When it comes to creating and executing an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy to grow and scale your business, it’s smart to not only have a game plan but to also understand why you want to use it in the first place. By nailing down your motivation for implementing an ABM strategy, you’ll be better equipped to align your sales and marketing teams, identify your target accounts, and enact the rest of the tips and tricks we recommend throughout this guide.
Plus, as b2b marketing of yesteryear — print ads, direct mail, and billboards — continues to be replaced by inbound marketing, ABM, and a combination of the two, you can’t afford to get left behind.
Fortunately, RollWorks can help. This six-step handbook will guide you through the ins and outs of account-based marketing and help you implement it into your current marketing strategy.
What is account-based marketing (ABM)?
At its core, account-based marketing can be summed up in two words: opportunity creation. But to better understand exactly what an ABM strategy is, you first need to appreciate what inbound marketing is and how it has paved the way for ABM.
With inbound marketing, search engines are king. They’re the bread and butter of selling content — blogs, videos, white papers, and eBooks — to broad, wide-reaching demographic groups and personas, so if buyers aren’t finding your product or aren’t interested once they do, you’re out of luck.
Contrary to traditional or inbound marketing that waits on buyers to make the initial move, ABM finds and engages clients first. By focusing your marketing tactics on target accounts that matter to your specific business (on any device and across multiple channels), you can engage the right people at the right time with the right information — resulting in more revenue (and less wasted time, money, and resources on ill-fitting accounts).
So, where inbound marketing does a fantastic job of identifying demand and capturing opportunities, an ABM strategy creates opportunities — making mountains out of mole hills, if you will.
By taking the guesswork out of b2b marketing, ABM is able to:
- Identify and build the ideal customer profile (ICP) based on data including firmographics, engagement signals, and high revenue potential.
- Target and engage those best-fit accounts through personalized, multi-channel, intent-driven testimonials, content marketing, and paid advertising.
- Hand off resulting high-quality accounts to the aligned sales team to close (while still providing consistent, effective marketing support both pre- and post-transaction).
In fact, using ABM programs, companies report experiencing vast improvement in their account engagement (a whopping 90%), win rate (80%), and average deal size (73%). ABM has also been proven to drive brand awareness, provide internal alignment and better reporting, support customer retention, improve productivity, and shorten sales cycles.
That being said, don’t get rid of all the content you’ve created and leads you’ve generated with inbound marketing. Instead, blend and evolve the two into a singular marketing strategy that focuses on both quality and quantity while delivering actionable insights by following these steps.
Step 1: Build a plan
Like any new marketing initiative, the first step to implementing ABM is to make a plan. You need to know why (and why now) you want to use an ABM strategy for the most effective outcome, so ask yourself:
- What is the goal of ABM for our business? Is it to move upmarket or launch a new product? Perhaps its objective is to get more value from existing customers? No matter your reason for implementing ABM, make sure it’s clear and understood by your whole team (more on that in a moment).
- Can we start the ABM process today or is this something we should consider more next quarter? Or next year? Without realistic timelines in place for ABM programs, you’re setting your b2b marketing strategy up for failure (or, at least, to be less successful than had you just planned accordingly).
Once you know why you want to use ABM strategies, chances are you’re going to have to get stakeholders to buy in.
To do so, you can take one of these two approaches:
- Demonstrate the revenue potential of ABM
- Outline specific ways ABM can help accomplish your business goals.
Either way, you need to make it crystal clear why implementing ABM is significant for the overall business and not just the marketing department.
Step 2: Align your sales and marketing teams
ABM isn’t solely about b2b marketing (though it does make up one-third of the acronym). Instead, it’s a team-wide endeavor, most successful with full alignment between your marketing and sales teams.
Because both sales and marketing are crucial revenue drivers for most companies, they need to be on the same page with ABM for it to be effective, especially when it comes to finding, closing, and retaining customers. (In fact, 87% of sales and marketing leaders say alignment is the reason behind business growth.)
By working together, sharing goals, and communicating and collaborating on projects and tasks, your sales and marketing teams can provide your customers with the most relevant, high-quality content they deserve.
To help you better understand what sales and marketing alignment is and gauge whether you already have it, we’ve created a worksheet with five necessary alignment pillars:
How closely are your sales and marketing teams working together to identify and pursue target accounts? Ideally, they should be working off of the same target account list (TAL) and customer profiles, so if they aren’t, sit them down for a conversation as this may be one of their shortcomings.
