Account-Based Marketing Strategy Playbook

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xGrowth's ABM Playbook is an extension of existing resources we have created to help B2B organisations and marketers succeed with the adoption of Account-Based Marketing. This resource combines content from our ABM Guide and ABM Strategy Template resources to give you a step-by-step holistic tutorial on setting up your ABM program.

 

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Use this playbook to set up a best-in-class ABM program that drives marketing and sales alignment, accelerates deal closures and improves existing customer relationships.

 

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Definition of Account-Based Marketing

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.

ABM emphasises building long-lasting relationships in high-value accounts and businesses. It forces marketing and sales teams to work together strategically to create a personalised experience for each target account.

Personalised experience means attracting stakeholders with relevant content and resources that address the business problem they are trying to solve across the buyer's journey.

Download xGrowth’s Ultimate Account-Based Marketing Strategy Template

Importance of ABM for B2B businesses

As the B2B sales cycle becomes more complex and marketing budgets shrink, especially in the tight macroeconomic conditions of 2023, following an account-based approach can help an organisation's marketing team achieve a better ROI for their dollars.

Importance of ABM for B2B businesses

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: Pexels.com

How?

First, ABM forces companies to focus on the most important accounts and invest time in developing an ideal customer profile. Creating an ICP document and adhering to it ensures that all marketing efforts are driven in a direction where the probability of winning an account is the highest.

Next, ABM drives solid sales and marketing alignment if done right. Both teams collaborate to create content and outreach marketing campaigns with a unified message across multiple customer channels. This leads to efficient go-to-market (GTM) operations and a consistent customer experience throughout the sales cycle, increasing the probability of winning that million-dollar deal.

Finally, the most beautiful part about ABM is the sales and marketing teams have already agreed on a target account list at the start of a campaign. Compared to traditional methods such as demand-gen, which takes a spray-and-pray approach and leaves the sales team to work separately, ABM makes it easier to track and measure your results. Additionally, the attribution of marketing efforts to a win becomes less of a grey area.

How to Create Your ABM Playbook?

While this will be a holistic playbook, talking everything ABM, from best practices to examples. I will also ensure that everything is complemented by a template. This template is to ensure you are not starting from scratch. 

Remember, ABM is not a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to create something that’s custom for you. 

While developing your playbook and corresponding templates, keep in mind the following things:

  1. The maturity of your marketing team when it comes to ABM skills.
  2. What tier of ABM are you using or considering (more on this later)?
  3. The end objective that you want to achieve with ABM, i.e. pipeline acceleration, account expansion or new account acquisition?
  4. Do you have the right data sources, tools and platforms to scale?
  5. Are you covering all the aspects of an ABM program mentioned in this playbook in some form or the other? 

ABM Playbook

Creating the ICP

This is the first step in your Account-Based Marketing strategy. To create a robust ICP, ensure that you are evaluating companies through the following four lenses.

Intent Signals

Intent signals are actions and behaviours signalling that a company is interested in your product or service. Identifying and analysing these indicators can help you find accounts searching for solutions like yours. Examples of intent signals include submitting a contact form, registering for your newsletter, or asking for a demo. Focusing on companies with displayed intent can help you prioritise your outreach endeavours and adjust your messaging.

Demographic & Firmographic Alignment

Demographic and firmographic data can offer useful insights into your perfect customer. Demographic data includes info like company size, industry, location, and revenue. Firmographic data includes company organisation, number of workers, and decision-making hierarchy. Investigating this information can help you identify patterns and trends that can inform your ICP. For instance, you may find that organisations in a specific industry or with a certain revenue range are more likely to gain value from your product or service.

Technographic Fit

Technographic data provides information on a company's technology stack, which is crucial when targeting potential customers. By analysing this data, you can identify opportunities to offer solutions that enhance or fit into their application ecosystem.

Past Success Rate

Lastly, assessing past success rates can provide valuable insights into the types of accounts that are the most suitable for your business. By studying your prior customer relationships, you can find patterns and trends in terms of company size, industry, and other characteristics connected to successful partnerships.

Use xGrowth's template for summarising the above data into a neat one-pager ICP that can be used across your entire organisation.

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Account List and Prioritisation

Once the ICP is finalised, the next step is to create a target account list in agreement with sales. Another important activity is to score each account and decide which ones should be given more focused attention than others.

You can prioritise accounts using multiple parameters. In this playbook, we will use the following five.

