Guide to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Guide to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Based upon article written by HUBSPOT


Imagine a world where you could start the sales process by selling to your best-fit, highest-value accounts. No wasted time working to market and sell to unqualified leads who aren’t the right fit for your business. Meaning, you could move straight into the phases of engaging and delighting your target accounts.

What is Account-based Marketing?

The process allows you to align your marketing and sales teams from the get-go to promote long-term business growth, delight customers, and boost revenue.

Account-based Marketing (ABM) is a focused growth strategy in which Marketing and Sales collaborate to create personalized buying experiences for a mutually identified set of high-value accounts.

Account-based marketing allows you to weed out less-valuable companies early on and ensure Marketing and Sales are in complete alignment — in return, your team can leap into the critical processes of engaging and delighting those accounts much faster.

ABM helps your business work and communicate with high-value accounts as if they’re individual markets. By doing this — along with personalizing the buyer’s journey and tailoring all communications, content, and campaigns to those specific accounts — you’ll see greater ROI and a boost in customer loyalty.

Before we look at additional benefits of account-based marketing and specific tactics you can implement at your company. Let’s review its relationship with another important strategy: inbound marketing.

Often, these strategies are thought of as distinct entities. However, they can be complementary.

Account-Based Marketing and Inbound Marketing

When paired, account-based marketing and inbound marketing have the power to make waves for your business.

You might wonder, “How does this partnership work?”

Rather than interrupting your target audience and customers (as you would with outbound marketing), inbound marketing allows you to provide your audience more organically with the information they want when they want it. Inbound lays the foundation for a strong ABM strategy by allowing for highly targeted and efficient resource allocation of high-value accounts.

Here are a few more reasons to implement both ABM and inbound marketing:

  • Inbound marketing helps you attract target accounts and ABM then helps you to win and delight those target accounts with a remarkable customer experience (and as a result, you’ll grow better).
  • Inbound marketing lays the foundation for a strong ABM strategy — ABM builds off inbound by allowing for targeted and efficient resource allocation of high-value accounts.
  • With this combined approach, you attract a broader group of prospects than you would while using just one method and catch any opportunities the other strategy may have missed.
  • Your content has a two-for-one value — you can create and use content that serves both an ABM and inbound strategy (e.g. create a personalized case study for a target account that you also share on your website).

Next, we’ll look at some of the definable benefits of account-based marketing.

Benefits of Account-Based Marketing

  1. Keep Marketing and Sales aligned.
  2. Maximize your business’s relevance among high-value accounts.
  3. Deliver consistent customer experiences.
  4. Measure your return on investment.
  5. Streamline the sales cycle.
  6. Expand business through account relationships.

There are several benefits associated with account-based marketing.

  1. Keep Marketing and Sales aligned.

Cross-team collaboration and improved communication across any organization are beneficial to growth. In terms of account-based marketing, this transparency and alignment will ensure your marketing and sales teams are focused on the same goals, stick to the mutually-agreed-upon budget, and understand the specific roles of each internal stakeholder.

This alignment helps ensure all communications, interactions, and content (and more) are consistent for the accounts you work with. Meaning, no matter how long an account works with your company, your team members can pick up where others left off at any point in time without question — this creates a seamless and delightful customer experience.

  1. Maximize your business’s relevance among high-value accounts.

Account-based marketing requires you to personalize everything (e.g. content, product information, communications, and campaigns) for each account you invest your resources in. Through this personalization and customization, it maximizes your relevance among these accounts.

That’s because it tailor your content and interactions in a way that shows them how your specific products, services, offerings, and team are what they need to solve their challenges and to grow better. ABM allows you to angle your business in a way that makes it the most relevant and ideal option for your target accounts.

  1. Deliver consistent customer experiences.

As mentioned, account-based marketing requires you to deliver consistent experiences for your accounts — this plays a major role in your success. A large part of the reason for this is because ABM is a long process that often lasts several months or years.

So, for your ABM efforts to be remarkable, you must maintain a long-term sense of delight among your accounts. This is how you’ll make each account feel as though they’re your business’s market of one — and why would they ever want to stop doing business with you if that’s their experience?

Delivering these long-term, consistent experiences may seem daunting. Although this is understandable, the good news is that ABM is a process that encourages you to do so.

