Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a B2B go-to-market strategy for SMBs and enterprise-level firms that aligns the marketing and sales teams on a set number of strategically defined key accounts. It uses highly personalised campaigns designed to engage with each account based on what is strategically relevant and of interest to them.
Account-based marketing has exploded in the last decade, with 96% of 500 marketers surveyed by IDG confirming that they have a documented ABM strategy in 2022.
The popularity of ABM can be attributed to many benefits, such as:
While Account-Based Marketing has advantages, planning and executing it can be a very daunting task. Furthermore, if your organisation has been using a demand-generation approach, ABM adoption can be an uphill journey.
We here at xGrowth have produced this comprehensive guide to account-based marketing to help you get started or re-calibrate your existing ABM program in 2023!
Speak to an account-based marketing expert to find out how to start implementing ABM in your organisation
This ABM guide will go through the key concepts and definitions, so you can start in the right direction.
We will begin by clarifying what ABM is all about, talk about how to implement account-based marketing and finish with how you can start an ABM pilot project as a marketing executive.
So, without further ado, let's dive right into it!
ITSMA first coined the concept of ABM in 2004. Their goal was to help marketers achieve better results by stopping them from drafting a sales pitch for a very general target audience and instead pushing them to create personalised campaigns and messaging for multiple stakeholders in high-value target accounts.
So, by ITSMA's definition: Account-Based Marketing is "treating individual accounts as markets in their own right."
Since then, Account-Based Marketing strategies have developed even further.
Broader definitions have gained traction due to technology players moving into this space. We like how Engagio (who have been acquired by Demandbase) defines ABM: "a go-to-market strategy that coordinates personalised marketing and sales efforts to land and expand into target accounts and boost revenue".
This means that the emphasis is on the quality of the accounts rather than the quantity of the prospects.
With ABM, we identify high-value strategic accounts and target the critical decision-makers in these businesses.
Close an account, and then another,
and then another...
Design a customised strategy for those accounts
Now that we can define ABM. Let's continue with who can make the most of it. At first, ABM was considered mainly for the B2B enterprise-level companies. However, the technology and capabilities developed in the past few years changed the game and has made it more accessible.
If you want to know whether an account is a good fit to implement an ABM strategy, you should look for two deciding factors:
Usually, ABM is beneficial when your company is facing the following challenges:
An ABM strategy can help with all of the above.
We will talk in-depth about the benefits of Account-Based Marketing, but your organisation would do well to have ABM expertise within your teams as it will allow your company to stay up to date with industry trends and remain competitive. You don’t want to compete with an organisation that is way ahead of you in the ABM maturity curve and is vying for the same industry or accounts as you.
Furthermore, it would only benefit you to have multiple marketing strategies in your tool kit rather than relying on two or three traditional ones.
A good analogy here would be digital ads; you don’t run them just on Instagram or Facebook; you also have a website, a chatbot, and a LinkedIn ad campaign. So, if you don’t stick to 1-2 channels, why would you stick to just 2-3 marketing strategies too?
Finally, when it comes to revenue growth, relationship-building with your customers is key to ensuring that they have an optimal experience. One of the ways to do this is by taking the ABM approach. The further sections of this guide will talk about how ABM does that for you.
Now, let’s discuss in detail some of the key benefits of Account-Based Marketing.
By focusing on the key accounts and decision-makers that matter most, ABM helps shorten the sales cycle and drives organisational efficiency.
This means that the efforts focus on high-value accounts that are more likely to become a customer rather than companies that might be too small or may end up not engaging with your business.
As a result of being more efficient, companies who invest in ABM see an average increase of 171% in average contract size.
They land more prominent clients overall since they can focus resources on their ideal prospects and avoid opportunities that are not the right fit.
According to Forrester Research, organisations with aligned sales and marketing teams see an average of 32% annual revenue growth.
Instead of complaining about unqualified leads or lack of follow-through on potential clients, ABM allows sales and marketing to collaborate and work as one team.
Everyone is targeting and working on the same accounts instead of losing focus on different individual leads. A common goal helps everyone speak the same language.
