Leading the ABM Revolution: 3 Advanced Tactics for a World-Class ABM Program

February 8, 2019

You’ve heard the hype: Account Based Marketing (ABM) is red hot. I don’t think it’s fair to call ABM “the next big thing in B2B marketing” because it is currently the big thing!

Here’s what we do know – the ABM landscape is changing and evolving faster than ever before. A little over 3 years ago, we published one of the industry’s first comprehensive guides to ABM. Here we are 3 years later, and we’ve learned an extraordinary amount. So much so that we had to write a new Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing. With over 70% new content and over 170 pages, these are the latest and greatest ABM best practices.

Over a 3-year span, we’ve noticed three key insights around executing ABM in organizations.

3 Lessons From the Front Lines of Account Based Marketing

1. You must establish “Account Entitlements” before selecting and tiering your target accounts

Account Entitlements answer the question, “What is the right amount of time and energy I should dedicate to each account?” If you’ve adopted a 3-tiered approach to scale ABM like many organizations, you’ll need to distinguish the different resources you’re able to dedicate to each tier.

You pay a certain price to open doors and close deals an account. Whether it’s with time or money, both are a limited resource, which means you must be judicious with how they’re spent.

If you spend all of your time on personalizing your interactions for your Tier 1 accounts, you’re left with no other choice than to automate interactions for your Tier 2 and Tier 3 accounts. In other words, you spam those accounts, which breaks the rules of ABM. In the same vein, if you spend all of your ABM budget on elaborate direct mail and costly ads to your Tier 1 target accounts, you lack channel diversity, and you’re left with only the traditional channels of phone and email for Tier 2 and 3. This, again, breaks the rules of ABM.

In order to select your target accounts and split them up into their appropriate tiers, you must split your time and budget up appropriately across all 3 tiers.

The most important takeaway is if you’ve allocated all of your time and resources but the numbers don’t add up (i.e., there are more target accounts than your resources allow for) it’s OK to cut back the number of target accounts.

Establishing your Account Entitlement will require multiple sessions with your sales and marketing leadership to get it right. It’s a fine balancing act that requires a lot of tinkering and adjusting.

Here’s an example (albeit an extremely simplified example) of what entitlement could look like:

2. ABM is the perfect strategy for upselling and cross-selling

After closing a deal, the relationship with the customer doesn’t end. In true enterprise deals, up to 70% of revenue or more can come from existing accounts when you’re focused on selling enterprise deals. Some people call this a land-and-expand strategy, some call it upselling and cross-selling, while yet others call it expansion. But know that whatever you call it, it works!

For those who need a quick refresher on the difference between upselling and cross-selling, here it is:

  • What is upselling? Upselling is a sales strategy to get customers to increase spending by offering more or better versions of your product. Think, “Would you like to supersize that?”
  • What is cross-selling? Cross-selling is a strategy to get customers to increase spending by offering them products that are complementary to something they’ve just bought. Think, “Would you like fries with that?”

When adding customer expansion to the mix, as a savvy marketer, I’m sure you know that we also have to build that into our funnel. However, our funnel won’t look much like a funnel anymore, but rather a bow-tie. ABM focuses on existing customer success and expansion just as much as, if not more than, new customer acquisition.

3. The secret weapon for ABM alignment is the Sales and Marketing Standup

Stand-up meetings are common in the world of agile software development. Developers use them to tackle common roadblocks, ensure they’re on the same page and coordinate efforts in coding and engineering.

One of the easiest and most impactful processes you can implement to drive your ABM program and improve alignment is to implement regular sales and marketing stand-ups. In these standups, every week or two, the Account Based Marketer meets 1:1 with each Account Executive and Sales Development Rep for 5-10 minutes to share updates, discuss how they are jointly going after accounts, and agree on go forward actions.

Topics include:

  1. Progress made since last stand-up
    1. Who did you talk to?
    2. What did you learn?
  2. Plan going forward
    1. Focus on the top 3-5 target accounts to penetrate, and two opportunities to accelerate.
    2. What actions will Marketing take? The AE? ADR?
  3. Blockages

One helpful resource is for Marketing to bring an ‘action menu,’ a collection of possible ABM plays that will keep progress moving forward with target accounts. These can be simple, like a welcome package for new executive hires, or more sophisticated, like a multi-channel outreach play to follow-up with key attendees from a recent tradeshow.

In addition to the regular stand-up meeting, it’s also useful to hold monthly ABM ‘win rooms’ to review metrics and set actions across the entire program, and Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) to assess the entire program, consider changes to the account list, dive into metrics, and so on. These should involve leadership from both marketing and sales teams.

An idea whose time has come

Winning major deals in B2B markets is never going to be easy – you’re selling complex solutions into big organizations. No single person can simply pull the trigger on a deal without consulting an interconnected matrix of people, each with his or her own perspectives, problems and prejudices.

But now, you can take concrete, measurable steps that dramatically increase your chances of winning the biggest, most attractive deals in your market.

Marketing Leader

Jon is a marketing entrepreneur and thought leader. He is currently Chief Evangelist of Demandbase. He previously co-founded Engagio, acquired by Demandbase, and Marketo (Nasdaq:MKTO), a leader in marketing automation.