Introduction

Account-based marketing (ABM) isn’t a new concept in B2B. So why are marketers still debating the ABCs of ABM?

There are two main reasons:

  1. No two ABM programs look alike. ABM is a targeted approach to B2B marketing and sales, meaning most programs are highly customized.
  2. We’re always tinkering. ABM isn’t a “one-and-done” B2B marketing and sales strategy. It requires constant experimentation and upkeep around target lists, outreach, messaging, and more.

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For both these reasons, the hunger for quality, best-practice ABM content hasn’t died down. And it probably never will.

That’s what brought you here. You want to understand what it takes to build, maintain, and grow a successful ABM program.

In this guide, you’ll find the tactical steps for doing just that. To start, we’ll look at how ABM rose to popularity and why ABM programs should run in unison with your other digital marketing efforts.

After that, we’ll dive into everything you need to know to build and run a successful ABM campaign, provide examples of ABM plays we love, and then show you how to personalize your own digital experience for ABM.

 

The Evolution of ABM

ABM has adapted and changed based on two key shifts: emerging technologies and buyer behavior. As a result, the ABM of even just five years ago does not look the same as the ABM you know and love today.

Learn what’s changed, where ABM is going, and why ABM – on its own – isn’t enough.

Why Modern B2B Companies Need ABM

Account-based marketing came into its own over the last decade.

In the early 2000s, companies saw inbound marketing as the be-all-end-all for demand generation. Marketers would cast wide nets to capture as many leads as possible. As far as marketers were concerned, the more traffic they could send to their sites – the more leads they could generate – the better. But there are three major problems with this “inbound-only approach”:

  • It isn’t targeted: The broad, wait-and-see aspect of inbound doesn’t consistently attract the right ideal customer profiles (ICP), meaning lead quality can suffer in the pursuit of lead volume.
  • It isn’t sales-friendly: You could write a whole book on the issues blocking marketing and sales alignment (in fact, we did). One answer you’ll get is lead quality. Inbound is open to all, meaning marketers need finely-tuned lead scoring and routing to make sure the right leads get to the right reps.
  • It doesn’t match buyer expectations: A “one-size-fits-all” approach to marketing isn’t as successful as it used to be. Buyers no longer distinguish between their highly customized B2C experiences and their B2B vendor relationships.

For all these reasons, many marketing teams have pivoted to an account-based marketing strategy.

ABM is B2B’s answer to inbound, in that it addresses the multiple stakeholders and people who make up a client account.

ABM also flips traditional inbound marketing on its head, using a spear vs. a net approach to marketing – from the tactics you use to the content you create.

With ABM you’re identifying opportunities right from the beginning, and going after target companies with personalized content and messaging.

But here’s the catch: Marketers are still responsible for lead volume, and making sure there’s a steady flow of leads in their funnel. Inbound and digital marketing are still an important part of generating lead volume. Inbound should still be used as well to feed your ABM funnel. Because if an inbound lead ends up being part of a target account, ABM can pick up right where inbound leaves off.

So while ABM is a fantastic answer for high-quality lead generation, it isn’t enough.

That might seem crazy to read in a book about ABM, but it’s true – and it’s important in understanding how you should approach ABM in the first place.

ABM & Digital Marketing: Why You Need Both

ABM is no longer an either/or decision. For modern B2B marketing and sales teams to succeed, they need an all-encompassing approach to their demand gen funnel. One that addresses both quality and volume.

ABM solves for quality. To solve for volume, marketers need a digital marketing strategy that runs on top of targeted ABM campaigns.

That’s why we use a double funnel approach at Drift. Originally developed by TOPO, the double funnel splits the marketing funnel into account-based and volume-based.

The account-based funnel is made up of:

  • ABM target accounts: Accounts identified within our ICP as the most likely to benefit from Drift/your company.
  • White glove accounts: A further segmented list of high-value target accounts.

The volume funnel is the always-on digital marketing funnel focused on everything else.

Now, this doesn’t mean we aren’t using digital marketing tactics as part of our ABM program.

The volume funnel is the air coverage running in the background, introducing a steady flow of net new leads. We’re still nurturing those leads so they become opportunities.

For your company to scale and grow, implementing an approach like this becomes necessary for supporting that growth. You can give more energy to ABM when you still have other campaigns running to support lead volume.

For the remainder of this book, we’ll cover the fundamentals and best practices for running the ABM part of this double funnel. We’ll also include steps for optimizing your funnel and personalizing digital experiences for ABM.

Creating a Best-in-Class ABM Strategy

ABM is a major change management exercise. Approaching it as anything but a robust change management exercise is a quick path to failure.

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely either:

  • Launching an ABM program for the first time
  • Trying to improve the ABM program you already have

In both cases, this chapter will teach you how to create a best-in-class ABM program for your company. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Define your program’s goals and objectives
  • Choose what type of ABM is right for you
  • Develop a partnership with sales leaders, and get buy-in from key influencers
  • Identify target accounts and personas
  • Build a high-performance ABM team

Define Your Goals, Objectives & Metrics

Marketing, in order to be successful, needs to continuously reaffirm its goals and value.

As one of the largest expenditures in a business, marketing teams are under ever-increasing scrutiny to prove ROI. And there’s no question: ABM comes at an expense. An expense in time, resources, headcount, and budget.

Drift, alongside other companies, partnered with Engagio for its 2020 Account-Based Engagement Market Research Study. This research found that ABM program budgets have increased by 40% year-over-year. Meaning companies are seeing the benefits and impact ABM is having on their bottom line. On the flip side, it puts greater pressure on ABM marketers to make the most of this investment.

