Account-based Marketing best practices - start here

Inbound Marketing Jun 16, 2020

ABM’s, or account-based marketing’s, logic is easy to understand through resource usage and goals: you select a limited number of key business companies and focus your marketing and sales resources to reach these target companies. Simple, right? Described in this way, ABM even sounds just like traditional marketing and as soon as you stray to think so, you’ve already taken a wrong turn.

Indeed, ABM means a disciplined approach to marketing and sales, for which it is important to develop a completely new kind of modus operandi. For ABM, HubSpot has identified the best practices to get you started on building an account based sales and marketing organization.

ABM Task Force

At the latest now is the time to blow up marketing and sales silos. Account based operations do not work through traditional linear sales funnel thinking but teams must genuinely work together, hand in hand, from the first moment. If you want to shift the whole marketing operations to serve the ABM strategy, the best option would be to change the old operating models all together rather than trying to reshape old business models with small incremental optimizations.

As we wrote in the previous ABM blog, ABM can also fit nicely alongside the inbound model as its own task force aside the so called traditional sales and marketing function. This way you get started with small changes without blowing up the entire marketing and sales process in one go. The ABM task force is built at its smallest from one marketer and one salesperson working together on target companies. A good rule of thumb is a 1:10 ratio: one marketer can support ten salespersons and a salesperson can work on ten target accounts. This ratio is good to keep in mind when setting the number of target accounts.

Select target accounts

Account based marketing cannot be done randomly or by defining target accounts at too general level (e.g. “all domestic corporations with a revenue of higher than 100 million USD”). We need to go much deeper and dare to name the companies we want to aim for. You can get started by looking at existing data:

  • What interesting companies do we identify from our CRM?
  • Which existing leads or open deals do we want to hurry?
  • What are the 10 most successful deals lately (= our offering has been a perfect product market fit)? Could more be sold to these organizations?
  • Do we identify from the market companies that we want to reach but that do not yet have any contact?

In addition to these, it is good to start defining the ideal customer profile (ICP), ie what kind of customers we are a perfect fit for. Instead of guessing, it’s a good idea to start by looking at the most successful customer relationships and look for the traits that unite them. From these traits based on which it would be possible to start delineating potential new ideal customer relationships. Whatever your approach, the most important thing however is to clearly agree, in terms of sales and marketing functions, which companies the activities will be aimed at.

Build an account plan

An account plan is a joint plan created by sales and marketing teams that focus on the target account. Account plans may be similar, but not identical! Remember, the purpose of ABM is to move from one marketing plan to dozens of separate marketing plans, each target company has its own. The plan always pinpoints who are the company's key decision makers and what kind of content these people need. The ABM task force’s job is to synchronize the customer path and its stage to the individual content need of each decision maker.

Content Types

The best advice for content mapping comes here: be creative! Don’t be afraid to try new things and ideas for new ways to reach decision makers. The most common contents per path stage are:

  • ready-made inbound content that has been tweaked to suit a specific key person
  • unique landing pages
  • events
  • reports assessing target companies
  • gifts

In the best case, the key persons are already found in the CRM. If this is not the case, you need to start attracting those strategically important contacts. Find the channels where these people are and make sure you are prominently displayed. It is not possible to be in all places, so choose the most important ones for your target decision makers. So, pinpoint the channels and places where your contacts are, content that is interesting to them, and tactics that fit your budget.

Metrics; how is progress measured?

Compared to inbound marketing, the average cost of conversions in ABM tends to be higher. Still, it’s a good idea to set metrics so you learn to understand the effectiveness of ABM plans and tactics. Example Indicators:

  • Site visits of contacts of target companies
  • Number of conversions and average cost
  • Contacts created under the target company

It is also a good idea for the ABM task force to look at their own progress on a company-by-company basis:

  • Identified key personnel
  • Number of key personnel
  • Start date of the sales process
  • The length and duration of the sales cycle at different stages of the sales process
  • Closing date
  • Deal size

ABM Check list

  1. Create an ABM task force
  2. Identify the target companies
  3. Construct account plans
  4. Attract relevant contacts
  5. Get key persons committed 


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