1. ICP Fit

The ICP fit is the primary parameter that determines an account's priority. Matching factors such as company size, industry, location, revenue, and other relevant characteristics with your ICP can help rank the accounts in your target list.

2. Current Need

The second parameter is the current need of the account. Give priority to accounts with an immediate need for your product or service. Consider recent activities, pain points, and signals indicating an active search for a solution.

3. Opportunity Revenue

The third parameter is the potential revenue opportunity from the account. Prioritise accounts with a higher revenue potential based on their budget, the size of the opportunity, and any other relevant financial metrics.

4. Decision Maker Inclination

The fourth parameter to consider is the decision-makers’ inclination. Focusing on those who have shown a high level of interest are more likely to advocate for your solution internally should be a top priority for your marketing and sales efforts.

5. Buying History

The final parameter is the buying history of the account. Prioritise targeting accounts with a history of purchasing from you, as they are more likely to be receptive to your messaging and open to continuing the relationship.

Here's our unique template and scoring methodology that allows you to do this exercise seamlessly and intelligently.

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Account Segmentation

Once you have the accounts identified and prioritised, the next step is to decide which style of Account-Based Marketing to use for each of them.

There are three core types of ABM strategies or tiers.

Strategic ABM Tier: One-to-One

This tier is used for the most important accounts and executed on a one-to-one basis. The campaign is highly personalised and tailored to the specific needs and challenges of the account.

Scale ABM Tier: One-to-Few

This tier involves creating marketing programs for groups of accounts with similar business attributes, challenges, and opportunities. The level of customisation is lower than Strategic ABM.

Programmatic ABM Tier: One-to-Many

This tier involves positioning accounts into larger clusters and tailoring marketing campaigns at scale. The programmatic approach relies on technology to strike the right balance between customisation and scale.

To decide which out of the three tiers of ABM you should use for each account, we would look at two factors: 

  1. The size of the deal
  2. The complexity of the sales process/account.

Accounts can be targeted differently based on their Annual Contract Value (ACV) and complexity.

High ACV and complex accounts need a 1:1 ABM strategy, low ACV but high complexity accounts can be targeted with a 1:few strategy, and low ACV and low complexity accounts can be targeted with 1:many. 

Here's a template snapshot that can help you categorise the companies in your Target Accounts List (TAL) into the appropriate ABM tiers:

3-ABM-Segmentation-xGrowth-1024x576

Buying Committee Identification and Theme Development

The next logical step is to understand the buying committee. This involves developing buyer personas and corresponding themes that would resonate with them and address key components of their business challenges.

We'll examine four typical buyer personas and the relevant content that a hypothetical Customer Relationship Management (CRM) company can create to catch their attention.

The idea of this exercise is to give you the inspiration to create your own personas and corresponding ABM campaign content.

Technology Buyer

Technology buyers are usually people from a company's IT team. A CRM company can attract this persona by showcasing the features and benefits of their system, including easy integration with existing applications and minimal implementation effort.

Procurement Buyer

Procurement buyers are responsible for sourcing and purchasing products and services for their organisation. A CRM company can create content highlighting the cost savings and efficiency gains of their system to attract this persona.

Business Buyer

Business buyers are responsible for making strategic decisions about the direction of the organisation. To attract this persona, a hypothetical CRM company could create content that speaks to the business value proposition of their CRM system, such as increased productivity and revenue growth.

End User

To attract end-users, a CRM company can create content that addresses their specific pain points and challenges. This could include user guides, tutorial videos, case studies, and testimonials from end-users in similar industries.

Below is a snapshot of a template you can use to capture all your buyer personas on one page.

8-ABM-Sales-Alignment-Checklist-xGrowth-1024x576

Pick the Right Marketing Channels

To effectively reach your target accounts, it is essential to select appropriate channels. Initially, it is important to identify the channels through which your target accounts prefer to consume information and interact with brands.

One widely used channel for ABM campaigns is marketing emails. These emails are customised and tailored to address the particular needs and challenges of the target account.

Paid ads, as well as targeted IP and social ads, are also effective ways to reach your target accounts during the sales cycle. These ads can be created specifically to target certain stakeholders based on their profiles, persona and intent signals.

Direct mail is another extremely powerful channel for ABM campaigns. At xGrowth, we have executed some very unique and interesting ABM campaigns leveraging this underrated channel.

Here's an interesting direct mail campaign you can read about and take inspiration from.

xGrowth Delivers ABM Success for a Fraud Analytics Firm in APAC!

