
People that are optimistic
With ABM, you stop trying to get 1000’s of leads and start trying to get an incredibly small number of accounts. Everyone in the business has a slight sense of peace when the sales team is stressed out and overwhelmed by leads.
When people across the company feel that the number of potential customers in conversation with sales has dramatically decreased, they will feel stressed. They are used to a 1% close rate. So they hear 100 target accounts and feel that only 1 new deal is coming through the pipeline.
In reality, you will likely have something closer to a 15% close rate. 15% of 100 is 15 new deals. 1% of 1000 is 10 new deals. You will end up in a more positive place. It’s just a very different route to take.
Should you have executives on your ABM leadership team?
When it comes to building your ABM leadership team, your executive team will definitely need some level of involvement. For a truly successful ABM strategy, you need to have your executive team and CEO fully bought into the strategy.
There isn’t a clear-cut answer that would be applicable to everyone, but there are a few questions to consider that will make it easier for you as you build the team.
What is the size of your organization? If you have a small team, executive leadership will likely be on the team. The larger the organization, the less likely you are to have executive leadership involved.
Does your company culture lend itself to the sharing of ideas? Some companies have a culture in which people don’t tend to share ideas around executives. This won’t lend itself towards success with ABM.
How will executive leadership be kept in the loop on the ABM leadership team? If a representative of the ABM leadership team isn’t an executive, executives need some way of learning about what’s going on.
Does executive leadership want to be involved? If your CEO wants to be on the team, they will likely end up on the team.
For most ABM leadership teams, it will work best to have your CMO involved in the ABM leadership team. The CMO can function as the representative of marketing and of the executive leadership.
Getting people on the team
Now that you have attracted the right people, you need to get them on the team. You need to approach them and ask them to take on additional responsibility. That’s a difficult ask for many leaders.
When approaching these leaders to ask them to join the team, you need to speak in a way that resonates with them more than with your own hopes for marketing.
Finance and Executives want to discuss profitability and ROI
Operations want to speak on developing better processes
Customer Success want to discuss how to ensure customer satisfaction
Product developers want to create the best products
Sales wants bigger deals to close faster
When you can relate to people by identifying what’s in it for them, they will lean in and look to join the team.
ABM Strategy Approaches
Additionally, you need to consider your audience when you are creating the content. There are three main approaches you can take when implementing an ABM strategy.
This ABM content approach focuses on developing highly personalized content that you only use for one target account. An example of a one-to-one piece of content is a video your salesperson makes specifically to answer a client’s question or a live demonstration of the product.
This ABM content approach focuses on developing personalized content that appeals to a few select accounts. An example of a One-to-Few approach is a Slack community or an invite-only virtual happy hour.
This ABM content approach focuses on developing content that appeals to a specific target audience of an industry. An example of this approach is a webinar or a case study served to a specific target account list through digital advertising.
The most effective ABM programs will utilize each of these approaches, but you need to assess your current target account list and your own team’s bandwidth as you consider the various approaches.
If you have an incredibly large target account list, it’s recommended you start with a One-to-Many approach and become more personalized as the accounts show higher buyer intent.
Additionally, if you have a smaller team, you will likely want to focus efforts towards a One-to-Many approach as you don’t have the bandwidth to create a hyper-personalized experience for every account.
Once you know what your target accounts are most likely to engage with and are able to assess your internal team’s bandwidth for creating content, here are a few content tactics you can use for your ABM campaigns.
These ads serve your content marketing efforts directly to the contacts within your target accounts. For many marketers, the targeted display advertising implemented through LinkedIn and an ABM platform like Terminus are the linch-pin that drive their ABM efforts. You create content that speaks directly to your target accounts, and you are implementing soft outreach strategies to engage them. The contacts will start trusting your business as an authoritative and helpful source of information. Then your sales reps can reach out directly to start a sales conversation.
When done effectively, podcasts can work in all three different ABM content approaches. You can interview contacts on your target account list to start building a relationship in a One-to-One content approach. You can interview a panel of target accounts in a One-to-Few content approach. Once you share the content, it directly addresses the other target accounts on your list, creating a One-to-Many content approach. Additionally, you can create a video podcast allowing you to create a long-form video, short-form video clips, and long-form audio. When a podcast is implemented effectively, it’s a triple-threat that will dramatically help your ABM efforts.
