Account-Based Marketing is the key to building your sales pipeline. If you’re wondering about the mechanics of how ABM works, the secret lies in its framework, and once you thoroughly understand that, applying the principles and strategies to your sales strategy becomes less daunting.
ABM framework in action
Technically, there are 4 key components to the ABM framework. These include your website (of course), the CRM technology and process, marketing automation, and the lead qualification and handoff process.
The website: Your website is really the center, or the hub of the ABM strategy. Your first step is obvious – to always have a compelling, functional, responsive, and optimized website. This can’t be ignored at any cost. A good website alone isn’t enough. This hub should be a hub of thought leadership and value driven content that drives authority for the company. This gets more technical than what we’re making it out to be, and that’s because the SEO strength of the website will help drive organic traffic.
CRM: Let’s not confuse CRM technology with the customer relationship management process. Here, the focus is on CRM as a process, and how to manage customers through the funnel. Though you’ll be needing CRM technology as well, the primary thing on the list should be the CRM process. There’s plenty of CRM platforms to consider with each having their own strengths. The CRM process is more about how you identify how prospects are engaging and moving along the funnel.
Marketing Automation Platform. For this, you don’t need to have a fully blown out marketing automation platform (MAP). What we mean here is that you should have some mechanism for outbound communication that can be personalized, automated, and at scale. Ideally, the MAP connects to your CRM and the website for enhanced tracking and reporting, which can include web personalization, IP identification, retargeting and so much more.
Lead qualification and handoff process: This is a bigger process around lead qualification and account engagement. It’s a way in which you qualify leads or buying-center members within accounts, and then hand off the right business to the proper sales person. The management between your business development team, sales team, and the marketing side is a part of this key component. In true ABM fashion, this certainly means more than just leads, and essentially means your target accounts that have passed a scoring or qualification threshold to have subsequently moved down through the ABM funnel.
Each of these four components establishes the foundation to launch an ABM campaign whether you’re doing it in-house or through an ABM vendor like Blueprint. The next part of this series discusses the pillars of ABM.
Key pillars to remember
ABM should not be approached like just another tactic or toolkit in your treasure chest of marketing ideas, and it’s more than advertising. ABM is intentional – at its core it intends to close the deal on the target accounts that will go through the framework. So its approach is very methodical, because if the target accounts don’t move through the funnel to eventually become marketing qualified, then there’s no handoff to the sales team to close the deal.
In addition to the four key components that establish the framework for an ABM plan, there are also essential pillars that help to execute and implement the framework.
Target Accounts: This pillar is in sync with the 3-step approach of ABM. Here you need to define who you’re targeting by name; establish key account insights (e.g. news); identify the ideal customer profiles of each key influencer, decision maker, and champion at the account; and create personas for each profile so that each outreach and touchpoint is relevant to them and their part in the decision process.
Strategy: What piece of business do you intend to win at each account? This is important to know and will drive your account insights, the lead messages that focus on the pain points, and how you speak to the solutions that they need. A well-rounded strategy is also needed to guide your approach to engaging the accounts. First, keep in mind that ABM isn’t mass marketing, which means that each approach has to be personalized to the account. Secondly, ABM is intended to nurture the process, which requires multiple touchpoints consistently, and that needs to be outlined in your strategy.
Data: In this pillar, you address a database management process of how you’re keeping track and pursuing your high-priority target accounts. While this database could be a part of the CRM, this pillar is more than just a CRM. Having the right data management allows you to track and monitor all interactions so that it becomes more clear how prospects are moving along the funnel. Be sure to have tight data governance protocols.
Account Planning: Plan how an account should be reviewed, and prepare an account review checklist. Understand that strategy and account planning are closely related but the latter is more granular because here, you’re drilling down into specific account plans.
Messaging: With the brand strategy as the backdrop, a great content plan should follow. This should include a range of content, including short/ long-form content, blog, article, emails, and ads. Content should deliver value and be personalized to the accounts based on their buyer personas.
You may find it helpful to group or “tier” your accounts. Typically, Tier 1 accounts are the “big fish” you intend to land. They get more personalized and timely content/messages than accounts in other tiers. As you move down the tiers, the messaging might move more toward an industry level instead of an account level, but the ability to execute at scale increases.
Channels: What channels of distribution will you use to deliver your outreach and engagement strategy? This may include email, direct mail, social media, phone call, Linked In, or some kind of IP/domain-based advertising.
Metrics: Monitoring and measuring your metrics is extremely important to tracking the effectiveness of your ABM campaign and monitoring how prospects are engaging. Keep track of everything, whether that’s at the account level or at the advertising or campaign level. It can be the number of videos you’ve sent out or the number of people who have sent a response. In ABM, we care more about account and pipeline metrics than we do on traditional ad metrics, for example.
Technology: The technology stack is the oil that fuels the machine and it’s embedded in one way or the other with each of the other pillars. It’s not independent; rather, it enables the other pillars in the ABM framework.
But, do you need a complicated or advanced tech stack in order for ABM to work? While tech makes things a lot easier, the ABM approach is all about accounts and account-relevant outreach.
So how do you “do” ABM without a big tech stack? Learn about your target accounts. Align with your sales team. Execute in tandem. Develop compelling messages and content. Plan a way to send emails and make phone calls.
Now that you have a full understanding of the ABM framework pillars, you are all set to build your B2B marketing machine.
The tech stack is overwhelming, and the cost can add up. So find what works best for the level of ABM execution at your company. This ebook provides a guide on how to build an ABM tech stack, and the illustration above highlights some of the main features to look for in a platform.
Below is a list of a few top tech platforms to consider.
1. HubSpot is an industry giant and features robust marketing automation system that includes a CRM light option.
2. You can choose Oracle’s Eloqua. It’s one of the best CRMs, especially in the B2B arena.
3. Then there’s Marketo, which is now owned by Adobe. It’s one of the strongest marketing automation platforms on the market.
4. If you’re looking for strong email systems, Constant Contact and MailChimp are good choices, but they’re limited in their automation and account metrics features.
5. Radius, Demandbase, Engagio (now part of Demandbase), and Terminus are some of the biggest players in Account-Based Marketing. They each do something different, but all are fantastic products to up your ABM game.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Do your research and ask a lot of questions. Remember, you don’t need big tech to make a big impact in your ABM efforts.