Think about it this way: We already discussed the way ABM requires Marketing and Sales to be aligned on all things related to each account (e.g. their goals, budget, unique needs, members of their team and buying committee).

When there’s a universal understanding of these factors within your organization, Marketing and Sales (and anyone else involved) will be able to effectively and naturally deliver that feeling of consistency through everything they communicate and share with each account (e.g. personalized content, targeted campaigns, pricing and product information, and more).

  1. Measure your return on investment.

With account-based marketing, you can measure return on investment (ROI) for each account you invest your resources and time into. This is beneficial because you can confirm whether certain accounts you invested in were ideal for your business.

Then, you can nurture and delight those accounts long term and identify and target similar accounts. If your ROI proves your ABM tactics worked, use those results as a motivator to drive your strategy forward and one you can count on to improve your bottom line.

  1. Streamline the sales cycle.

Depending on your business, industry, and resources, the sales cycle looks something like this:

1) Prospect → 2) Connect → 3) Research → 4) Present → 5) Close → 6) Delight

With account-based marketing, it streamline this cycle — by focusing your efforts on specific high-value target accounts, you save time and resources, and spend more time on the stages of the cycle that impact your bottom line:

1) Identify Target Accounts → 2) Present to Target Accounts → 3) Close Target Accounts → 4) Delight Accounts

ABM streamlines your sales cycle by helping you stay efficient. Rather than experimenting with different tactics to prospect and qualify a large pool of leads, ABM ensures your target accounts are ideal for your business so you can quickly dive into building relationships.

It also streamlines the sales cycle stage of closing through ABM. That’s because your chances of converting accounts and keeping them long term increase thanks to marketing and sales alignment, consistent customer experiences, and personalization.

  1. Expand business through account relationships.

The saying “quality over quantity” applies to account-based marketing. The process requires you to invest significant time and resources in engaging and delighting a group of carefully-chosen, high-value accounts, versus trying to close deals with less-qualified leads who may not be the best fit for your company in the long run.

By taking the time to build these trusting relationships with accounts, you’ll expand business by retaining those valuable customers longer. And considering it costs more to get customers than keep them, this will positively impact your bottom line.

As a result of personalized, thoughtful, and consistent customer experiences, accounts will become loyal to your business over time — and loyal customers become your best marketers, promoters, and brand advocates.

Your accounts will help you expand your business among their networks (e.g. partners, customers) through referrals, word-of-mouth marketing, testimonials, and more.

Account-Based Marketing Tactics

ABM tactics are the building blocks of your strategy — so, work through the following list to ensure your ABM efforts and investment are successful.

  1. Secure organizational ABM alignment.

One of the most important account-based marketing tactics is one of the most straightforward: Secure organizational ABM alignment.

This means getting all internal stakeholders on board with the various factors related to your account-based marketing strategy. In doing so, it’ll be easier for your business to create consistent experiences for accounts and make sure your strategy is efficient and streamlined.

For example, your VP of Marketing and VP of Sales should secure organizational alignment and spread awareness regarding:

  • Marketing and sales team members who are directly involved in the strategy
  • Account buying committee members and any other account stakeholders
  • Your business’s point-of-difference for each target account
  • ABM budget and resources
  • ABM goals and KPIs
  1. Build your ABM team.

Like the first tactic we reviewed above, VPs of Marketing and Sales will also be leaders in the discussion regarding how you’ll build your ABM team.

They, along with managers on their respective teams, will need to identify a minimum of one marketer and one sales rep who will be dedicated to the accounts you work with.

These people will create and publish content for accountsands work to manage and close business deals with each account’s buying committee. (As a rule of thumb, try to limit your team size to no more than ten sales reps and one marketer.)

In addition to the marketer(s) and sales rep(s), don’t forget to identify any other internal key players — such as customer success reps — who shouldknowf and aligned on your ABM strategy.

  1. Identify and pick your ideal set of target accounts.

Identify and pick your ideal set of high-value target accounts to invest your time and resources in.