When marketing and sales work as one and focus their efforts, they increase engagement in their targeted accounts.
As a result, there is an increase in the number of closed opportunities. There have been reports of up to 50 per cent or higher improvement in conversion rates of qualified opportunities to closed/won deals.
Attribution is always hard to measure, especially in B2B. This makes marketing's job even more challenging to show how they're contributing to the company's pipeline and revenue.
Account-Based Marketing focuses on account-specific data.
Instead of measuring traditional lead generation metrics, results can be directly linked to the pipeline and revenue generated from a target account. Since we know the accounts that we're going after, we can directly see if any of our target accounts have entered the sales pipeline and then calculate the ROI of the campaign.
Let's illustrate this point with a simple example:
Let's suppose we decide that we are going to target 100 companies. We run a campaign for four months and spend $50,000 (spending $500 per account). When it's time to analyse the results, we see how many of these 100 companies we have closed.
In this example, let's say we closed 4 of them. Each with an average contract value of $100,000 (total revenue of $400,000). Fantastic!
Now, you can go back and do the maths. For every $1 that you spent, your ABM campaign generated $8 of revenue. You can also extrapolate this metric further up the sales funnel-like the total number of meetings generated at your target accounts or the amount of pipeline created.
As we can see, Account-Based Marketing has amazing benefits for organisations, and it also adds tremendous value for clients.
This approach plays an integral role in customer retention since targeting specific accounts ties the campaign to the prospect's particular needs. Every touchpoint along the buyer's journey is a personalised experience.
It's about engaging with organisations, not just individuals.
You will need to do proper quantitative and qualitative research about the type of companies you want to go after. Defining your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) will set the basis to move forward.
Some of the factual data to consider could be the size of the companies you're targeting, the vertical or industry they operate in and their geographic footprint. This kind of data is referred to as firmographic data.
You also want to investigate what type of technology they are using. This will help you understand how your solution can help them get more out of their existing tech stack or develop a strategy to replace some of their existing tools altogether. This is called technographic data.
Once you define your ideal customer profile, you'll need to identify who you will connect with within those organisations.
Depending on your business, you might need to deal with different departments. This means identifying buying centres within the companies you want to go after. For example, the marketing or the IT departments.
Next, you want to point out who are the key stakeholders. You need to get insights into their goals, motivations, and pain points to start defining personas.
By now, you have a lot of information about the companies you want to pursue. You can create an account list of those and dig deeper.
Get insights on the businesses they are networking with, their corporate culture and their investments.
Other things to focus on include the way decisions are made in the company, pain points and the interests of the decision-makers.
With your account list ready, you will be able to tier the accounts you have identified.
We will talk about tiering in-depth in the next section, but for now, let's just say that you can categorise potential customers depending on the size of the opportunity and the likelihood of success in three tiers:
By now, you have a good understanding of the accounts you are going after and the people important to you in those accounts. You have also placed those accounts in tiers. You are in decent shape to start developing the messaging for your target accounts.
We've talked about how Account-Based Marketing provides a personalised experience for customers. At this stage, you can personalise content and messaging and develop specific actions that are relevant to the needs of your potential target accounts.
So, how are you going to reach out to these people specifically? You need to decide how you will deliver your message at the right time to these organisations.
Some common marketing channels used in ABM are
An Account-Based Marketing play is a sequence of activities that are coordinated and implemented to reach and engage target accounts.
You need to execute time-bound tasks and actions during the sales lifecycle.
You need to design a plan that specifies the sequence of work that's going to be done to reach a decision-maker or to close a target account. It is paramount to design a play that is both multi-touch and multi-channel.
You've done your homework; now it's time to have some fun and execute your plan!
While you step into action, you must keep an eye on how you will measure your results.
These questions can help you identify indicators to track your progress:
You will learn a lot as you measure your work. This information will help you adjust your process and see where you need to improve.
With all those learnings, you will be able to take your ABM strategy to the next level and scale for bigger campaigns.
