Account Based Marketing is such a buzzword in advertising: “If you’re not doing it, you’re behind!” “How big is your list?” “What’s your ICP?” These are all delightful sentiments and questions, but what do they really mean?

Here’s the thing – ABM isn’t new. Sales teams have been deploying these tactics for years. The shiny new part of the strategy is demand gen involvement. Is there a place for a target account strategy at nearly every company? Yes, absolutely. But you should not implement an ABM program just to avoid missing out on something other companies are doing. Instead, you should implement a cross-departmental strategy that will drive meaningful and measurable results for your business.

Metric Theory recently had the opportunity to attend the ABM Innovation Summit, presented by Demandbase in San Francisco, to better understand what leading technologies in ABM were offering and what advice they have for marketers. Here’s our take on the biggest topics and most important takeaways to consider when building an ABM program.

ABM Summit

Internal Alignment

Before you launch an ABM program, it’s important to spend the time and resources upfront to align on goals, budgets, and internal stakeholders.

1. The roadmap – What is the purpose of your ABM program? What are the goals? What are the risks? How is success defined?

2. The internal decision makers – Who will oversee the roadmap (sales, marketing, operations, and customer success)? How often will they meet? What are the mid-program touchpoints? Are there pivot points?

3. Shared definition of success – How will marketing and sales work together? What are the program goals? How will you measure and determine success?

4. Touchpoint identification and deployment – What’s the tech stack? Who is running it, and how and when will it be deployed? How is our nurturing structured? How does this impact sales messaging?

5. Budget – Budgeting should be based on growth goals:

  • Slow growth: Budget should be 5 to 7% of gross revenue
  • Medium growth: Budget should be 10 to 15% of gross revenue
  • High growth: Budget should be 7 to 30% of projected revenue

Strategy

This is not digital media strategy. This is ABM strategy. That means that you need representatives from sales and marketing in strategy meetings, information should be disseminated throughout the organization, and there should be agreement and alignment between divisions prior to launch.

1. List creation – Success of your ABM program will rely heavily on the account selection. In a presentation by Kathy Macchi of Inverta, she estimated that 60% of your success is based on your list, 25% on your offer, and 15% on creative.

ABM accounts are commonly separated into three tiers based on company size or revenue. These tiers are a ranking system that is used to prioritize your account list based on potential revenue impact if the accounts were to close. The account selection will dictate the granularity of the strategy within each tier. 1-to-1 accounts are the highest priority, so strategy for these will be the most personalized and will require the most integration between marketing and sales (the majority of the activity will be offline). 1-to-few and 1-to-many strategies will more heavily rely on digital touchpoints, but should be segmented by clusters (ex: industry, company size, common pain points, etc.).

  • 1-to-1: Accounts that you would target individually because of their size and potential revenue impact. These will generally be around 20 accounts that could account for 50% of program revenue
  • 1-to-few: Accounts that are slightly smaller in scale, grouped in clusters by industry, pain points, geographic location, and other factors. Usually this will be comprised of 200 accounts, or 30% of expected revenue
  • 1-to-many: Lowest priority of accounts you want to target. Generally this list will contain 2,000 accounts, or 20% of revenue

Revenue potential should guide account selection and which tier you place the account in. Higher-potential accounts get the 1-to-1 treatment, with lower-potential accounts in the other groupings. How often you refresh your list should match your sales cycle. if the sales cycle is one year, then the list should last one year. If you have a big list or a complex sales ecosystem, you might even consider changing these factors based on target account size. It’s a good idea to revisit lists and consider updates at least quarterly as part of performance reviews.

2. Research – Once the account selection is complete, give the ABM team time to familiarize themselves with their industries, geos, and prospects. Winning an ABM deal has the potential to make a meaningful difference to your company’s revenue, so sales strategy should be tailored, specific, and relevant. Use research to create content that will resonate more with those prospects.

3. Messaging – Your messaging should be consistent across every possible touchpoint. Tailor it by industry, geo, sometimes even account. Share all interactions via CRM. Anyone assigned to an account should be able to pick up where the collective team left off. Prioritize human-to-human engagements and storytelling over transactional online interaction.

Reporting & Measurement:

This should be thought of as comprehensive ABM reporting and measurement. Demand gen data  is a piece of that puzzle, but it’s not the whole thing.

1. Differentiate measurement by size of prospect, with KPIs falling into 3 categories:

  • Reputation – Sales satisfaction, customer satisfaction, brand perception, references, and advocates
  • Relationship – Account coverage, account engagement, relationship strength, and solution innovation
  • Revenue – Pipeline growth, revenue growth, deal size and type, portfolio penetration, and share of wallet

2. Determine specific KPIs and evaluation cadence:

  • 1:1 – Number of touchpoints, personalized content engagement, number of strategic conversations had with key stakeholders
  • 1: few – Number of exec relationships, development of thought leadership, opportunities created
  • 1: many: Campaign building and deployment, engagement, opportunities, closed deals
  • To evaluate, build shared marketing/sales ABM dashboards that incorporate sales engagement, digital touchpoints, etc.

3. Collect and evaluate reactive and proactive data:

  • Reactive data is what happened in the past. This includes day to day tactical metrics: first vs. last touch, channel/program influence, response rate, and target account engagement. This data is necessary for post-mortem evaluation, but its most important role is to become predictive of the future.
  • Proactive data is what will happen in the future. Where should we invest based on what’s happened in the past? How do the ABM pipeline and success compare to traditional account performance (ex: cluster analysis, time lagged pipeline analysis, touchpoint analysis, etc.)?
  • Set up your reporting in such a way that it can be rolled into comprehensive business analysis – bridge the reactive data with proactive forecasting of the impact. This accomplishes two things. One, you can make decisions faster despite long lead times to revenue. Two, it helps prevent ABM KPIs from being met with a shrug by leadership.

If you kick off your ABM program with clear definitions of success, cross-department resource allocation, and a comprehensive roadmap for program deployment, revenue will follow. ABM programs don’t exist in a marketing or sales vacuum. The only way for your program to drive overall business success is if the whole business is behind it.  Whether you’re launching ABM for the first time or relaunching after a false start, we’re here to help.