The benefits of Account-Based Marketing are now well-proven. The approach has revolutionised the way marketing and sales teams function.
At the heart of ABM, there are different tiers, with 1:1 ABM being the most personalised approach. For those diving deep into 1:1 or even 1:few ABM campaigns, having a detailed account plan is crucial.
This article breaks down the importance of strategic account planning and offers a clear blueprint to strengthen ties with your top clients. You will also get a comprehensive account planning template that you may use for your ABM campaigns.
Before we get started, let’s get the below two pointers out of the way.
- If you are curious about a more high-level approach to key account plans, you may refer to the account intelligence section in our ABM Strategy Template.
- Make sure to use this resource as a supplementary tool to our existing publications, such as the Account Scoring Template, Account-Based Marketing Examples and ABM Playbook.
So, with that out of the way, let's jump into it.
In a typical B2B company, account planning may involve some or all the following activities.
- Analysing, strategising, and executing plans to win, retain, and grow key accounts
- Outlining relevant information about a current or potential customer
- Gaining insight into their decision-making process, target audience & competitors
The account management teams in the B2B world usually own the account planning exercise.
By using a comprehensive account planning template, key account managers can ensure that their efforts are organised, focused, and effective, ultimately driving better results for their clients and their organisation through the key account planning process.
Based on how complex your client's business is, an account plan may be revised every quarter.
Account Planning & Account-Based Marketing
This section discusses the relevance of having an account plan for Account-Based Marketing (ABM). There could be the following two scenarios where ABM and the account planning process can cross paths.
Strategic Account Plans from Sales & Account Management Teams
Expansion Strategy: Sales and account management teams often develop strategic account plans that detail their approach to grow within an existing account or penetrate a prospective one. This plan encompasses understanding the account's business objectives, potential challenges, and areas of opportunity.
Input for ABM: The ABM team takes cues from these strategic account plans. By understanding the sales team's objectives and strategies for a specific account, the ABM team can design campaigns that align with and support these goals.
For example, if the sales team identifies a potential upsell opportunity within an account, the ABM team can create targeted content and campaigns that highlight the benefits of the product being upsold to existing customers.
Large Scale 1:1 or 1:Few ABM Campaigns: Combined Account Planning
Understanding Business Objectives: In large-scale, highly personalised ABM campaigns, it's crucial for both sales and the marketing team to understand the target account's business objectives and priorities deeply. This ensures that all efforts are directed towards addressing the genuine needs and pain points of key clients.
Joint Account Planning Sessions: ABM teams often collaborate directly with sales teams (account managers & customer success managers) in joint account planning sessions. These sessions aim to:
- Identify and understand the target's business objectives and challenges.
- Align on the messaging and value proposition.
- Prioritise initiatives for the upcoming months.
- Determine the best channels and tactics to engage the target account.
Clarity & Alignment: These joint planning sessions are invaluable for achieving clarity and alignment between sales and marketing. Both teams can ensure they're on the same page regarding the account and customer's challenges and needs, the proposed solution, and the engagement strategy.
Driving Success in ABM: The alignment achieved through combined key account management and planning is a critical success factor for ABM campaigns. When sales and marketing are in sync, the messaging is consistent, the value proposition is clear, and the chances of successfully engaging and converting the target account increase significantly.
The interlinking of Account Planning and ABM is all about alignment and collaboration. Organisations can drive more effective and successful ABM campaigns by ensuring that both sales and marketing teams are aligned in their understanding and approach to target key accounts.
Account Planning & Management Template
As mentioned previously, an account planning & management template serves as a roadmap, guiding businesses in understanding, strategising, and optimising their client relationships. In the sections that follow, we'll delve into the core components.
While this provides a comprehensive framework, it's essential to remember that every client relationship and industry is unique. As you navigate through these sections, feel free to customise and adapt the template to fit your business needs and the specific nuances of your client relationships.
Account's Business Overview
The Business Review is the cornerstone of the account planning template.
