When it comes to developing an Account-Based Marketing strategy, the first thing to remember is that while the “M” stands for Marketing, ABM is a business strategy. This means that the most important thing marketers can do when implementing ABM as a go-to-market strategy is to engage and coordinate with sales. It’s critical to develop your strategy and agree on the business objectives before you even start thinking about the technology that will help you.
The biggest mistake I see companies make when implementing ABM is when they try to boil the ocean and execute a huge change management initiative across the whole organization. Starting small, or being very specific in defining what you’re trying to do, can help you get some early wins and expand the program over time. That is often the better path to success than trying to implement ABM across all channels and across the funnel all at once.
So, where do you start? Breaking it down into a 30-60-90 day plan to pilot ABM will help guide your team’s efforts to make the transition as smooth as possible. Below, I’ve outlined what to do, and expect, during the first 90 days of a pilot ABM strategy implementation.
First 30 days
The first 30 days is about understanding where you are, defining where you want to go and getting everyone on board. First, identify your ABM champions and other members of the team, which typically include stakeholders from marketing, sales and operations. Then, ensure that your team takes baseline measurements of current deal size, sales velocity and close rates – as well as interim metrics like target account list penetration and engagement. This will serve as the basis from which to measure the success of your pilot ABM program.
Next is developing your target account list. This is central to any ABM effort, and questions to consider include
- “How big should my list be?”
- “How much of marketing’s resources will be focused there?”
As a general rule, you want to have more than a handful of accounts in your pilot, or else you’ll limit your ability to show results. Shoot for a pilot with dozens of accounts. Don’t overshoot and make it too large to begin with; hundreds of accounts may be stretching it.
While the benchmark is to identify a target account list within the first month, it’s important to note that it’s different for each company. Don’t worry if this process takes longer than a month.
First 60 days
In this period, you’ll continue to refine the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders for your plan. Make sure you set up a regular cadence of meetings for your ABM team to ensure alignment. You’ll also want to focus on refining the segmentation of the account list and aligning marketing activities to those segments.
Tiering and segmenting your target accounts will help you determine what marketing tactics to employ for which segments. Higher priority segments should be relatively small and represent higher potential value to your company. They will, therefore, warrant a higher share of resources dedicated to winning business. For instance, that may mean the higher priority accounts receive a mix of account-based advertising, website personalization, invitations to field events and direct mail tactics. Meanwhile, lower priority segments may receive only account-based advertising and website personalization.
This tiering model enables organizations to approach accounts in a highly customized manner. It allows teams to prioritize marketing dollars and resources and to place their biggest bets on the most valuable accounts.
By 90 days
By this point, many people across the company will have likely heard something about ABM, and certainly, the sales and marketing teams will have seen it in action or will have been briefed on the pilot’s progress. You should have preliminary campaign metrics back, which will give you an indication whether you’re on a path to success. This is the time to take what you’ve learned from the pilot and start thinking of post-pilot activities and how to plan for a larger rollout. Determine how to iterate on your target account list and work with the Marketing team to concept out programs to reach your objectives.
Typically in the first 30 to 60 days, your success will be more milestone driven. You’re aligning your sales and marketing team, setting a cadence of meetings and identifying a target account list. Then, by the time you get to the 90-day benchmark, you’ll have your first data back on business impact metrics, such as close rates, funnel velocity, pipeline opportunities and revenue.
And don’t be alarmed if you read this and think: “There’s no way my company will ever move this fast!” Rather than thinking about it in days, think about it as Phase One, Phase Two and Phase Three. But don’t let these phases linger. If it is more than 30 days per phase, establish the length of each phase at the outset. Otherwise, your pilot could get stuck in one phase for too long and the pilot might lose steam or even die altogether. By the end of the third phase, you will have accomplished a lot. Not only will you have sold the idea of a pilot, but you’ll also have organized a team to execute on that pilot, including the hard work of creating and refining your target account list.
The themes of this article are explored in Account-Based Marketing: How to Target and Engage the Companies That Will Grow Your Revenue, a book written by Peter Isaacson, Demandbase CMO; Chris Golec, Demandbase CEO; and Jessica Fewless, Demandbase VP of ABM Strategy.