When it comes to measuring Account-Based Marketing (ABM) success, one of the most significant difficulties for marketers is determining the right metrics.
At xGrowth, we lean on the 3R framework provided by ITSMA to understand how an Account-Based Marketing campaign is performing. The 3 Rs refer to relationship, reputation and revenue.
Let’s look at each of the above components in detail.
These metrics aim to gauge the quality of your relationships with customers in both current and potential accounts.
They provide information on how the engagement level of your primary contacts has changed after your ABM efforts.
The below is not an exhaustive list of metrics, but they are an excellent starting point:
Next, we will go into reputation metrics.
Reputation metrics help evaluate the impact of your ABM program on how your target accounts perceive your organisation. There could be multiple forms of KPIs that you can use to track how your account-based marketing programs are adding to your reputation, but the below two encompass a considerable majority of them.
After reputation, let’s move to revenue.
When it comes to tying your marketing efforts to business growth and sales numbers, revenue metrics are of utmost importance and do not require any explanation.
Tracking certain revenue metrics can prove to be highly valuable for any marketer in the ABM space. Below are some that we feel are the most significant ones.
While the three Rs framework is a good approach to looking at ABM metrics, an important thing to note is that the final list of metrics you choose also depends on the end objective you are trying to achieve with your ABM strategy.
For more details on this topic, read the detailed piece we wrote about Account Based Marketing metrics.
ABM is usually divided into three different tiers depending on the level of personalisation. As you move up from Programmatic ABM to Strategic ABM, you should see a change in three areas:
Let's analyse each tier in detail:
It is used for the most important accounts and is executed on a one-to-one basis. This means that it is a very personalised campaign.
The idea is that the team focuses on building and nurturing relationships with the most valued stakeholders in your target accounts. To do this, you need to demonstrate a great understanding of the customer's goals and craft your messaging around those.
This tier is mainly used for target account expansion. Because a huge investment goes into this type of strategy, it is implemented in situations where the chances of winning a deal are high. Both the likelihood of success and the size of the success need to be significant for the account to be positioned in the strategic tier of Account-Based Marketing.
Sometimes referred to as ABM Lite, this tier is about creating marketing programs for clusters of accounts with similar business attributes, challenges and opportunities.
The level of customisation is lighter compared to the one-to-one tier (Strategic ABM) since it is used for small groups of accounts instead of individual ones.
The programs are designed in ways to be lightly customised for each account within the cluster. The primary customisation efforts focus on the business issues that apply to all accounts within a cluster.
In this tier, the focus is shifted to positioning accounts into much larger clusters and tailoring campaigns for those specific accounts at scale.
The accounts are selected from across one market and need to be aligned with the company's sales coverage model. The key to Programmatic ABM is to find the right balance between customisation and scale.
Compared to the other tiers, this one-to-many approach is more reliant on technology. This is because a one-to-many campaign can require targeting and delivering a personalised message to a large number of accounts, sometimes in the thousands. We here at xGrowth also got together with some industry leaders in APAC to discuss some best practices for programmatic ABM. Check it out to level up on your ABM game
So, how can you choose the right approach for our organisation? Well, you don't have to choose one. A blended approach is best: the top-performing ABM teams employ two or even all three tiers.
We have mentioned this before, but we can't stress it enough: ABM is a coordinated effort between sales and marketing. It will only work if both departments work as one team.
Sales and marketing need to be aligned. Both teams should have common goals and messaging while reaching out to the target accounts.
This one is a classic. It is easy to say, 'let's run an ABM campaign,' but this is not the case. Account-Based Marketing is, by definition, a strategy.
If you try to run a three-month ABM campaign, it's not going to work. Your team needs to embrace ABM as a strategy and focus on it from a long-term perspective.
There are a lot of great tools and platforms out there to help your team with your ABM strategy. However, if you think that just one tool will do all the work and solve all your problems, you will be disappointed. It does not work like that.
It's important to remember that tools are there to assist your team's efforts, not replace them. You need to do your homework, analyse which accounts you should go after, and understand the goals of your prospects and customers. Before investing in tools, you need to lay the foundations and design your strategy. Success will come with the right balance of human work and the right tools.