About the Company

This example is a technology company that provides solutions to protect financial institutions from fraud and money laundering activities. Their advanced risk operations platform uses data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning to track and prevent any kind of identity thefts, fraudulent transactions and bank account takeovers.

ABM Challenge 

This organisation was new to Account-Based Marketing. They wanted to leverage our experience in the APAC region and ABM expertise to get meetings with key decision-makers from some of the largest financial institutions in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia.

ABM Strategy and Campaigns Executed

Our ABM campaign was explicitly tailored for the risk, IT, and fraud departments of large banks in APAC. 

The campaign's theme was to encourage the prospects to let our client be their "eyes" and "ears" for spotting and protecting against transactional fraud.

To ensure a successful ABM campaign, we took a multi-channel approach leveraging the strengths of direct mail, targeted ads, social selling and email. We crafted multiple messages to reach our target audience from all possible angles and increase engagement.

One of the unique things we did in our direct mail piece was posting a drone in the mail to some key account stakeholders. The prospects could connect the drone to their phones and then see the areas beyond their regular line of sight. This communicated our messaging and aligned with our theme of letting our client be the eyes and ears banks and financial services companies can rely on.

Results

The results from the ABM campaign laid the foundation for new revenue opportunities and continued adoption of the Account-Based Marketing strategy within our client organisation.

In terms of some numbers, the campaign positively impacted the sales pipeline.

We were targeting 56 accounts and opened doors to 14 of those for our client!

Campaign Planning and Execution

After having gone through the entire process of planning and preparing for an Account-Based Marketing campaign, it's time to talk about the execution. While the topic itself is very self-explanatory, there is no substitute for good execution; you can plan everything and align yourself with the sales team, but if that direct mail package is not sent to the target accounts at the right time, the campaign might fall on its back.

Below is the template you can use to organise and plan the activities in your campaign.

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Important Metrics to Track ABM Success

 

Important Metrics to Track ABM Success

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: Pexels.com

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 these components in detail.

Relationship Metrics:

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 last ABM campaign and efforts.

The below is not an exhaustive list of metrics, but they are an excellent starting point.

  • Number of executives newly contacted
  • Number of stakeholders reached by ABM campaigns
  • Frequency of meetings with current customers
  • Number of calls booked with key decision-makers from target accounts

Next, we will go into reputation metrics. 

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.

  • Level of customer advocacy
    • Customer advocacy can include KPIs like how many referrals you get from existing accounts and how often your content is being shared by clients on their social channels.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

After reputation, let’s move to revenue.

Revenue Metrics

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.

  • Deal size (revenue growth)
  • Share of wallet
  • Sales velocity

While the three Rs framework is a good approach to looking at ABM metrics, it’s important to note that the final list of metrics you chose also depends on the end objective you are trying to achieve with your ABM strategy. 

For more details on this topic, read our detailed piece about Account Based Marketing metrics

Aligning Sales and Marketing

 

Aligning Sales and Marketing

Photo by fauxels: Pexels.com

I wanted this to be a separate section in this playbook. Based on our experience dealing with complex enterprise clients here at xGrowth, we have seen that ABM, if executed correctly, leads to alignment between sales and marketing, resulting in increased sales.

If you listen to Eric Wittlake from TOPO, the vice-versa is also true, i.e. for an Account-Based Marketing campaign to be successful, both the sales and marketing teams should be on the same page.

So, in this part of the playbook, I will share some tactics that you can you use to get that sales buy-in.

Highlight similarities between ABM and the Sales Approach.

Sales professionals unconsciously adopt an account-based approach to the sales process.

A typical sales rep compiles a list of stakeholders from target accounts, researches them, and personalises their messaging when speaking to a prospect.

This approach is similar to the ABM approach, but instead of pitches, marketing teams create various forms of content. Highlighting that ABM principles are similar to sales principles is a good way to make an SDR an ABM adopter.

Talk the Account’s Language

Sales teams are evaluated on performance indicators like revenue, booking targets, number of meetings, and phone calls made per week. These metrics are primarily related to a target account. Marketing teams usually measure success using general-level metrics such as webinar attendance and white paper downloads. What would instead serve well for marketers in reporting their results is making them account specific. 

Marketing managers speaking the language of sales teams helps in two ways: 

  1. Sales teams listen more keenly
  2. It increases their confidence in the marketing team's account-based strategy.

Simply put, when marketing uses sales-related metrics to measure ROI on ABM, the sales team doesn't discount it as another fad.

