By: Carol Eversen and Jeff Loeb
As fractional CMOs with deep experience implementing ABM across many B2B companies, we see a pattern emerging: business leaders have very different perspectives about what it takes to implement ABM and how to get started. And most opinions seem to be informed by solution vendors rather than defined by the business challenges at hand. This series of blog posts will guide you through the core pillars of ABM, when ABM should be used and with what approach, and share best practices to get started on a successful ABM journey. You’ll learn about the strategies to consider, the enabling technologies to prioritize, how to measure ABM efforts effectively, and how to get started and reduce risks.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is like an elephant. Like the fable where each blind man describes the mighty elephant differently based on the part of the animal they touch, Martech vendors and marketing agencies frame ABM differently based on what they sell.
For example, solution providers that specialize in advertising center ABM on creating targeted personalized ads. For providers that started as traditional digital marketing agencies, email outreach and nurturing form their ABM center of gravity.
To be fair, most solution providers offer a surface-level understanding of the ABM basics. These include the need to identify and pursue target accounts that match your ideal customer profile (ICP), the importance of aligning sales and marketing teams, and a recognition of the common ABM go-to-market approaches. But often the similarity ends there.
One-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many succinctly describe the three common ABM go-to-market approaches.
The different approaches and areas of emphasis that solution providers champion all too often create confusion and speed bumps for companies seeking to embark on an ABM journey. In many cases, this confusion affects adoption and the success rates of ABM initiatives.
According to ITSMA, 83% of marketers are still struggling to find the perfect way to deploy ABM.
The fractional CMOs at Chief Outsiders have collaborated with over 1,500 companies to create go-to-market strategies and build growth engines. We have helped many organizations successfully design and implement ABM programs.
Our purpose here is to leverage this experience to help teams accelerate ABM success by providing insights and guidance on three key questions:
Six key components define a full-bodied ABM program. These become the core pillars of ABM success. We’ll look at each in detail below.
The first step in building an ABM initiative is defining the strategy—which should be driven by the goals of the initiative. Marketers (or sales folks) often go down the ABM path guided by a vendor’s capabilities or possibly an executive’s personal interpretation of ABM.
At Chief Outsiders, we start with the goals and ensure clear alignment around them before we build a strategy. Clients typically pursue one or more of the following sales and marketing goals:
It’s no surprise that the process of selecting accounts to target sits at the center of ABM. And you typically select target accounts based on their fit with your ideal customer profile (ICP) and their level of purchase intent.
Think of your ICP as the bullseye—the prospects with needs that best fit your solution and have the least friction in the buying process.
Pro Tip: Evaluate your best customers and identify what characteristics make them a good fit for your solution. Use capabilities in tools like ZoomInfo and LinkedIn to identify “lookalikes” based on an imported list of best customers.
Once you have identified companies that fit your ICP, prioritize them by how likely they are to buy. For instance, a company may be a perfect fit, but if they just purchased a competitor’s solution they probably are not in market.
To understand purchase intent, take advantage of buying signals both inside and outside of your organization. The easiest signals to exploit are the internal ones happening within your ecosystem—visitors to your website, users that fill out forms or engage with your chatbot, or people that click on your ads.
Recent advancements in technology have made it possible to capture intent signals external to your ecosystem to identify companies that are “in-market”. Solutions like Bambora, ZoomInfo, TechTarget, G2, and Rollworks all help to identify prospects that show high purchase intent, a key characteristic used for prioritizing accounts.
In part 2 of our four-part ABM blog post series we will dive into a core tenet of every successful ABM initiative: Orchestration and personalization of activities and outreach across sales, marketing, and customer success teams. Please reach out with any questions in the meantime.