Most marketing agencies offer up a variety of services from creative to technical, media buying to content development. But one service that I think more agencies should be offering is Account-Based Marketing or ABM for short. ABM is a style of marketing popular with B2B companies that focuses on a shortlist of current or prospective customers. It’s most effective when it combines sales and marketing in a tight cohesive team and we think that customers would love if more agencies offered it as a service or option. As such, this article is light on theory and heavy on practical, prescriptive recommendations.

What is ABM?

Account-Based Marketing is a set of strategies and techniques that marketing and sales use to target specific accounts/companies. For this article’s purposes, we’ll assume you’re targeting new clients because that’s what most clients of marketing agencies are looking for, but these techniques are also used to build accounts up and sell more into key accounts.

Good ABM requires sales involvement. Unlike much of marketing that can happen just within a marketing department, or between a marketing manager and an agency, good ABM always has sales highly involved because they’re an important part of getting results.

ABM is a natural next step for marketing and sales to take once you’ve got a decent buyer persona and user journey. Most marketing agencies can effectively build personas and journeys on their own. With that information in hand, you can take the next step:

Identifying Target Accounts

We’d recommend 1-2 meetings for this bit: include at least 1 sales champion, and at least 1 marketing manager or marketing lead. The meeting should include a 5-minute review of the persona & user journey to frame what you’re looking for, followed by brainstorming how to build a list of target accounts, or diving right into building that list of accounts. The goal of the meeting is to come out with a list of target accounts. It’s common for these lists to be around 10-100 accounts in size, but going outside those bounds might be the right thing depending on circumstances.

Gathering & Enhancing Data on Target Accounts

Next up, you’ll want to build data on your target accounts. Key info would be:

  • Identify decision-makers and influencers for your product/service
  • Categorize the companies so that you can effectively segment them based on product interest, unique challenges, best salespeople to suit the organizations, etc.
  •  Gather info to confirm or disqualify if the company matches your ideal account
  • Ask sales if they know contacts at the companies
  • Grab info from the company’s social media platforms or use data enrichment to grab relevant business info

With all this information, plug it into your marketing automation platform like ActiveDEMAND. You can do this without marketing automation, but it won’t be quite as smart or as good (you knew there was a plug here somewhere, right?) Plus, you can use data enrichment at this point to have ActiveDEMAND do some of the legwork for you.

Determine Marketing/Sales Activities & Sequences

Next up, take stock of the marketing and sales activities you could perform, and get buy-in on the ideal sequence. The key bit of this is personalization and customization based on what you gathered in the data enhancing step. Your sequence should be heavily informed by your user journey.

Ensure that you have very well defined end goals like “book demo/meeting with decision maker”, “client requests quote”,

Marketing options could include:

  • Sales reaching out via email (w marketing support on content & creative)
  • Remarketing campaign to influencers
  • Email campaigns customized to the accounts
  • Handy drip campaigns that sales can use
  • Having sales reach out on LinkedIn
  • Event invitations (such as invites to your Google Connect events, if you do those)
  • Dynamic personalization on your website to target the accounts based on the right USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

Typically, most sequences will:

  • Involve some “always-on” awareness marketing like remarketing ads on Facebook: usually as soon as possible
  • Involve some “always-on” dynamic personalization on the website where possible
  • Be a coordinated effort between sales and marketing. Both groups have to get their hands dirty to make ABM a success
  • Follow a pre-determined pace of activities

Example Sequence:

  1. Sales reach out to find the decision maker: typically email
  2. Decision-maker is found and added to ActiveDEMAND: starts seeing soft brand awareness marketing
  3. Sales call decision-maker to try to set up a demo/meeting
    1. If unsuccessful, add decision-maker to “book a meeting” drip campaign
  4. Wait 1 week
  5. Sales are reminded to connect with the decision-maker on LinkedIn
  6. Wait 2 days
  7. Sales are reminded to call or email the prospect (their choice, but templates for email and call scripts for a call are provided)

Train and Deploy

Depending on the size of the team, you may want to run a limited scope pilot project with fewer salespeople and marketers involved. This enables you to battle-test your content, automation, and sequences and optimize them a bit before the big rollout.

Ensure that you train your salespeople AND sales managers. Sales managers should have your back on enforcing consistency where it should be enforced, and the sales manager should also be able to provide higher priority feedback on changes needed.

Do the Activities, Seek Feedback, Optimize

While you’re performing ABM, don’t forget to set up check-up meetings with sales and marketing to periodically review activities and optimize which activities you perform and when in the sequence you perform them. Do sales need reminders for their tasks entered directly into the CRM or do they need calendar reminders? Check which automations are being used, where touchpoints are causing end-user action, and make changes accordingly. Again, here a marketing automation platform like ActiveDEMAND will help because it will be easier to examine the full user journey and optimize based on your findings.

Hey, this is a lot of work!

We didn’t say it was magic, did we? ABM takes real work and effort, but it delivers results. The work put into better understanding target accounts and engaging them takes good old fashioned elbow grease, but the accounts are a better fit than the riff-raff that come knocking on your door or calling your business out of the blue. Agencies that perform ABM for their clients will see better end results for the clients and will embed themselves as a crucial part of their success.