How to Staff and Fund Your ABM Programs at Any Level

July 29, 2019 Caroline Van Dyke

Building a successful account-based marketing (ABM) program that moves the needle for your business requires more than just a few marketers looking to make an impact. Instead, you will have to make a case for the resources needed to execute on your vision.

What this really comes down to is getting the budget and head count you’ll need to run targeted campaigns against your newly developed or refined ICP or target account list. Here’s how B2B companies are planning for ABM:

  • ITSMA: 82% of companies plan to skill up for ABM by training existing marketers. 
  • TOPO: Account-based budgets are rapidly expanding, with companies increasing spend by 41% in 2019.

And according to SiriusDecisions’s The State of the Account-Based Revenue Engine 2019 report, here’s the average breakdown of ABM budgets:

  • $350k average ABM budget, excluding headcount
  • $200k average budget for those in ABM pilots
  • $620k average budget for those running full programs
  • Over half of overall ABM budget spent on program development
  • Most budget put toward media spend, events, content, and insights

Why are so many companies continuing to invest in ABM?

Under-resourced account-based marketing teams often run into some common problems that can inhibit success. For example, marketers end up taking on ABM on top of their other responsibilities and may have too many hats to wear. It's also difficult to create account-based programs that deliver real value to the buyer and enable your sales team without dedicated budget. Simply put, if given too few resources, initial programs can miss initial expectations and hurt credibility.

But don’t worry! We can make sure you have the right strategy at each stage of your account-based journey so that you not only turn (and keep) the lights on but also get the attention you deserve for an ABM program that truly scales. 

Before we start figuring out your next steps, let’s take a minute to see where you fall on the ABM readiness assessment for resources. Then, find the section that applies to you to see how to uplevel your account-based program. 

Exploring and Developing 

Starting with a pilot program is a strategic way to test the impact of ABM and gather the information you’ll need to get more buy-in for programs. According to SiriusDecisions, while 42% of companies have been running a full program for over one year, 58% are still in a pilot phase. When it comes to budget, start by advocating for a percentage of the demand generation budget to test and provide air cover for the sales team based on your ICP. 

Building your account-based tribe

Begin building the internal team of stakeholders who are supportive of taking an account-based approach. Gather a mix of people across functions (e.g., sales, marketing, operations) and at various levels of the organization (e.g., executive sponsors, front-line managers, individual contributors). 

If you’ve been running a pilot, start to collect leadership sponsors who will later be your advocates for allocating more ABM resources. To continue selling the concept of ABM, schedule regular check-ins to share progress around specific metrics and learnings. This will create the foundation you need to build future alignment with the business’s long-term goals. 

Meet with sales often

Front-line sales executives, account managers, SDRs, and sales engineers are all important stakeholders. Marketers can learn a lot from those who speak with customers every day, and since B2B marketers don’t typically close big deals directly, you need sales to be bought in on the value of your ABM campaigns. Collect insights about the questions they’re being asked and the problems they’re trying to solve, and incorporate that information into the content and touchpoints for your program.

Optimizing

In this stage, you’ll likely begin to have more leadership buy-in and therefore more budget and resources, which will require you to expand your reach for team-wide support. While this can feel overwhelming for even the best marketer, we have a few frameworks that will help you navigate building an account-based leadership team.

Forming an account-based leadership team with a small group of key executives can serve two important functions:

  1. Help align your account-based initiative to the business and its long-term growth goals  
  2. Ensure that account-based programs get the resources and support needed from various teams

Secure a set budget

While you may have been working with a pilot earlier in your ABM rollout, this is the time to scope a fully dedicated budget for your program. This should be owned by the marketing manager and clearly defined to leadership. Many marketers in this stage have a set target account list that may be tiered based on a variety of factors. This is one method for organizing how you allocate marketing dollars toward programs. Top-tier accounts often receive more high-investment touches, while lower-tier accounts may receive your “always-on” spend. This is unique to each team, but ultimately you’ll begin to have a more strategic budgeting process. 

Market-Leading

Your organization has allocated dedicated people and budget to your account-based effort, which is sure to lead to better results!

Even those lucky enough to have great support for account-based marketing still have a finite budget, so it’s always important to allocate resources thoughtfully. This often means that you’ll need to get creative. Remix existing content and reuse components from existing assets to personalize creative even more (e.g., to make it more relevant to a segment, such as a vertical).

Are you switching or scaling?

Talk with any marketer doing account-based, and you’ll quickly see a trend: most haven’t targeted both customers and prospects or run every type of account-based program, nor have they cracked the code on how to further scale their programs.  

When a company’s average deal size warrants it, TOPO’s research shows that enterprise companies doing 1:1 account-based programs can spend at least $50,000 on each account annually. The majority of marketers today focus on building 1:Few programs as a way to build efficiency and scale. Keep this in mind as you advocate for more budget and resources. 

The ABM Readiness Assessment

ABM readiness, also called account-based readiness, is a spectrum we’ve developed alongside TOPO to help marketers understand how precise and robust their current account-based programs are. While there are many elements to your account-based strategy, TOPO’s research and our hands-on customer experience point to only four categories that really matter: target accounts, resources, execution, and measurement. While we've taken you through resources today, you'll need to understand your readiness in all categories to have the most robust strategy.

To assess your current programs and discover how to execute best-in-class ABM, download our newest guide, The ABM Readiness Assessment.

About the Author

Caroline Van Dyke

Caroline is a seasoned B2B content strategist with a love for actionable storytelling that helps build brands and inspire buyers. With her own experience launching a start-up’s very first ABM program, she now focuses on helping teams leverage account-based strategies through content at RollWorks. When she’s not busy typing a million words a minute, she can be found getting overly competitive at trivia, hiking with her dog, or watching the latest standup special on Netflix.

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