The ABCs of ABM: Getting Started in Account Based Marketing

Posted on by Tracy Eiler

??????????????????????????Account based marketing is a huge buzzword in B2B today. But where do you begin to execute an ABM strategy successfully?

In recent conversations with ABM experts Megan Heuer, vice president/head of research, SiriusDecisions and Jon Miller, CEO, Engagio, we agreed that to succeed, companies should look not just marketing or selling, but at “account-based everything.” How does your business engage with the right accounts, holistically?

Here’s 3 tips to get your company on the right track.

1. Find the approach that’s right for you.

All marketers know that personalized marketing to every account doesn’t scale. But today there are technologies to help us get some scale to our marketing and selling motions. There are four common approaches:

  • Large Account: Very small number of large existing or targeted accounts
  • Named Account: Moderate or larger number of defined existing or targeted accounts
  • Customer Lifecycle: Moderate or larger number of existing customers that receive differenated outreach
  • Industry/Segmentation: Any number of new or existing accounts in the same vertical or other specific segment

In a recent query of prospects and customers, 46% said that the ABM model most applicable to their organization is the Named Account model, and 10% simply didn’t know where to start.

What is a Named Account? Heuer describes these as “a blend of existing customers and prospects from a range of different industries and geographies, but still a target account list.

This is an attractive option because it is relatively straightforward to implement and is a program that can be built in most organizations. However, it is also the broadest of all the ABM types and so in turn has some ambiguity.  As with most of the ABM types, success can be found by finding a balance between personalization and scalability.

When considering a Named Account model:

  • Keep your named account list somewhere around 200-300 accounts
  • Define your ideal customer and use it as a template for named account selection
  • The selection of those accounts is one of the most critical elements to a successful program. Take the time to get it right.
  • Refresh your list no more than 25% each quarter. This ensures consistency and that each account gets “a chance” over the course of a year.

2. Align your entire organization to the process.

ABM isn’t just about marketing. It’s about aligning everyone involved in the deal cycle—sales, marketing, customer service, marketing and more.

Misalignment is a common pitfall of ABM efforts. “The worst ABM outcome is if marketing puts half its effort into named accounts, but sales is only expecting to get 30% of its pipeline in revenue from those accounts,” says Miller.

For example, while sales and marketing each have their own specific responsibility, there are many things that often fall on both teams, such as selecting accounts for ABM, goal setting, product education, data cleanliness, customer outreach and getting leads into the pipeline. Misaligned sales and marketing teams not only waste time, but more importantly waste money.

Figure out who the “quarterback” is for each part of the program. It helps remove confusion and increases accountability.

To improve sales/marketing alignment:

  • Focus on communications between sales and marketing from the top down.
  • Don’t work in a bubble. Make sure both teams are working together towards shared goals
  • Identify who owns which tasks to streamline processes
  1. Measure the right things

Cost-per-lead or total sales are top- and bottom-of-the-funnel metrics and don’t give you a clear enough picture of your success. To accurately measure the results and influence of your ABM efforts, you need to also look toward the middle of the funnel and use metrics like engagement, influence and program impact. Miller suggests these five metrics:

  1. Coverage: Do you have sufficient contacts and account plans for each target account?
  2. Awareness: Are the target accounts aware of your company and its solutions?
  3. Engagement: Are the right people at the accounts spending time with your company, and is that engagement going up over time?
  4. Program impact: Are marketing programs matching the target accounts, and are they having a long term effect?
  5. Influence: How are ABM activities improving sales outcomes such as deal velocity, win rates, average contract values, retentions, and net promoter scores?

Keep in mind that ABM measurement takes time to accumulate in a meaningful way. It can be difficult to handle that time component when you have impatient executives waiting for results. Remember that you can measure awareness and account coverage before you even begin targeting accounts.

Before you start, consider whether you’re connecting with the right people at target accounts, and whether they are taking advantage of content you’ve presented to them, says Heuer. Also consider whether your team has have the right tools and the right data to properly execute ABM.

Metrics tips:

  • Come to terms with the fact that ABM metrics are different from traditional marketing KPI’s
  • Start measuring things today by identifying account coverage or awareness of your company within accounts
  • Begin by looking at the account level instead of the individual lead level

Tracy Eiler is CMO of InsideView.

Related Articles:

Taking Account Based Marketing to the Next Level

Account Based Marketing: Where to Start

5 Reasons Account Based Marketing Can Fail



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