Many companies try to make a switch from their existing marketing strategy and go full ABM overnight. It's a guaranteed road to failure.
To truly become ABM-centred, it is crucial to run a pilot project as a starting point. Account-Based Marketing is a complex strategy. You should first run a pilot, build the practice, optimise, and gradually scale your efforts. Taking baby steps will allow you to iterate and learn what is working and what is not.
Let's talk about how to begin implementing ABM at your organisation.
If you are new to the ABM space, running a pilot will be a good starting point.
A pilot will serve as proof of concept for your executive leadership.
While you are trying to convince your leadership to run your first ABM campaign, have some successful Account-Based Marketing examples handy. These can be used to get their buy-in before making it an organisation-wide practice.
With that said, let’s go into a step-by-step process for launching and executing your ABM pilot.
We have been talking non-stop about how marketing and sales teams should work together. So, as a marketer, you need to reach out to sales and partner with someone.
You and your internal champion from the sales team will both need to decide how far you can go with this campaign.
The key is to run your pilot in a way that it is small enough to be safe but large enough to show results. You need to maximise learning while minimising risk.
Take some time to plan and estimate. You must have clear objectives and manage expectations for your campaign. Analyse what you are going to measure and why.
Ask yourself questions like
As you design your ABM campaign, the team should be aligned in terms of
Here, you would want to work with your sales champion to produce a target account list. This list should be a reasonable one. For instance, there’s no point in selecting accounts from an industry where your organisation has had no success.
For the purposes of the pilot, go for accounts from the industry that your sales team is confident about!
Based upon the agreed-upon objectives, account list and research done, this step is all about developing a single GTM messaging that your marketing and sales team will use across the buyer journey.
This step is self-explanatory. If you haven’t heard it before, execution is key. If you are running a creative direct mail campaign, ensure you have the right mailing partners. Work with all the stakeholders involved closely, be it your graphic designers, content creators, or copywriters. A best practice is to share your campaign theme and context with all the players involved.
Lastly, remember to measure and report on the results of your campaigns as frequently as possible. A weekly report on the meetings booked or accounts reached should be broadcasted to the senior leadership. Driving the ROI of your ABM pilot will ensure that ABM persists in your organisation for the long term.
Share your success and failures with your team and make improvements to your strategy accordingly. The results of your pilot should be identifying what works best for you in terms of audiences, channels, actions and tools. This will be the foundation to scale.
In this section, we will share some Account-Based Marketing best practices and tactics that you can use to multiply the results of your efforts. These would complement the ABM strategies we talked about in our previous section here.
This one is an easy decision; personalising content marketing efforts is the lowest-hanging fruit in ABM.
By creating offers and content that are built specifically to address the pain point of each target account stakeholder, you're able to engage with your audience on their level and build a stronger relationship from it!
Here is an example scenario.
Your organisation sells solutions in the cybersecurity space, and your research shows that cyber-attacks on financial services firms are a key industry pain point. It keeps CIOs, CISOs and CEOs up at night.
You also find out that a big bank in your geography is looking for a new security vendor because they had some of their core systems hacked.
The tactic of personalising content for your account could be done by launching LinkedIn Ads targeting the C-level of that specific bank. The ad could take them to a blog article on your website about “5 things to look for while evaluating a security vendor”.
This is just one very simple example of what we mean by personalising content.
Keep in mind; it’s not just about personalising content; personalisation could mean creating a completely custom website experience or creating very personalised SOW, proposals and offers.
Strong market research capabilities are key to identifying your target accounts’ pain points.
The easiest way to get a clear idea about what's going on at your target company is by subscribing to and monitoring public information services like Google Alerts.
There are also other tactics that you can use, such as surveillance of social media activity for hidden insights into the happenings within the companies. LinkedIn and other similar third-party tools can help you in getting all the information you need.
The right contacts can be hard to come by. That's why there are vendors who specialise in creating lists based on role or responsibility. They'll also guarantee that the person you're looking for is still active!
