Account-Based Marketing is a great way to land, renew and expand your key strategic accounts. But how do you get started?
In this blog, you will find tips on how to get sales and leadership excited about Account-Based Marketing (ABM), as well as advice on creating account lists and executing successful pilot campaigns. We also discuss the importance of marketing and sales alignment in ABM and the long-term nature of this marketing approach. By following these guidelines, you can set your organisation up for success with ABM.
When starting with ABM, set and align expectations across the organisation. Start conversations with stakeholders within the organisation. Whether it be with sales, account managers or customer success. Give them a taste of what a world of Account-Based Marketing would look like for them. This will show what they’ll get from ABM in comparison to other marketing methods (lead gen, events, etc).
The most important thing to do when starting is to get the organisation excited. You need to get both sales and leadership excited. If you fail to get traction… good luck, you’re likely doomed from the beginning.
So, how do we get sales and leadership excited about Account-Based Marketing?
Open their eyes to what it could look like to them. Sales don’t care about big pitches and talking about ‘sexy acronyms’ or terms no one outside of marketing cares about. Go to sales and talk their language. Drop the talk about impressions, clicks, et cetera. Discuss how ABM can build relationships and increase revenue. Talk about the accounts they want to close and plan together how to progress the account. Don't think this is only Net New accounts. It can include Account Expansion and Retention, too. Showcase how Account-Based Marketing can help sales close or expand these accounts.
Case studies are a terrific way to visualise how an ABM approach can benefit sales. ABM is often only spoken about at a high level. Once they see an in-depth example, sales can visualise what an account will experience.
Once an Account Executive (AE) sees first-hand what an ABM campaign can achieve, they want all their accounts included. Other AEs will quickly take notice and put their hand up to join in. Before you know it, there's a group excited and happy to contribute their energy to ensure ABM is a success.
Want to make this process a breeze? Have a champion within the sales team. Someone who can help spearhead an Account-Based Marketing transformation within the firm. Starting with 10 AEs can be extremely complicated to begin with. Start small, expanding once you have a system in place.
Any more than three AEs in your first ABM pilot campaign can be a recipe for disaster. Each person you add increases the complexity of your pilot campaign. If you haven’t run a pilot before, you don’t know where you’re going to face challenges. Which can create double or triple the potential of roadblocks! This will affect the success of the campaign, or at worst derail it.
What about account lists?
Marketing should be engaged throughout the entire account list creation process. This provides a clear understanding of why these accounts should be included in ABM. To goal is to understand where you can generate the greatest return. When starting in ABM, you don’t have a large budget. You want to show quick wins early. So, targeting hard-to-close accounts isn’t the best idea.
Don't know where to start? See where you had success before:
- Recently closed-won accounts
- Industries with lots of reference customers and case studies
- Regulatory changes
Many factors come into play. It’s important to work with the sales team to get the complete picture. Each company will have a different account selection process.
Marketing teams often have no clue what sales are focusing on and vice versa. Go and talk to sales to understand their priorities.
The foundation of ABM is marketing and sales alignment. Especially, when it comes to the accounts lists. At xGrowth, we say 50% of a campaign's success is dependent on the accounts selected.
ABM is a long-term game
Never forget, ABM is a long-term game. Don’t go rushing into it, attempting to touch all target accounts right away. Pick a small number of accounts and do a well-done campaign. Do a pilot campaign to understand the nuances and kinks you might not expect to run into and reiterate. This can often be engagement with different teams, software not doing what it’s supposed to, or reporting... Many different unforeseen challenges can arise.
After executing your first campaign, do a retrospective. This will help you understand what worked and what didn’t. Use this information in the second campaign, continuing to iterate each time. This will help you build a solid ABM platform from the ground up; setting you up for the future.
When starting with ABM, a pilot is essential. You also need to set the right expectations. The fact is it takes time to start seeing results. To turn to leadership and say, here are the short-term, the medium term and the long-term KPIs. Please don’t come knocking on our door in three months and say,
"Where’s the revenue?"
"Have we generated any pipeline?"
It’s going to take time to open doors and create a sales pipeline. Set those expectations beforehand. Otherwise, you will immediately have pressure to justify why there is no revenue three months into a campaign.
Communication during the campaign
A high level of communication is key throughout a campaign. There are going to be times when sales or customer success are involved. Whether it's interviews, content creation, message testing, etc.
Conversely, there are quiet moments where ABM'ers are not visible. Particularly when creating assets for the campaign. During these periods it’s important to ensure everyone knows where things are up to. This could be as simple as a timeline. Setting the expectation allows them to plan and ensure we have SDRs when we need them to get involved.
The last thing you want is to launch the campaign, and the salesperson has switched off and started focusing on other things. You must bring them along the ABM journey. If sales can’t see what’s happening, and how much work goes into making things happen, they’re not going to value it. You will create much stronger buy-in and ensure the campaign is a success because they understand the work has gone in to get to this point.
Don't know how to get them involved? Interview them!
They might have a unique perspective on a particular industry or experience worth using. They will appreciate you taking their feedback on onboard. At xGrowth, we see cross-function collaboration as a large contributor to the success of a campaign. Whether it’s getting an AE, SME or technical person. The better collaboration, the better the results.
What style of ABM to run?
The style of ABM to run for your first campaign can vary a lot depending on the business. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Total Addressable Market (TAM)
- Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
Understanding the lay of the land allows you to make informed decisions on how the accounts to go after.
For example, an account worth $250,000 requires much more investment than an account worth $20,000.
For the first campaign, it might make sense to run a Scale ABM (one-to-few) campaign. Giving you a wider net of accounts to target and more opportunities to create engagement. A perfect blend of personalisation and breadth.
If like the second example above, you have lots of accounts in that lower-level LTV, it’s worth exploring a Programmatic ABM (one-to-many) campaign.
If you’re uncertain, Scale ABM can be a good place to start. When you run Strategic ABM (one-to-one), you have fewer eggs in your basket. You’re putting a lot of emphasis on 1-5 accounts, limiting your overall scope. Whereas if you’re going for more of the Scale ABM side of things, you could pick an entire vertical or industry. If you have 30 accounts, there is a higher likelihood of getting at least some success.
As a rule of thumb for companies we work with in the SaaS space, Scale ABM can make a lot of sense. This allows you to balance the amount of investment vs the return.
Ultimately, the foundations are the key to a successful ABM campaign. We all want to jump into the exciting direct mail packages, campaign themes and webpage customisation… But the strategy before executing ABM is critical.
Start slow, test and continually improve your ABM strategy. It’s the easiest way to repeatedly show success running ABM in 2024 and beyond.