September 19th, 2017 | by

Most of us think it would be an insane (and dangerous) plan to try to run a marathon before we’ve ever run a 5k. But, how many of us are trying to run an ABM marathon without running an ABM 5k?

Here’s the simple approach to get your ABM program up and running, taken from an interview with our friends at LeadMD.

Many sales and marketing team today are trying to implement account-based marketing – but not at the expense of their current marketing efforts, and without hiring a new, ABM-focused team. Many of us have overcomplicated the process – and the overwhelming and fragmented marketing technology landscape is definitely not helping.

If your team has spent months compiling a list of target accounts before you ever get ABM off the ground, it’s time to stop, simplify, and make progress, one step at a time.

To demystify ABM, we’re launching a new weblog series to tell our own story of experiments, failures, and successes: Account-Based Marketing: An Inside Look. Join me and other DiscoverOrg leaders as we chronicle our own lessons learned as we use an ABM approach to target key accounts when we launch new datasets. We aren’t trying to jump into a marathon. We’re doing a lot of 5 and 10ks, and we still see great results.

How to start account-based marketing (ABM)

Most marketers already know the first step in any ABM strategy: identify your target accounts. This doesn’t have to be a painful, drawn-out process.

1. Identify your best customers

This list is modeled after your best customers: those who spend the most, are the most profitable, and stay with you the longest. Most finance teams, even in the small-business space, can provide this. With a list of best customers, look for patterns among attributes, of both the company and key prospects within the company:

  • Company size, industry, location
  • Buyer title, role, department
  • Technology installed

Congratulations on running your first mile: You’ve just built an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) (Here’s the template).

An example ICP if you sell compliance management software might be:

  • $75m+ revenue and growing at 13%+ annually
  • 250+ employees
  • Financial industries
  • North America HQ
  • No compliance management system in place yet

The top four or five attributes will get you most of the way there.

Stop here and take a rest.

You could easily spend months doing an in-depth statistical analysis of thousands of data points; but that might actually hamstring your efforts. In the fast-paced environment that surrounds sales and marketing, we must chart progress – not perfection.

Check out our on-demand webinar: How to Build an ABM Strategy in 7 Days Without Going Tech Crazy

2. Find lookalike companies

Once you have a good list of those four or five key attributes of your best customers, it’s time to find lookalike prospects: companies that have the same characteristics of your best customers.

This is how straightforward it can be:

Take the example of Clinton Reeves, a DiscoverOrg power user at Pivotal, a software services company. Clinton mentioned that when he joined the company recently, he was tasked with building out an initial ICP without overcomplicating or slowing down the sales process. He used DiscoverOrg to quickly analyze the technology stack of his 30 best customers to make a technology-based ICP – since that is the most important criteria for them.

He then used that information to rank prospect accounts in DiscoverOrg based on their current tech stack and created a simple search to build a target contact list at those accounts based on job function and title so that the team could engage with the right people at the right accounts and with a highly personalized message.

Clinton also relied on DiscoverOrg’s direct-dial phone numbers and verified email addresses to contact Pivotal’s prospects directly.

Get our research report: How Sales and Marketing Intelligence is Democratizing Growth and Driving Disruption

3. Engage key accounts and prospects

List in hand, the next step is to reach out and engage prospects at your key accounts. Your engagement strategy will likely depend on your industry and the processes your department already has in place; these may include:

  • Personalized email
  • Personalized phone calls
  • Direct mail campaign
  • Ad targeting
  • Events
  • Targeted content syndication
  • Personalized videos
  • Personalized landing pages

“Don’t try to boil the ocean.” That’s the advice I always offer ABM newcomers. It’s OK to start small, with just 30 or 40 accounts, just to get a proof of concept for ABM strategy at your company. That is totally fine.

The three keys to early success are to:

  1. Collaboration between sales and marketing teams
  2. Take the time to personalize your outreach efforts
  3. Measure, measure, measure! Check incremental improvements in your success along the way.

AccountView helps marketers do ABM

I had a friend once who was not a runner – in fact, she had never run more than two miles before – but she wanted to run a marathon before she turned 30.
She immediately began rigorously training for the full 26.1-mile marathon … without ever having done a 5K or 10K race. Without starting slow and building up endurance, my friend’s body broke down. She didn’t achieve her goal of running a marathon, because she wasn’t able to even line up to start the race. She admitted later that she would have been just as happy if she had done a 5k.

The moral of the story? It’s not just OK to start small – it actually delivers better results in the long run.

Taking smaller steps lets you avoid investing in processes that don’t work, iterate success, and makes the whole project more easily achievable.

So, runners – take your mark!


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Katie Bullard
About the author

Katie Bullard

As Chief Growth Officer (CGO), Katie brings 15 years of marketing, product, and strategy experience in global, high-growth technology businesses to her role at DiscoverOrg. She has a bachelor’s and masters degree from the University of Virginia.