In recent years we have seen an explosion in the popularity of account-based marketing. According to a study by SiriusDecisions, the number of companies that had a full, active account-based marketing (ABM) program increased by more than 21% in the previous year. The effectiveness of the strategy has pushed many companies toward adopting it, moving away from more traditional marketing strategies that have long been the norm.

Despite its rapid growth, ABM is still new to many. The strategy may have picked up steam earlier if it had been easier for organizations to better-align their marketing and sales departments through software. The strategy requires their alignment. Bizible’s “State of Pipeline Marketing Report” showed that marketers using ABM are 40% more likely to report alignment between their marketing and sales teams than those that don’t. The accessibility of ABM technology helps to facilitate that alignment and has played a key role in the growth of the strategy.

Before we cover how to put together your first ABM strategy, let’s start by defining what ABM is.

What is Account Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing is a different take on traditional marketing models, perfect for B2B marketing.  The difference between ABM and more traditional marketing models is that the organization treats every prospect or customer account as its own individual market unto itself. In ABM, your message is catered to the specific needs and attributes of the account.

The term, “account-based marketing” is self-descriptive. It’s marketing that is specified to a given account — whether the account is an existing customer or a prospective one. The “account” refers to the company as a whole and typically includes several stakeholders at the company who may play a key role in decision-making in regard to your product.

ABM is most useful to organizations that sell to accounts with multiple buyers or stakeholders, which is most common in B2B sales. By marketing to the prospect account, on the whole, you can connect with all of the stakeholders within a given account and increase your chances of closing the sale. In B2B sales, it is not uncommon for a single organization to have five or more stakeholders involved in a single deal.

ABM focuses on fostering and tracking interactions with all stakeholders within an organization, building relationships with them over time. The laser-focused nature of the strategy provides a clear ROI and reduced resource waste that would typically be spent using other strategies.

Now let’s take a look at how companies can begin to put together their first account-based marketing strategy and align their marketing and sales:

Putting Together an Account-Based Marketing Team

For ABM strategies to be successful, there must be alignment between your sales and marketing teams. Both departments should be heavily involved in goal-setting and KPI definement, working with your management team to define the strategy. Remember — these teams will be solely responsible for the success of the strategy. It’s important that they have a say in what will work for them.

If you don’t already have ABM-capable sales and marketing teams in place, your first step is to assemble a core that has bought into the strategy. The actual roles that make up an account-based team will differ based on the needs of your organization. At its most basic, ABM teams consist of sales reps, sales development professionals, and marketing professionals.

Companies that are engaging in account-based marketing and sales for the first time should look to hire individuals that have past experience with the strategy. If you are transitioning your internal teams, it may be a good idea to invest in training or bring in a manager that can help to facilitate a smooth transition.

Defining Your ABM Goals & Strategy

With your ABM team in place, it’s time to define your goals. Both your sales and marketing teams should be involved in the definition and outlining of the goals and strategy. Each goal that you create should follow the SMART Goals formula.

As you define your goals, consider the context of your use of ABM. Are you launching a new product? Attempting to increase market share within an industry segment? Enter a new market? The goals that you define will be heavily dependant on what you are trying to accomplish and the current resources that your team has at their disposal.

Most companies begin account-based marketing with a few different goals in mind. If your team is smaller, you may want to start with a single goal so that you can monitor your progress and make changes to your strategy as issues arise.  

Choosing an Account-Based Marketing Technology

ABM requires specialized technology to execute. Managing all of the stakeholders within a given account and accurately tracking your interactions is at the core of every successful ABM engagement. The growth in CRM and ABM-specific solutions in recent years have played a key role in the growth of account-based marketing strategy usage. According to a study from Walker Sands, more than 70% of companies increased their marketing technology budget in 2017. 

With ABM software, you can track your interactions with stakeholders and customers through all digital channels, rather than just email and phone calls. It takes the whole spectrum of channels into account, including social media, text messaging, and app-based conversation platforms. It makes it possible to engage with every stakeholder who has a role in ultimately making a decision on whether or not your product is a good fit for them.

Additionally, the best ABM solutions are built with versatility in mind. No two account-based teams operate in exactly the same way because your own tasks and processes should be specific to your product. Companies must personalize their marketing based on personas, points in the sales process, campaigns, and previous interactions with a customer.

Identifying Targets

Once your team has agreed upon a defined account-based marketing strategy and technology, you can begin to identify and prioritize the accounts that you would like to target. These accounts should closely match your customer personas and ideal customer profile.

In ABM, accounts are treated like large, organization-level personas. These personas help you determine the size of the companies that you would like to target, the roles of the stakeholders within those organizations and better understand what is most important to them as an organization. Having an understanding of a target’s company structure can help you determine how you convey your product to your targets and identify who the decision-makers are within the organization.

Choose your Channels

What are the best channels to use to reach your target accounts? Where are your ideal customers hanging out and engaging in conversation? You won’t be effective in account-based marketing unless you are able to meet your customers on their preferred channels and deliver your message in a form that gives you the best chance of being heard.

If you will be establishing connections through social media, you can use this study by Pew Research to better understand the demographics of each of the popular social media platforms. Knowing where your account stakeholders spend their time on social media is critical for both marketing and sales teams.

Launch, Measure, and Optimize

Now that you know who you want to target and where you want to engage with them, it’s time to launch your campaigns and measure their effectiveness. You should never assume that your first instincts will be able to reliably provide the best results. Over time, you will have to work to split test, optimize, and refine your strategies.

Getting Started with Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing is a bit less overwhelming when you see it broken down into individual steps. More than 85% of marketers that measure the ROI of their marketing efforts describe account-based marketing as delivering higher returns than any other strategy their company uses. With alignment between your marketing and sales teams, ABM provides you with an effective way to find your ideal prospects, engage with them through the channels that make the most sense, and close the sale by speaking to their biggest internal concerns.

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