Video content, like a podcast, can be implemented in any of the three ABM content approaches. You have the ability to create short videos that are sent from sales reps to target accounts on a One-to-One basis. You can identify a select number of accounts that all struggle with the same issues and create a short video series walking them through how to overcome that problem. You can also create a short video series that overcomes a more general problem for your industry as a One-to-Many approach. Video content is a must as video has been the most highly engaged-with piece of content for 6 years running.
A case study is one of the most effective content pieces you can create as it has appeal across the entire funnel. A case study can offer the opportunity to engage target accounts by showing the effectiveness of your product. A sales rep can show a case study to prove the effectiveness of your product to target accounts in your sales process. Lastly, case studies can show your existing customers how to properly implement your product and can upsell them to new products. If you have limited bandwidth, creating a highly engaging and convincing case study will help you across the entire funnel.
The main purpose of blog content in an ABM strategy is to create something engaging for your sales reps to send, to include in your emails, and to create content-binging opportunities once target accounts are on the website. The main marketing metric for ABM is engagement. Creating highly engaging blog content that can be shared will dramatically help you as you try to engage your target accounts by giving them something to directly engage with.
Webinars offer a unique video opportunity because you have the chance to directly engage with contacts from your target accounts. With an ABM strategy, you want to promote the webinar to your target accounts and ensure you offer the opportunity for a Q&A. This Q&A will fuel the other content you create as the target accounts are literally telling you what they don’t understand. Additionally, a webinar does indicate some higher level of engagement as they gave you their email address and took time out of their day for a live webinar.
Give a Free Report/Audit
Many companies offer some kind of initial audit that helps to identify the areas of potential growth. One of the most effective One-to-One ABM content tactics is to give away an initial audit. This audit helps the target accounts understand from the start their need for your products and provides some level of clarity as to what you will do for them. It’s important to ensure the target account understands a more in-depth audit will need to be conducted to ensure that your company has identified every area of improvement, but an initial audit will help to get attention quickly.
There are other content tactics, but this list will help you as you look to get started with ABM.
In order to choose the tactics most effective for your business, you need to know what your target accounts are likely to engage with, and what your team has the ability to execute.
Once you identify what your target accounts will engage with, and what your team has the ability to execute, go all-in on that one tactic. Become an expert in that tactic, and start to expand the tactics you implement.
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Identify Your Goals
With running ABM, what are you trying to accomplish? If you are in a company that hasn’t identified a clear mission for everyone to rally around, you need to create a mission. Without a mission in place, the employees of the company don’t have a clear picture of what success looks like.
A part of the mission will likely include the people you are looking to serve. That will help to clarify your business goals and help to identify who would be on your target account list.
Here are a few questions you can walk through to help you identify your goals.
- What problem do we want to solve?
- Why do we want to solve this problem?
- How do we solve this problem?
- Who struggles with this problem?
- How do we reach the people struggling with this problem?
- How many customers do we want to serve in the next 5 to 10 years?
- What do we want our annual revenue to be in the next 5 to 10 years?
Determine your ABM strategy
After going through the questions above, you should have a much clearer picture of who you are trying to engage, and what you offer that would benefit their business.
Identify the kinds of companies you want to target and who you want to be known as in the marketplace. Find the underserved section of your market and own that space. You can expand from there, but creating a base of customers you serve incredibly well will provide you the insight and support you need to sustainably grow in the long run.
Once you’ve identified your strategy, build your ABM leadership team. You may want to reverse this order based on the culture of your company. If you have people you know want to help build something from the ground up, build the leadership team, then the strategy. It’s just typically easier to get buy-in from numerous departments when you come with some bit of a fleshed-out plan.
Once you’ve got the strategy and the team in place, build your target account list.
Align Marketing and Sales around Revenue
Revenue is the indicator of success with ABM. It’s not leads, MQL, SQL, form submissions, or any other standard digital marketing metric. When revenue increases, you know you have done your part. So you need to have a conversation with your marketing and sales team to ensure everyone knows that all hands are on deck at all times for your target account list.
If you have a target account spike in engagement and showing a high level of buyer intent, your sales team needs to make a call today. If you have a target account that has slowed down in your pipeline because someone in the target account has objections, marketing should provide support to engage that contact with content that overcomes their objections.
There is no longer a clear handoff from marketing to sales. Each team plays a role in the closing of deals and overall revenue. This will put a shock through both marketing and sales which is why it’s crucial to ensure a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities before launching the campaign.