It's not just about listing out basic details but understanding the client's or prospect's position in the market.
This section should provide insights into the company's history, its growth trajectory, and any significant milestones.
Understanding the company's geographic presence can reveal regional strengths or expansion opportunities. Details like the number of employees can give a sense of the company's scale, while recent revenue figures and stock prices (if applicable) can indicate financial health. Recognising their primary offerings and their main competitors provides a clear picture of the market landscape.
For existing accounts and existing relationships, it's essential to reflect on the journey so far, noting successes and areas of improvement. For prospects, potential revenue estimations can set targets and expectations for the sales team.
Client's Top Initiatives
This section is about aligning with the client's vision.
While the top 3-5 initiatives provide a direction, a deeper understanding of the backstory of each initiative can be enlightening. Why has the client prioritised these initiatives? Are they in response to market changes, technological advancements, or competitive pressures? Or are they part of a larger strategic pivot or transformation? Secondary sources like annual reports can provide data, but personal interactions with stakeholders can offer nuanced insights.
For existing clients, past interactions and feedback sessions can also shed light on their evolving priorities.
Mapping Initiatives to Business Challenges
Every initiative is rooted in a challenge or an opportunity. In this section, we will dive deep into the 'why' behind each initiative.
What business challenges are driving these initiatives? Are they operational, strategic, or market-driven?
Once challenges and key business initiatives are identified, the focus shifts to solutions. How do your products or services address these challenges? It's essential to move beyond generic solutions and tailor your offerings to the client's specific context. Case studies or past success stories can be powerful tools to showcase your capability.
Client Organisational Chart & Buying Committee
Beyond the organisational hierarchy, this section is about understanding power dynamics among key stakeholders and influencers within the client's organisation. Who are the champions of your offerings? Who are the sceptics? Recognising the motivations, apprehensions, and priorities of each key stakeholder can inform your engagement strategy. For instance, a CTO might be more interested in the technical robustness of a solution, while a CFO might prioritise cost savings. Tailored pitches and communications can resonate better and accelerate decision-making.
This section goes beyond just listing competitors. It's about understanding the competitive landscape in depth. What are the unique selling points of each competitor? Where do they outperform you, and where do they lag? Client feedback, market reports, competitive analysis, and even competitor client testimonials can provide insights. Recognising market trends and shifts can also indicate emerging competitors or potential collaborative opportunities. This section should equip the sales team with counterpoints and differentiators that can be highlighted during client interactions.
Action Plan & Alignment with ABM Campaigns
The Action Plan is where strategy meets execution. Based on all the insights gathered, what are the next steps? This section should outline both short-term and long-term strategies. For ABM campaigns, understanding the client's calendar can be beneficial. Are there any industry events, product launches, or strategic meetings where your campaigns can make an impact? The action plan should also have clear metrics of success, timelines, and assigned responsibilities. Regular reviews can ensure that the plan remains relevant and adaptive to changing circumstances.
How to Use the Account Planning Template?
After delving into the intricacies of the Account Planning & Management Template and understanding its various sections, it's time to bring it to life. In this segment, we'll demonstrate how account management, sales, and marketing teams can collaboratively fill out the template using hypothetical scenarios.
Before we dive into the demonstration, let's introduce our two hypothetical entities:
CyberTech Inc: CyberTech Inc. is a leading enterprise application security and IT services company based out of Sydney, Australia. It provides cyber security consulting and implementation resources to large and medium-sized firms.
FreshKart Grocers: A global grocery retail giant in Texas, USA. Since its inception in 1990. FreshKart Grocers has a presence in 31 countries with an e-commerce website where customers can order fresh produce and other fast-moving consumer goods.
It's crucial to note that all the data, company names, and information provided in this demonstration are entirely fictional. Even the resources cited are hypothetical, but they're designed to guide readers on where they might seek similar information in real-world situations. Let's dive in!
