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How to Build a Comprehensive Account-Based Marketing Strategy

By February 10, 2022February 23rd, 2022No Comments
A group of sales and marketing professionals collaborate in a conference room
A group of sales and marketing professionals collaborate in a conference room

Where are you on your account-based marketing (ABM) journey? Whether you’re just thinking of starting an ABM program or you’ve been engaged in ABM for several years, taking a closer look at ABM strategy best practices can deepen engagement with current and potential customers.

ABM now delivers higher ROI than any other marketing approach. In fact, 72% of companies reported greater ROI from ABM than other types of marketing. COVID-19 disruptions made ABM the top B2B marketing priority in 2021. If you’re not engaged in ABM, you could be missing out on gains in revenue, relationships, engagement, and brand equity. 

Account-based marketing implementation is a decision of its own

ABM isn’t the right fit for every organization. Due to the high level of investment required, it’s essential to evaluate if your organization has the capabilities for a successful program, including:

  • An extensive data set of potential customers
  • High-potential opportunities within strategic accounts
  • Multi-channel expertise, such as in-depth content development, sophisticated digital campaigns, and substantial sales enablement materials

The next step in moving forward with ABM is getting buy-in. ABM isn’t just a marketing program—it’s a strategic business initiative. To succeed, it requires stakeholder alignment and sponsorship by organizational leadership.

ABM succeeds when it’s integrated into your organization

A successful ABM program requires considerable commitment—the most successful programs expand and adapt over years. A diverse set of stakeholders, from marketing, sales, customer service/support, finance, and leadership, is required to focus a greater share of activities on your most valuable customers.

It’s important to designate an ABM champion to communicate the program’s value to different stakeholders; to liaise between sales, marketing, and other departments; and to iron out any conflicting goals between departments. Executive sponsorship, consistent leadership, and an ABM committee are additional key elements to position the program as a high-priority, cohesive effort.

Sales and marketing must align for ABM to be successful. Leading programs have a closer, more collaborative relationship between sales and marketing at every stage of strategy development, program execution, and customer relationship management.  The top value marketers can demonstrate from ABM is the tight alignment between marketing and sales as ABM processes mature, which can ultimately lead to greater increases in revenue.

Instead of waiting on leads, your sales team actively identifies accounts to target with ABM. They provide critical knowledge based on their experience with customers and prospects. Marketing develops and deploys coordinated campaigns and collateral with messaging insights from sales. Both departments must work together closely to ensure that targeted decision-makers receive highly personalized, relevant content throughout the buying process.

Your program should start with high-level targeting

Prioritizing high-potential customers—those with higher revenue potential and higher likeliness to buy from you—is the foundation of ABM. When you personalize outreach to key stakeholders at high-priority companies, sales and marketing can work closely to move those targets through the funnel.

An ideal customer profile (ICP) identifies the attributes of accounts you want to attract, engage, convert, retain, and grow. You can determine the types of companies and customers to target using factors such as vertical, company size, revenue, location, market trigger, technology needs, and product or service alignment. The key is to create an ICP that aligns with your business development strategy.

The right marketing technology stack can help identify target accounts. Business intelligence can be used to predict which target accounts are likely to convert and create the most impact for your bottom line.

Most companies use a blended strategy over time

Once you have established your target account list and segmented it into tiers based on account prioritization, it’s time to decide on your approach. Many companies start with a pilot program for their most promising accounts using personalization and an ABM framework for a smaller targeted group. This usually involves a one-to-one or one-to-few strategy.

As programs evolve over time and receive more resources, they vary from highly personalized to programmatic. Many companies grow ABM programs to target more accounts using a blended strategy, including:

  • Individualized (one-to-one): fully customized, account-level messaging for highest-value customers
  • Customized (one-to-few): solution-centric messaging for clusters of similar lower lifetime value accounts
  • Segmented (one-to-many): target specific accounts at scale by leveraging technology

Campaigns combine creative concepts with personalization

Use customer insight from your ICP and target list to determine how you’ll implement personalization into your campaign approach, which is usually a combination of digital and in-person activities. 

The more creative your outreach, the more likely you will be able to impact high-priority contacts. Micro-targeted social campaigns and innovative, personalized direct mail campaigns are effective tactics. For crucial in-person interactions, you can offer exclusive event invitations during conferences, or make presentations during webinars, Zoom speaker series, online lunch-and-learns, VIP dinners, and roadshows.

Account-based marketing agencies can help develop your ICP, advise on martech stacks, and guide a multi-pronged ABM strategy, including creating premium digital content, social campaigns, and customized direct mail pieces.

Measurement and optimization create continued support 

Continuous evaluation is essential not only to measure and optimize your current campaign but also to inform the direction of future ABM activities, such as broadening your reach to more target accounts.

  • Program health metrics, most useful at the campaign and target account level, assess quality, i.e., whether or not your program has the complete information and ability to drive your target to take action. KPI categories include:
    • Coverage
    • Awareness
    • Reach
    • Engagement
    • Influence
  • Program impact metrics communicate the business impact at the program level and focus on quantifiable elements:
    • Marketing revenue
    • Pipeline influence
    • Campaign engagement

By consistently measuring and reporting to executive sponsors, you can gain more buy-in and budget to expand your reach and develop future campaigns.

ABM can evolve into account-based engagement

With more marketers reporting that their ABM programs are established, almost half of ABM programs are in the expanding or embedded stages of adoption. As ABM matures across industries, it’s developing into account-based engagement, the ability to orchestrate highly personalized and integrated interactions all the way through the post-sales customer experience.

To evolve your ABM program into advanced account-based engagement, customers need to see that you understand and anticipate their needs from their first interaction with you all the way through their experience with support and service. When marketing, sales, customer support, and service are aligned, you can build a sustainable, comprehensive program.

Our latest guide, Quick Start ABM: How to build your strategy and drive revenue, provides an in-depth look at ABM strategy and the steps required to build a successful program.