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Account-Based Marketing: 5 Steps to Getting Started

Account-based marketing (ABM) is at the top of every marketer’s list these days. While plenty claim to be experts, few are actually doing it right. ABM is all about taking the mass out of marketing and focusing your efforts on a specific account or segment. And it’s a key part to becoming more customer-focused and providing a personalized experience.

5 Steps to Get Started

Sound daunting? It’s actually extremely beneficial if you start small and remain agile. Here’s where to begin:

1. Select and Target

Select an account that provides high-value to your company by mapping prospective accounts to key criteria. This criteria could be based on their sales channels, purchase process, current partnerships, location, size, SIC code or growth history – just to name a few.

When defining your criteria, think about what outcomes and benefits your company can provide these target accounts. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about how you can solve their challenges. If you’re finding several target accounts that hit this mark, create a method for scoring to help you segment and/or prioritize to get started.

2. Research and Intelligence

What are their pain points? Who are the decision makers? Who are they currently partnering with? What benefits can you offer? What specific information can you gather about their business? Questions should be flooding your brain at this stage.

This is clearly a critical piece of getting started with ABM (and more time-consuming than you may think). Until you have contacts and know a bit about the account, it’s a little tricky to cater your messaging to them. But before moving onto the next step, you should know who you’re targeting – and why you’re the right fit for them.

Contact gathering tools for this step:

Be sure to upload the information you gathered to your CRM, so there’s a central hub for your marketing and sales teams from the very beginning.

3. Engagement Strategy

Determine your touchpoints. What’s the best way to reach your target account? And we’re not just talking emails here. While email will more than likely be included in your plan, there’s always the possibility of unsubscribes, too.

Start by making a list of all the tactics or touchpoints you could potentially use.

  • Do you have budget and an audience size for paid media (PPC ads, retargeting, Google AdWords, etc.)?
  • Would a creative direct mail piece be possible? (Keep in mind these tend to have longer turnaround times.)
  • Invite your key prospects to an industry event you’re hosting or sponsoring.
  • Drive them to a personalized landing page with dynamic custom content.
  • Submit a feature article to a trade publication they follow.
  • Reach out to them on social media to share content you think they’ll find valuable.
  • Give them a call to follow up on a previous tactic.
  • Provide them with a special offer.

Don’t forget to look into what your competitors are doing. And before you move forward, make sure you have a plan in place for gathering data and reporting for every touchpoint.

Content Tip:

Since ABM often comes with the need for speed, look for quick wins, too. Conduct a content audit to understand what content you already have related to your target account’s challenges. Don’t get me wrong: you should never treat your content as one-size-fits-all, but if there are pieces you can leverage or rework rather than starting from scratch every time, that’s important. From there, you’ll know the gaps and where to start to get your campaign rolling.

4. Orchestrate Interactions

Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes to map their journey and start your campaign. (Just be ready for it to change along the way.) This is where it’s vital that your sales and marketing teams are aligned and working together, rather than kicking off a campaign and then going down separate paths.

Recurring touch bases are the easiest way to be sure everyone is on the same page. Did your sales team have a call or meeting with your target account this week? Did you learn something new about the account? Did your account reach an important milestone in their journey? This is where plans change at the drop of a hat.

Marketing automation tools for this step:

  • Marketing Cloud will track where each individual contact is at in their journey and help you better engage with them along the way.
  • Utilize Pardot to get your marketing and sales teams working even closer together and speed up the sales cycle.

Buyers move from unaware to aware to engaged to buy to loyal. What questions do they have at each of these stages, and how are they finding their answers? Select content and touchpoints that fit those tendencies. Know what actions or milestones move your contact to the next step in their journey. Follow a natural progression, but don’t be obnoxious by reaching out too often.

Remember, the best marketing doesn't feel like marketing. And people want to be served, not sold.

So figure out the best way to connect with your customer (and avoid mass unsubscribes) throughout each stage in the sales cycle.

5. Gain Insights

Research doesn’t stop after step 2. Continue to gather more information about your target accounts as they move farther along in their journey. Measure engagement and adjust your plan. Maybe they’re not engaging with the content you expected. Maybe they’re not engaging at all.

Look at the data, and optimize your ABM campaign based on what’s working and what’s not. Are your prospects engaging with case studies, but not with general trend content? Did they watch a video, but not download a PDF? Which pages are they viewing on your website? Are you having low open rates? Try A/B testing on your subject lines to see what language strikes a chord. See if you notice any trends to gather insights, and form your next plan of attack.

Once you’ve gotten through your first ABM campaign, you can take what you’ve learned and scale it for more accounts in the future. But don’t forget: every account is unique.

Ready to get started or need any advice?

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Dani Siegel

Kind-hearted and spunky with an infectious laugh, Dani understands that happy people do the best work. Dani enjoys coordinating culture activities, team sports, community events, fundraisers and internship programs.

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