How to create an ABM strategy in 5 steps

By Grace Howard, Triblio

The rise of ABM (account-based marketing) hasn’t been a passing fad. In fact, in 2022 Foundry found that 96% of marketers have a documented ABM strategy and that 94% of marketers rate ABM as extremely or very important to their overall marketing objectives.

Account-based marketing is a B2B marketing strategy in which sales and marketing teams work closely together to target, reach, and close deals with high-fit accounts. Maybe you are crafting an ABM strategy from scratch, or taking a new approach to your existing ABM strategy?  Either way, building out an account-based strategy may seem a bit daunting when first getting started with ABM. To make matters more simple, we’re breaking down how to create an ABM strategy – step by step. Here are 5 steps on how to create an ABM strategy.

Step #1: Determine your best-fit accounts

Account-based marketing is exactly what it sounds like – targeting specific accounts. Rather than focusing on the quantity of accounts in pipeline, ABM prioritizes the quality of accounts – so teams can put their effort into providing their best-fit accounts with relevant content and personalized messaging.

So, how do you determine which accounts are “best-fit” and what criteria should you be paying attention to? Well ultimately, that’s up to you, because criteria for “best-fit” accounts will vary from company to company. There are a lot of factors to consider when determining what accounts you should target when setting up an ABM strategy such as:

  • Do these accounts fit your ICP? (Ideal Customer Profile)
    • Industry – What industry are the accounts operating in? Healthcare, technology, IT services, etc.
    • Geography – Where are the accounts located? North America, EMEA, APAC?
    • Size – How large are the accounts you want to target? What scale do they operate on?
    • Budget – Do the accounts have the budget to purchase your product?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their goals, and what are yours?

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to what accounts are “best-fit” for your company. All of these factors depend on your unique position in the market. However, we do have a few recommendations that will help you start to build out your account list.

Create your ICP

An ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) is a hypothetical description of the type of buyers in your market that would benefit most from your product or service. A company selling healthcare software will have a very different ICP from a company selling IT software. Select ICP characteristics based on factors like company size, company revenue, industry, etc.

Start small, think big

The first targets of account-based campaigns will be your strategic accounts. A good place to start when building your list is to brainstorm a “Top 10” account list. In Triblio’s recent ABM in Action Report, Steven Tsao Demand Generation Leader at Treasure Data, says “My biggest piece of advice is to know which stage of the ABM journey you are on, maximize your efforts and not bite off more than you can chew.” For example, Treasure Data launched its pilot ABM program in early 2020 by targeting just 30 accounts. Fast forward to today, Treasure Data uses Triblio to target and engage more than 1,000 named accounts!

Leverage intent data

How can B2B companies use intent data to power their ABM programs and find best-fit accounts? ABM platforms like Triblio integrate with other martech tools and intent data solutions. Intent data is like a priority-level indicator for accounts that fit your ICP. Once you have your ICP, you can layer on intent data to better target and identify accounts that are showing interest and readiness to purchase your product or service. For example, at Triblio, if a company is hiring for a position that is likely a champion of the buying group or decision maker for our product – we can use that intent signal to identify accounts in the buying cycle. Job alerts are a great intent signal that accounts will soon be ready to buy. After an ABM job position is hired, the odds of that account looking for a new platform are high. This means you should pay close attention to accounts that have recently hired new marketing decision-makers, or for ABM-specific job titles. While this is just one example of many intent signals we use. Other signals might work for your company such as:

  • Target accounts visiting particular pages on your website
  • Webinar attendance
  • Filling out a contact form
  • Relevant content consumption across the web

Account scoring tools like Triblio Smart Score quantify each account’s engagement trend compared to their historical engagement baseline, allowing you to prioritize accounts by an aggregation of their current intent signals against a historical baseline.

The true base of every great ABM campaign is having a well thought-out list of accounts to target, once you have that you’re in pretty good shape to start setting up the rest of your account-based strategy.

Step #2: Align your teams

While marketing and sales alignment may seem simple – ask anyone in B2B SaaS and you’ll learn that it’s often easier said than done. ABM requires support from more than just your marketing team. Aligning your marketing and sales teams is a crucial step in planning your ABM strategy. Here are two best practices to make sure your teams are truly aligned.

Communication is key

Encourage communication across your marketing and sales teams. Ask questions like what works, what doesn’t, and what are your opportunities, or threats? Having open communication makes it easy for sales and marketing to collaborate and work together as one unit. Foundry’s ABM research found that 76% of marketers practicing ABM believe sales and marketing alignment at their company is strong.

Share the knowledge

ABM is a group effort with marketing helping sales to identify hot accounts, and cater to their messaging. Each individual on the team has opinions, thoughts, and knowledge that is useful to lend to others. One way to encourage this is to set up a feedback loop for your sales and marketing teams. This will allow information on targeting, messaging, and sales activation to be shared cross-departmentally. Set this loop up by putting recurring meetings on the calendar for both sales and marketing teams. Enabling this meaningful feedback allows for a consistent go-to-market motion among teams.

Step #3: Set an account-based goal

You can’t plan a winning strategy without a goal in mind. That said, have you ever heard of or used the SMART goal framework? You can think of setting ABM goals in a similar fashion. When crafting an ABM strategy, make sure the goals you set up are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.

