How to Uplevel Your Account-Based Marketing and Sales Alignment

August 5, 2019 Caroline Van Dyke

Have you gotten ABM off the ground, but struggle to connect the dots between sales and marketing? Without a clear plan for running coordinated account-based sales and marketing plays, it's no surprise your programs may get stuck and muddled in confusion. 

Account-based strategies aren’t simply marketing initiatives—they cross multiple teams and tactics. It’s account-based selling and account-based marketing, both working together to achieve results for the business. The best programs achieve the following goals:

  • Drive engagement
  • Result in new meetings
  • Increase deal velocity
  • Expand in an account
  • Retain an account

When it comes to the sophistication of account-based sales and marketing plays, we see that companies fall into four main levels. Take a look at the following assessment and evaluate your organization. Once you’ve identified where you rank, you can then learn what you need to do to get to the next level.

Exploring

Even if you’re just getting started with ABM, you probably already have a partnership between marketing and sales development. This is a solid foundation for successful program execution, and with just a few enhancements, your team can become even more account based. One of the first steps should be to evaluate whether there’s already some form of account-based selling strategy on the team and how to bring marketing into the fold. This is also a good time to discuss what each team thinks ABM really means in order to have a shared definition going forward.

To start refining your account-based plays, your marketers and SDRs need to rally around an established target audience to begin providing air cover. These should be high-fit accounts, whether from your ideal customer profile (ICP) or a set target account list (TAL), that you plan to get in front of through various marketing channels.   

Here’s an example of what a more coordinated marketing and SDR play could look like for your team:

Day 1: Launch 60-day campaign to serve targeted ads to all selected accounts.
Day 14: Deliver direct mail to recipients.
Days 15-16: SDRs begin outreach touch pattern to all direct mail recipients.

Developing

If you’ve gotten your feet wet with better marketing and SDR coordination, you may want to begin expanding your cross-functional team to include more of the sales organization. Whether you’re working with an ICP or a set TAL, your team should start to develop a more robust orchestration plan that defines the individuals responsible for completing specific actions within a given sequence. 

Without an orchestration plan, marketing, sales development, and sales teams end up delivering piecemeal account touches that frequently conflict with one another and fail to progress prospective accounts.

At this level, you’ll likely be running more lightweight plays involving marketing or sales development teams. These are some of the questions you’ll be asking yourself: 

  • Who’s responsible for what, and who’s involved when?
  • What existing channels will we use?
  • When will we run coordinated plays?

Example orchestration brief

Outlining an orchestration brief helps align all stakeholders around the key elements of the campaign. Here’s an example of what this may look like for your team:

Optimizing

Research shows that many organizations that understand the value of an account-based sales and marketing strategy still struggle with building an optimized, easy-to-leverage orchestration plan involving cross-functional teams. While the orchestration brief provided in the Developing section may seem straightforward, it can get a bit more complex as you run coordinated plays. As you’re optimizing, you’ll likely begin to involve more channels, more teams, and more budget. This is where things can feel a bit challenging or overwhelming. You’re not alone, and that’s why we’ve devised a few quick tips to help you scale orchestration while staying (somewhat) sane. 

If you’re looking to add more channels and touchpoints, TOPO has a list of the 5 top options (ranked by % rate as important) for you to explore:

  • SDR Outbound (88%)
  • Events (72%)
  • Executive-to-Executive Outreach (70%)
  • Direct Mail (67%)
  • Digital Advertising (64%)

The above channels area data-backed, therefore giving you better insight into which channels to add and why. Rather than piling on every channel available, you'll be able to manage and measure ABM better if you are selective about your channel expansion. Keep in mind, the more channels you add, the more you’ll need to create a bullet-proof orchestration plan. While you can’t always control outcomes of programs (after all, this is just an aspect of testing and iterating), you can control how organized and aware the team is going into a campaign.

Market-Leading

Once you’ve been running account-based programs for some time, you will need to expand your scope to increase the impact across the business. With this added level of complexity and expansion, the most sophisticated account-based organizations take a full customer-lifecycle view to improve outcomes for their most important customers and prospects at every stage of the cycle. 

At this point, your account-based teams will start to focus on two key plays—velocity and expansion:

  • Once accounts are engaged and meetings are being set, top-performing account-based organizations tend to add new plays.
  • Velocity plays aim to more quickly progress an account through the funnel and decrease the time to revenue and sales cycle.
  • Expansion plays broaden customer relationships, growing existing deals and creating new opportunities with current customers.
  • The best ABM organizations are expanding their efforts to include more prospects and customers, and even other parts of their own business.

This is arguably a great place to be! If you've already proven success and ROI on account-based programs, you can continue to get creative and test more unique campaigns. 

The ABM Readiness Assessment

Executing account-based plays are just one category to assess an organization’s ABM readiness.

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. 

To assess the other aspects of 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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