Skip to content
Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistSun, Mar 29, 2020 15 min read

The Complete Guide To Account-Based Marketing

Crowd of people with one person highlighted for attention.

Strategically Implement ABM And Target High-Value Accounts

Account-based marketing (ABM) is the hot new tactic every company is tackling in an effort to bypass long unfocused lead generation campaigns and reach targeted high-value sales opportunities. But while ABM is certainly hot, targeting accounts is hardly new. It’s a strategy that’s been successfully used by sales teams for decades.

While ABM isn’t new, it has been given a fresh spin and sharper teeth thanks to the integration of digital strategies and powerful software. The adoption and implementation of technology into ABM programs enables them to be executed with better efficiency, allowing for precision targeting, robust engagement and clear performance metrics. 

Here’s what you need to know before taking the plunge into ABM.

What Is ABM (Account-Based Marketing)?

With the marketplace getting more competitive by the day, organizations are looking for efficient and customized ways to convert their best prospects into customers.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a tactic that offers a focused approach to identifying and reaching high-value customers. While not a new tactic, it’s a powerful way to target prospects and earn new business.

ABM requires creating meaningful target persona segments and then developing a well-thought-out strategy using the right technologies and initiatives.

8 Benefits Of Account-Based Marketing

Launching an ABM program isn’t simple, but creating the building blocks for a scalable ABM-focused strategy can lead to powerful results.

Personalized approach

With ABM, communications and messages are unique, personalized and account-specific. When content is aimed at prospects and applies to their business needs, they’re more likely to feel connected to you and your product or service.

Marketing and sales alignment

In any successful ABM initiative, marketing and sales work together closely. Sales helps marketing understand the specific business challenges the prospect is facing, while marketing creates the messaging and content to resonate with that prospect.

Shorter sales cycle

Large purchase decisions often involve multiple stakeholders. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reports that nearly seven people are involved in the average B2B solutions purchase.

This typically slows down the sales process, as it’s not uncommon to start at the ground level in the organization and move slowly toward the primary decision-maker. In account-based marketing, the sales process is shortened as you’re able to target and nurture the key decision-makers from the beginning.

Higher contract values

Average contract values are typically higher with ABM because you’re laser-focused on the best accounts. You’re targeting high-potential customers who are ideally suited for your product or service.

No more cold calling

Put an end to dialing for dollars. ABM sets your sales team up for more successful conversations with prospects. When reps reach out to key people at your target accounts, prospects are already familiar with your company and what makes it different from competitors.

Save valuable sales rep time

Since targets are vetted through an ABM initiative, you save your sales reps valuable time. This frees them up to spend more time with your best prospects.

Efficiently use your budget

With a traditional lead-based strategy, organizations spend marketing dollars to acquire as many leads as possible and then qualify them later. It’s more cost-effective to pinpoint the best prospects first, then use your budget to craft personal, compelling content on the channels where they’re most active (social media, email, etc.).

Superior reporting and tracking

ABM is a focused strategy targeting a smaller number of key accounts, so you’ll have fewer metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track. Measuring your results and continuously optimizing your ABM campaigns is key to ongoing success.

How To Pair ABM And Inbound Marketing To Win At Demand Generation

3 Myths About Account-Based Marketing

Change can be scary, but in the case of ABM, it’s more than worth it. The results are likely to override any speed bumps associated with including this tactic as part of your sales and marketing strategies.

  1. It’s a new and untested strategy
    The concept of account-based marketing has been around for years – ITSMA coined the term in 2004. Plus, companies have long been prioritizing their high-potential prospects.
  2. It’s reserved only for large accounts
    Yes, you’re targeting fewer prospects, but like many other marketing and sales tactics, ABM is scalable and can work with a variety of accounts. You can even use ABM with current customers for cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
  3. It’s all about sales
    Account-based marketing is a strategy built on the idea of uniting sales and marketing to identify and qualify leads, ensuring that their efforts complement one another. When the two teams are tightly aligned, customer retention rates could receive a 36% boost and your sales win rate could increase by 38%.

Creating An Effective ABM Strategy

ABM is a highly effective tactic if planned, built and deployed correctly. But it is neither a magic bullet nor a quick fix. Because of all of the moving parts and orchestrated tactics, ABM requires a strong strategy, significant foundational work and a lot of patience and discipline. Here are some planning and strategy tips to help position your ABM program for success.

Craft disruptive messaging

The people you’re targeting are not looking for you, your company, your product, your service or your category. They often don’t know they have a challenge, let alone that you have the solution.

If you want their attention, you had better rock their world and disrupt their status-quo so that they can’t sleep at night without worrying or thinking about what you had to say. This won’t come easy. Work with your sales team to understand the challenges and the situation within the prospect’s business, then come up with the message, story and content that delivers the disruption.

