I’ve been helping companies get started with Account-based Marketing for over twenty years, way before it was even called ABM.
I’ve seen great results from ABM programs. I’ve also seen companies struggle with ABM.
Some companies struggle because they think ABM is a silver bullet that can deliver immediate results. They try something, but never give it the proper attention and quickly dismiss it as “not for us.”
Other companies struggle because they try to do too much upfront. They get bogged down in technology implementations that take a lot of time and effort and have nothing to show for it.
What works best in my experience is an incremental approach. Focus on the fundamentals of ABM first and learn what works and what doesn’t. Then optimize, scale, and implement technology to support it.
The MVP (Minimum Viable Program)
When you get started with ABM, it is helpful to approach it like your product team would approach a minimum viable product.
What is the minimum time and resources you need to invest in order to generate positive results? What do you need to prove to secure support for the program and get additional resources to make it better and bigger?
Then, borrow another product development concept: run two-week sprints to get the essential ingredients of your ABM program in place.
Before you get started
Define a goal for your MVP program. Examples could be:
• Increasing product adoption/utilization
• Increasing community participation
• Driving advocacy
Sprint 1: Define your audience
A comprehensive ABM strategy may include a range of activities, from one-to-many to one-to-few and one-to-one programs.
One-to-one programs focus on strategic accounts and require a significant amount of customization. They take longer to develop, so that wouldn’t be my first choice to start with.
That middle range of one-to-few is typically a good starting point. It allows you to tailor the program to a specific subset of your customers while impacting a meaningful amount of accounts.
Some examples of account segments you can carve out for your program:
• Customers in a specific vertical
• Customers that have reached (or have not reached) a certain threshold of adoption
• Customers that had a significant headcount increase in the past 12-24 months
In addition to selecting the accounts, you need to define the personas your program would target within these accounts. These can be existing contacts that are already engaged with your company, or they could be new departments or new functions within the customer organization.
Based on these account and persona definitions, you can build your target audience list. Most of you will have enough contacts in your CRM to start with (remember, this is an MVP). If not, your demand gen team probably has access to a service such as Zoominfo, Clearbit, RevenueBase or a similar provider that can help you augment your list.
Sprint 2: The value proposition
I know some of you may be rolling your eyes here: “We already know our value proposition, so why do we need to spend more time here?”
The reality is that most companies that are just getting started with ABM have not developed granular messages for specific customer segments and each persona within these segments.
I use a simple messaging matrix which I call “how we make them win.” It helps craft targeted outreach messages that are focused on WIIFM for each persona (example below purposely blurred).
Sprint 3: Targeted content
Over time, you’d want to build personalized content that is aligned with the messages you defined for each persona.
For your MVP, you can use existing content assets even if they are not perfect.
When crafting your outreach, you’ll need to reposition the supporting content in the right context for your target audience.
For example, say you are creating an upsell program for your strategic accounts:
• You can use existing demand generation content created for the solution you are upselling.
• In the email or as a wrapper to the content, you can add some references to the existing solutions they already use and the benefits they would get from the synergies between these solutions.
• Even better if you have some data to support it, such as “customers that use both products are able to achieve 3x the benefits of those that use only one.”
It requires creativity, but I know you have a lot of it!
Sprint 4: Campaign setup: Is it marketing? Sales? Both?
Okay, so now that we have our assets lined up, it’s time to set them up for execution. But what are we setting up? Is it a marketing campaign? An SDR outreach? CSM emails?
Ideally, it would be some combination of marketing emails and an email sequence from an SDR, account manager, or customer success manager.
• Send a marketing email with a link to a success kit eBook.
• Then follow up with a message from the CSM referencing this message (or forwarding it) and adding a personal invite for a product webinar or an invite for a demo with a gift.
The options here are endless, so don’t worry about making it perfect. Just do something that would work, then improve on it in the next iteration.
Measure and iterate
For ABM programs, I recommend multiple levels of metrics to track:
• Account and persona coverage: how many of your target accounts and personas have you reached?
• Engagement: how many of these have engaged in the program? Which program elements created higher engagement?
• Revenue influence: what revenue lift can be measured for customers that participated in the program? Ideally, we would compare these results to those that did not participate in the program so we can measure net lift.
You might notice I left out a few things you might have heard in the context of ABM. I didn’t mention intent. I didn’t mention any ABM platforms. I didn’t mention additional channels such as LinkedIn or display ads.
That’s all intentional. Depending on your target audience and your solution, these may be useful as you scale your ABM program. For your MVP, I would skip anything beyond the basics.
Do we have to do it in sprints?
I suggest two-weeks sprints to get your program in market within 60 days. Some of you may need more time, and some can do it faster. And some of you may prefer to work on things in parallel rather than in sprints.
Either way, you’ll still have to check all the steps aligned here, but you can adjust the sequencing to make it workable for your team.
Still not sure how to get started?
I hope you found this article useful. If you’d like to brainstorm about the best ways to get started with ABM (aka the perfectly imperfect ABM), connect with me on the CLG Campus here here, on LinkedIn, or by email.
And maybe this little Shakespearian poem would help, courtesy of ChatGPT:
Oh fair and noble marketers, hear my tale
Of a strategy known as “Account Based” without fail
Wherein the focus doth lie on select few
With tailored messages and a targeted view
To these chosen accounts, attention doth rain
With personalized touches and a customized campaign
From sales to marketing, all hands on deck
To close deals and the ROI to check
This method doth prove most efficacious
For targeting the right prospects most auspicious
So heed my words, and give it a try