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March 9, 2021

How to Lay the Foundation for Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Account-based marketing (ABM) flips a traditional inbound strategy on its head. The approach starts with identifying high-fit prospects and then generates interest with personalized content. When done well, this strategy results in bigger deals, better win rates, more alignment between marketing and sales and the best possible customer experience. 

To see those benefits, you need to have a solid foundation for your ABM strategy in place. 

Foundational ABM Elements You Need Before Getting Started

Designated teams

It’s a best practice to have teams dedicated exclusively to implementing your ABM strategy. So, you should have a set of marketers and sales reps whose entire job is ABM. Trying to juggle traditional marketing and sales efforts in addition to ABM work will lead to the prioritization of one strategy over the other and reduce the quality of both.

Technology

In order to do ABM effectively, you need to have software that can assist with the more personalized marketing and sales efforts.

You’ll need a CRM to track your outreach with each account and contacts’ digital body language. A marketing automation platform is essential for creating and distributing personalized content. Sales intelligence tools will help you do account research so you can learn as much about each prospect as possible and help you monitor interest and intent. To do targeted advertising, you’ll need advertising networks like LinkedIn Ads or Google Ads. On top of that, you might want a programmatic advertising tool like Terminus. Finally, you’ll need reporting tools to measure the effectiveness of your ABM strategy.

How to Lay the Foundation for ABM

1. Determine what kind of ABM you want to do

ABM isn’t a binary strategy where you either do it a particular way or you don’t do it at all. There are varying levels of personalization you can utilize depending on the resources your company has and the needs of your audience. 

At New Breed, we classify these varying degrees of personalization into three different types of ABM:

  • Strategic ABM: This is the most personalized version of ABM in which target accounts are essentially receiving one-to-one communication at all times. With this strategy, each sales rep will work around 20 accounts at a time.
  • Scale ABM: This is a one-to-few ABM strategy where target accounts are grouped into micro-segments based on overlapping characteristics. This enables sales reps to work a larger number of accounts at a time while still delivering highly targeted communications to prospects. With this strategy, each sales rep is responsible for 80–100 accounts.
  • Programmatic ABM: This is a one-to-many ABM strategy where communications are still personalized, but you rely more on automation to do so than with the previous versions. Sales reps following this strategy will be responsible for 200–500 accounts each.

Make Sure Your ABM Strategy is Fully Optimized for Success with Our Checklist:  The Ten Essentials to Account-Based Marketing.

2. Establish criteria for selecting target accounts

With each ABM strategy, there’s a finite number of accounts you can target at a given time. Your team needs to be able to figure out who qualifies as a target account and how those accounts should be prioritized.

Your ideal customer profiles (ICPs) should lay out the firmographic information that will indicate fit and guide your qualification process. While your company may have multiple ICPs for your overall marketing strategy, your ABM qualification will generally focus on accounts that have the most potential to perform well.

  • Which accounts have you had the most success with from both the sales and ongoing service perspectives?
  • What types of accounts would realize the most value from your product or service?

Once you have a group of qualified accounts, your team can prioritize them based on interest. Ask questions like:

  • Have they demonstrated interest in your solution in the past?
  • Have they displayed any buying intent?
  • Have trigger events occurred?
  • Do you have connections within the company?

Sales intelligence tools and news alerts can help you monitor target accounts for signs of interest.

3. Create a content strategy and distribution plan

How personalized your end communications with target accounts are will depend on your particular ABM strategy. However, with all types of ABM you can leverage content that is generic in addition to more personalized offers. 

Content personalization spectrumImage Source: DemandBase

For example, you might have generic guides on your solution that define what you offer and how it works. Content like that can be useful reference materials for all types of target accounts. In addition to that, you might have content tailored to your ABM micro-segments that explains industry-specific pain points or benefits. Finally, you might have hyper-personalized content that specifically lays out how your solution will impact an individual company.

Your content strategy should span the range of the funnel. As you’re planning what to create, consider both what you need to generate interest initially to pull the target account into your funnel and what you’ll need to nurture prospects throughout the sales process.

This content can take a variety of forms from digital ads to downloadable checklists to physical mail. 

In addition to varying the personalization levels of the content itself, you can also have differing levels of personalization in your distribution channels. 

For example, if you're leveraging an educational asset as part of a strategic ABM strategy, you might promote it through a completely custom or present it on a call. If you’re using that same asset as part of a scale ABM strategy, you could send it in a small batch email with messaging extremely tailored to the interests of a micro-segment. In a programmatic ABM strategy, that asset might be sent out to a larger group of accounts and use personalization tokens to adjust the messaging based on contact properties.

All of the content you create and distribute should work together as part of your overall content strategy. Based on how the account reacts, you should have plans for how to follow up and continue to nurture them through the sales process.

4. Set up a measurement system

To justify the resource investment ABM requires, you need to be able to demonstrate that its performance exceeds that of your standard marketing and sales strategy. 

Determine your KPIs and then set up a reporting system that can track how those metrics are performing. Some common metrics to track include engagement rate, average deal value, sales cycle length, win rate and customer lifetime value.

Reporting on these metrics in addition to more tactical indicators will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your ABM efforts so you can optimize your strategy over time.

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Tag(s): Sales Marketing ABM

Guido Bartolacci

Guido is a Demand Generation Marketer for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.

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