If you’re launching or relaunching an internal ABM program, the first thing you need to do is agree on the goals and objectives of your ABM program with stakeholders.

You can start with an overarching objective, and then include a number of KPIs/benchmarks to measure your success against.

Let’s look at an example:

ABM Program Objectives

Increase engagement and pipeline in our targeted, white-glove accounts by partnering with sales and delivering high-value campaigns to the segment most likely to close.

Once your objectives are nailed down, create a list of KPIs you plan to track and the goals for those KPIs.

This will also help you determine which metrics to keep tabs on. These metrics include:

  • Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQAs) by month
  • High intent MQAs by month
  • Secondary metrics:
    • Increase in senior executive engagement
    • Increase account engagement (MQAs)
    • Increase in average deal size
    • Reduce the length of the sales cycle

Engagio’s Account-Based Engagement Market Research Study found that measuring ABM ROI remains one of the greatest challenges for marketers. MQLs were the second most commonly tracked metric. But only 29% of companies were able to measure MQAs. What’s worse? 57% of those surveyed haven’t been able to measure the impact of their ABM program.

Being able to tie your ABM program back to revenue is the single most important factor to ensure long-term buy-in. To do this, you need to be able to track your campaign effectiveness. We’ll dig into this a bit later.

Once you’ve identified your goals and objectives, you’ll want to cozy up to sales.

ABM Metrics & Terms to Master

Marketers love their acronyms and terms. Let’s quickly review some key terms you should know and master as an ABM marketer. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does hit on the essentials:

  • Key accounts: Key accounts are customer accounts crucial to a company’s success. One common definition we’ve seen: Key accounts are the 20% of customers who make up 80% of a company’s overall business.
  • Marketing-qualified account (MQA): This is the ABM equivalent of a marketing-qualified lead (MQL). An MQA is a sales-ready target account. They earned that status through a certain amount of engagement which increased their account score.
  • Account scoring: Account scoring uses data like intent data, third-party data, firmographic, lead activity, and more to score accounts.
  • Coverage: Coverage refers to how much you know about a given account. For example, how many relevant contacts have you identified from that account? How much relevant information have you gathered? Coverage measures the completeness of the research you’ve done.
  • Ideal customer profile (ICP): We suspect you’re already familiar with this term. So here’s a quick refresher: ICP defines the characteristics of an ideal customer account (those most likely to buy), using firmographic data, technographic data, and sometimes predictive analytics.
  • Land and expand: A customer relationship doesn’t end after the initial sale. While traditionally sales teams have been laser-focused on generating new business, the land and expand model places a stronger emphasis on upselling and cross-selling existing accounts.

The Three Types of ABM

ITSMA, a well-known thought leader in the ABM world, wanted to help marketers find a better way to define the scope and scale of their ABM programs.

They landed on three distinct types of ABM. Each takes a different approach to the coverage and activities for new and existing accounts, and each requires a certain level of investment:

This image gives you a sense of the types of tactics, channels, and offers under these ABM approaches.

Here’s a breakdown of what these entail:

  • One-to-One ABM: This ABM strategy is as granular as it gets. Marketing and sales use highly customized campaigns for a small number of individual accounts. According to ITSMA’s recent benchmark report, the mean account coverage at this level is around 15.
  • One-to-Few ABM: At this level, marketing works with sales to focus on account clusters that have similar “attributes” like industries, pain points, etc. The mean account coverage here is around 36.
  • One-to-Many ABM: This has the largest scope of all (a mean of 900 accounts). With this approach, marketing and sales create larger account lists and scale their campaigns using martech to personalize outreach.

As more marketers rely on digital to break through the noise, personalized ABM becomes even more important. So personalization should play a role in each ABM approach – regardless of the size and scope.

Emma Chalwin, Salesforce’s SVP of American Marketing, shared this insight into the current state of demand generation in an interview with DemandGen Report:

Which approach you choose depends on your available resources. You can also employ multiple approaches for larger target account lists (one-to-many) and more white-glove target accounts (one-to-few). A more layered approach like this is ideal if you’re trying to break into the enterprise, but still actively selling to SMB accounts.

Get Buy-in From Sales & Your Company

It might be called “account-based marketing” but ABM is really an account-based strategy. And that strategy hinges on aligning and partnering with sales.

Sales and sales development reps (SDRs) are key players in the campaigns you run. When launching an ABM campaign, you should work with sales to determine:

  • Who: How many personas sales should reach out to for each account
  • How: The messaging for the personas in these accounts
  • When: When sales should reach out

To do this, you’ll want to take the steps to partner with your company’s sales leaders. You’re much more likely to get company buy-in when you stand side-by-side with sales.

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While the roles of each team differ, their goal is ultimately the same in the eyes of the c-suite: to generate revenue.