Leverage lumpy mail 

Companies have been running lumpy direct mail campaigns for years but the practice has been revitalized with ABM.  A package is much harder to ignore than an email. Sending a creative piece of direct mail that ties into your message increases the likelihood that you’ll get your prospects' attention. 

Combining direct mail with digital tactics allows you to increase touch points, improve engagement and increase your ability to measure performance. 

Tap into reliable data

If your data is bad, then your messaging is going to be misaligned. One of the secrets to highly successful account-based marketing is creating highly personalized messages. If you get the names or titles wrong, or miss people in key roles, your messaging is going to be less effective.

Focus on the data before you start executing messaging, outreach or any tactical part of your ABM program. Either get your data cleaned up, append additional data to it or start fresh with new data.

Build effective nurture campaigns

This isn’t a one-and-done tactic. Even if you get a target contact to engage, you must get them to stay engaged. These people are not typically in active purchase cycles, so you need ongoing nurture campaigns that continue to add value to the conversation.

Build out your nurture campaigns in advance. Plan to test different assets and make sure your campaign length matches a typical sales cycle. For example, if your normal sales cycle is 30 days, consider a weekly campaign for three weeks. If your sales cycle is six months, consider a longer campaign with more distance between campaign touches. Constantly optimize your campaigns based on performance 

Develop a content strategy that drives engagement

As you nurture targets, you must provide them with opportunities to take action and get more information. That’s the power of a strong content strategy that generates personalized content.

Developing an effective content strategy goes hand in hand with persona development. Your content must address your target personas challenges and be delivered in a format that reflects their preferences. If your prospects love videos, don’t make them read. If they prefer short-form content, don’t offer a 30-page ebook. 

Measure Engagement

Froom click-through rates, product page visits and content downloads to answer rates to sales calls call durations and email reply rates, measuring success starts with measuring engagement. Pipeline velocity is another metric worth tracking, and your ABM program should shorten your overall sales cycle.

The key is to set up tracking correctly for your ABM campaigns

ABM Software Can Drive Campaign Success

A challenge of ABM programs is that they require a lot of complementary marketing tactics.  The complexity of the execution has led to a wide variety of technology options to help marketing and sales pros better execute ABM. 

There is no one-size-fits-all ABM tech stack. Every company is different and every ABM program is slightly different. However, if you’re looking for a variety of ABM tools that work together, the following tools are a good start for creating the ultimate ABM tech stack

For target account selection, cleaning and acquisition:

For connecting with targeted prospects:

For getting prospects to engage:

For tracking, analytics and more orchestration:

Not Every Company Is Ready For ABM

Although it's effective when deployed and orchestrated correctly, ABM  is not right for every company. Answering these seven questions can help determine if ABM is a good fit for you.

  1. Do you have the right data?
    With the right data, your team can create custom and targeted campaigns to improve both connect and engage rates. Without good data, this is difficult to achieve. 
  2. Do you have sales and marketing alignment?
    For years, getting these two teams together has been impossible. But account-based marketing almost forces them to work together. 
  3. Do you have a disruptive story?
    Do you have anything interesting to say? You need an emotional and disruptive message that grabs your personas’ attention and pulls them into your story.
  4. Do you have engaging content?
    Good ABM requires a series of prospect-focused assets that address your target’s problems and present a solution. You will need multiple assets in a variety of formats to engage with prospects throughout each phase of the buyer journey. 
  5. Do you have the technology to execute, analyze and optimize ABM?
    Do you need software to run an account-based marketing program? No, but it sure does make it easier. 
  6. Do you have the necessary experience?
    ABM comes with complexity that requires a certain level of expertise. Consider bringing in a team that has experience planning, executing and optimizing account-based marketing programs. It can shave months off your timeline and provide stronger results.
  7. Do you have the patience and budget?
    ABM doesn’t often produce instant results. You’ll need patience. Invest the time and money to plan your strategy, then systematically tackle the data, technology and asset development. You should see early wins with engagement rates, but sales opportunities may take longer.

Answering “no” to one or more of these questions doesn’t mean you can’t ever use ABM. It simply means you’re not ready or that required elements are not set up properly at your company. 

ABM Can Deliver Long-Term, Sustainable Benefits

Most organizations can even benefit from account-based marketing long after the deal closes. The insights garnered from ABM campaigns help inform larger content marketing campaigns, website updates and even smaller SEO tactics. Whether it’s keyword research or customer pain points, you’ll have the concrete data to apply best practices to other channels and assets going forward.

If implemented correctly, account-based marketing is a clear win for the entire organization, from marketing and sales to customer service.

Start Today Tip – Now that you understand what ABM is and isn’t, along with its benefits, how do you put those ideas into action? Everyone in your marketing and sales departments doesn’t have to be an ABM expert, but you do need to outline the right strategy for your company. Then, approach your first ABM initiative as a pilot program to prove success, refine processes and identify areas for opportunity. 


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.