B2B Marketing Blog

How To Launch An Account-Based Marketing Program From Scratch

By Andrea Lechner-Becker
Nov 1, 2017
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Launching an account-based marketing (ABM) program can be a daunting task, especially if you’re building a new ABM program from scratch. At LeadMD we’ve found the majority of B2B marketers are early in their ABM implementation. Most are currently researching its viability as a marketing strategy and trying to determine if it’s even a good fit for their business.

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The inevitable next step after research is to put together a plan. That’s what we provide in this article.

Launching an account-based marketing program requires database management, getting insights from your customer database, creating content, executing, and performance measurement.

Our ABM Framework includes the ingredients for success across the entire ABM program planning and execution process. Let’s dive right in with a step-by-step process for launching your ABM program.


1) Understand Target Accounts And Addressable Market

The first step in getting your account-based marketing program off the ground is to conduct audience and market research. You should understand the total addressable market (TAM) and what percentage of accounts from the TAM are already inside your database.

Next define your ideal customer profile (ICP) and identify the data points that align accounts to your criteria. Your ICP is defines the accounts that you will dedicate time and resources to acquire over a given time period and they are SPECIFIC. For example, an ICP could be any organization with over $500MM in annual revenue with a marketing technology stack that includes a marketing automation platform and Salesforce.com.

ICP contrasts with customer personas in that the former is a customer (or really prospect) type whose demographic factors can be clearly defined. A customer persona is a semi-fictional representation of the ideal human being working at your ICP.

Within these ideal customer profiles are “account personas” and these are the typical buying unit involved in the sales process. These buying units may differ depending on firmographic and organizational make-up, e.g. larger companies have more stakeholders involved in a deal and thus have a larger account persona.

Grading or creating tiers for your accounts can help you identify and prioritize which target accounts to go after. These grades can be based on company size, industry or geographic location. This makes it easier to match your offer to the needs of the individuals within your target accounts.

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Speaking of individuals within target accounts, in the early stages of launching an ABM program you should make sure you have high “account coverage”, i.e. that the target accounts have contact information for the entire buying committee. If you only market to a fraction of the buying committee you are less likely to close that deal than if you are able to market to 90% of the team.

By researching accounts in terms of account personas you can understand whether you are ready to launch an ABM campaign. If you don’t have enough coverage then address this. Consider data sources and services that can help you get full account coverage.

2) Gather Account Insights

Now that you have a list of target accounts that fit your ideal customer profile it’s time to add more contextual information.  When running an ABM program it’s important to utilize a variety of account level measures to understand whether it is the right time to engage these accounts. Because, if it’s not, you are simply wasting budget engaging at the wrong time.

What kind of contextual information should you be looking for?

Consider what should trigger marketing engagement. Perhaps it’s engagement with a sales person via chat or email. Perhaps it is a content download. Or perhaps it’s an account engagement score that’s based on account level tracking from Bizible. Or perhaps it’s the accounts who are less engaged with your company.

The amount of data at your disposal can certainly be a little overwhelming. To help focus your approach to gathering account insights, consider these 4 types of insights:

  1. Market level insights: Industry trends and dynamics can create an opportunity for an ABM play. Industry trends around the costs for raw materials, mergers, and new entrants into a market affect your target accounts may create an opportunity to educate or offer something compelling to take advantage of industry trends.

  2. Internal dynamics: Customer churn risks, corporate goals and deadlines, and other internal indicators can help you evaluate whether the timing is right for ABM plays.

  3. Business unit insights: Deals require engagement from the entire business unit. When gathering information you may find engagement lacking for senior level decision makers in your accounts. This can signal both a need for ABM and a focus on creating a compelling offer for this persona within the account.

  4. Individual level insights: Monitoring social media can be helpful for BDRs and SDRs to decide to engage a target account. Perhaps the target individual is asking questions on social media or discussing industry relevant topics. These can be perfect opportunities to trigger outreach.

Whatever the case, it’s important to create triggers and keep information gathering automated to make the program scalable and efficient. It boils down to two questions:

  1. What’s the signal or combination of signals I should use to trigger outreach and engagement?

  2. Can I automate the triggering of that signal to execute ABM engagement efficiently?

Now, it’s time to consider creating a compelling offer.