Determine your Tactics
You now have the strategy, ABM leadership team, the target account list, and internal alignment around revenue. You need to determine the tactics you will use to implement your ABM strategy.
There are a few considerations when it comes to your tactics.
First, outline the channels you have available. Look at the technology you have available today. You use your tools and technology to accomplish three objectives.
Whatever tactics you choose, you need to focus on reaching the decision-makers. It’s easy to use the channels you are already most familiar with, but if your target accounts aren’t there, then the efforts won’t work.
Focus on Adding Value
Lead with genuinely beneficial and helpful content. You will build trust. When they start to show signs of buyer intent, you can ensure you are the first company they think of.
Make it Personal
General content has a place. It’s just not in an ABM campaign. You want to create personalized content that will directly speak to the needs of each contact within your target accounts. If you’ve taken the time to get in front of the decision-makers, and you’ve got something valuable for them, making it personal will ensure they engage.
With that in mind...
Here are a few of the common ABM tactics you could implement in your ABM strategy.
- Ad targeting by industry or company (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Sending gifts to contacts of specific accounts
- Personalized website chat
- Personalized website pages
- Personalized content (case studies, white papers, or personalized audit report)
- Tradeshow or other event attendance
- Interacting with target accounts on social media
- Inviting contacts of target accounts to speak at relevant events or on a podcast
- LinkedIn engagement
- Targeted Email Sequences
- Systematic Call Sequences
Audit your Existing Technology
With your strategy in place and your tactics defined, you need to see what’s capable based on your existing technology stack. Reference the section above on the essential piece of ABM technology.
As you audit your tech stack, view each piece of tech as a channel you can use to reach your customers. You may have tactics you want to use that aren’t possible with your existing tech stack. You can either try to get the appropriate tech, try to use your existing tech stack to execute a modified version of the tactic or try your ABM campaign without the tactic.
If this is your flagship campaign, you will likely want to create a smaller ABM campaign to show the effectiveness of ABM. Once you have shown the effectiveness of an ABM strategy, you will have a far easier time implementing new technology to further your ABM efforts.
As mentioned above in the section outlining the essential pieces of ABM technology, you will need an effective CRM, and marketing automation system. A basic ABM campaign can be executed using only your marketing automation and CRM if they are well integrated. Your sales and marketing teams can collaborate to start sending email campaigns to your target account list while your sales team follows up the marketing emails with calls and engaging LinkedIn content. If you don’t have a CRM and Marketing Automation, most modern marketing methods won’t have the ability to scale.
To have better target account segmentation utilizing buyer intent, you will need to access a data enrichment tool like ZoomInfo or SalesIntel. To start implementing targeted display advertising and other digital marketing ABM tactics, you will need an ABM platform like Terminus. If you want to programmatically send direct mail, you will need to implement a sending platform like Sendoso.
Again, the goal of auditing your technology is to identify what you have the capabilities to execute today. Once you have understood what you are able to execute today, you can look at the gaps in your tactical abilities and determine if you need to implement additional tools to expand your tactical abilities.
Implement Any Additional ABM Technology
With your strategy in place and the technology audit completed, you will know if you have any additional technology needs.
Many ABM technology vendors will tell you that you must have their technology to properly implement ABM. Technology specifically designed to implement ABM will certainly help in the implementation of a comprehensive ABM strategy but is not absolutely essential to get started.
Many companies get stuck in the stage of analysis paralysis. They have laid the groundwork for a great campaign but get stuck constantly trying to fine-tune the campaign before it ever launches. Unless your executive leadership is fully bought into ABM prior to the first campaign, you should likely launch with the technology you have today.
Show the value of your ABM efforts. Then you can far more easily show how much more effective your ABM efforts will be with a more comprehensive suite of tools.
With that said, if you have buy-in from the leadership team, start onboarding and implementing your new ABM technology. Technology takes time to implement. If you need the technology to even get started, wait for your new tech. If you can get started with ABM without the tech, get started. ABM is a long-term strategy. You can layer on the additional tactics to further your existing efforts.
Develop Targeted and Personalized Content
ABM hinges on the ability to engage your target accounts with personalized messaging.
You want to create your content right before launching the campaign because the content you create depends on the tactics and channels you plan to implement. If you create highly engaging blog content but have no channel through which your ABM efforts can distribute that content, your blog content doesn’t effectively match what you should create.