Once you get buy-in from the sales team, start identifying the leaders, executive sponsors, and stakeholders you need to get the company on board with ABM. Engagio’s ABM benchmark report found that the three top challenges for companies in the early stages of ABM maturity include:

  1. Budget restrictions
  2. Lack of ability to execute
  3. Lack of appropriate tech or tools

The stakeholders you want buy-in from are your “ABM gatekeepers.” They impact the budget, operations, and logistics of your ABM program. They may not make up your “core ABM team” (more on that next), but they will help ensure the program’s success. Beyond your Head of ABM, these roles include:

  • C-Suite or executive sponsor: You should have someone at the top championing your program. Preferably this sponsor is familiar with ABM and offers guidance on how to best execute your strategy.
  • CMO/Head of Marketing: If you’re not the top marketing leader at your company, be sure whoever is has sign-off beforehand. This person should be separate from the other c-suite/executive gatekeeper. You don’t want the program launch to live in a marketing echo chamber.
  • Marketing/sales ops leaders: Repeat after us “ABM must be embedded into the martech strategy.” Say it. Meditate on it. Live it. Okay, joking aside, marketing operations and sales operations are key players in making your ABM dreams a reality. They’ll help identify and implement the best tech to run ABM and help choose the ideal target accounts – based on data not opinions.
  • Sales leaders: At this point, you should have a strong partnership with sales. In an even more perfect world, sales should be up there presenting with you.
  • SDR leaders: Depending on the structure of your company, SDRs may sit in marketing OR sales. If they sit in marketing, this person is probably a VP of Demand Gen or a dedicated SDR leader. SDRs are critical to ABM’s success. The leader you bring to this meeting should be able to comfortably communicate outcomes to their team.

Once you’ve identified these gatekeepers, you’ll want to get them together and present your ABM strategy. In this meeting, you should discuss:

  • Program objectives and roadmaps for success
  • Goals and KPIs your program will be measured on
  • Initial campaigns you’ll be running
  • People involved in running your ABM campaigns
  • Expected investments

Select Your Target Accounts

Engagio’s research found that companies with the highest ABM ROI had around 11-50 target accounts assigned to each rep. This is a good reference when identifying and segmenting your own target accounts. Though the exact number will depend on the size and scope of your sales/SDR team.

Sales will have insight into the past history of some target accounts and should provide suggestions on which accounts to include.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing your target accounts:

  • ICP: Even if you’re just starting out in ABM, you’ll most likely have some ideal customer profile (ICP) in place. ICP becomes even more important when talking about ABM, as you want to give sales the accounts that are the most likely to close.
  • Product fit: Outside of traditional ICP, you can also look at companies that are a good fit for your solution. It’s possible these companies fall outside the industries you’d normally entertain. But if the sale is a no-brainer and the business case is strong, there’s good reason to include them on your list.
  • Data-driven: Data is your best friend when considering which accounts to target. And there are a few types of data you should look at:
    • CRM data: Take a look at the historical data within accounts in your CRM. Which companies did you have deals with in the past? Is now a better time to engage with them? What amount of insight do you have that can streamline the sales process now?
    • Engagement data: If you find contacts under good-fit accounts with high engagement, there’s a good chance these accounts will respond well to personalized ABM.
    • Third-party intent data: To paint a broad-strokes picture of an account, it’s helpful to look into third-party intent data. This is any data from sources outside your company channels.
  • Deal size/Big names: Who are your bucket list accounts? What accounts introduce large deal sizes into the mix?

Once you have your target accounts in place, consider how to segment this list and make it more manageable when you roll it out to sales. We already mentioned that creating a tiered target account list is a good practice for adding a more white-glove service and segmented approach to ABM.

Depending on the makeup of your sales teams (i.e., if they are organized by territory, product, business unit, etc.), there are a few different ways you could look at segmenting. Other ways to segment include industry, sales stage, territory, revenue range, etc.

Go Further

If you’re looking for more tactical guidance and systems insight into how to best segment your target account list, check out The Guide to Conversational ABM from Drift and Demandbase.

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Build Your In-House ABM Team

ABM is a company-wide effort. Marketing, sales, and operations all play a big role in its success. And given many ABM campaigns are multi-channel, you’ll also need to coordinate with different channel owners.

What your ABM team looks like may not mirror the examples we use here. That said, as your program grows, have these roles in the back of your mind for the future.

Here we see an example ABM team. At the center, we have our Head of ABM.

Not all of these titles necessarily live in marketing. But, to have a truly multi-channel campaign, you need people who can own both online and offline channels.

Let’s dive into each of these roles:

Head of Account-Based Marketing

Companies with the strongest ABM ROI are three times more likely to have a dedicated head of ABM, according to Engagio’s 2020 Account-Based Engagement Market Research Study.

Ultimately, depending on the size of your organization and marketing team, this might not be possible right away. However, once you reach a certain size, 20-50 marketers, we highly suggest including a dedicated role.

What’s important now is that there’s a clear, directly responsible individual (DRI) overseeing your ABM program and reporting on the results to leadership.

Here are the responsibilities of the ABM program leader:

  • Helps to manage the demand generation funnel and pipeline goals
  • Spearheads all initiatives for the ABM program
  • Tracks performance/metrics to communicate wins and misses
  • Works with operations to ensure technology infrastructure is optimized
  • Works with sales to communicate the message and focus on target accounts
  • Works with other marketing leaders to embed ABM across channels

Integrated Campaigns Manager

Integrated marketing campaigns are crucial to modern marketing departments looking to integrate all their teams’ efforts towards the same shared activities. Integrated marketing campaigns are made up of quarter-long programs, with individual campaigns and offers under each.

An integrated campaign manager helps run the quarterly campaigns and ABM components of a marketing team. They work across marketing, sales, creative, and operations to ensure all offers and channels are aligned, analyzed, and optimized.

