Effectively managing an ABM program is key to its sustained success. An account-based strategy takes significant effort and collaboration between sales and marketing teams.
Wondering how to implement an effective ABM strategy? Take a look at these important considerations regarding management practices that will help drive the success of your program.
What is ABM Account Management?
ABM account management involves selecting, organizing, and maintaining accounts within an ABM program. Once accounts have been selected and mapped, sales and marketing teams can build their engagement strategy and ensure both sides maximize their alignment.
The fundamentals of ABM account management include:
- Defining ICP Accounts
- Ideal Customer Profile Tiering
- Selecting Target Accounts
- Identifying Buyer Roles and Decision Making
- Sales and Marketing Outreach
- Sales and Marketing Alignment (Account Reviews)
Identifying ICP Accounts
The process of selecting accounts should start with flagging accounts that align with your Ideal Customer Profile or ICP. An Ideal Customer Profile, commonly referred to as an ideal buyer profile, defines the perfect customer for what your organization solves for.
Developing an ICP starts with identifying the company or account characteristics, which will give you the best opportunity for success within the account. The following are common characteristics up for consideration:
- Company size in revenue
- Number of employees
Pulling together a list of companies based upon your ICP is relatively simple. Publicly available tools such as ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, Lead 411, or the HubSpot Prospect tool can help you efficiently build an account list. There is a long list of tools that should be considered when building an ABM tech stack. I will be addressing the ABM Tech Stack at an upcoming HubSpot conference and will write a new blog which addresses that in the coming weeks – subscribe to our blog to get those updates.
We typically recommend starting with an initial list of fewer than 500 ICP accounts. You can adjust this up or down depending on your organization's size and structure to ensure it aligns with your sales and marketing capabilities. In general, you should limit the number of accounts based on your ability to execute a highly targeted account experience during each step of the buyer's journey. The closer you get to account engagement, the more personalized the experience should get!
Ideal Customer Profile Tiering
Setting up a tiering structure will be essential to the prioritization of activities aimed at each account, including which are considered Target Accounts. Each organization will have different criteria for defining, for example, a Tier 1 vs. a non-tiered account. As a starting point, you can weigh based on the criteria used to define your ICP and apply that weighing to various accounts. An important principle is to ensure you have a repeatable process for how you tier accounts, as this is not a one-time event. Using HubSpot or other MAP workflows, you will set up the criteria for where an account falls within your Ideal Customer Profile tiers.
Consider the following model where the ICP is the base criteria. Each account tier and additional filters are added to further define the account at the higher tiers:
- Tier 5 – ICP
- Tier 4 – ICP + Revenue between X & X
- Tier 3 – ICP + Revenue between X & X, Number of employees X & X
- Tier 2 – ICP + Revenue between X & X, Number of employees is X & X, location is (…x,y,z)
- Tier 1 – ICP + Revenue between X & X, Number of employees is X & X, location is (…x,y,z), Technographics = Y
A working example of a Tier 3 account using the model above would be:
A dental supply company + Revenue between $5.0M and $20.0M + Employees between 25 and 100.
To maximize the effectiveness of the tiering workflow, you must have a good data source for the criteria used for tiering accounts. If your core data source does not have all of the data points, you should incorporate filling those gaps into your sales and marketing activities. Your front-line sales teams can be an excellent resource for gathering data aligned with the tiering model. Likewise, using the progressive profiling feature will enable the marketing teams to fill these data gaps when interacting with account prospects via form fills or bot engagement.
Solidifying your tiering process will ensure the ABM program has a solid foundation for surfacing and prioritizing accounts, which makes sales teams more efficient.
Selecting Target Accounts
With a fresh set of tier accounts, the Smarketing process of selecting target accounts can begin. I recommend a joint effort between sales and marketing to determine the process of choosing the target accounts. The general assumption is that target accounts will be selected from the top of your tiering ranks.
You’re likely have more accounts in the top tiers than you are ready to target. In this case, you can begin to apply qualitative reasoning to the selection process. You’ll want to consider existing or past relationships, market intelligence, digital activity, or other desktop research that leads you to believe the fit of an account makes it a better target. Target accounts will get heightened focus from the sales and marketing teams and should be reviewed with a normal cadence.
Identifying Buyer Profiles
Getting deeper into the people within a select account improves our ability to be most relevant when communicating (Inbound or Outbound) to someone working in a functional area. To this point, extending the account mapping exercise to the contact level using Buyer Roles with the HubSpot ABM software tools is a key activity.
Like account mapping, there are many tools in the marketplace which can expedite the process of identifying contacts within your target accounts and provide an organizational chart view which can increase clarity into how decisions are made and how the sales and marketing organization is structured.
Two of the more popular tools that specifically provide organizational charts are OrgChartHub and ZoomInfo. While both provide a visual representation of an org chart, they couldn’t be more different:
- OrgChartHub provides tight integration to HubSpot (Hence the name) and allows Smarketing teams to build out and organizational chart based their combine account intelligence over time.
- For those looking to short circuit the process and have additional budget at their disposal, ZoomInfo will provide you the visual organizational chart within their platform and have all the contacts prepopulated along with their contact information.
Sales and Marketing Outreach
Once you finish all of the foundational work, the fun and excitement of engaging your target accounts can begin. There is no single approach to making magic with an ABM engagement strategy. Factors such as budget, team skills, technology stack, and data quality (to name a few) will greatly impact which tools you should mobilize.
If you are starting with a list that is cold, a good way to break the ice would be to warm them up using ABM display advertising. Engaging in account-based advertising is a strategy within itself. Much how Facebook has made promoting a post or launching an ad campaign accessible for the novice marketer, tools like LinkedIn have done the same for marketers targeting the business community. As a word of caution: please approach ABM, as well as any type of digital advertising, with care and consult a professional who is skilled in the full advertising lifecycle.
During the outreach process, be intentional about:
- Segmentation of the target accounts
- Landing page optimization
- Offer creation
- Marketing automation
Integrating other marketing activities into ABM campaigns is an imperative aspect of educating your contacts within your target accounts to nurture them while the sales team brings them through the pipeline.
Sales and Marketing Alignment (Account Reviews)
Sales and Marketing are like a married couple that must continue to work on their marriage to keep pace with the changes life may throw. Specific to ABM, it is important that sales and marketing teams meet on a regular basis to discuss progress within the target accounts and potential next steps.
An unfortunate reality is that after working some accounts, they may fall out of your target tier and new ones need to be considered. This is a common reality of the marketing lifecycle and should be embraced so that you do not spend unproductive time on a target account once there is a realization that the target is not within reach. To ensure you’re not chasing the wrong accounts, establish a criteria for when a target account loses its target designation so that it can be moved into a different tier or taken out of the pipeline.
Every ABM strategy is unique to the needs of the business implementing it; take time and care when developing your ABM program. Be sure to document key decision and tactics so they can be shared as the team expands and changes. It will only be a matter of time until changes arise, so it’s important to keep a good log of the changes and the before and after effects to scale your ABM efforts.
Out of all management practices, effective communication and mutual accountability between the sales and marketing team is essential for the success of any ABM program.