Start ABM With a Few SDRs

To showcase the effectiveness of ABM, you can run a pilot program with a small group of SDRs. This will help you implement an account-based strategy and identify areas for improvement while also providing a quick way to measure results. If successful, the pilot program can set a precedent for implementing ABM methodology across the organisation.

While the above are the ways by which, as a marketer, you can get the sales buy-in, below is the snapshot of our sales alignment checklist. It highlights tasks that both teams should be doing to be on the same page.

8 ABM Sales Alignment Checklist xGrowth

ABM Tools and Techniques

 

ABM Tools and Techniques

Photo by Ivan Samkov: Pexels.com

When it comes to executing Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategies, having the right tools and platforms can make all the difference. It is possible to launch an ABM program without them, but using these platforms will make the process smoother, faster, and more scalable. Here are some of the best ABM tools and platforms available:

Core ABM Platforms:

  • Demandbase: A comprehensive platform for advanced and personalised ABM campaigns, including audience management, intent data capture, and campaign activation.
  • Terminus: A platform with native channel support, personalisation features, and an integrated customer data platform (CDP).
  • 6Sense: A powerful tool for managing ABM programs across sales, marketing, and operations teams, with a strong partner ecosystem and native capabilities.
  • RollWorks: An intuitive and user-friendly platform for account identification, multi-channel audience engagement, and impact measurement.
  • Other notable ABM platforms are Mutiny, Hubspot ABM, Salesforce (Pardot) ABM, and Triblio.

Complementary Platforms:

  • TechTarget's Priority Engine and Bombora - For acquiring high-quality intent data on your accounts.
  • Clearbit, ZoomInfo, and Seamless.ai - For contact enrichment and getting information on account stakeholder lists and other account happenings.
  • Drift - For chatbots to play a part in your ABM campaigns.
  • PathFactory and Uberflip - For ABM content delivery.

Want to dive deep into ABM Tech? Here is a guide that will quench your thirst.

Components of Successful ABM Strategy 

Final-Thoughts-on-Intent-Data-for-ABM

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is an effective approach to land, renew, and expand key strategic accounts. However, implementing a successful ABM strategy requires a solid foundation. Here are some key elements to consider:

  1. Set expectations and align them across the organisation, starting conversations with stakeholders within the organisation, such as sales, account managers, or customer success.
  2. Get both sales and leadership excited about ABM by showing them what it could look like for them. Discuss how ABM can build relationships and increase revenue, showcasing how it can help sales close or expand accounts.
  3. Build account lists with the help of the sales team to identify where the greatest return can be generated. Marketing should be engaged throughout the entire account list creation process.
  4. Communication is key throughout the entire ABM campaign. A high level of communication ensures everyone knows where things are up to.
  5. Test and continually improve your ABM strategy. It’s the easiest way to repeatedly show success running ABM in the long term.
  6. Choose the style of ABM that suits your business. Scale ABM can make a lot of sense as it allows you to balance the amount of investment vs the return.

By following these foundational elements, you can set your organisation up for success with ABM.

xGrowth’s Account-Based Marketing Resources 

The Ultimate Guide to Account-Based Marketing

To learn all about Account-Based Marketing, its history, its types, its benefits, how you can implement it step by step, what are the mistakes to avoid, and the tools and platforms to use, you must go through our Ultimate Guide to Account-Based Marketing

Account-Based Marketing Strategy Template

If you are looking for templates to execute the Account-Based Marketing steps, I encourage you to download our ABM Strategy Template

With the information on those existing resources out of the way, let's talk about this ABM playbook.

The ABM playbook template combines the content from the above two resources and gives you a step-by-step holistic tutorial on setting up your ABM program and the corresponding tools you can use.

Download xGrowth’s Ultimate Account-Based Marketing Strategy Template

You can also use this as a framework to create a custom playbook for your company based on the size and maturity of your teams and the end goal you are trying to achieve.

 

About xGrowth

I hope this playbook gives you all the ammunition you need to ace your ABM journey; at xGrowth, we deal with several aspects of Account-Based Marketing and strategy with global organisations every day. If you feel the need for an expert to guide you, contact us here

 


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xGrowth brings a very structured approach to ABM. It’s been amazing working with you.

Michele Clarke
Head of Marketing, APAC Secure Code Warrior
When I think ABM, I think xGrowth. xGrowth were 100% committed, the whole team was just like our business partner. I would say you are not a business vendor; you are our business partner.
Reena Misra
ANZ Marketing Leader
OutSystems