Retargeting is another brilliant tactic to engage your customers and make them feel like you're always there for the taking. While more common in B2C, retargeting has found applications in the B2B and ABM world as well.
Retargeting means showing ads to people who have already visited your website or seen your ad. This works by storing small pieces of data called cookies in people's web browsers. Then, when these people visit other websites, they will see ads for your product. This is an effective way to remind potential customers about what you're selling and increase brand awareness.
In an ABM campaign, retargeting ensures you are always in front of your accounts!
You may think that marketing efforts today are all about social media and online content, but you would be surprised to know that there is an underutilised strategy out there.
The connections other employees have within your target accounts could be a potential source of information and insight. Tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator allow you to see which team members are connected with people at these targets.
So far, we have been talking about Account-Based Marketing, why it is important, its benefits, ways to implement it, tactics and best practices. We will now dive into the tech stack that will enable you and your organisation to execute your ABM strategies with finesse at scale.
A disclaimer here is that you don’t necessarily need these platforms to launch your ABM program. These tools, however, will make your journey smoother, easier, faster and scalable.
The Demandbase ABX Cloud is a comprehensive platform for running advanced and personalised account-based marketing campaigns.
The platform’s capabilities include audience management, intent data capture on how customers behave on different channels and campaign activation through native and non-native channels. There’s also account measurement, so you know what works best when the time comes to make decisions about your future marketing strategy.
As a part of its product roadmap, Demandbase plans to launch predictive intelligence capabilities for forecasting a potential “product purchase” action from the buyer and making recommendations on what marketers should do with that information.
In the last couple of years, it has grown inorganically to advance its vision and add new functionalities, the most recent being an integrated customer data platform (CDP).
The company’s ABM tool can also create psychographic account profiles that can be used by marketers to gain detailed insights about their target audience and understand what messages resonated best with them.
From a future roadmap perspective, Terminus is working on creating better analytics and utilisation dashboards for its end users.
The 6sense Account Engagement Platform is a powerful tool for managing ABM programs across sales, marketing and operations teams.
With its strong partner ecosystem and native capabilities, the 6Sense platform helps deliver relevant content & messaging to target account stakeholders across multiple social channels. This is just one of their core offerings, and more details about them can be accessed here.
6Sense plans to expand its predictive models for pipeline reporting. Their platform will also start leveraging goals-based AI to increase web engagement and identify new account opportunities.
RollWorks is definitely a company to watch out for! They have a unique and advanced Account-Based Marketing platform that is highly intuitive and user-friendly. Marketers can use RollWorks for account identification, multi-channel audience engagement and ABM's impact measurement.
The company is also investing heavily in enhancing its current account scoring models and audience engagement capabilities. With all these amazing features, the organisation is on the path to becoming a leading player in the ABM space.
While we shared some information about the four major ABM platforms, there are others in the market that should also be on your radar. Some of them are Mutiny, Hubspot ABM, Salesforce (Pardot) ABM & Triblio.
Apart from the core ABM platforms that we talked about in the previous section; you can also think of including the following tools in your ABM tech stack.
We will again re-emphasise our disclaimer here that you don’t necessarily need these platforms to launch your ABM program. These tools, however, will make your journey smoother, easier, faster and scalable.
For acquiring high-quality intent data on your accounts, you may consider the following two platforms:
For contact enrichment, i.e. getting information on account stakeholder list and other account happenings, the following platforms can be leveraged.
Chatbots for your ABM strategy! Yes, chatbots can play a part in your ABM campaigns as well. Below is a platform that can help you in your ABM journey!
Finally, you can consider the below organisations for your ABM content delivery.
Speak to an account-based marketing expert for advice on martech
Alright, we are almost at the end of this ultimate account-based marketing guide! And this last section will arm you with some pre-made templates!
These templates can be used along with all the tools, tips and tricks we have shared so far to structure your Account-Based Marketing program.
The other benefit of these templates is that they will help you execute ABM or at least get started with it without dedicated platforms and tools.
