Fishing with a Spear: Generating Leads Through the ABM Way

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a highly personalized marketing strategy that focuses on specific customers instead of mass marketing. It involves identifying individual accounts to market to and requires executive support, a capable team, and alignment between sales and marketing. The six-step process for implementing ABM includes defining account selection criteria, zeroing in on targets and decision makers, creating personalized messaging, choosing marketing channels, executing campaigns with restraint, and tracking and tweaking for improved performance. ABM offers the opportunity to target high-value accounts and drive revenue growth.


Account-based marketing has been classified as a “market of one”. This is because it focusses communication and attention on a specific customer, as opposed to broad-based marketing which deals with marketing to masses. In other words, account-based marketing is a highly-personalized marketing strategy that begins with identifying individual accounts to market to.
Figure 1: Account based marketing begins with identifying “who” you want to sell to (source: superoffice)
As organizations continue to understand the benefits of ABM, more and more are buying into the idea for its implementation. According to the ABM Outlook Survey 2018 report, out of 1260 companies surveyed, only 7.22% didn’t have plans for implementing account based marketing. The rest were either in the advanced stages of implementation, were well underway, had just started implementing or were thinking about it.
Yet even with all this growing interest in ABM, lack of execution ability continues to be a key challenge in its execution. That is why we decided to write this account-based marketing guide to help you execute your ABM strategy.

Preparing to Implement Account Based Marketing

There are three main factors that are fundamental to the overall success of account-based marketing. Before you go into selecting, observing and engaging prospects, you need to put a check-mark against all three requirements. They include:

Get Executive Support

Account based marketing is a strategy that focuses on getting the big fish. Asking for support from executives will help in the following ways. They will:
  • Champion collaboration for ABM across all teams
  • Approve resource allocation. E.g. funds, dedicated teams and time investment necessary to develop assets
  • Provide guidance to ensure the strategy fits with overall business objectives.

Build a Capable Team

Once you have executive support, you can build a team that will help you pursue and engage targets. Your initial team will be a “testing team”, so keep it small. Once you have proof that your account-based marketing strategy is working, you can engage more members of the organization and eventually, the entire organization. An ideal team should consist of members from sales, marketing, operations and IT. As mentioned, keep the team lean; identify one team leader per team then pick 2 or 3 members per team that he or she can work with.
Your team’s overall responsibilities will include:
  • Deciding the requirements that define suitable targets,
  • Selecting target accounts,
  • Pinpointing metrics for success measurement.
All the teams will also have their specific roles which include:
Sales. Sales should be at the forefront, selling your product, talking to customers and answering questions and concerns. Because they are your “boots on the ground”, sales know who to target and where to find them. In the spirit of better alignment, tap into this knowledge.
Marketing is the main force behind account-based marketing. Their job is to plan and execute personalized account-based campaigns. They should do this with content and by identifying ways to personalize that content to increase conversions. Marketing also has insights on past campaigns as well campaign-automation expertise.
The IT or operations team will ensure that you have the necessary technologies necessary for automating campaigns and collecting data. IT also ensures that those applications are integrated and functioning properly.

Align Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing alignment is a key requirement for account based marketing success. Alignment will ensure close collaboration between both teams at all time. To achieve alignment, sales and marketing should always have complete visibility.
Some alignment markers include:
  • Decision-making power and a say in strategy
  • Full access to relevant data
  • Similar KPIs
  • Common content strategy and consistency of messaging
  • Appreciating each other’s challenges
There is a plethora of automation tools that can help you achieve this level of visibility and alignment. Ask your IT team to recommend the tools that will track your data, content, nurturing programs and reports in the same place. Before you settle on a tool, have all team members try it out and together, sign off on a tool that everyone agrees on.
That said, below is a six-step process for implementing account-based marketing.

A Six-Step Process for Implementing Account Based Marketing

Step 1. Define Account Selection Criteria

You have probably worked with personas time and again in your role as a marketer. But when it comes to ABM, rather than creating personas to help you identify individuals, you will be profiling a whole company (account).
Therefore, to start off, you need to determine the common traits that make up the kind of organizations you wish to target. Some of the details you want to fill in include industry, location, size of the company, shareholding, profit margin and annual revenue. Note that when selecting accounts, you should prioritize those that will increase your monthly recurring revenue.
Defining strategic accounts is both a qualitative and quantitative process. Not only should you rely on the data you have at hand, but you should also talk to strategic partners or your fellow colleagues to learn from their experience. Employees in customer-facing roles are treasure troves of information because they work directly with the prospects you are targeting. Having their opinion to back up your data will lead to more accurate account profiling.

