7 steps to getting started with account-based marketing - ABM

In late summer of 2016, I set up a Google Alert for the term account-based marketing.

At the time, plenty of people were talking about account-based marketing. I was getting at least two alerts a day — mostly press releases about new marketing technology and philosophical “Why ABM?” type blog posts. But then something happened toward the end of 2016: the alerts starting pouring in, and it became clear that ABM has become the new normal in B2B marketing.

All this to say, you already know you need to be doing account-based marketing. You’re sold on the benefits, and maybe you’ve even dipped your toes in the ABM waters with some one-to-one campaigns. But now, you’re ready to really get your feet wet — you just need a solid jumping-off point.

Well, here it is: your seven-step guide to getting started with account-based marketing. Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Assemble Your Account-Based Marketing Team

In order for your account-based marketing strategy to be successful, it’s crucial that both your sales and marketing teams are involved in setting expectations, defining your goals and KPIs, and determining the role ABM will play at your organization.

Before you begin planning your first ABM campaign, you’ll need to assemble a core ABM team. The members of this team will vary depending on your organizational needs, but at minimum, it should be made up of team leads from sales, sales development, and marketing.

Step 2: Define Your ABM Goals & Strategy

Now that you’ve assembled your core account-based marketing team, it’s time to sit down and define your goals. What do you want to accomplish with ABM? Your goals will inform your strategy, so it’s important that everyone on your core ABM team is on the same page.

Common goals of an account-based marketing program include:

  • Successfully launching a new product
  • Executing a competitive takeout
  • Building market share in an existing segment
  • Getting more value from existing customers
  • Entering new markets, verticals, or segments
  • Targeting strategic named accounts

Chances are, your organization is getting started with account-based marketing to accomplish a variety of goals. Depending on your resources and the size of your team, you may initially want to focus on one goal and gradually expand, or you may want to immediately transition to an entirely account-based strategy.

There are four ways to approach account-based marketing:

4 types of account-based marketing

As you might guess, 1:1 ABM is by far the most resource-intensive way to do account-based marketing, so it should be reserved for extremely high-value logos. Which approach or approaches your team takes is highly dependent on the goals you’ve set and the resources you have available.

Step 3: Select Your Account-Based Marketing Technology

We’ve got technology to thank for the ABM revolution. Without the growing landscape of ABM software, it would be impossible to do account-based marketing at scale. That’s because:

  • ABM technology helps you engage your customers on their terms via digital channels rather than just emails and phone calls.
  • ABM technology makes it possible to engage not only an individual lead but also the entire account — even if you don’t have their contact information in your database.
  • ABM technology is versatile. It allows you to personalize your marketing based on personas, sales stages, campaigns, or activity in your CRM.

But with so many account-based marketing tools on the market, how can you pick the ones that work best for your business? The best resources for discovering and comparing ABM technology include:

Step 4: Identify and Prioritize Target Accounts

Once your team has agreed upon your primary reasons for doing ABM and selected the best technology for your goals, you’ll need to identify the accounts you want to target. These accounts should fit your ideal customer profile, or ICP. If you don’t have a documented ideal customer profile, you can use the Defining Your ICP Worksheet below to help you and your sales team have a productive conversation about the accounts you should focus on.

The page above is just one of three pages that make up the Defining Your Ideal Customer Profile Worksheet. Check out this blog post to get the other pages and finish defining your company’s ICP.

If you haven’t already, you’ll also need to define your buyer personas. After all, while ABM is focused on accounts rather than leads, each account is still made up of individuals with diverse roles and priorities.

Next, it’s time for marketing and sales to determine precisely which accounts to go after. To assist in the identification process, you can use any number of predictive ABM technologies and data tools to help pinpoint companies that fit your ICP.

Step 5: Select Your Channels and Craft Your Messaging

Account-based marketing is so effective because it allows you to proactively engage best-fit accounts rather than waiting for qualified leads to come to you. Which channels will you use to reach those accounts? You can deploy your account-based marketing campaigns using channels and activities such as:

  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Social media
  • Video
  • Website
  • Blogs
  • Display ads
  • Search engine ads
  • In-person events
  • Infographics
  • Webinars and virtual events
  • E-books and white papers

Account-based advertising tools take the guesswork out of ABM campaigns by reaching your target accounts (and only your target accounts) wherever they are online. You should prioritize the other channels and activities based on which have historically been the highest revenue drivers for your business.

Once you’ve selected your marketing channels, it’s time to create targeted content that will resonate with your audience. You may choose to create marketing assets for different buyer personas, verticals, company sizes, deal sizes, or stages of the sales cycle. Or, you can get even more personal by creating one-to-one messaging for each account.

Step 6: Execute ABM Campaigns & Begin Sales Outreach

It’s finally time to put your messaging into market! Use your shiny new ABM technology to deploy your digital ads and engage your target accounts across the web, at events, and via direct mail.

Once your message has been in market long enough to make an impression on your target accounts, it’s time for your sales reps to begin outreach using more traditional channels like phone calls and emails. At this point, your marketing team will have already used ABM to generate brand awareness and engage decision-makers at your target accounts, setting the stage for more effective sales conversations.

But your job as a marketer isn’t over just because sales has started outreach. If you’re running display ads, for example, make sure you refresh your creative approximately every 45 days to prevent ad fatigue and ensure your audience is getting the most relevant, effective messaging that will move your accounts through the buyer’s journey.

Account-based marketing campaign flow

Step 7: Evaluate & Optimize

As with any business strategy, you’ll need to accurately measure your ABM campaigns and optimize them when necessary. This step of a successful ABM campaign can be complex, which is why we devoted an entire chapter to it in the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing.

Download the e-book to get tips for A/B testing your campaign creative, optimizing your strategy, and choosing the right KPIs for an account-based approach to B2B marketing and sales.

Read more: How to Set Up an Account Based Marketing Plan That Drives Millions in Revenue