Here are the responsibilities that fall under this role:

  • Plans and manages quarterly campaigns and ABM elements
  • Coordinates with members of the marketing and sales team
  • Supports ABM initiatives across email and other digital channels
  • Enables the sales team with marketing content and messaging
  • Analyzes campaign results in detail, draws insights, and makes data-based adjustments to improve performance and key learnings

Head of Digital/Digital Marketing Manager

Given the number of channels marketers have at their disposal, the role of the digital marketer becomes even more crucial.

Besides running the volume side of the double funnel, a digital marketer’s responsibilities often overlap with the needs of an ABM program.

Digital marketers are responsible for paid and organic traffic. Aligning your ABM and digital marketing strategy is how companies can tactically approach both online and offline ABM activities. That’s what makes this role so valuable.

Here are the responsibilities that fall under this role:

  • Runs the predictable volume funnel and digital marketing efforts
  • Helps to manage the demand generation funnel and pipeline goals
  • Responsible for overall web experience and best practice use of marketing channels
  • Leads digital advertising initiatives to support integrated marketing campaigns
  • Identifies channel opportunities and offer performance within those channels

SDRs

In an ABM benchmark report from TOPO, 88% of survey respondents said SDR outreach was the most important ABM channel they have.

In some cases, SDRs might sit in a marketing department, often managed by a demand generation leader or dedicated SDR manager. Regardless of whether or not this is the case, SDRs are star players on any ABM team.

SDRs help support campaigns with personalized and specific outreach to contacts in target accounts. They also lead campaign follow-up and connect account executives (AEs) with target accounts.

Here are the responsibilities that fall under this role:

  • Qualifies leads in marketing campaigns as sales opportunities
  • Manages post-ABM campaign follow-up activities
  • Conducts outreach to target accounts through cold calls and emails
  • Sources new contacts under target accounts
  • Identifies buyers needs and pain points and offers solutions
  • Sets up meetings or calls between buyers and AEs

Field Marketers

When it comes to events, field marketers can be a real gamechanger. While 2020 dealt a blow to conventional conferences and in-person events, field marketers proved their value, no matter the circumstance, with virtual events.

Here are the responsibilities that fall under this role:

  • Identifies event opportunities frequented by target accounts
  • Executes third-party events and campaigns, giving brands greater visibility
  • Creates ancillary and unique event experiences for white-glove ABM accounts
  • Manage operations on the ground between potential customers and salespeople
  • Supports pre-event strategy and roll-out
  • Boosts event engagement to facilitate more sales conversations
  • Runs a post-event follow-up strategy alongside marketing and sales

Content Creators/Managers

Having a content machine in place to support ABM is important to delivering collateral at scale. Luckily, even small marketing teams often have content marketers in some capacity on their staff.

The challenge with ABM content comes down to the amount of personalization involved in an offer. Outside of larger offers, content managers play more of a consultative role on messaging and collateral for ABM campaigns.

Here are the responsibilities that fall under this role:

  • Creates large content offers that support ABM and integrated marketing campaigns
  • Develops content strategies for campaigns
  • Consults on campaign offers including email, direct mail, event collateral, and more

Marketing Operations

Want to track the ROI of your ABM campaign? Need systems in place to ensure the right accounts are distributed to the right reps? Then you need ops.

A good martech stack is essential to a well-oiled marketing machine. Meaning there’s a greater demand for technical expertise than ever before. Marketing operations links together the systems and people that make your ABM campaign tick.

Here are the responsibilities that fall under this role in an ABM program:

  • Sets up the account scoring and routing rules
  • Tags target accounts in your CRM
  • Enrolls contacts from target accounts into campaigns
  • Helps report on campaign performance

The Recap

Too many ABM programs fail to launch because of poor change management at the top. Don’t let that happen to you.

Before we dive into the steps for running a multi-channel ABM campaign, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • There are three types of ABM. The approach you choose indicates the level of personalization and channels you’ll be using. Make sure you pick an option that is scalable for your team.
  • ABM is a major change management exercise that involves multiple stakeholders. Understand what those stakeholders want and be able to measure and track the success of your program.
  • Choosing target accounts isn’t all about ICP. Consider factors like product fit, deal size, as well as engagement data. And, of course, get sales’ opinion.
  • Sales is integral to ABM’s success. Since that’s the case, you must consider them equal partners in your program.
  • Once you have a partnership with sales, you need to sell ABM internally. Set up a meeting with decision-makers. Communicate what you’re trying to accomplish and what, if anything, you need from the people attending.
  • No one ABM team looks the same. But there are some key roles you might consider adding over time. This chapter offered a roadmap of what those roles could look like.

Running a Successful Multi-Channel ABM Campaign

You have your gameplan and your team in place.

Now you need to piece together what your ABM campaigns will look like – from your preferred ABM approach to the channels and offers in your campaigns.

To help, in this chapter, we’ll walk through how to:

  • Determine the channels and potential offers to support your campaigns
  • Align with sales and develop follow-up SLAs
  • Pick the right tools to support your ABM efforts
  • Track the ROI of your ABM and marketing activities

But, before we get into all that, let’s define what a great ABM campaign actually looks like.

What Makes an ABM Campaign “Great”?

The answer to this question appears, at first, annoyingly simple: The best ABM campaigns are the ones that close business.

But if you approach your ABM campaign with this mentality in mind, you aren’t likely to get the results you’re looking for.

At Drift, we rely on our leadership principles to help us make decisions. One of those principles is “put the customer at the center of everything you do.”

Great ABM campaigns follow the same idea.

