How To Define Your Account-Based Marketing Strategy

November 13, 2018 Jason Oakley

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. 

Image by Terminus

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 and LeanData 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.

Image by ITSMA

One-to-One ABM

The first tier, referred to as One-to-One ABM, is the super personalized 1:1 treatment that is most commonly associated with ABM. This is only manageable with a handful of accounts, but with these accounts, you can pull out all the stops. Some examples include things like personalized webinars and unique content pieces based on their challenges or objectives.

The idea with One-to-One is that this tier is meant for your biggest, most valuable accounts that are worth the dedication and attention.

One-to-Few ABM

The second tier, referred to as One-to-Few ABM, is meant to address your next 500-1000 ideal accounts. Of course, you can’t give them all 1:1 treatment, so this tier focuses more on a 1:Few approach. This tier focuses on grouping accounts into more manageable segmentations that you can target with personalized content they can all associate with. This could mean things like landing pages tailored to a specific industry that are personalized with their logo or company name.

One-to-Many ABM

The third tier, referred to as One-to-Many ABM, is meant to address the rest of the accounts on your list. This list can be as large as 1000-5000 accounts, so your tactics here are very similar to your typical inbound strategies.

However, by leveraging your various account segments you can be targeted with your email outreach, using messaging and content that’s more focused on the topics and industries that your accounts are interested in. For example, you can run email campaigns focused on specific verticals, topics or geographic areas.

We’ve created a simple template that you can use to map out your strategy, following the three tiers outlined above.

Defining Attributes to Segment and Target Your Accounts

An important step, especially in tiers two and three, is defining common attributes among your accounts so you can effectively segment them. With your account list now broken into manageable tiers, you can start to think about how you’ll go about marketing to each. For tier two and three accounts, you’ll need a way to effectively target them at scale, which is going to require segmenting them into marketable groups.

The best way to do this is by referencing or creating a list of common attributes between them. For example, a lot of your target accounts may use the same piece of technology, be from the same industry, or live in the same geographic region. All of these are valuable when it comes to deciding how to target your marketing campaigns.

The Key to ABM

Any modern B2B demand generation or revenue marketing team is either investing in ABM, or seriously thinking about it, and the reason is obvious—it works. But as you’ve learned, the key to ABM is having a scalable strategy around how you define your target account list, how your break that list into manageable tiers, and how you effectively segment your accounts into marketable groups based on common attributes.

If you’re already approaching ABM through this lens, kudos to you. If not, get out there and start building your team’s ABM strategy.

Does the thought of creating hundreds of pieces of content for ABM keep you up at night? Check out our No-Fear Guide to Scaling Personalized Content for ABM.

About the Author

Jason Oakley

Jason is the Product Marketing Manager at Uberflip. He loves sharing product news, updates, feature releases, and customer stories.

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