A helpful exercise to run through is to do a bit of research on the specific individuals you are trying to reach. This isn’t looking at a buyer persona. This is going on LinkedIn to understand a select number of individuals that are the decision-makers in your target accounts.
Create content for them. Answer their questions. Then deliver it to them.
The goal of this content is not to generate inbound leads through effective SEO best practices. If you generate high-quality inbound leads, that’s an added benefit to your content. Your goal is to create content you can easily distribute to your target accounts that will engage them. When you start to see levels of engagement from your target accounts, you can move in to start closing the deal.
Launch the Campaign
With the content developed, you need to set up any automation and additional engagement criteria within your technology. Once all of your technology is set up, you need to launch the campaign.
Though this guide has covered a lot of ground succinctly, this process you have gone through could take anywhere from one month to six months. To simply say “launch the campaign” seems in some sense a bit underwhelming.
The truth of the matter is that your ABM efforts have just begun. Because ABM is systematic and scalable, you will start collecting data that will help you to identify areas of improvement. That data will help to inform you as to where you have the opportunity to create a better account experience and in turn start closing more of your target accounts.
It all starts when you actually set it live.
So, trust your process. Trust the work you’ve put in. Trust your team. Launch the campaign and see what happens. You may have fundamentally changed the direction of your company.
Adjust your Campaign Based on Data
Once you have started to get some data back from your ABM campaign, there are three big-picture questions you need to consider.
Did we engage with the right people?
Did they have the right level of education to move through the process quickly?
Was there anything that slowed the process down?
The main benefits of effective ABM are a faster pipeline and larger deals with your ideal customers. With your initial campaigns, you should focus on finding the right tactics to connect with target accounts and improving the pipeline velocity. Once you have a consistent process for target account connection, and a fast pipeline, you can move into creating more collateral that will help improve your initial deal size.
Here are a few more questions to ask as you consider those big-picture tactics.
- Did target accounts engage with the content we sent them?
- What web pages led to accounts moving through our pipeline?
- Were there any parts of our pipeline that caused accounts to move slower?
- How many of our target accounts are now having active conversations with salespeople?
- How can we optimize our content to speed up the pipeline?
- Do we need to engage more contacts within each account?
- Should we consider any new tactics?
These questions will help you to identify some potential obvious areas of improvement for your ABM campaigns.
HOW TO MEASURE YOUR ABM SUCCESS
The main goal of ABM is to acquire the best-fit customers for your long-term success. As you look to understand if your ABM efforts are successful, you aren’t looking at leads any longer. You need to start looking at things like engagement, pipeline velocity, and average deal size.
It’s best to start with the end in mind.
As you set your goals for what you hope to achieve with your ABM campaigns, you need to have a net new account goal or revenue goal in mind.
With that revenue goal in mind, you need to move backward through your sales process to understand what you need to expect from your sales teams when it comes to account engagement. If you have numerous stages in your sales process (connection, discovery, demo, agreement, etc.) you need to account that you will likely have a drop off of interest between deal stages. Once you have identified your stages, understand the number of accounts you need to engage in each stage.
From there, move into assessing your marketing process. You need to have an understanding of how you are planning to measure account engagement. A target account engaging with one blog should be treated differently than a target account engaging with 20 blogs and the pricing page. You need to have set up indicators for your sales team to see engagement spikes with target accounts so they can know to reach out directly.
So, many CRMs have the ability to create a custom dashboard. Consider creating a custom dashboard that will allow your sales and marketing teams to measure and track engagement with the metrics you see matter most for closing target accounts. The dashboard should include metrics like the number of touchpoints per account, target accounts showing the most page views, the number of accounts engaged in the sales process, and the number of accounts in each stage of the funnel. These metrics should help give you clarity into what tactics are working best.
The Target Account List
As you look at your revenue goals, one of the easiest levers to pull is your target account list. If you start targeting slightly larger accounts, you could see an increase in your revenue.
As long as you continue to serve customers that align with the original purpose of the organization, consider adding some larger accounts to your target account list to increase your overall deal size.
On the other hand, if you have been targeting incredibly large accounts, you may want to consider targeting some smaller accounts. Smaller accounts typically have fewer people involved in the buying committee and have more autonomy to make decisions. This can lead to a faster pipeline and quicker revenue.