If both teams are working together, is it every day? Once a week? By understanding what each team’s process is like — how they respectively handle each step of the customer journey, for example — you’ll start to get a picture of whether or not they’re in agreement on how clients are being pursued (i.e. co-created programs, plays, and scoring).
Once the process is nailed down, everyone on both teams needs to understand their roles — who is responsible for what and how those tasks are communicated. Like a group project in high school, everyone needs to pull their weight or resentment will bubble to the surface.
4. Systems and reporting
When it comes to true departmental alignment, everything must be evenly distributed, shared, and accessed, especially when it comes to tools and reporting. If sales and marketing are using contradictory systems, not only will there be major finger-pointing when things go wrong, but no one will know who’s responsible for wins, losses, and everything in between.
If your sales and marketing teams exist like separate, competing entities, ABM will be exceptionally difficult to implement. Instead, by instilling a cooperative, friendly culture — curated through regular meetings and brainstorming sessions — you’ll be more likely to engage high-quality accounts, close deals, and make money.
Without these pillars, you’re looking at a potentially long road to a less successful account-based marketing program.
Step 3: Identify your target accounts
Unlike traditional marketing, an ABM strategy requires a bit more research, groundwork, patience, and a strong ICP before you can start launching campaigns and seeing ROI. (After all, how can you make a list of accounts you’d like to sell to if you have no idea who your ideal client is in the first place?)
An ICP is a set of attributes — firmographic, technographic, and behavioral — of a company that’s ideal for your product or service. Best developed through both qualitative and quantitative analyses, uncovering your ICP is one of the main building blocks of ABM success.
Another way to start crafting your ICP is by identifying the best-fit accounts among your current clients, no matter how big or small by asking the following questions:
- Who do you like working with and why?
- What type of tech stack do they use?
- How do they make decisions?
- Who do they engage with and how do they engage with them?
- How many employees do they have and how do they treat them?
- What’s their annual revenue?
Once your ICP is built, it’s time to create a TAL. While an ICP is a list of attributes you’d like your clients to share, a TAL is a list of accounts that share those attributes and are most likely to buy your goods or services. Although some businesses sub-segment and make multiple TALs to sell different products to different markets, you should stick to one TAL to start.
Keep these tips and tricks in mind:
- Understand typical deal sizes and anticipated conversion rates to ensure your TAL can beat projected profit goals.
- Right-size your TAL based on revenue goals and sales capacity by leveraging your data into a predictive model that scores and prioritizes accounts.
- Pick accounts with shared (or similar) industries and locations. Remember, ABM is about quality more than quantity, so don’t spread yourself too thin when you’re first starting out.
- Work smarter, not harder. Review leads that you’ve dealt with in the past, have gone dark, or are already engaging with your inbound content. There may be some diamonds in the rough.
- Don’t overburden your sales reps. Try to give each of them no more than 10 accounts so they can hone in on what those clients need.
- Tier them based on priority to allocate investment and effort wisely:
Tier them based on priority to allocate investment and effort wisely:
- Strategic ABM is all about creating and executing customized and personalized marketing programs for individual accounts. Additionally, by demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of each targeted account’s specific business challenges and needs, work is done with the client, rather than for them, driving value for both companies.
- ABM Lite helps build and execute customized marketing campaigns for a small number of accounts (typically five to 10) that share similar interests, challenges, and needs.
- Programmatic ABM is the latest approach to ABM that, using technology, creates personalized marketing plans for multiple targeted accounts at scale. When aligned with the company’s sales coverage model, programmatic ABM strategies can be especially successful.
While establishing your ICP and TAL is a huge accomplishment, don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s finite. Evaluate and strengthen it over time (once a quarter should do), especially if your resources, budget, and team drastically changes. Doing so will continue to hold everyone accountable and set you up for scalable success.
Step 4: Select the proper tools
Once your plan is built and your teams are aligned, it’s time to arm yourself with the proper ABM tools and tactics to execute your personalized digital marketing vision. The best way to do that is by utilizing a MarTech stack, which is the collection of tools, software, and techniques you need to scale your organization.
With MarTech, you can:
- Collect, view, and analyze crucial data to better understand who your customers are, their pain points, and what you can do for them (using Google Analytics, for example).
- Streamline communication and collaboration across all departments (Salesloft).
- Connect and engage every website customer (Drift).
- Measure account progress (HubSpot).
- Improve your gifting strategy (Alyce).
- Create captivating, personalized content to close better, more high-quality leads faster (Uberflip).
