6 Steps For Developing A B2B ABM Strategy

Account-based marketing has become a hit in the B2B space, attracting adopters from businesses looking to streamline their efforts and create better alignment throughout their organizations. Known for its ability to reach target audiences, improve ROI, and feed high-quality leads to sales, ABM is a powerhouse B2B marketing strategy and a long-time favorite of BOL. 

You could say we were ahead of the game on that one, and we’ve got a wealth of ABM experience to share with you. We know starting your first account-based marketing campaign can seem like a big to-do, but breaking it down into digestible steps makes the process a whole lot easier. Follow the roadmap below to begin building out an ABM campaign now. 

Step 1: Strategy Development, Set Up & Kick Off

Leave winging it for weekends, not your account-based marketing strategy. To position your team for success, you need a detailed plan with input from all relevant parties, like your sales and marketing leads. This may seem daunting at first, but with collaboration and caffeine, you’ll lay the groundwork for an effective ABM strategy that wins your company new business.

Understanding Your Audience Is Key

A deep understanding of your audience is fundamental to a successful ABM strategy. Think of it as the foundation for the rest of your strategy development–without it, the whole plan could come crashing down. 

Ideal customer personas will help you better target your audience and anticipate their needs, making it easier for your team to ideate an ABM strategy. To begin developing these personas, you’ll need to gather data, research, and members of your team to pinpoint what your most successful customers have in common. 

Here are a few tactics to try as you develop your company’s ICPs:

  • Tap Into Sales Expertise - Your sales team has a lot of one-on-one experience with your customers, so lean on them to help identify key ICP traits.
  • Closed Won Analysis - Find commonalities across your closed won accounts, such as company size, revenue, and industry. 
  • Market & Competitive Research - Your company isn’t operating in a silo, and you’re likely not the only business that does what you do. Look beyond your own customers to get a pulse of the marketplace.

Unlike more generalized buyer personas, your ICPs should present a specific, data-driven analysis of the customers you want to win over. Once your team has approved and tested the ICPs, you’ll be able to apply them to the Total Addressable Market, or TAM, to develop your target account list. Your TAL will be at the center of your account-based marketing strategy, helping both your sales and marketing teams with next steps.

Determine Specific, Measurable KPIs

Before your ABM strategy can take off, your team will need to set key performance indicators to measure your success. In addition to determining which KPIs to measure, your team should also have specific goals in mind. As with all aspects of a proper account-based marketing plan, both sales and marketing should have a say in this process. 

Our final tip for this step is to plan ahead based on the sales cycle and appropriate sales handoff timing. B2B often has famously long sales cycles, and it’s important to anticipate what your ICPs need at every stage of the process and when they’re ready to engage with sales.

Step 2: Develop The Right Content

Next up: content development. Cost-effective and versatile, content marketing is a way to take potential customers from “What is this?” to “I need that.” The goal here isn’t to simply flood the funnel with leads, but to create content that addresses your ICPs at every stage of the buyer journey. Think of your content as a cohesive guide leading your target accounts to the sale. 

Once you have your ICPs, TALs, and channels straightened out, you may think you’re ready for content development, but slow your roll. First, you’ll need to do some content mapping to determine how to best reach your audience at every stage of the funnel. To do this, we recommend following these steps:

  • Do an inventory of all existing content and creative to identify usable assets and gaps in information
  • Assign those usable assets to the appropriate channels and stages of the funnel
  • Determine if there are pieces that can be translated into other forms of content (i.e. an in-depth whitepaper turned into several blogs and an infographic)
  • Create an editorial calendar to strategically release content to the right audiences at the right time

Once you’ve got the content map figured out, it’s time to start developing new content. Content development should be an ongoing push with new and relevant content hitting the web regularly. 

If you remember just one thing from this section, make it that content needs to address your ICPs at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Do your research. Get in their heads. Understand what they need before they know themselves.

Step 3: Media Planning

Alright, so you’ve got a preliminary plan and content strategy–the next thing on the list is media. You can use all the research, data, and knowledge you’ve gained from the previous steps to begin developing a media plan.