ABM thrives with systematic experimentation. Ensure your campaigns line up with the ICP you have set out, and tweak your target account list to focus on different accounts within your ICP. You may discover your offer really appeals to a new audience you hadn’t previously considered.
As you look at your full-funnel metrics, identify what is the easiest way to start seeing more deals close. If you see that you are having a high close rate, but a low engagement rate from your target account list, you can identify that your content isn’t getting in front of your target account list.
If you are seeing high impressions from target accounts, but low engagement, you can see that your content isn’t intriguing enough to pull in the target accounts.
Look at page views, click-through rates, and conversations. Where is the breakdown in the attract and engagement stage of the full-funnel process? If you can identify where you are losing interest, you can start A/B testing that portion of your funnel to understand what will lead to a higher engagement with your target accounts.
Here are a few questions to help you identify the breakdown in engagement.
- Are target accounts seeing our marketing efforts (Impressions)?
- Are target accounts clicking on our marketing efforts (CTR)?
- Are target accounts engaging the content (Time on page, ect.)?
- Are target accounts exploring our content (Number of Page Views)?
- Are target accounts looking at our competitors (Buying Intent)?
- Are target accounts looking at our product/pricing pages (Buyer Intent)?
- Are target accounts looking at the page to start the sales process (Buyer Intent)?
If you can walk through these questions, you can more easily identify where the breakdown is in the funnel.
If your target accounts are engaging, but they aren’t closing, the best way to improve your sales pipeline is to have someone removed from the sales process reach out to any target accounts that don’t close and simply ask why the target account went a different direction.
Additionally, ask how your company can improve to work with companies like the account you speak with. People are incredibly likely to offer honest feedback if you come from the approach that you are trying to improve. Take the feedback and implement it.
If you can’t interview lost deals, you have a few things to consider:
There could be something in your sales pipeline that creates unnecessary hurdles. Identify what could be slowing your sales process, and try to eliminate any unnecessary hurdles. Most of the target accounts in a sales pipeline are looking for a solution quickly. The more quickly you can offer the solution, the more likely they are to move forward with you.
If you have eliminated the hurdles in the sales process, and people still aren’t closing, you may need to better educate target accounts through continued marketing efforts. Create a marketing plan on how you want to continue education for target accounts prior to and once they have entered the sales pipeline. This could be through email, blog content, video, or targeted ads. You just need to ensure they see the content and are able to digest the information.
If you have continued to educate and people still aren’t closing, you should re-evaluate the accounts you target. If you are able to ensure they understand exactly what you offer, how it will impact their business, and what the process looks like to move forward, you may have targeted accounts that would benefit from your product, but don’t have the ability to buy.
If you have evaluated these three criteria that affect the sales pipeline and you are still having trouble closing deals, you need to assess the abilities of your marketing and sales team. You likely want a team you know is working their hardest to accomplish the task at hand, but sometimes you get great people that aren’t suited or equipped for the task. Determine with your people if additional coaching is needed or if you need to consider looking for a new person to fill a role.
Your customer lifetime value is critical to continued growth year-over-year. Marketing and sales will always struggle to maintain steady growth if customers are constantly leaving.
Your existing customers provide the stable foundation from which you have the opportunity to grow. Another bi-product of effective ABM is that your existing customers become evangelists for your company. If you don’t have any long-term customers, you won’t have evangelists start referring you to new customers.
Increasing your customer lifetime is the most difficult to identify, as there are any number of things that could have impacted why the customer has decided to part ways with your company. It could have gone as far back as mismatched expectations as a result of your marketing collateral. It could have been a salesperson that over-promised. It could have been that the company wasn’t a good fit from the start. Truly, the reasons are endless.
As a result of the incredibly nuanced reasons a customer could stop engaging with your business, start trying to interview customers that stop working with your company to understand why they are leaving. Affirm that you have loved the opportunity to work with them, and just want to understand how you can improve your business moving forward. If they want to leave, you should let them. But use the opportunity to hear unfiltered and honest feedback as to where you are lacking as a business. Then implement it.
Again, it could be that the accounts were the wrong fit from the start. It could have been that your organizations weren’t aligned culturally. It simply could have been any number of reasons. Fix what you can today so you can start sustainably growing your business.
Bonus: Your Onboarding Process
If you have a complex product, you may have a longer onboarding process.
Many companies haven’t given much thought to their onboarding process. As a result, their onboarding process creates a terrible customer experience. Your onboarding process sets the tone for the rest of your customer relationship.