Here are some recommendations on how you can do this:

  • Set search alerts for your ideal customer profile on LinkedIn.
  • Create a workflow that filters incoming qualified leads based on specific criteria (e.g. company size, industry, etc.) and tags them as an ideal customer type in your CRM.
  • Ask, “If we could replicate one deal from last year, what would it be?” Then, use the characteristics of that deal (e.g. industry, company size, value) to help you identify other good-fit customers.
  • Pick target accounts based on a particular industry or geographical location.
  • Review major companies and leads who are using and engaging with your inbound content but don’t have a deal attached (yet!).
  • Identify the lighthouse accounts you could use for reference.
  • Stick to only 10 accounts per sales rep.
  1. Encourage Marketing and Sales to create account plans together.

Account-based marketing is a team effort. That’s why ensuring appropriate marketing and it involves sales team members in account planning is so important.

Make sure Marketing and Sales ask the following questions while they work on account plans:

  • Who will we need to know at each account (e.g. buying committee members and account stakeholders)?
  • What content will we need to attract and engage account buying committee members (and any other stakeholders)?
  • Which channels will we use to share content with the right people at each account?
  • How will we (marketers and sales reps) provide the righf support throughout each stage of the strategy and sales process — in other words, how will sales help at the outset and how will marketing support in the later stages?

Here are a few other tips Marketing and Sales can use to make your account plans successful:

  • Ensure Marketing and Sales align on your product or service’s value proposition and point-of-difference for every account.
  • Create personalized content — or update existing content — so it’s tailored to each unique account.
  • Customize your allocated resources and budget for each account.
  1. Attract contacts from high-quality accounts.

Next, you’ll want to attract the buying committee members and stakeholders of your target accounts. Depending on how long you’ve been in business and any previous ABM work you’ve done, you may or may not already have contacts for specific accounts.

The key to successfully attracting high-quality accounts is to personalize content to those accounts — this will help you elevate brand awareness and maximize relevance among audience members.

Here are some GDPR-compliant recommendations for attracting high-quality accounts:

  • Engage accounts on social media (e.g. determine which platforms they’re on, join the groups they’re in, contribute to conversations they’re a part of, and share helpful and relevant content you’ve created).
  • Produce a podcast or video series and invite a leader from the account to be a special guest.
  • Sponsor a booth at a target account’s conference or event.
  • Send direct messages via social media and direct mail via email or post.
  • Communicate through LinkedIn InMail outreach.
  • Build custom landing pages tailored to the needs, questions, and concerns of accounts.
  • Offer gifts for engagement and interaction (e.g. prizes, swag, and discount codes).
  • Distribute content such as blog articles across channere relevant to each account (e.g. website, social media, and magazines).
  • Create ad campaigns and social ads to target different factors such as location, skill, and job title.
  • Ask current contacts, accounts, and customers for referrals.
  • Invite contacts to (physical or digital) events and ask attendees to invite their colleagues.

  1. Forge strong relationships with the account’s buying committee.

Once you’ve attracted high-value accounts, it’s time to forge strong relationships with their buying committees. This is something your team will work on over an extended period — in fact, it often takes months and even years to develop these bonds. Think of this tactic as one tied to delighting your accounts — you never stop the process of delight.

Here are some thoughts on how you can forge strong, long-lasting relationships with an account’s buying committee.

  • Provide education around the value your business — and your product/ service — brings accounts through tailored interactions and engagement.
  • Create and share personalized content, such as case studies, to prove the ways you’ll exceed expectations and resolve the challenges of each account.
  • Communicate one-on-one when possible to make buying committee members feel like they’re your only priority.
  • Host events with and for account members (e.g. dinner) so they get to know your brand and team on a personal level.
  • Stick to organized, well-timed meetings.
  • Use email sequencing to enhance all communication, be professional, and maintain consistency.
  1. Measure and analyze your ABM results (and make necessary iterations).

While working through and upon completion of the tactics above, it’s crucial you monitor your success. By reviewing and analyzing your ABM results, you’ll identify any gaps or parts of your strategy that need to be changed. This will allow you to make your strategy more effective for your business, marketing and sales teams, and accounts.

Here are some examples of common account-based marketing KPIs that provide insight into how you’re doing:

  • Deal creation
  • Account penetration (net new contacts added to an account)
  • Account engagement
  • Deal-to-close time
  • Net-new revenue
  • Percent of deals closed

Grow Better with Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By working through the tactics we’ve listed above and implementing software for your marketing and sales team to use together, you’ll identify valuable accounts more efficiently, reduce any friction impacting your flywheel, and grow better.


Originally published Oct 7, 2020 12:00:00 PM, updated October 07, 2020


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