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Meaning great ABM campaigns should be:

  • Highly personalized to the contacts under an account
  • Considerate of the buyer’s journey including engagement and intent
  • Hyper-focused on a buyer’s pain points
  • Actionable and valuable to the buyer
  • A conversation starter – i.e., provoke some kind of response
  • A seamless experience from start to finish

In the remainder of this chapter, you’ll learn what it takes to ensure your ABM campaigns check all the boxes.

Choose Your ABM Channels & Offers

It’s now time to start designing what your campaigns will actually look like – i.e., the offers and channels you’ll be using to reach and engage with your target audience.

Earlier we shared a breakdown of the three ABM approaches, with a snapshot of some channels and content that would fall under each. The image below takes this one step further. This time we’ve also included a column for “volume.” As a reminder, you should be running always-on campaigns alongside your ABM program.

To the right of Volume column, we’ve split ABM campaigns into two: a one-to-many approach for most of the selected target accounts, and a one-to-one approach for the top white-glove accounts:

A survey from DemandGen Report found that 48% of buyers engage with three to five pieces of content before talking with a salesperson. So it’s not realistic for you to create new content for each campaign. The purpose of adding the Volume column is to show how the level of personalized content increases with ABM. It also shows that you don’t need to create ABM content from scratch.

The best ABM content marketing approach leans on existing content first and adds personalization on top of it. For example, you take a book that already exists and customize it for target accounts:

To assess what content you’ll need to create for each campaign, follow these steps:

  1. Do a full content audit. This audit looks for topics and messaging most relevant to the personas in the target account. Content isn’t just blogs and eBooks. Take a look at landing pages, decks, videos, past webinars, and email nurture tracks too.
  2. Identify topical gaps with sales. Once you’ve laid out the content, come up with two to three new offers to support any topical or persona gaps.
  3. Map how and where the content will be used. Get a good idea where in the buyer’s journey this content fits (awareness, consideration, decision), how you’ll deliver this content, and what level of personalization you’ll use.

Certain channels may also be reserved solely for top tier accounts. Like, for example, outbound or direct mail campaigns.

You should try a mix of channels for each campaign offer, focusing on the channels most relevant to your target buyers. That said, trends have shown that digital is your best and most direct line to customers. According to Forrester, “65% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct their purchase research online rather than work with a salesperson” in their journey.

Again, this shows just how important personalizing your ABM campaigns is to closing pipeline.

We’ll walk through how you can create a highly personalized digital experience for your ABM campaigns in the last chapter of this book.

Align with Sales & Develop Follow-up SLAs

Once you know which channels and offers to use, you’ll want to align with sales to ensure everyone agrees on campaign activities, performance tracking, and desired outcomes.

To streamline campaign alignment:

  • Create a communication strategy that embeds ABM into meeting cadence
  • Keep activities and messaging transparent
  • Identify and establish clear SLAs

The next few sections will dig into each of these strategies further:

Create a Communication Strategy

To keep both teams on the same page, start by establishing a communication strategy that includes weekly, monthly, and quarterly check-ins and reviews.

To embed ABM more into the marketing and sales routine, we highly suggest tying ABM communication to your sales and marketing meetings that already exist. Most likely both departments have weekly stand-ups, as well as quarterly brainstorming, already in place. Work with executive sponsors to add ABM strategy discussions into these meetings.

These meetings should include:

  • Weekly check-ins: Invite members from both marketing and sales involved in the current ABM program. Use this time to update sales on upcoming ABM offers, and brainstorm strategies for follow-up across both teams.
  • Monthly updates: End-of-month meetings should be about results and progress. These meetings should have at least one key stakeholder. Use this time to discuss what did or didn’t work on the marketing and sales sides. Communicate any wins.
  • Quarterly campaign reviews: We run quarterly integrated marketing campaigns at Drift. Towards the end of the quarter, we meet and strategize for the next. Take the same approach with your ABM program. Invite the stakeholders who may be needed to approve budget and resources. Take a deep look at the activities in each account. Revisit personas and target accounts.

Keep Activities & Messaging Transparent

In addition to partnering on strategy and communication, technology can also bring more visibility to both teams. Marketers should be able to see the different activities sales are taking in your respective CRM – chat, calls, etc. Sales should also be able to see the activities (direct mail, email, etc.) marketing is using via your marketing automation platform.

Each team should also agree on the messaging and scope of these activities.

In any campaign, it’s important to understand how marketing and sales messaging works together. Both marketing and sales should be promoting the same value proposition. However, the messaging should be different:

  • Marketing campaign message: The messaging marketing shares should be broad and work as air coverage for sales.
  • Sales campaign message: Sales’ messaging should be detailed and intimate. It should focus on the pain points and lead with the shared value proposition as a solution.

Establish Clear SLAs

Next, you’ll need to establish clear SLAs between both teams. To avoid misalignment, establish a few key responsibilities:

  • KPIs: Agree on which KPIs marketing or sales is responsible for both tracking, reporting on, and improving.
  • Deliverables: Determine what type of content or messaging each team is delivering. What sales activities should happen within these campaigns? What should those activities look like?
  • Timetable: The best way to ensure people are meeting their SLA is to set up some automated reporting and notifications for your sales team during an ABM campaign. Go into Salesforce, or whatever CRM you use, and implement a few simple changes:
    • Add a system date stamp on MQAs.
    • Add a picklist option so sales can update the status of their interaction with a contact in an account. For example, change the status to “Working” or “Disqualified.”
    • Send automated alerts if the contact status has not changed within 48 hours.
    • Set up a weekly automated report on overdue SLAs.