What’s more, one of the best things about a MarTech stack is that it’s fluid, letting you determine which tool — or which combination of tools like CRMs, email marketing, or AI chatbots — is best suited to reach, engage, and close specific accounts.
Fortunately, finding a place for MarTech within your ABM strategy is fairly straightforward, especially if you use an ABM platform like RollWorks. It helps you: identify your ICP and TAL; engage those target accounts; measure results and provide value; integrate easily with other revenue tools; and offer customized support and guidance — all from one, easy-to-use platform.
However, as important (and impressive) as tech stacks and software are, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. MarTech bloat — which is when organizations invest in more marketing tools than they need — is not only expensive, but it’s also overwhelming, especially when it comes time to sift through all the data you’ve collected.
To help with data management, consider:
- Integrating your data into one consolidated account-based platform to better process and analyze information. (If that’s not possible, at least make sure your systems talk to each other proficiently.)
- Utilizing charts and illustrations to your advantage, especially when explaining confusing data sets.
- Having a plan set for how you’d like to use your data before you actually pull it from the platform. Doing so will help you find a solution faster and make it easier to know when and how to invest your resources in the future.
Step 5: Create and execute ABM content and campaigns
It’s now time to craft your ABM campaigns.
First, you need to create the right kind of content that will speak to your TAL. When doing so, consider each account’s objectives, challenges, and purchasing triggers, and how your product or service can help during each stage of their specific client journey: awareness, consideration, decision, retention, and advocacy.
Test it with other members of your office, especially ones who are less familiar with the exact value proposition you’re trying to convey. They’ll be able to give you feedback about what’s working and what could be improved.
Once the messaging is right, you’ll need to ensure it works for various channels, including B2B events, direct mail, e-gifting, and email marketing. But remember, similar to your ever-evolving ICP and TAL, your ABM ads and campaigns aren’t done once one account has been engaged. They need to be refreshed and updated frequently in order to stay relevant and prevent ad fatigue.
While there are many channels you can use at once, consider this three-step example of an ABM combination strategy at work — the 3X3X3 ABM play:
1. Digital advertising
By starting out with account-targeted ads with personalized data about the company, then contact targeting to reach specific, known contacts, and finally retargeting to boost return visits and engagement, you’ll gather new audiences and build out your account data.
2. Marketing automation emails
As a supplement to digital advertising, sending simple, personalized emails that speak directly to the account contact increases click-through rates.
3. Sales follow-up
If an account responds to the first two channels, it’s time for the salesperson to shine. Whether their high-touch tactic is a direct call, meeting or sending a gift, just make sure it has a personal touch.
Not only is this play an effective starting point for those new to ABM, but it will also help you build out your pipeline in less than a month.
Step 6: Measure ABM effectiveness
Finally, with all the ABM work you’ve accomplished, it’s important to see how it’s performing and whether it’s effective.
Fortunately, you can quickly — and pretty easily — prove ABM impact and impress leadership thanks to various measurement frameworks, including website visits, email opens, lead scores, and overall account wins.
By implementing a system of metrics to track each step of your progress — including acquisition, retention, and expansion — you’ll be able to gain intel as to how, where, and when you should optimize programs and strategies to get the best results.
In fact, one of the best ways to measure performance is through a key performance indicator (KPI) scorecard, which helps provide insight into how you’re doing (and how you can do better) through metrics like:
- TAL opportunities, pipeline value, and average recurring revenue (ARR)
- Customer and revenue churn
- Customer lifetime value (CLV)
- Upsell opportunities
However, because this level of detail can seem overwhelming, it helps to remember two things:
- 1. TAL opportunities, pipeline value, and average recurring revenue (ARR)
- 2. It’s OK to build these metrics into your reporting over time. During the interim, just keep an eye on each account’s progression and channel-by-channel performance to measure efficacy.
Now you’re more than prepared to get started with ABM, which will help you elevate brand awareness, engage decision makers, and close deals more effectively and efficiently than ever before!
Since there will be kinks to work out and unknown waters to navigate when it comes to creating, running, and measuring effective ABM campaigns, enlisting an established platform like RollWorks can help.
By streamlining the entire ABM process for your business — as well as making sure each member of your team (both salespeople and marketers) knows the ins and outs of your products, TAL, industry, and content you’re creating and deploying — RollWorks can help no matter your company’s size. (In fact, here are a few success stories that show how RollWorks and account based marketing helped three vastly different companies — Mixpanel, Goverlan, and Acclaro.)
To start your ABM journey, reach out for more information and to schedule a demo to learn how RollWorks can help.