Before executing any kind of campaign, taking the time to develop a strategy is crucial.
For account based marketing (or ABM), this is especially true.
The reason for this is that ABM is a highly tailored approach, targeting specific organizations and the key stakeholders within them.
That’s what makes it such a high ROI activity. And it’s also why knowing the right steps to take is key to executing it successfully.
Having recently looked at some of the leading ABM tools on the market, and why ABM is unparalleled in the financial markets, we thought we should now take a closer look at the strategic precursors to executing a successful ABM strategy.
So without further ado, here are 3 key steps to executing a winning ABM strategy.
1. Create an Ideal Customer Profile
An ideal customer profile is a detailed description of a theoretical prospective client, whose needs or objectives make them a perfect match for your services.
Unlike a marketing buyer persona, the purpose is not to build a picture of a particular individual (ie Sales Team Sally or Business Owner Brian), but of an organization.
So, how should you go about creating an ideal customer profile?
It’s simple—take a good hard look at your previous or existing customers, and think about which ones have been the best.
- Which ones have benefitted the most from your product or service?
- Which ones have spent the most money?
- Which ones have been the most satisfied with your service?
- Which ones have been with you the longest?
Once you’ve identified the answers to these questions, think about what these organizations have in common, and what made them such a perfect buyer for your product or service.
These common traits can be a combination of both permanent and situational factors—from the size and structure of their business, to whether they have just secured some funding, or implemented new technology.
This exercise is best performed in partnership with your other teams—there is sure to be some light that your finance department or sales team can shed on your best customers.
Remember, ABM is about precision, so the more detail and specificity in your profile, the better.
But bear in mind, with customer needs and business dynamics constantly evolving, your ideal customer profile will always be a work in progress, so be sure to update it regularly.
2. Map out your customer journey (with “trigger events”)
As is the case with any good sales and marketing plan, an ABM strategy requires you to map out your typical customer journey.
That way you can bide your time and ensure your tailored marketing messages are as relevant as possible, and speak to their exact needs and motivations in that moment.
Above we mentioned noting situational factors that influenced your ideal customer’s buying decision—such as securing some new funds, or hiring someone new to fill a brand new job role in their organization.
As well as using these details to inform your ideal customer profile, you can also use them to plot out the beginning stages of your customer journey.
These are often referred to as “trigger events”, as they trigger a change in the situation of your target account, or of your relationship with them.
While the first trigger events on your customer journey should start way before your target account has connected with you, once you start targeting them with different resources and messages, these trigger events can be directly guided by your interactions.
For every trigger event, have a pre-planned response in place.
Just finished an intro call? Email them links to some insightful content.
If they’ve registered interest in an event (virtual or live) where you’re hiring a booth or have a slot in a digital meeting or conference, arrange some tickets for them and their team.
And if you have enough original branded content to hand, assigning a different asset to each stage of the customer journey can be a big help.
For those earlier trigger events, we recommend keeping an eye on key industry publications, press releases, social media activity, and other public communications.
Once they start interacting with your business, it’s best to have a good customer data platform or CRM system in place.
These technologies can help you find out who the decision makers are at your target account company, at what times they are most contactable, which communications channels they prefer, how they have previously interacted with you, and so on.
This will dramatically streamline and automate your process, and will make everything you do more accurate and effective.
3. Rank and score your accounts
A big part of ABM strategy success is focusing your time and efforts in the right places, by asking the question who is my best customer at this moment in time?
The best way to answer this overhanging question is to rank and score the various accounts you are targeting, in terms of how “sales-ready” they are.
To develop an effective scoring system, you need to build a picture of what a sales ready target account looks like, and what their typical level of engagement is before they are ready to buy.
As with the ideal customer profile, we recommend taking an evidence-based approach here, and using previous customer wins as your reference point.
Then, using the trigger events from your customer journey map, assign an appropriate points score to each, depending on the level of engagement involved.
So for example, responding to your latest email might be worth 5 points, while requesting a demo could be worth 50.
One big thing to remember here is why you are scoring your accounts. Ultimately, it is to increase the success and productivity of your sales team, by helping them to act at the opportune moment.
So don’t treat this as a box-ticking exercise, it needs to be genuinely helpful and insightful, and the scores you create should be drawn from authentic past experiences of converting customers after specific interactions.
Once your sales or customer relationship team knows that the time is right and the contact or account in question is engaged, then it’s time to set the play in motion, and kickstart the process of closing the deal.
4. Ongoing refinement
Like all marketing activity, account based marketing should be an ongoing process, that you continually refine based on the latest evidence.
Statistics actually show that the longer ABM is in use, the more marketers benefit from a more “full-funnel impact”– 43 percent of those that apply ABM for three or more years report that it impacts the entire funnel.
The key is to start with your best and most engaged contacts, and build out your ABM strategy with them.
Then the more you grow, the more you can test it, adapt it, and improve it with each new opportunity that comes your way.
Want to find out more? We can help you put the perfect ABM strategy in place.