Build an Account-Based Marketing Campaign Roadmap

It helps visualize what the roadmap of your ABM campaign will look like, and the activities and responsibilities of both marketing and sales.

Here we’ve included a direct mail example from Engagio. Engagio’s VP of ABM, Sandra Freeman, shared what different ABM campaign journeys look like during Drift’s All About ABM webinar series.

This direct mail example shows not only how sales and marketing can work together in an ABM campaign, but what aspects of the campaign should be automated to help you scale.

Direct mail campaigns are a staple in many ABM programs because they are highly personalized and break through the noise of digital channels.

Learn more best practices from Sandra and Drift’s Head of ABM, in the full webinar.

WATCH THE WEBINAR

If you do find that sales aren’t meeting their SLA, Adam Goyette, VP of Marketing at Help Scout, suggests being open to feedback and checking the quality of the chosen accounts:

Again, the best way to run an ABM program is to see sales as a partner. If sales knows they are an equal partner in the success of the ABM program, they’ll be more invested in helping to ensure that success. Plus, any ABM program without them isn’t going to get far.

Pick the Right Tools to Help You Scale

As part of their benchmark report, Engagio asked marketers which tools they absolutely cannot live without – especially when it comes to ABM – to be successful. Their top three should come as no surprise:

  • CRM (83%)
  • Marketing automation (73%)
  • LinkedIn (60%)

We’ve already mentioned CRM and marketing automation a number of times in this book. Most modern marketing teams can’t function or scale without them. CRMs, like Salesforce, are the database and, oftentimes, the reporting hub for your ABM activities.

Marketing automation software players, like Marketo, are equally necessary for executing account-based marketing – especially on the digital experience side. Marketers can use automation software like Marketo to create account lists, build sophisticated account lead scoring, and more. Marketo also includes Bizable which gives marketers a better way to attribute and report on ABM success across channels.

In fact, Engagio’s report found that of the companies with the highest ABM ROI, 50% were Marketo users.

LinkedIn has also become a key sales channel for ABM outreach and research. It’s a more direct, intimate line to stakeholders than an email inbox.

 

Level-Up LinkedIn Social Selling

People buy from people. That’s a big reason why social selling has gained popularity over the last few years – particularly on LinkedIn.

But how can you ensure your salespeople are putting their best face forward? Bridget Poetker, Senior Content Marketing Manager at G2, shared some best practices you can follow to elevate your profile and close business on LinkedIn:

  1. Use a professional photo
  2. Optimize your headline
  3. Sell in summary
  4. Stay active with your network
  5. Write detailed job descriptions
  6. Ask for endorsements and recommendations
  7. Add all accomplishments

Read her strategies for tackling each of these on the Drift blog:

READ THE BLOG

In addition to these ABM tools, you have other key technology players for engagement, automation, data enrichment, gifting, etc.

Below is a snapshot of different tools you could add to your ABM tech stack. This is by no means exhaustive, but it is a nice overview of the software categories to explore as your program grows.

If you want to learn more about some of the companies mentioned here or other ABM tools to look into, check out our dedicated all-about-ABM page here.

Track the ROI of ABM & Marketing Activities

Earlier we mentioned that 57% of ABM marketers couldn’t effectively measure the ROI of their ABM program. That’s troubling, especially given the scrutiny on marketing teams to prove ROI.

There are plenty of tools out there to help you track ROI and marketing performance. But there are also steps you can take to develop better performance tracking habits.

First, repeat after me: UTMs are your friends. Not using UTMs in, for example, marketing emails, is like flying blind. You need to understand attribution in your ABM program if you want to grow and improve.

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UTM tracking helps identify the effectiveness of your ABM strategy when it comes to channels, messaging, and offers:

It’s also important to track the effectiveness of your website experience. After all, you’re spending money and time running ABM campaigns. If your digital experience doesn’t cut it, it’s all for nothing.

We use Drift Audiences to optimize our website and convert more site traffic. Drift Audiences identifies which site visitors are coming from a specific ABM campaign or channel. You can use this information to deliver hyper-targeted experiences for buyers and get more out of your marketing spend.

The Recap

A great ABM campaign is highly personalized and centered around the buyer. In the next chapter, we’ll dive into techniques for optimizing and personalizing the digital ABM experience.

Before that, let’s recap what we learned about running a multi-channel ABM campaign:

  • Don’t create ABM content from scratch. Do an audit of what’s in play and see if you can add a layer of personalization.
  • Before you launch your campaign, be sure to align with sales on their role and expected SLAs. Don’t leave any questions unanswered or left for interpretation.
  • Identify what tools you need to help scale and execute your ABM strategy. Remember to focus on the tools that will provide more value to buyers.
  • You must use campaign performance tracking to understand the impact of your ABM campaigns. You can do this by using UTM parameters religiously and onboarding tools like Drift Audiences to make the most of your web traffic.

Personalizing & Optimizing Your Digital Experience for ABM

In this final chapter, we’ll discuss how to optimize your digital ABM experience using personalization, data, and conversational marketing best practices. Specifically, you’ll learn:

  • What data matters and how to use it to create a frictionless buyer experience
  • Examples of how to personalize different ABM plays
  • Steps to improve engagement with target accounts on your website

The Three Data Tenants of Personalization

We all understand the value of personalization. B2C companies made personalization the cornerstone of a great customer experience – from the recommended shows in your Netflix to the birthday coupons in your inbox.

Now B2B companies want in.

report from Gartner found that more than 50% of B2B marketing leaders want one-to-one personalization in their marketing strategy.