3) Create a Compelling Sales Offer

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Now that you are armed with account level information, it’s time to use creative skills to develop a compelling offer.

The role of the marketer at this stage is to help sales deliver high value content. Options include custom research reports bundled with a gift. This ensures that the content you deliver grabs recipients’ attention and communicates the value of your product or service.

We call these engagements “first-meeting plays” because a they make a compelling offer that  helps sales team set up the first meeting with a prospect.  

When brainstorming compelling offers marketers can consider gifts that are personalized. For example, sending tickets to a local event or a gift card to a local store that the recipient can enjoy. This kind of personalization gets attention and can aid in warming up a prospect to engaging with your brand.

Personalization can be based on where the recipient is in the buyer journey. A compelling offer early in the journey may look different than an offer for a prospect who is deeper in the a buyer journey.

Other ideas include requiring a recipient to complete an action before receiving the gift. There are many ideas waiting to be found, so consider brainstorming with a group to find the most exciting offers for your ABM program. Oh, and just in case you thought you could use a demo as your compelling offer, no. Don’t do that.

4)  Execute Through Orchestrated Playbooks

Launching an accounting-based marketing program requires you to create a playbook. Much like team-based sports have playbooks, the one for ABM is a set of ways marketing helps engage a variety of audiences with a variety of end goals in mind. Different plays solve different problems and address different audiences.

All these plays require streamlined execution and this can be achieved with an ABM playbook.

Within a playbook should be 5 critical pieces of information for each play. This information helps execution run flawlessly.

Here are the 5 elements for each entry in a playbook:

  1. Account team mapping: Who are the individuals in each account and who on your team will be reaching out to them?

  2. Pre-flight checklist: What needs to be done for engagement to successful? This can include doing LinkedIn research on the target audience and adding them to a campaign or workflow inside your CRM or marketing automation platform.

  3. Draft the right message for each play: Each play has a unique purpose and objective. So the right messaging and copywriting is important.

  4. A channel list: List the channels where the ABM plays will touch, this will be helpful for tracking and measuring success.

  5. Execution checklist: When you and the sales team go to execute, what’s the process include and what are the sequential steps?

Launching an ABM program gets easier when each play has a well planned process outlined and communicated in a resource like a playbook.

Bizible has created an account-based marketing orchestration template for those interesting in streamlining their process.

5) Measure Account-Based Marketing’s Impact

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Marketing leaders today are focusing their efforts on creating repeatable campaigns that consistently deliver positive ROI and business impact. An ABM program is no different. So far we have described how to launch a sustainable and efficient marketing program that aligns with corporate goals and is well thought out in its execution. The last step is to consider how you present program impact.

If your account-based marketing program exists to influence accounts after the opportunity has been created then you’ll want to have a multi-touch attribution model in place to provide revenue credit to pre-opportunity creation touches driven by your account-based marketing program.

If your account-based program exists to drive demand then you should consider an attribution solution that connects online and offline touchpoints to understand the customer journey and how ABM fits into that story. This omni-channel tracking is essential for ABM plays that include digital content like retargeting and display ads, and offline content like mailers.

To get started in measuring success we suggest the following success measures:

  • Account Coverage: What percent of your ICP do you have data on? What percent of your buying committee members do you have? How many accounts do you have 100% buying committee coverage vs. 80%, by account tier?

  • Account Engagement: Did you increase overall account engagement? This is measured using touchpoints and signals to you that valuable web sessions, email, and chat interactions took place.

  • Market Penetration: The monthly number of successes by offer

  • Pipeline: Opportunity pipeline value.

  • Target Account Value: Lifetime value of your accounts in dollars.

With these measures you can judge the business impact of your account-based marketing program. See this article for a review of account-based marketing metrics.

Conclusion

We have outlined how to successfully launch an account-based marketing program using the LeadMD ABM frameworks. This article was based on an presentation and you can get the entire presentation below. The presentation visually walks you through the launch process.

Guide: Launching an ABM Program From Scratch  A guide for beginners and reference for experts. Building an ABM program from  the ground up.  Download Now

Topics: account based marketing, account based demand

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