If you’re in B2B marketing, chances are you know what ABM (account-based marketing) is and use it. In fact, in our recent study of B2B marketers only 7% said they are not using ABM.

However, many marketers dive headfirst into ABM without the preparation required for it to be effective. We’ve seen target-account lists from sales teams that are just the “Forbes 500 or 1,000”. Marketers who follow this up are not using proper data or insights to choose target accounts and that’s their downfall.

Before starting ABM, there are three key principles you should bear in mind before setting up your ABM activities.

1. Stakeholder buy-in

Collaboration is vital for ABM. You need to work with stakeholders throughout the business: product marketing, customer marketing, sales development, sales managers and others.

Start by identifying your key stakeholders – all the way up to the highest levels. Then work on getting their buy in. 

You’ll have to lead the conversation and may have to explain how ABM works, how it's not just a one-off activity, the expected ROI and how it will help the business as a whole.

When in play there will have to be continuous communication between the stakeholders to make sure that sales and marketing are aligned. For example everyone will need to know when a campaign launches, feedback will be required and a regular review process.

2. Defining ABM & setting KPIs

Once the internal stakeholders understand how ABM is different and how it works, you will need to define success.

Establish the correct KPIs and metrics at the beginning to focus the process on delivering these.

ABM KPIs can include:

  • number of opportunities from ABM accounts
  • cost per opportunity
  • percentage of pipeline from target accounts
  • number of target accounts on the website
  • renewal price or number of customers

Consider the number of interactions with senior contacts within a target account, and the levels of engagement you achieve.

Bear in mind, this isn’t gathering information for information’s sake; you are aiming to build an advanced picture of the relationship between you and your target customers. 

You're aiming to understand:

- Do customers see your company foremost as an organisation with something to sell, or as a partner that helps them solve problems?

- Are customers aware of your full product portfolio and the benefits you can bring?

- Do you understand your customers’ needs? How does this translate into uplift of RFPs? How many new opportunities are being created? Has the length of the sales cycle changed? Has the average deal size changed? What are conversion rates throughout the funnel?

Once you have your answers, have created your goals and KPIs and communicated these to stakeholders you’re ready for the next step.

3. Identifying accounts through existing data insights

A report from Forrester for D&B revealed only 52% of B2B marketers base decisions on data rather than intuition. At least if you use some data you’re doing better than the other 48%.

Account selection is a foundation of any ABM program, so it's important to get this right.

As mentioned we often hear target account requests of "the Fortune 500, please", which for any company on paper are desirable, and this is a great aspiration, but realistically for most many of these large companies aren’t the end user and are less likely to convert.  

A good starting point is to define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), which according to B2B Marketing is typically made up of three core parts:

  • Firmographics: Ideal account size, location, number of employees and sector/industry.
  • Technographics: The account’s relationship to technology, their state of digital maturity, install base.
  • Sociographics: The account’s issues and challenges, their priorities and the opportunities related to the ideal account and account intent (behavioural data related to accounts).

The quickest win here is to look within your own CRM data, and find what data you have already have which meets your ICP and helps narrow down accounts. 

For an ABM program to be a success you must rely on quality data, and we will talk about what to look for and how to manage it in an upcoming post. 

Going forward with ABM

ABM is a deep topic, but with the right approach you can start setting up your organisation to run ABM effectively and market to high value customers with which you can build long-term relationships with.

Hopefully, this has inspired you to re-examine your current efforts and consider a more methodical, goal-oriented and insight-driven strategy for success.