But despite these best wishes, many B2B companies struggle with implementing an effective personalization strategy.

Here’s why:

  • Poor strategy: Companies either don’t have a clear strategy or aren’t seeing the impact of personalization on their bottom line (60%+ of companies surveyed by Gartner found their strategy to be ineffective). However, personalization has proven results. In a study from Monetate, companies saw a 2x (1.7% to 3.4%) increase in conversions for visitors who viewed three pages of personalized content.
  • Data privacy & poor data use: Companies struggle to balance a personalized customer experience while also maintaining privacy standards. And if buyers aren’t seeing the benefits of data collection, they feel their privacy is being invaded. Rightly so.

Luckily, there’s a solution to these problems. Well, three. When trying to determine what data you need to personalize your digital ABM campaigns, keep these three tenants in mind:

  1. Data must be used to deliver nothing less than a VIP experience.
  2. Data must be used to engage with target accounts.
  3. Data must be used to action marketing & sales to drive pipeline.

For any data that stray outside these parameters, stop collecting it. Remember ABM is about putting the customer at the center of your decision-making. Your process and methods should never get in the way of that.

That said, collecting the right data in a responsible and frictionless way can seem daunting. First, you need to consider the barriers to that data (i.e., silos). Then, identify how you’ll use personalization in your ABM plays and program. Finally, you must ensure the experience is worth it for your buyers and customers.

We had this same conversation at Drift when launching our own ABM program. How do we strike the right balance? What do we need to make this happen?

When we realized there was no silver bullet, we decided to build a better solution. Our customers are using both conversational marketing best practices and Drift Audiences to bridge the gap and deliver personalized ABM at scale.

In the next few sections, we’ll walk through how to use data to optimize and personalize your campaigns.

How to Personalize ABM Plays

In Gartner’s Maximize the Impact of Personalization report, they identified two categories of personalization most valuable to buyers.

On one side is the “recognition of the person.” This shows buyers that you know who they are, where they’re from, how they got there, and potentially what they care about.

The second is the “recognition of their journey.” Today, helping is the new selling. This category is about making it easier for your buyers to answer their own questions and find value.

Both are important, and both acknowledge the fact that buyers are conducting their own research.

Chatbots are great for delivering personalization in both these categories – at scale. That’s why more and more companies are using conversational marketing as part of their ABM strategy. Conversational marketing offers a frictionless buying and selling experience, making it easier to connect people in real-time.

In this section, you’ll see three ABM plays that demonstrate how personalization and conversational marketing can level up your ABM.

The Direct Mail & Digital ABM Play

Direct mail is a well-known ABM tactic for breaking through the noise and engaging with target accounts. Long ago, it was enough to send a simple gift and do a follow-up phone call a week or two later. But modern buyers expect greater immediacy in their experience.

Today, the most successful ABM direct mail campaigns combine both a physical and digital experience to better engage with buyers.

To show you this play in action, let’s walk through an example direct mail campaign we ran at Drift.

No Form Postcard Campaign

Goals of this campaign:

  • Break into ABM target accounts that we haven’t engaged with
  • Connect on a personal level with something that is relevant to the buyer
  • Showcase the concept of no forms and the importance of personalization

This postcard campaign was part of a larger marketing initiative we called #NoForms. The idea? Forms are as antiquated as the rotary phone – and it’s time to make an upgrade. Enter conversational marketing.

For this campaign, we shipped a postcard offering a free print copy of our Conversational Marketing book.

Here’s a roadmap of the campaign journey:

The postcard included a URL where recipients could request a copy of the book and learn more about conversational marketing. The URL would then take them to a personalized page and a dedicated bot that would greet them by name.

This campaign had an incredible influence on our pipeline. The mix of physical and digital made the process easy and engaging for buyers. It was also more cost-effective than if we had just directly shipped the books without an initial touchpoint.

Get More Direct Mail Campaign Strategies – Straight From the Experts

Looking for more direct mail inspiration? Drift hosted a webinar with PFL, a leader in tactile and direct mail marketing. You can access the webinar recording on Drift Insider.

WATCH THE WEBINAR

The PPC ABM Play

Digital advertising now accounts for more than 60% of all ad spend. By 2023, that spending will reach $517.51 billion (up from $384.96 billion this year).

Meaning marketers are spending an incredible amount of money driving buyers to their websites. Unfortunately, conversion rates are historically low on average – and haven’t budged much over the years.

9 times out of 10, the dropoff happens post-click, when buyers arrive on your landing page. Often, these pages aren’t personalized to their unique buyer journey and require them to fill out long forms – and then wait a few hours to a few days to get a reply.

Is that really the experience you want for your VIP accounts? No. Of course not. You want to roll out the red carpet. You want to greet them like an old friend.

Well, to do that we need to throw away some old processes:

Building a comprehensive digital advertising strategy is all about experimentation. Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn have made it easier to determine and understand the intent of your buyers.

Once you’ve created the offers on these platforms, you need to deliver a great experience for them on the other end.

Here’s how one of our customers ran their own PPC campaigns to drive engagement with interested buyers.

WebPT’s Paid Search Campaign

Goals of this campaign:

  • Create a more personalized experience for targeted buyers
  • Boost the ROI of paid search campaigns and generate more business
  • Create a better user experience on WebPT’s website

WebPT, a software provider for outpatient rehab therapy services, is in a niche market. Josh Golden, their digital marketing expert, was tasked with making the most of the company’s online investments.