Like content, you’ll want to center your media plan on ICPs and the buyer’s journey. You’ll likely further segment your list by channel, budget, and industry to create seemingly personalized campaigns at scale. Did you catch that? At scale. When segmenting media, you don’t want your lists to get so niche that your team can’t manage the campaigns effectively. 

Tips For Account-Based Marketing Media Planning

Your team likely has a lot of experience with media, but account-based marketing requires a few tweaks to ensure your media plan serves your target accounts and generates only high-quality leads. Here are a few things you’ll need to know to get started: 

  • Engage in channel mapping to decide how you will deliver content to different audiences for each platform and funnel stage
  • Understand optimization and limitations for each platform
  • Define what constitutes an MQL/SQL at your company
  • Establish your KPIs and set up tracking 
  • Don’t be afraid to fail–failures are opportunities to make improvements 

Step 4: Optimization & Orchestration

In B2B marketing, there’s no such thing as getting everything right on the first try. It’s a fact of life, like death and taxes. The great thing is, that you don’t need to because account-based marketing is all about refining your strategy over time to get the best results. 

You can apply ABM optimization to all areas of your strategy, from content to channel to tactics. Testing is key here. It will also be helpful to compare your ABM efforts against traditional B2B marketing strategies. Here are some questions you may consider when testing your campaigns:

  • Which target accounts have the highest and lowest engagement rates?
  • Which types of content perform better with target accounts in a particular industry? 
  • What is the firmographic data telling us about our ICPs?
  • Which channels are performing best?
  • How are targets responding to particular subject lines or email content?

The answers to these questions can help you begin to optimize your account-based marketing strategy to meet the needs of your target accounts. Remember to review data regularly, but not so frequently that you get tripped up by anomalies. 

Step 5: Analytics

If you’re not analyzing your B2B marketing campaigns, you might as well be screaming into a void. Without feedback on your account-based marketing strategy’s performance, you’ll never be able to understand what’s working and what’s a waste of resources. 

Contrary to the myth that ABM is difficult to measure, it’s actually pretty simple to track metrics by design. You’ll need a CRM with integrated automation software to implement your strategy at scale, and these types of platforms typically make it easy to set up tracking. Some of our favorites are 6sense, Demandbase, Terminus, and Tribilo, just to name a few. 

Now, let’s cover some of the insights you want to be tracking:

  • Overall account engagement, such as email responses, content downloads, etc.
  • Percentage of target accounts engaged
  • Number of marketing qualified and sales accepted leads
  • Conversions and close rates
  • Pipeline velocity 
  • Average contract value
  • Contribution to revenue

Something important to keep in mind is that account-based marketing is not about the number of leads, but the quality. In the beginning, your marketing team may get complaints that sales isn’t receiving a huge influx of leads–hang on a minute. Are the number of leads lower, but the percentage of engaged accounts higher? Maybe your funnel isn’t surging with leads, but pipeline velocity has increased. Account-based marketing requires you to think critically about the connection between your strategy and business outcomes. 

Step 6: Account-Based Marketing "Beyond The Click"

The beauty of ABM is the ability to personalize your B2B marketing strategy at scale. When done right, every target account can feel like your content and campaign is speaking specifically to them. And while grabbing your audience’s attention is half the battle, you’ve still got an entire buyer’s journey to complete before you can close a sale. 

ABM is a full-funnel solution, and lead nurturing is an essential part of the equation. Keep these tips in mind as you build out your nurture campaigns: 

  • Proper segmentation is everything–make sure the right audiences are getting the right messages
  • Align your messaging with where your target is in the funnel
  • Engage in multi-channel marketing 
  • Use intent data to better understand your audience
  • Serve compelling consideration content such as case studies or product sheets
  • Invest in conversational and chat support if it makes sense for your company

Look To An Account-Based Marketing Agency

We get it, not everyone has the time or expertise to run their own ABM campaigns. When I want to get a new surfboard, I don't make it myself. I look to the experts.

BOL is an ABM leader with the knowledge and resources to help you attract your target accounts at scale. If you need an ABM agency, you know where to find us.