While the term, account-based marketing (ABM), has only worked its way into our marketing vocabulary in recent years, the general concepts that define the strategy have been around for a long time. ABM really comes down to a question of how much effort you put towards engaging (and hopefully landing) each potential customer.
ITSMA describes ABM as, “treating each account as a market of one.” If you only had a market of one customer, you’d pulled out all the stops to engage every possible stakeholder and personalize each and every touchpoint to cater to their specific needs.
When you think of ABM in this way, it is no wonder why it’s so effective. And when you’re targeting only a few accounts, a hyper-focused level of attention is doable. It’s when you broaden the search to hundreds or thousands of accounts that it becomes impossible to scale.
Well, it’s not impossible, it just requires a strategy that enables you to scale.
How to Define Your Target Account List
Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder and CMO at Terminus, lays out ABM perfectly when he describes it as “Flipping your Funnel.” The idea for this analogy is that instead of the traditional inbound approach of generating a high volume of leads at the top of your funnel and narrowing the focus as you work your way down; ABM flips that funnel and starts by focusing on only your most ideal accounts, the most valuable ones with the highest likelihood of buying from you.
Creating this target account list is the cornerstone of any ABM initiative. A great way to start is by looking at your current customers. Who are your most valuable customers, most likely to have the highest spend or longest lifetime value to date? What things do they have in common that make them your ideal customer?
If you can start by building your ideal customer profile, you’ll soon have a great picture of the types of accounts that you should be targeting. Your analysis should factor in demographic and firmographic details, such as company size, annual revenue, industry, length of sales cycle, lead score, and overall fit with your product or service’s solution.
It’s also important to leverage your sales team and the data you currently have in your CRM. In a joint effort with your sales and marketing team, you can start to identify all of the top prospect accounts that exist in your database. Many organizations also start by having each of their reps pitch their top 10 or 20 accounts.
With a clear picture of what your ideal account looks like, you can then leverage artificial intelligence tools like Bombora andLeanData to find similar companies that aren’t even on your radar yet. After all of this work is done, you may have a list of hundreds or even thousands of target accounts that meet your ideal customer profile.
How on earth can we give them all 1:1 attention?
How to Scale with a Tiered ABM Approach
This answer is not every account requires 1:1 treatment. With hundreds of target accounts on your list, it’s impossible to treat them all with a hyper-focused level of personalization. You would need an enormous team and budget.
But that’s where a tiered ABM approach can prove extremely valuable. The general idea is that you can break your massive list down into tiers based on importance—things like their overall size or value, how closely they match your ideal customer profile and how likely they are to close. In the chart below, you can see the three different tiers of ABM as outlined by ITSMA.