To do this, he used Drift and Unbounce to create a more personalized landing page experience for paid search campaigns.

Here’s a roadmap of the campaign journey:

In this journey, targeted buyers would click on an ad and be taken to a custom landing page with a bot. WebPT ran different personalized chat messages depending on the UTM source of the targeted buyer, including playbooks for Google, Facebook, Bing, and Capterra.

Using Unbounce they created different landing page variations also with UTM parameters to customize the experience even further.

Using this strategy WebPT was able to provide personalized messaging via Drift and experiment with landing page copy and design via Unbounce. The Driftbot also served as a “second net” next to their forms. A second net bot gives your buyers more options when reaching out to you.

WebPT has since tripled its chat-based leads as well as the MRR of their Google and Bing ad-sourced leads.

Check Out WebPT’s Full Story

Interested in learning more about WebPT’s digital advertising strategy? Get all the details, plus additional personalization best practices on the Drift blog.

READ THE STORY

The Event ABM Play

Events are an ideal channel for ABM. They provide an intimate, one-on-one space to engage with buyers.

2020 rocked the events world in more ways than one. But it also made marketers rethink how they approached event promotion. We had to do our own pivot at Drift when it came to events. The result – RevGrowth 2020. At first a standalone event, now a series of virtual events we’re adding to our strategy.

In this section, we’ll share how we used chat, conversational marketing, and our virtual event to engage with target accounts.

RevGrowth ABM Campaign

Goals of this campaign:

  • Drive more target accounts to RevGrowth 2020
  • Book more meetings between AEs and target accounts
  • Share thought leadership around marketing & sales and show Drift as a leader in both

Our first RevGrowth Virtual Summit drove more than 8,500 registrants and was planned in less than six weeks. So it was important that we optimize the registration process as much as possible.

Here’s a roadmap of this campaign in action:

Similar to how we use Drift for webinar registration, our event registrations run through a registration playbook. We then use a bot on our landing pages to prompt people to register:

This bot is triggered via a Driftlink. This is great because we can drop the link anywhere on the landing page to prompt the Driftbot to appear – whether it was a link behind a Register Now button or hyperlinked text.

After entering their email and agreeing to terms, RevGrowth registrants were then given Google calendar links for the event directly in the chat. They were also sent this same content via email, post-registration.

As a second step, we used retargeting to entice people who had been to the event page, but didn’t register.

We used retargeting in two ways:

  • Retargeting ads: Part of our promotion plan was setting up retargeting ads for people who came to the event landing page but didn’t register.

Retargeting bot: With this bot, return visitors were greeted knowingly and pointed back to the event landing page. AEs were also notified if certain visitors were on the site to encourage attendance as well. This made aligning with sales on the event THAT much easier

The Ultimate Guide to Running a Virtual Event

Running an event is not for the faint of heart. That’s why we called on our Director of Events and VP of Content & Community to share their expertise for running a great virtual event. Check out their best practices on Drift Insider.

GET THE INSIGHTS

Now that you have some example plays for personalizing ABM, we’ll end by introducing some techniques for optimizing your program.

How to Improve Engagement with Target Accounts

There’s nothing worse than seeing a key contact under a target account come to your website and know you missed an opportunity to engage with them.

You hear a lot about account coverage in the customer experience and customer success world. CSMs must pay close attention to the key players on their accounts. Coverage from the retention and customer side indicates the portion of revenue you’re engaging within your customer base.

The same can be said about your website coverage for ABM target accounts. How many contacts from those accounts are you actually engaging with when they come to your site? As shown in this example, 20% of target accounts have not encountered a personalized offer or bot on the website. And that’s not uncommon.

Being able to see information like this helps identify which areas of your website to personalize more for buyers.

With Drift Audiences, you can better understand the coverage on your website and create more personalized playbooks to engage with your target accounts.

As they say, knowing is only half the battle. After you’ve implemented these playbooks on your site, it’s important sales are primed to respond.

In our earlier Event play example, we showed how to use Drift notifications to inform reps when target accounts are on a website. This feature allows sales to respond in real-time to their VIP accounts.

Here’s that feature again as part of a playbook workflow:

In summary, to improve engagement with target accounts, focus on:

  • Improving site coverage for high-traffic or high-intent pages
  • Investing in personalization to greet target accounts and provide a VIP experience
  • Visibility for reps when target accounts visit the site so they can respond ASAP

The Recap

As you can see, the data you use in your ABM program should always be in service to your buyers. Not only does this help you create “wow” moments for these target accounts, but it improves the ROI and cost-effectiveness of your ABM.

To recap, in this chapter we discussed how to better personalize ABM at scale. We included examples you can use in your own program from both Drift and our customers. Finally, we briefly introduced the concepts of conversational ABM and Drift Audiences as a way to further optimize ABM.

That was a lot. So we’ll leave you with just a few final thoughts.

 

Final Thoughts

Congrats, you’ve mastered the fundamentals of how to run a best-in-class ABM program. From getting company buy-in for your program to building your ABM team to optimizing your campaigns, you’ve covered it all.

As your ABM program grows, return to this resource as a guide.

Now that you have the basics down, you, my friend are ready for the big leagues. But where do you even start?

We reached out to our friends at Demandbase to help you turn methods into real campaigns. Together, we created The Guide to Conversational ABM. In that book, you’ll find more advanced steps for taking your ABM to the next level.

Your Guide to Everything ABM

From building an all-star ABM team to running multichannel ABM campaigns to personalizing offers for VIP accounts – it's all here. And, it's yours ?