The last thing about these templates is that they are a subset of our “Ultimate Account-Based Marketing Template” piece that can be accessed in the resources section of our website. Look for our ABM strategy template to create a successful ABM strategy.
In this guide, we have highlighted four of the nine in total! So, make sure to check out the remaining ones!
With those pointers out of the way, let’s look at the templates!
This template will be used to capture the key data points on each of your target accounts.
So, if you have ten target accounts, you will ideally want 10 of these
The following items will be captured for each account.
This template will help you structure your thoughts around different buying centres and departments you would target within your accounts.
The figure below shows sample departments that might be involved in the decision-making process. For us to develop custom campaigns for stakeholders in each of these departments, we would want to know their pain points and motivations. We would also like to know the metrics they care about and by whom they are influenced.
For instance, a CRM company would want to ensure they are at par with the best-of-breed solution because that’s what the marketing team might be looking for; they also need to ensure that they are competitively priced to remove any objections from procurement.
The CRM should also be easily deployed because that’s the motivation for the technology team. The “ABM Buying Centres Identification” template forces you to explore and dig into all this information!
This is a simple dashboard template to capture the performance of your ABM campaigns.
While the below image is exhaustive in terms of the kind of metrics you should be tracking, it is essential to look at them with some context and dive deeper.
For instance, if you are tracking “Targeted Ad Impressions, it's not just about hitting a certain number of impressions for the campaign overall; instead, it's more along the lines of how many of those impressions were from the specific accounts in your target list!
Furthermore, if most of your impressions come from just one target account and you have 15 accounts in your list, then you need to look at the “impressions” number with that added consideration.
The above would be true for “Clicks” and “Engagements” as well!
Remember, your metrics will only make sense if they are being captured for your target account list!
If you want to know more about ABM metrics, check out our detailed blog here!
This template is a simple Gantt chart where you can lay out the timelines and key milestones of your ABM campaigns. The snapshot below shows some standard components, such as creating relevant content, running ads, direct mail deliveries, and SDR reach-out. Ideally, your campaign project plan should align with the buyer's journey.
As mentioned several times in this guide, Account-Based Marketing can be a daunting task. It involves a lot of planning and collaboration among the marketing team, sales, account management, customer success and finance teams.
It is a long-term play with marketing campaigns running from several months to sometimes a couple of years, it involves both new and existing customers, it involves an immense amount of research and thought to create campaigns for specific companies with specific key decision-makers. There is a lot to account-based marketing, and we have tried our best to equip you with all the information you would need to go from a beginner to a pro.
It has been great to guide you on the first steps of your Account-Based Marketing journey.
If you have any bumps on the road ahead, please reach out. We will be happy to help. See you!
LinkedIn can be used as a tool for Account-Based Marketing for
- Narrowing down the right account stakeholders
- Running targeted ads for your ABM campaigns
- Social selling by the sales team & engaging with the right accounts
Lead generation involves generating a lot of interest at the top of the funnel. Then you work with them until only a few leads are left. These are the people who are most likely to buy what you're selling.
ABM inverts the marketing funnel in a way, where you start with an already decided list of accounts and try to convert them.
To identify if the ABM strategy is applicable to your target account, see if the following two criteria are met.
- The lifetime revenue from that account of larger than $10k and up to millions of dollars
- The account has multiple decision-makers and influencers who need to be on board to get the contract signed.
3 key objectives of account-based marketing are
- Drive sales and marketing alignment
- Make customer pain points the centre of all marketing content
- Help close existing and new deals faster
Account-Based Marketing can be used by organisations selling to companies in both B2B and B2C space.
ABM is a B2B marketing approach for an enterprise-level organisation having more than 1,000 employees trying to sell their products and services in similar B2B or B2C companies.
3 key objectives of account-based marketing are
- Drive sales and marketing alignment
- Make customer pain points the centre of all marketing content
- Help close existing and new deals faster
Depending on the type of ABM strategy, you should set an expectation to your senior leadership that they would be able to see some tangible results in 6-9 months.
No, ABM is not inbound or outbound marketing, but they can be used as sub-strategies or tactics in a larger ABM program.