Laying The Groundwork for a Successful Account Based Marketing Strategy

So, you’re in the big leagues now with ABM, and you’re looking to hit the ground running. In this blog we are giving you all the tips you need to know so you can implement a successful ABM strategy. While ABM is a widely used buzzword, keep in mind that it’s not a “one size fits all” strategy. Depending on your business model, target customer, and maturity of your sales/marketing teams, you’ll need to assess what makes the most sense for your business.

There’s no shortage of content written about the benefits of pursuing an ABM model for customer acquisition, but if you’re struggling with how to actually implement and manage an ABM model across your customer-facing teams and systems, take a few pointers from us:

Wait, what are we trying to accomplish?

Generally speaking, if you’re pursuing an ABM strategy, you want to align and personalize your marketing and sales efforts across target account segments. You will even target personas within those accounts as well. To get started, you’re going to need to draw lines in the sand to create your Ideal Customer Profile, or ICP. You’ll ultimately apply more personalized and targeted strategies against your ICP than you would your non-target accounts.

Define your target segments

  1. If you’re not sure where to start, a good way is to analyse your existing customer base to find the attributes (e.g. industry, employee count, annual revenue, location) that are indicative of their fit for your product, propensity to buy, or desirability as a target. It’s important to use commonly used attributes (e.g. not an ambiguous metric you can’t reliably collect) to make this easier to manage.
  2. Start segmenting! We created a Industry x Account Size grid to visualize and define our account segments, but you can conceptually segment however you want. Ultimately, these are the segments you’ll be applying different marketing or sales strategies to.

Start segmenting

  1. What if there are target accounts that don’t fit the target segments we mapped out? No problem, you can always create a segment called “Named Accounts” that are effectively hand-picked companies that you’d like marketing and sales to treat in a special way.

Define your target roles and personas

  1. This is a fairly straight forward exercise, but it’s important to get right. Start by defining a set of standard job roles that you can map the multitude of job titles to.
  2. Once your roles are defined, determine which ones personas that would be targets for your marketing efforts. For example, a contact with a title of “VP of Sales” would map to a “Sales Leadership” role, and a target persona of “Buyer”.

Laying the Groundwork For ABM

What you’re going to find is that at a bare minimum, your CRM needs to reflect your ICP and target personas clearly and accurately. Otherwise, how will your target accounts and personas be entered into the correct marketing campaigns?

In practice, underlying CRM data (e.g. job titles, employee count, annual revenue metrics, etc.) rolls-up to classify your ICP and personas, so having clean account and contact data is crucial. Executing on your ABM strategy depends on how you maintain data quality and how data enters your systems.

Laying the groundwork for ABM, here’s what works for us:

  1. Calculate your segments with formulas. Do yourself a favor and refrain from making your segments a field that needs to be manually updated. Instead, use formulas to calculate this based on the underlying account or contact data.
  2. Automate data collection with Clearbit or other API-based enrichment tools. Since your ABM segments are calculated from underlying data, it’s critical to enrich your data where gaps exist. Tools like Clearbit will hunt down missing data and update your records automatically.
  3. Create structured data out of unstructured data. Having been on the front lines of our Salesforce and Marketo systems, one thing that has helped tremendously is standardizing data. Take job titles as an example. For a given role like “Account Executive” there can be 50 different variations that become problematic if you’re trying to run a targeted email campaign to Account Executives. What we do is run field updates that scan for keywords in the title and update our handy “Role” field that we then use in marketing campaign logic.Create structured data out of unstructured data
  1. Auto-converting leads and matching them to existing accounts is a must. In ABM, it’s important for leads to belong to accounts so that they inherit the account-based strategies you’ve defined. We do this by setting an email domain field (e.g. on each account, and then mapping and converting any lead that shares that domain. Engagio is a solution if you don’t have the in-house resources.

Pair Your Strategy To Segments

Now that you have your segments defined, configured in your CRM, and easily accessible by your marketing automation system, you’re ready to get up and running with your ABM strategy. Establishing the plan for each segment and persona will require Marketing and Sales input, especially in your ICP where a more personalized and coordinated approach will be needed.

Initiate the process to get set yourself up for success with these tips:

  1. Drive results in your most valuable segments with specific and valuable offers. For example, send gift cards, pre-loaded Amazon Kindles, or any other valuable, attention-grabbing item in exchange for a demo at high-value accounts, while pursuing a more scaled approach with other segments.
  2. Personalization is key. Tailor your marketing messaging based on your customer persona and/or vertical. This is particularly valuable when communicating the value propositions of your product or if you have different calls to action.
  3. If you’re a business that has readily accessible customer usage data, you can add another layer of personalization by sending emails based on their engagement levels. Offering 1-on-1 training for a high value account with low engagement might be worth a worthwhile strategy.

However you decide to implement ABM in your organization, use the following tips for a successful start:

  • Define your ICP and use CRM formulas to calculate your segments automatically.
  • Keep your segments clean by automating account and contact data collection.
  • Collaborate and plan your ABM strategy with your sales and marketing teams. Be sure that everyone understands which accounts are in your ICP and how they will be treated differently.
  • Start testing your ABM strategies with a small batch of target accounts. When you’re ready to go full scale, remember that a clean database and automated processes to maintain data accuracy will play an important role in keeping your ABM strategies humming.

What are you doing to set yourself up for ABM Success?