Step 2: Zero in On Targets and Decision Makers

After you understand the type of accounts you want to pursue, you need to find actual accounts that fit that criteria.
Reaching the right decision maker in your target companies is a prerequisite for closing leads. Yet, accessing a decision maker is the number one challenge faced by sales teams. (source: InsideSales)
Top Challenges faced by Sales reps
Figure 2: Accessing a decision maker is the greatest challenge faced by sales teams (source: inside sales via slideshare)
As such, within the companies you select, find out the names and designations of the main decision makers. As well, research how decisions are reached. The more you know about an organization, its stakeholders and how they reach decisions, the better strategies you can create for influencing those stakeholders.
Your CRM can give you a lot of information about your targets, but most of it will be identification information and buyer characteristics. Information from social media networks such as LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook will give you more personal insight into the decision makers you are targeting. For instance, their interests, values and personal thought (e.g in publications), people they interact with, and other areas of interest besides work.
LinkedIn for instance, has an advanced search option that allows you to search for people by defining a profile. E.g, industry, language, company, schools, interests, etcetera.

Step 3: Create Personalized Messaging

Once you have identified your target accounts, you can create content that directly speaks to them and addresses their pain points. Use a combination of text, video and imagery to keep your messaging engaging. If a specific account has a unique pain point, don’t be afraid to personalize the content just for them. Remember, in account-based marketing, your message must fit a specific client and what they want.
A 2016 survey by e marketer showed that marketers personalize content even at individual level. Only 8% of marketers said they used generic content for all outreach. (emarketer via Kapost)
While creating content, decide where and when in the sales funnel to use it.

Step 4: Choose Marketing Channels

Your account-based marketing program will not succeed if you don’t run your campaigns on the right channels. You should have already identified, at the profiling stage, the online channels most used by your targets and the kind of information they post, read, or view on those channels.
LinkedIn and Facebook are great platforms for targeting specific stakeholders or companies with a personalized campaign. For instance, when creating Facebook ads, you can use detailed targeting to refine the audience you want your ads to reach. You can apply filters such as interests, behavior, company, etcetera. If you want to reach people from a specific company, you can type in the name of that company.
LinkedIn also has an account targeting feature that you can leverage. We will not discuss it in this account-based marketing guide, but it would be worth your while to explore its features on the LinkedIn platform.

Step 5: Execute

Once you have your target accounts, personalized content and have identified the channels you will use for your ABM campaign, you can move to the execution phase.
As much as you want your targets to notice your message, you must avoid overwhelming them with too many messages. It’s even worse if they keep receiving the same message a couple of times a day. Exercise restraint when it comes to sending frequency because the last thing you want is your list of targets flagging your emails as spam.
If you’re sending the same content as a reminder, reword your message and make sure enough time has passed since you sent your last message. “Enough time” can vary from one target to the next; you can use the below example to benchmark what that means for your organization.
Figure 3: b2b and b2c email sending frequency. (image source: CoSchedule)

Step 6: Track and Tweak

Measure campaign performance on a monthly basis. After 2 to 3 months, evaluate your campaign strategy by asking the following questions:
  • What was the level of engagement for your personalized content?
  • Are there signs of improved engagement with your brand?
  • How far down the funnel is every lead you have engaged?
  • Have you signed up or closed any of the targeted accounts?
  • How much revenue has been generated?
  • What is the ROI of your campaign?
  • What areas could you work on to improve future performance?
All the members of your account-based marketing team should participate in this evaluation. If performance wasn’t as good the first time around, do not be discouraged. Instead, design solutions that will improve performance. And, always, remain accountable for good or bad results.

Final Words

There you have it! A 6-step account-based marketing guide to help you spear the big fish! If you aren’t currently using account-based marketing to grow your business, there is no time like the present. You can use this guide to get started but if you don’t have the skills, manpower or time, call us for an appointment.
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Gaurav Roy

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