How To Implement An Effective Account-Based Marketing Plan
Written by Gerry Dapergolas
Aug 29 2018
What does successful ABM implementation look like? Understand the key activities and steps that effective ABM campaigns contain.
Account-based marketing campaigns are by definition, highly unique, specific and refined. Reaching out to a specific set of key accounts, be it at an individual, company, vertical or persona level - requires a highly-tailored approach, from the nature of campaign messaging, to campaign tactics themselves.
An organisation’s level of ABM maturity, priorities, goals and specific success criteria for the campaign will all impact the direction campaign implementation takes.
So what should an account-based marketing plan actually look like?
Key Implementation Steps In An Effective ABM Plan
Account-based marketing is thinking of the account as a market of one. It’s about being laser-focused on their needs and deploying the most effective marketing tactics available to nurture value-added, pervasive conversations with key stakeholders. - Nick Panayi, Head of Digital Marketing and Global Brand, CSC
There are multiple steps to consider when implementing an account-based marketing plan.
Of course, activity execution will depend greatly on the specific campaign’s targeting criteria, goals, level of ABM maturity and more. However, key steps in an effective ABM campaign will be to:
Confirm ABM programme type
Your ABM programme type will vary depending on your organisation’s level of ABM maturity. Depending on your insights and advancement with ABM (do you have the right supporting content, internal processes, buy-in and alignment?) it’s possible to focus at a 1-to-1 or individual level, at a company level, by vertical or industry, or at a wider persona level.
Define campaign focus and target account selection criteria
What accounts are you targeting? Industry, size, budget, location, challenges, lifetime value and more will be factors for consideration. For campaigns targeting at a 1-to-1 level, you will also need to identify and expand insight on the specific individuals you need to engage (decision makers, individual purchasers, key influencers). You may already have an existing database of key accounts or prospects, so may need to assess, enrich and score any current contacts to determine their challenges and propensity to buy.
Set specific and realistic KPIs and goals
ABM campaigns are designed to develop quality relationships and engagement with target accounts; common KPIs and goals include; quality account generation, account DMU (decision-making unit) contact increase, and revenue expansion within accounts.
Secure executive buy-in and support from sales as well as marketing
Both sales and marketing must work together to identify best-fit targets and opportunities, and to support the campaign throughout the customer lifecycle. It’s often wise to run an ABM pilot to establish this alignment process, and to set internal ABM expectations if your organisation is new to account-based marketing.
Build all activity on a foundation of deep customer insight
Insights are the key to developing a highly relevant, personalised campaigns. Where possible, work to enrich /validate existing insight with further account-specific data. If you already have an existing lead database, you can enrich contact records with additional information, such as further contact detail and social data. You can also make the most of an enhanced database by supporting it with other Inbound marketing tactics.
Agree campaign success criteria
What does success look like for your campaign? Is the overall goal to raise awareness within a set number of accounts, to improve engagement or otherwise? Consider that ABM success criteria should also be aligned with overarching business objectives and that key goals may differ somewhat from the objectives held by traditional lead generation campaigns.
Develop relevant messaging and content assets to support the campaign
For ABM content and messaging to resonate, it must be personalised to resonate with your specific target’s challenges. If you’re not creating that highly specific content, you’re not making the most of your ABM strategy. Your level of insight will impact the personalisation and targeting that you can achieve across all areas of your campaign, so be sure your insights are as accurate and detailed as possible.
Target across the best-fit mix of media and channels for your ABM programme type
The best fit mix of channels will vary depending on your ABM programme tier type, funnel stage focus and level of ABM maturity. However, looking broadly you can expect to see success with the channels below:
When targeting at a 1-to-1 level: Execution channels include email, offline marketing, social selling across channels such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, LinkedIn Account Targeting and InMail - or across other social networks depending on where your target decision makers are active.
When targeting at a vertical/industry level: Execution channels will often be similar to ABM 1-to1 - refined social selling for small audience sizes. LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, InMails, and email (if existing contacts are known) are effective when targeting a large single account with substantial global audience size.
When moving from an inbound focus into an ABM focus: Execution channels include remarketing, LinkedIn Sponsored Updates (and other targeted paid ads), InMails.
When targeting at an inbound persona level: Execution channels include organic channels, PPC and remarketing.
To break down walls between sales and marketing, ABM is pretty close to a silver bullet in that it aligns programs’ dollars and focus behind the accounts that the sales teams cares about. So there's inherent buy-in. That said, ABM is only as good as your visibility into your highest potential accounts and best-fit customer segments, which gets clearer over time. So it’s most effective when deployed as part of a comprehensive set of targeting strategies. - Dave Karel, Head of B2B Marketing, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions
Follow appropriate sales strategies and outreach
A defined sales process is integral to ABM to support relevant, helpful relationships and mindshare between your brand and your accounts. Both sales and marketing teams need a have a clear idea of goals, target accounts, and appropriate responsibilities if campaigns are to succeed. Make sure that alignment is in place, and regularly review progress for best results.
Implementing Your ABM Campaign
Regardless of the exact programme selection, your campaign uses, or the specifics of your implementation strategy, in an ABM approach, it’s important to think correctly, remembering that you’re visualising the funnel in reverse. Rather than generating a large stack of irrelevant leads to pour into the top of an ever-narrowing funnel, the aim is to start with that singular focus and widen out, identifying best-fit contacts, expanding contacts into accounts, and engaging via the channels they’re using. Do that, and your campaigns will be on the right track.