Company: FreshKart Grocers
Geographic Presence: 1,200 stores in North America, 500 in Europe, and 300 in Asia.
Number of Employees: 150,000, with 10,000 in corporate roles.
Latest Revenue: $20 billion with a 5% YoY growth.
Stock Price: $150 with a steady 3% quarterly increase.
Primary Offerings: Fresh produce, organic products, household items, and a rapidly growing online delivery service.
Main Competitors: SuperGrocers (known for its vast organic range), DailyMart (popular for quick deliveries), and QuickShop Stores (with a strong physical presence).
Resource: FreshKart's investor relations page, market research databases, and industry news articles.
Client's Top Initiatives
Expansion of Online Delivery: FreshKart aims to double its online customer base in the next year.
AI-Driven Inventory Management: They're piloting an AI system in 50 stores to predict stock needs.
Sustainability: Aiming to reduce carbon footprint by 20% in the next three years.
Enhancing In-Store Experience: Rolling out interactive kiosks in 200 flagship stores.
Resource: FreshKart's recent press releases, insights from industry events, and feedback from existing contacts within FreshKart.
Mapping Initiatives to Business Challenges:
Expansion of Online Delivery: Challenge - Ensuring a secure online transaction environment as cyber-attacks on retail have increased by 30%. Solution - CyberTech's 'RetailSecure' package offers end-to-end encryption for online transactions.
AI-Driven Inventory Management: Challenge - Protecting the integrity of AI systems from potential breaches. Solution - CyberTech's 'AIShield' ensures AI algorithms remain uncompromised.
Sustainability: Challenge - Transitioning to sustainable data centres without compromising security. Solution - CyberTech's 'GreenGuard' initiative offers eco-friendly cybersecurity solutions.
Enhancing In-Store Experience: Challenge - Protecting customer data input into in-store kiosks. Solution - CyberTech's 'KioskGuard' offers real-time monitoring of in-store digital touchpoints.
Resource: CyberTech's product catalogue, case studies from similar retail clients, and industry cybersecurity reports.
Client Organisational Chart & Buying Committee:
CTO Ms Jane Smith: Has expressed concerns about the rise in cyber-attacks in the retail sector.
CFO, Mr Alan Brown: Looking for cost-effective solutions with a clear ROI.
CMO, Ms Lisa Green: Wants to ensure customer satisfaction, loyalty and trust by guaranteeing data protection.
COO, Mr Raj Mehta: Interested in smooth in-store tech integrations without disruptions.
Resource: LinkedIn for profiling, FreshKart's corporate communications, and insights from previous meetings or industry events.
SuperSecure Tech: Recently partnered with a major European retailer and showcased a 10% reduction in cyber incidents. However, they lack sustainability-focused solutions.
SafeNet Solutions: Launched a new AI protection suite that lacks specialisation in the retail sector.
GuardianCyber: Offered FreshKart a comprehensive package but at a 20% higher price point than CyberTech.
Resource: Competitor websites, industry forums, and feedback from FreshKart's procurement team.
Action Plan & Alignment with ABM Campaigns
Short-Term: Launch a targeted ABM campaign titled "SecureRetail with CyberTech". Use case studies of similar clients to showcase effectiveness. Schedule a webinar with FreshKart's tech team next month.
Long-Term: Propose a 3-month pilot project in FreshKart's 10 flagship stores. Aim to showcase a 15% reduction in potential security threats.
Metrics of Success: Track webinar attendance, the engagement rate of the ABM campaign, feedback from the pilot project, and conversion rate post-pilot.
Resource: Collaboration between CyberTech's marketing and sales teams, FreshKart's event calendar, and feedback sessions post-webinar.
Benefits of Using an Account Planning Template
Sales and Marketing Alignment
As we discussed earlier, account planning drives a shared understanding of the client among both sales and marketing teams. This ensures that both teams are on the same page when it comes to the client's needs, objectives, and the strategies in place to address them.
