How to Build a Boss-Approved Account-Based Marketing Project Plan in 5 Steps

February 3, 2021

As a B2B marketer, an account-based marketing project plan isn’t optional.

Whether you’re trying to sell stakeholders on adopting ABM for the first time or looking for a way to prove your current approach is sound, earning sustained buy-in can be tough at times.

Articulating your vision and managing the details can be even tougher.

To help start your ABM journey strong—or strengthen your priorities for the coming year—here’s a five-step guide to creating a strategy built with internal selling in mind.

Use it to plot your approach, position your plan, and convince your audience of what you already know.

Step 1: Build the case for your account-based marketing plan

The strength of your pitch starts with positioning. Above all else, you’ll want to frame your strategy as a way for the organization to achieve its goals (which is why we also spun upon the perfect ABM planning template for you). 

For example, is the company trying to move up-market, expand into new verticals, or generate more SaaS revenue? Connecting your ABM goals to big picture business objectives will help you earn buy-in for these initiatives.

You can approach this step in two ways:

Showcase the revenue potential of account-based marketing

The focused nature of ABM makes it an efficient revenue driver. Highlight these three benefits to get that message across:

  • Align marketing and sales: With marketing and sales focused on the same target accounts, the company can run coordinated campaigns more likely to perform better.
  • Invest more efficiently: Forget about the spray and pray—ABM arms marketers with a data-driven, prioritized set of accounts to target, enabling them to better allocate their budgets.
  • Close deals faster: The focused pursuit of target accounts can translate to higher win-rates and a shorter sales cycle. According to research from SiriusDecisions, 80 percent of marketers said win-rates were higher among ABM accounts.

Map business goals directly to account-based marketing

If you really want to impress, try customizing your approach to specifically address how ABM will influence the company’s big picture business objectives.

No matter what those objectives are, each of the three major benefits listed above should contribute positively to the bottom line.

Step 2: Embrace the idea of your account-based marketing project plan and demand gen plan working together

The average B2B company relies on traditional demand gen to fill its pipeline and win new business. Moving beyond this model can be scary, but you can begin to put things into perspective by acknowledging how each approach differs in practice. This is where it’s key to document your strategy in an ABM account plan template or strategy deck.

Demand gen

  • Focuses on individuals
  • More reliance on inbound
  • Marketing hands leads to sales

Account-based

  • Focuses on accounts (e.g. the whole buying committee)
  • More reliance on outbound
  • Marketing and sales work in unison

Want to see how you can put this into action? Get your own ABM planning template

More importantly, you’ll want to get stakeholders thinking about how ABM and demand gen might best work together. 

With a hybrid approach, some B2B marketers run air cover or “always-on” inbound marketing campaigns for low-hanging fruit lead generation. This enables them to invest the bulk of their marketing efforts into pursuing their target account list.

Step 3: Diagram your target audience throughout your entire account-based marketing plan

The word “audience” gets tossed around a lot in marketing circles, but when pitching an ABM strategy, the more specific you are, the better.

Start by defining the terms you’ll use to segment your audience so everyone’s on the same page:

  • Ideal customer profile (ICP): Your ICP represents the firmographic and technographic attributes of your highest-quality customer accounts.
  • Target account list (TAL): Target accounts should have the highest probability of closing based on shared ICP attributes.
  • Prioritized account list: High-priority accounts based on fit, intent, engagement signals, ABM goals, and sales capacity.
  • Buying committees: Key decision-makers, influencers, and end-users in each of your target accounts.

Defining your ICP

Define your ideal customer profile by whatever characteristics make sense for your organization. Some common attributes include:

  • Company size
  • Industry vertical(s)
  • Revenue
  • Geography
  • Technographics

Building your TAL

If you don’t have a target account list, start by identifying existing accounts in your database that match your ideal customer profile. Then take a cue from other ABM marketers to highlight how you’ll prioritize those accounts:

  • Use vendor data to pull a set of available but unknown accounts into a list based on fit data and intent signals
  • Work with sales to determine the quality of accounts and flesh out preliminary account tiering
  • Leverage machine learning and predictive models to score/tier your account list

If you already have a target account list, explain who’s on it and how you developed it. Bonus points for tiering your list and showing how many accounts fit into each tier. 

Identifying buying committees

There’s no such thing as a lone decision-maker in B2B sales. Bearing this in mind, chart your steps for finding each key stakeholder within your accounts (and fill in their titles if you have them):

  • Start with account-to-contact matching in your own database
  • Use vendor databases to find buyers with certain job titles, functional areas, geographies, etc.
  • Begin building a map of the buying committee for each account
  • Build on that map by identifying buyers who are aware of solutions like yours, buyers engaging with your brand or with competitor brands, etc.