Wherever possible, create an automated onboarding process through highly engaging video content. Consider creating an online learning center where people can start to learn more about your product and start to onboard themselves.
By creating an automated onboarding process, you allow people to take ownership of their new product, and you have prioritized the needs of the customers. They can go through the onboarding process on their own time. They don’t have to sit on hours of onboarding calls.
With that said, ensure you have live assistance available to help customers. The goal is to provide them options. You want to walk them through the entire process as painlessly as possible. By having a clear process that is highly engaging and automated, you allow customers the control to reach out when they need to.
This will end up saving you time and money as it will allow you to scale your onboarding efforts in the long term.
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THE ABM CHECKLIST
Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of ABM and how to execute an ABM strategy, here is a quick punch list to help you get started. Not everything on the checklist below is essential to launch an ABM strategy and campaign. The checklist below outlines in a succinct format everything identified above and will help you stay on track.
Right-Fit for ABM
- Are you a B2B Company?
- Do you have an ongoing relationship with your customers?
- Do you solve a very specific problem?
- Do you have a larger deal size ($25,000+)?
- Do you have a longer sales cycle (3 Weeks+)?
ABM Leadership Team
Do you have a team member from:
- Support/Customer Success?
- Product Development?
- Executive Leadership (If needed)?
Are all of the team members:
- Team Players?
- Advocates for ABM?
ABM Goals & Strategy
- Do you know what problem you want to solve?
- Do you know why you want to solve this problem?
- Do you know how you solve this problem?
- Do you know who struggles with this problem?
- Do you know how to reach the people struggling with this problem?
- Do you know how many customers you want to serve in the next 5 to 10 years?
- Do you have an annual revenue goal for the next 5 to 10 years?
Ideal Customer Profile
- Have you spoken to finance to understand the most profitable customers?
- Have you spoken to sales to understand the best customers to close?
- Have you spoken to support/customer success to know the best customers for long-term retention?
- Have you spoken to operations to understand the customers that best work with your company?
- Do you know how many employees your best customers have?
- Do you know the average annual revenue of your best customers?
- Do you know who is typically the main point
- Do you know how many years your best customers have been in business?
- Do you know the industry your best
- Do your best customers have specific
- What stage of business development are they in?
- What technology are they using?
- What is the average time period your best customers stay with you?
- Were your best customers using a specific product or service before partnering with you?
- What are the characteristics or trends that have led to poor customer relationships?
Target Account List
Use your ICP as the criteria for pulling a list in:
- A data enrichment platform
- A CRM
- An ABM platform
- LinkedIn (Last resort)
- With your Target Account List, create a tiered approach based on:
- Buyer Intent Data found in an ABM platform or data enrichment platform
- Engagement found in your CRM, marketing automation software, or website tracking
- An understanding of the accounts with the highest propensity to buy (last resort)
ABM Technology Stack
Do you have:
- A CRM?
- Marketing Automation?
- Data Enrichment?
- An ABM Platform?
- A Sending Platform?
Marketing and Sales Alignment
Create Alignment between marketing and sales by clearly defining roles and responsibilities.
- Marketing and sales operate out of the
- Create a plan for your existing marketing efforts
- Develop a content strategy together
- Report on revenue and the key leading indicators
- Create content to match the target account tier
- Deliver a set number of accounts
- Create opportunities for accounts to engage
- Enable the sales team with content and continued promotion through the sales process
- Regular meetings with sales to understand and adjust the target account list
- Meet with the accounts delivered by marketing
- Conduct outreach to accounts showing high levels of engagement
- Promote opportunities for engagement created by marketing
- Help marketing know what content to create for the sales process
- Regular meetings with sales to understand and adjust the target account list
ABM Tactics and Content
Do you plan to implement:
- Call Sequences?
- Email Sequences?
- Email Automation?
- LinkedIn Content?
- LinkedIn Direct Message?
- Website Personalization?
- Automated Personalized Website Chat?
- Live Website Chat?
- Display Ad Targeting?
- Email Signature Marketing?
- Retargeting Ads?
- Direct Mail?
- Video Content?
- Case Studies?
- One-to-One Reports/Audits?
Set-up & Launch
Create a Calendar that outlines:
- When content will be created
- Who will create the content
- Who will implement the content in your technology
- Dates for sales reps to use specific content
- Length of the campaign
- Set up the marketing automation for each tactic
- Launch the campaign