Four Steps to Creating an Account Based Marketing Program

Another week and another great conversation with a CMO of a Technology Startup company. 100% SaaS organization stepping into their fifth year of operation. They are using the full functionality of the HubSpot Marketing platform and Sales automation tools.

However, for some reason, they feel that they are not getting the results that they were expecting. After reviewing their Dashboard, We collectively agreed that her team is doing the best that they can from a tool perspective, but they might need to go back and review some strategic aspects of their marketing department. I have also advised her to look more closely into Account-Based Marketing framework.

Here are the four basic steps that I shared with her team.

Step 1: Developing Objectives & Success Metrics

All good marketing programs, including account based marketing efforts, start with a plan that outlines and breaks down what pipeline volume is required to hit the sales goal.

This can be done on a monthly or quarterly basis or even pivot based on the number of sales required or the number of targets you have – the customization of the model is up to you. The key, however, is developing your ABM program strategy with a clear sense of what’s required for both sales and marketing to hit your organization’s customer, revenue and profit goals at the end of the year.

Let's all be honest here. How many Marketing managers or CMOs know the corporate Profit Goal for the year?

Yes, the Net profit. Why is this important, because you do not need to have your marketing manager getting excited about a very expensive campaign program that will end up costing the business lot of capital while you are having a small customer live time value or vice versa.

Step 2: Determine Target Audience

Before you can develop content and begin engaging individuals with your target accounts, you will need to answer several specific questions:

  • Who specifically are you selling to? (Remember: you may be targeting some named companies, but it is specific individuals within these organizations that buy your products, and you need to understand their motivations and purchasing triggers).
  • What are their objectives, and obstacles to success?
  • How specifically do they navigate stages of a typical buyer’s journey?

The better you can answer these and related questions, the more precisely and successfully your sales and marketing teams will be able to resonate with and mobilize your target accounts.

Answers to these questions should come from both your sales team and marketing data acquired from your marketing automation systems, predictive analytics tools, and website tracking tools.

Let's be honest here too. We are a HubSpot Partner Agency serving B2B clients in Canada and the US, but you might be comfortable with another tool. At the end of the day. Make sure that you and your team can operate provision and tune the tool properly to give you the business outcome that you are looking for.

Step 3: Complete Inbound Marketing Strategy

Once you have fleshed out the details of your target accounts and relevant personas, it is time to translate that into actionable content. This includes mapping the prospect’s objective and needs to stages of the buyer’s journey, outlining offers and accelerators to move prospects more quickly from one stage to another, as well as a crisp understanding how your content and offers map to the lead and opportunity stages you use in your CRM and within your marketing automation platform.

Yes, there are a lot of CRM Vendors: i.e. SalesForce, MS Dynamics, Suger CRM, HubSpot and more. Make sure your Sales team are not spending 60% of their team in the back office updating the CRM and losing airtime with prospects. I have seen it happing in MidSize and Large Enterprise. If you are five-year-old Startup, you can introduce an Agile Process to manage this part of the Account Based Marketing program.

Step 4: Account-Based Marketing Software & Tools

It is possible to execute an ABM program manually (Cell phone + Excel sheet), but with all the marketing technologies available today, that is pretty much like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Many marketers, however, aren’t aware of all the technologies available to initiate, manage and optimize a successful ABM program. While new technology capabilities are launched on nearly a monthly basis. The following list of six components is critical if you are $10M+ B2B company and trying to figure out how to managing your Marketing Technology (MarTech) Stack.

CRM & Marketing Automation

Combined, these two platforms act as the two central hubs of your account-based marketing stack. They store all your customer and program data that drives the entire network of your marketing technologies and processes. The CRM is the central hub of customer data, powering sales and supporting back-end performance reporting used by marketing to adjust its strategies, programs and tactics – namely via marketing automation systems integrations. Marketing automation systems leverage customer and prospect data (via CRM integrations) and marketing performance information to deliver messaging, control the cadence of communications through nurture tracks, score account/prospect readiness and report on ABM program marketing effectiveness. Both CRM and marketing automation systems connect to some auxiliary technologies. Moreover, without these systems properly in place and integrated, none of the other ABM tools could properly do their job.

After working with 20+ B2B organizations, I found that they all get this one part, but they are still missing some critical components:

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics technologies take all available data from your existing database(s) (e.g., CRM, marketing automation, blogs, websites, landing pages, etc.) as well as external sources (e.g., government sites, social media channels) and use configurable algorithms to define:

  • The firmographic and behavioral characteristics of your most valuable “closed-won” accounts.
  • The personas of individual decision-makers in those organizations.
  • The content that resonated with them.

Account (IP-based) Ad Targeting

These technologies place your ads across leading exchanges and publishers, targeting only the IP addresses of companies on your account list. The great thing about this technology is that it prevents ad budget from being wasted on impressions or clicks with unwanted companies. Most of these vendors allow you to select which ads are shown to targeted accounts across mobile, display, social and video. IP-based targeting thus ensures all decision-makers at an account see your content, not just the ones you happen to have information on.

Automated Outbound Demand Gen

Complementing account-targeting ad technology, automated outbound demand gen technology enables you to engage the individual decision-makers at targeted companies with your thought leadership and other longer-form content. IP-targeted ads are important for brand awareness and ensuring breadth of engagement across the targeted account. However, unless the decision-makers at these accounts make a move to visit your website, you will not gain any known ID information (prospect data such as email, job title, etc.) required for further account nurturing. Automated outbound demand gen helps you get this known ID prospect data without relying on decision-makers to come to you – instead, your content goes to where they are having relevant conversations, where you can then acquire their info and inject it into your marketing automation nurture tracks and CRM system.

Account Data Management and Measurement

This technology pulls together all the various data acquired during your ABM programs to form a holistic picture. It does this by associating leads to accounts and passing account details to your unconverted prospects. It then segments accounts details like the owner, active opportunity, customer, products purchased, sales stage, target account or strategic account, etc. Creating this big picture of all ABM programs, ABM data management, and measurement software ensures the usability of all the data you collect. Moreover, it helps align marketing and sales efforts by providing sales reps with the data they need to assist prospects further down the purchase cycle.

What Not to Forget

MarTech (Marketing Technology) won’t do everything. Setting appropriate goals, KPIs and benchmarks are paramount, as is understanding individual personas and developing content that resonates with them. Perhaps most importantly, successful ABM strategies depend on proper integration between sales and marketing. Without such integrated processes, data and goals, marketing teams cannot get the info they need to adequately identify and engage targeted accounts, and the buyer’s journey will suffer from a disjointed transition of accounts from marketing to sales reps.

It was not a surprise for me after working in Sales and Marketing for the IT/SaaS industry for 15+ years to see that the marketing department in need of a big digital transformation as well.