By having a centralised account planning template, it's easier to align sales processes and marketing initiatives, ensuring that both teams are working towards the same goals and using consistent messaging.
Preservation of Historical Knowledge
An account planning template serves as a repository of historical data and insights about the client.
For new team members or those transitioning between key accounts, this historical knowledge is invaluable. They can quickly review the account plan to understand past interactions, challenges, solutions provided, and other key relationships and account details. This speeds up the onboarding process and ensures continuity in client relationships.
Accountability Between Teams
The action plan section of the account planning template is crucial for tracking commitments and deliverables.
By documenting what was discussed and agreed upon, it's easier to hold both sales and marketing teams accountable. Teams can regularly review the action plan to check if deliverables were met, ensuring that promises to the client are kept.
Standardisation of Information Processing
Having a standardised account planning template ensures that all teams absorb, store, and process account and market intelligence in a consistent manner.
This standardisation leads to better and faster internal communication. When everyone is using the same format and structure, it reduces confusion and ensures that key information is easily accessible and understood by all relevant parties.
Improved Organisation and Streamlined Communication
Centralising all relevant client information in a single template ensures that communication is streamlined. The single source of truth also reduces the risk of miscommunication and ensures that everyone has access to the latest information.
Clear Framework for Tracking and Measurement
The template provides a clear framework for tracking progress against objectives, key performance indicators and KPIs. Account managers can easily measure success, identify areas for improvement, and refine strategies to drive better results for clients.
A strategic account management and planning template is not just a document; it's a tool that enhances collaboration, drives accountability, and optimises client relationships.
By adopting such a sales account planning template, organisations can ensure that their key account planning and management processes are efficient, effective, and aligned with client needs.
How to Create an Account Planning Template?
Starting with a Basic Template
As a B2B marketer, you can kick off your account planning journey by leveraging the template presented in this article. The other important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to follow this template strictly; feel free to make it your own.
Migrating to a CRM for Scalability
Once your team becomes familiar with the account planning process and the account template still sees widespread adoption, consider integrating it into your CRM.
For instance, you can create an account dashboard in Salesforce (or any other CRM you use) that mirrors the account plan template. This means transforming the sections of your PowerPoint or document or key account plan template into fields within the CRM.
Migrating to a CRM not only ensures data consistency and real-time updates but also allows for better scalability and accessibility. It's a more advanced step in the evolution of your account planning process, ensuring that as your business grows, your account planning methodology remains efficient.
Customising Your Account Planning Template for Different Industries:
Industry-Specific Challenges and Opportunities
Every industry comes with its unique set of challenges and opportunities, be it regulatory changes, evolving market trends, or competitive pressures.
Incorporating these industry-specific nuances into your account planning template ensures that your strategies are always aligned with the unique dynamics of your client's sector. This alignment is crucial for driving effective results and enhancing client and customer satisfaction too.
Adapting the Template to Client Size and Complexity
Different clients have varying levels of complexity depending on their size, structure, and business model.
It's essential to adapt your account planning template to cater to these differences. For larger clients, you might need a more detailed account plan, while for smaller clients, a high-level account plan overview only might suffice.
Tailoring your sales account planning template to the specific needs of each client ensures that your account planning efforts remain focused and relevant, ultimately leading to better outcomes and heightened client satisfaction.
Creating an account planning template for B2B companies is a dynamic process. It starts with a basic structure, evolves with integration into CRM systems for scalability, and requires continuous customisation to cater to industry-specific needs and client complexities.
By following these steps, you can ensure that their account planning and marketing efforts are always aligned, efficient, and effective.
In conclusion, strategic account planning is a vital process for businesses looking to build strong relationships with their high-value clients and drive growth. By using xGrowth's account planning template, you can ensure that your efforts are organised, focused, and effective, ultimately driving better results for your clients and their organisations.
As always, we have had a lot of fun while creating this template for you; if you are looking for guidance on running ABM campaigns, connect with us here.