How to ABM: A Step-by-Step Guide
I’m sure we all agreed at some point in our pubescent stage of life that homework sucks. But if you did your homework, you ended up doing pretty well on your test, right? That’s how we like to view our ABM approach. There is a lot of homework to complete before the test. To be fair, I skated through most of my high-school classes with a dismal homework completion rate, but ABM is a bit more complex than algebra.
The point is that most marketers know the end goal they want their ABM programs to achieve, but they don’t fully acknowledge the homework required to set them up for success. A whopping 50% of ABMers identify as beginners. No matter if you’re a beginner or an expert, the pre-work required to make your ABM campaigns a success can be overwhelming. Fret not – we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to act as a roadmap for these trying times.
Step 1: Identify your Goals
Step 2: Build your Accounts List
Step 3: Create Segments and Personas
Step 4: Craft Your Messaging
Step 5: Design Promo Strategies
Step 6: Measure, Optimize, and Report
We cover Steps 1 – 3 below and you can find steps 4 – 6 in a future blog, Ready, Set, ABM – Launching ABM Campaigns.
Including key stakeholders from Sales and Marketing is the best way to really understand your ABM goals. This is a great opportunity to embrace Smarketing and understand how marketing can help sales in the most valuable way. The point of ABM is to break down the silo between Sales and Marketing. Don’t be afraid to dig deep. Remember sales teams in different regions have separate needs, so it’s important to get the full breadth of the sales perspective.
Before picking your goals and setting KPIs, it’s important to understand your existing database. Find out how intimate Sales is with their current contacts and spot the missing holes. Ask them questions like, “Can you build an org chart at your target accounts?” or “Do you have access to the right people on the buying team?” This investigation should prompt what you want your ABM campaigns to achieve.
Onto your objectives now that you and the Sales team are best buddies. We find that most goals fit under these three popular categories:
Prospecting – gaining net new leads and contacts to achieve greater account penetration and reach.
Pipeline acceleration – This approach can help achieve two things:
Decrease the sales cycle and increase velocity for deals closing.
Engaging contacts that seem to be at a standstill in the pipeline to spark movement into MQ or SQ status.
Upsell/Resell/Cross-sell – take advantage of opportunities with your current customers.
Pick one and stick to one – or at least build different strategies for all three. If you plan to pull off strategies for all three objectives, we recommend ranking them in order of importance and taking it one at a time. It will take a lot of legwork to get these campaigns up and rolling.
Now that the most important step is complete, it’s time to build your list of target accounts. The best way to do build a list and ensure it is large enough to target is to combine your own data with technologies and tools that can help fill in the gaps. Dun & Bradstreet, MRP, PureB2B, DiscoverOrg, HG Data, Zoom Info, MadisonLogic, and Tech Target are all great resources to fill the holes and even supplement on each of the categories.
This accounts list is focused on engaging leads within your prospect accounts list as opposed to having the Sales team work a list buy.
Firmographic segmentation is a great way to target companies that fit your ideal customer profile. If you’re unsure what your ideal customer firmographics look like, you can find themes from your closed won customer deals to find your sweet spot. If you’d like to go even broader than that, the Fortune 500 or Fortune 2000 are a good place to start (though they are highly sought after). SIC Codes are also a valuable, free tool to supplement accounts in certain industries.
Technographic segmentation is checking out a company’s tech stack to determine if your product or service would fit. Lightbulb: you could also use technographic data to supplement your competitor conquesting.
One of the most common measurements of success for ABM campaigns are pipeline growth and acceleration. Increasing pipeline velocity is one of the most beneficial effects of implementing an account-based strategy. In a survey conducted by Demandbase and research firm Demand Metric, 60% of users reported a revenue increase of at least 10%, and 19% reported a revenue impact of 30% or greater when ABM has been in use for at least a year. SiriusDecisions also reported B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth.
There are two major types of pipeline velocity strategies:
Reviving accounts stuck in the funnel
Pipeline acceleration – continuing to engage influencers and decision-makers at target accounts moves them to the next stage in the buying cycle much more quickly than relying on email nurture strategies only. Every touchpoint helps build a relationship and educate your potential customer through each stage of the buying process.
Reviving accounts stuck in the funnel – even if you have accounts that aren’t actively participating in the sales cycle, that doesn’t mean you should completely give up on them. By applying an account-based marketing campaign, you can revive these inactive accounts. Not only can you re-engage your target account, but you can also reach new contacts at that account that could be more receptive to your messaging. Remember, the idea of ABM is to switch gears from lead-centric to account-centric marketing. That means marketing to both the users you already have in your database and the ones you do not. You want to position your company at the top of the prospect’s consideration set when the time comes for them to buy.
Segment your accounts by where they are in their buyer journey and have established benchmarks for the amount of time it takes to move down the funnel for each step or qualification. Decide whether they would benefit from high-level education content or case studies and competitor analyst reports. The end-goal is to supply them with what they need to move to the next step of the buying cycle.
It is 5-25x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, so capitalize on current customers. Look at accounts with approaching renewal dates, new or existing products that aren’t used by a current account, or other divisions of an account you could sell to.
The best way to gather this list of accounts is to cross-check your closed won accounts against the in-market data. If current customers aren’t in market for your different product or service, they may need education.
Rule #1: Don’t segment yourself to death! If you fall into the segmentation trap, your audiences will be too small to target. Along with tiny audience pools, imagine the bandwidth it would take to create 15 segments each with custom content and messaging. Skip over-complicating the process, especially if you’re just starting ABM. Create a broad stroke strategy and get in market fast rather than waiting a year to build out segmentations and messaging for each. You can narrow down, fine-tune, and learn more about your audiences as you go.
Segmentations should help shape your message on the marketing and sales side. You want to have a tailored key insight that is relevant to that segment. This insight should shine through on your messaging and content that you serve.
The greatest part of segmentation and messaging is you can slice and dice any way you’d like. If you’re having trouble, here are typical segments to help get you off the ground.
Craft your message to how your product solves an industry-specific pain point. Case studies with an account in a specific industry especially help strengthen your selling point. You might find in your investigation with your Sales team and closed won data that you have a sweet spot for a specific industry.
SMB (small business), Enterprise, Geographic location, etc. have unique viewpoints, needs, and pain points. Address these in your marketing communication. There is likely a certain type of business that fits a specific profile that your product or service tends to sell best to.
A common grouping for the buying team is between the “practitioners” and “decision-makers.” Usually, the decision-makers hold the power of the final say, but not without buy-in from practitioners. Practitioners are crucial because of their influence on the buying decision. So which group do you leverage your messaging and content to?
The answer is both. If you are in the rhythm or only targeting Director+, it’s possible you are missing a big chunk of the buying team. Account-based marketing (done right) is marketing to the entire account, not select employees or “leads” at that account. You don’t want to talk to only one person or even just a few people. You want to talk to the entire group.
The way companies are buying is changing. There are more people involved, more resources to tap, and more vendors to choose from. The Harvard Business Review states the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today. Gartner Group adds that in a typical firm with 100 – 500 employees, there is an average of 7 decision makers on the buying team.
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That means if you’re targeting enterprise accounts, there are likely even more. It’s a collective effort when deciding to purchase something for a business. Each person has different influence and authority over the purchasing decision. Each has different needs, pain points, and content consumption behaviors. Though these steps are tedious, you will thank yourself for checking them off in the long run. Once completed, be sure to congratulate yourself for officially establishing a method to your ABMness. We will cover steps 4 – 6 in our upcoming blog Ready, Set, ABM – Launching ABM Campaigns. Until then, good luck with your homework!
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