Step 4: Outline your account-based marketing project plan with program initiatives

Now for the fun part of your account-based marketing strategy—sharing how you’ll build programs to drive engagement across channels.

List ABM channels and vendors

Your first step is to define all the channels (and any supporting vendors) you’ll use for ABM programs. This will likely include a mix of the following:

  • Direct mail and gifting
  • Digital ads
  • Web personalization
  • Sales outreach syndication
  • Content syndication
  • Email and chat

Define ABM goals and initiatives by funnel stage

For each stage of the funnel, list potential programs, appropriate KPIs, and if possible, how much of the marketing budget you’ll allocate per stage.

Example:
Awareness stage

  • ToFu programs
  • KPIs
  • Percentage of budget

Get specific about ABM programs and initiatives

You’ll also want to describe those ABM programs or initiatives in concrete terms. Here’s an example of a multi-touch ABM program focused on awareness:

KEY DEFINITIONS

  • Account-based goal: Drive known and unknown accounts through the funnel and influence opportunity creation.
  • Account audience: Best-fit and intent-demonstrating accounts on our prioritized target account list.
  • Contact audience: Known; contacts on the buying committee, Unknown; new contacts at target accounts that match our buyer persona.

PLAY

Run air cover and nurture our target accounts before and during sales outreach.

TACTICS

  • Account targeting (pre-targeting): Serve ads to the unknown contacts and relevant personas at our target accounts.
  • Layer account intent: Serve ads to our target accounts demonstrating intent signals.
  • Contact targeting: Serve ads to the known contacts that we’ve identified.
  • Retargeting: Increase account engagement with website visitors.
  • Sales outreach: Amplify awareness with personalized sales touches to engaged accounts.

Your programs will have their own unique goals and marketing tactics, but you can use this template for each account-based program you’re planning.

Step 5: Define how you’ll measure the success of your account-based marketing project plan

Any sound marketing strategy includes metrics. But an ABM strategy isn’t the same as your traditional demand gen strategy—and you’ll focus on some measures more than others as a result.

How measuring ABM is different

Adding ABM to your mix requires a few mindset shifts. 

Volume → Value

Instead of focusing on getting more leads, the goal is to work toward a semi-finite audience that is already somewhat “qualified.” In that sense, ABM is more about getting the right leads (from the right accounts).

Accounts vs. people

Demand gen focuses on leads—that is, individual people showing engagement. While it will always matter to have the right buyers taking action, ABM puts the account before the person, not the other way around.

Revenue impact

Like any marketing strategy, ABM should drive revenue. Your ABM program can measure direct pipeline generation from ABM programs as well as revenue influence. For instance, in the awareness program example above, an ABM marketer might measure:

  • Account engagement funnel progression
  • Key account and user engagement metrics
  • Open opportunities creation
  • Contract value

How to measure funnel progression

Here’s how you might define your ABM marketing funnel:

  • Unaware: Target accounts that haven’t visited your website
  • Aware: Target accounts that have visited your website in the last 90 days
  • Engaged: Target accounts that have visited your website 3x in the last 30 days

With these definitions in place, you can set goals for a given number of accounts per stage and chart their advancement through each. You can also add the current state of your TAL as well as any goals you’ve already set.

How to measure account engagement

Here are some commonly used ABM engagement metrics you might cite in your strategy:

  • Accounts reached: The number of accounts from your target account list that were served at least one ad or opened at least one email.
  • Accounts visited: The number of accounts from your target account list that viewed at least one page on your site.
  • Accounts engaged: The number of accounts from your target account list with at least three page views.
  • Unique visitors: The number of unique visitors from all accounts reached.
  • Total page views: The number of page views from all accounts reached.

How to measure ABM campaign performance

You’ll also want to share relevant campaign metrics to illustrate how you’ll evaluate ABM campaign performance.

  • Accounts Targeted: The number of target accounts included in the campaign.
  • TAL Responses Generated: The number of target contacts that responded to the offers (as measured by a form fill, page view, or email response).
  • TAL Meetings Booked: The number of meetings booked with a seller in response to the campaign.
  • LT TAL Opportunities Generated: The number of net new opportunities created in response to the campaign.
  • LT TAL Pipeline Value: The dollar value of the net new opportunities generated as defined above.

As always, customize this list based on your own targets.

The final leg of your account-based marketing project plan

It will be difficult—if not impossible—to execute this strategy at scale without an ABM platform.

Here’s a few things to look for when your team’s in the buyer’s seat:

  • Proprietary B2B database of accounts and buyers
  • Multi-channel engagement capabilities
  • Advertising reach
  • Machine learning / predictive models
  • Intent targeting
  • Full-funnel measurement

Last but not least, look for an ABM platform that integrates with your marketing automation platform and preferred engagement channels.

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