Specific:

Be specific when setting your goals! How many accounts would you like to influence? How much of the pipeline would you like to influence? Make it known exactly what you aim to accomplish, and how you plan to get there. Specific goals will make it easier to benchmark your progress as your strategy and campaigns evolve.

Measurable:

Measuring an account-based campaign is a bit different than measuring your traditional marketing campaigns. There are a few key KPIs (key performance indicators) that you should be paying attention to such as reach, engagement, MQAs (marketing qualified accounts), pipeline, and ROI (return on investment). When setting up your goals, keep in mind they should be measurable against ABM-specific KPIs.

Achievable:

Sometimes when marketers first launch their ABM campaigns, their eyes are too big for their stomachs. Adopting an ABM framework can solve your pipeline problems, but results won’t happen overnight. It’s important to have realistic goals when you start out with ABM. Make sure the goals you choose set you up for success – not failure. Here are a few examples of realistic goals we’ve seen our customers set for themselves before launching ABM…

  • Drive an “x”% lift in target account traffic to our site
  • Generate “x” conversions within our target verticals
  • Track target account intent and triggered prioritized sales outreach, resulting in “x” new meetings booked

Relevant:

ABM is a company-wide strategy, so, therefore, the goals you set should reflect that. How does the goal align with broader goals? Why is the result important? How will ABM benefit the overall business? These are all important questions to ask yourself as you set goals for your account-based strategy. For example, your goal for marketing qualified accounts (MQAs) should make sense in the context of your conversion rates and revenue goals. Work backwards from the revenue goals your team as a whole needs to hit, taking into account your historic close-win rates, and conversion rates. This way, your metrics from top to bottom are tied to actual business value, and are closely associated with the success of your business.

Timely:

What should be the timeline for your ABM goals? The time it takes for a campaign to see results is dependent on multiple factors, such as:

  • Your existing tech stack
  • The size of your marketing and sales teams
  • Your ABM starting point
  • Your sales cycle length

Depending on these factors, you will be able to determine the timeline that works for your company’s unique ABM goals. When setting goals for your ABM strategy – remember to be SMART in order to set yourself up for success.

Step #4: Select your messaging and channel delivery

Now that you have a goal in mind – how do you choose the right messaging and mix of channels to engage your target audience? With your target account audience in mind, you begin to build out strategic audience segments. With proper ABM segmentation, marketers can optimize the level of personalization, vary the mix of channels, and deliver uniquely compelling calls-to-action for each target account audience. Common ways to segment your target audience include:

  • Segmenting by account size
    • Large accounts
    • Small accounts
    • Midsize accounts
  • Segmenting by purchase stage
    • Prospects – Awareness, Consideration, Decision
    • In Pipeline – Deal Stage
    • Current Customers

Once you have segmented your accounts into audiences, you can use account-based insights to identify different intent topics and use messaging that will resonate best with each audience. With this information, sales can know exactly what messaging and content to reach out with. From here, marketing will also be able to trigger cross-channel campaigns in real-time via ABM orchestration, which means that your messaging will be consistent and amplified across channels. Tools like Triblio’s Orchestration Canvas allow you to create and manage ABM campaigns across display ads, email, LinkedIn, website, sales, landing pages, and more— within a single view.

While reaching out to prospects, what channels are best? Commonly used channels in ABM strategies include:

  • Website Pages

Personalize elements of your website for prospects! Match the messaging on your page to the account viewing the content.

  • Display Ads

For many marketers getting started with ABM, display ads are a great place to start. Display ads can help get your message into the market and in front of the right people across the web.

  • Social Media

Your target accounts are most likely spending their time on social media (just like us!) this makes social media a great channel to reach and influence buying groups with paid social, or even BDR social engagement.

Step #5: Create value

Providing your target audience with valuable content is arguably the most important step in ANY marketing strategy – including ABM. Creating value gives your prospects actionable information and keeps them coming back for more. Here are a few ways you can create value for your account-based strategy.

  • Ungated content

Nobody likes having to fill out 5 different fields before getting access to a piece of content. Ungate your content and rather than trying to collect contacts information, provide them valuable information on industry insights or research you have done. Demonstrate yourself as a thought leader in the space with eBooks, blogs, whitepapers, studies, and more!

  • Podcasts

Podcasts have been a super hot topic in the B2B world for quite some time now. The buzz is real though, as podcasts are a great way to deliver valuable content and information to your audience. Podcasts are also a great tool to highlight industry experts. For example, Triblio Founder Andre Yee was featured on The Fuel Growth Podcast with SugarCRM. In this episode, Andre shared his experiences in smaller companies—building, growing, and being acquired—as well as experiences from leading a larger company through an acquisition.

  • Employee insights

What better way to provide value to your prospects than from the people who know your product best – your employees! Encourage employees to share thoughts and industry insights on social media – such as blogs, webinars, etc.

Conclusion

Running account-based campaigns is hard work, and requires multiple teams and a great strategy to get off the ground. But when you are able to follow these five steps and have a solid strategy in place – your pipeline will thank you.

Want to learn more about setting up a successful ABM strategy? Talk to one of Triblio’s ABM experts or check out our ABM for Beginners Guide.

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