How to Kick-Start an Account Based Marketing Strategy

Deciding an Account Based Marketing approach is right for your organization is one thing; putting it into play is another. Purchasing account-based technology is not the same as deploying an ABM strategy. In fact, if you purchase this technology before developing your strategy, you’re off to a questionable start.

An effective ABM journey starts with some basics: benchmarking current performance, finalizing your Ideal Customer Profile right, and pinpointing your addressable market. Let’s dive into each.


ABM begins with figuring out where your organization is on the maturity curve for demand generation. This will allow you to determine what steps to take and elements to put in place for program success.

Think of it this way: before running a marathon, you would go on many training runs and likely participate in shorter races and perhaps even a half-marathon. In other words, you would work up to the marathon, rather than take it on immediately. Companies should take the same approach with ABM.

While organizations need to assess multiple aspects of their business, the following three are key:

  •  Level of systems (Salesforce & marketing automation) maturity
  •  Data strategy, management/governance maturity
  •  Maturity with regards to omni-channel marketing

This would be one example of a maturity curve bridging from a lead-based system to account based system:

maturity curve for demand genAn ABM strategy is not just about purchasing the right technology.

Get Your Ideal Customer Profile Right

Next is understanding your ideal customer. Too few companies have developed a shared understanding of their ideal customer across Sales, SDRs/ADRs and Marketing. Yet an ideal customer profile (ICP) is a foundational element of an ABM approach on tiering and target focus. Arriving at a well-considered, comprehensive ICP can take several weeks to do right, as you’ll need to analyze historical sales data, and conduct both internal interviews along with prospect and customer interviews.

Many demographic and firmographic elements are part of the typical ICP: industry, revenues, geography, number of employees, years in business, and more. Note that as companies apply Artificial Intelligence to crunch their data, it’s possible to include more variables in the ICP model. That said, many organizations experience the law of diminishing returns – or only incremental impact – once the number of variables exceeds a certain number. The most important aspect is ensuring the data you base your ICP on is accurate and easily and continuously available.

Beyond demographics and firmographics, organizations should incorporate other attributes into their ICP. What you consider important might differ from what another company values. The key is to zero in on the variables most tightly associated with your organization’s definition of success. In most cases, the following are worth considering as part of your ICP definition:

  • Where you’ve experienced success (i.e., industries or types of company)
  • High-value opportunity
  • High likelihood of deal closing quickly
  • Lifetime profitability of account

It’s just as critical to understand what serves as top catalysts for prospects engaging your company so you can zero in on the most fitting prospects. For example, you might find your ideal customer values:

  • The opportunity to drive new revenues using your product
  • Keeping their existing authentication in place
  • The fact that your hardware scalability and licensing matches your business model
  • That you offer high levels of local support

At the same time, it’s vital to know which prospects to avoid, even if they satisfy your ICP. Simply put, certain prospect requirements may mean a deal is not worth pursuing. This depends, of course, on your organization’s business model and offering, but the following should spark ideas of what might constitute red flags:

  • Needs quick dashboard build (but your process lasts months)
  • Prefers Web-based development (but you don’t offer this)
  • Needs a full-stack, ETL solution (you can only provide part of the solution)

If you’re really advanced, you can layer in engagement data for a more holistic view potential target accounts. The fastest path to traction is with those companies that already have some level of engagement with you.

This could include:

  • Past sales into the company
  • Rep activity levels
  • Account engagement by persona
  • Current coverage of key decision-makers
  • Existing relationships and connections into the account
  • Executive entry points

This information is found from a variety of sources, including:

  • Your CRM data
  • Web analytics
  • Marketing automation reports
  • LinkedIn
  • Engagio
  • Sales rep activity
  • Executive input

Pinpoint Your Addressable Market

The next step is defining your addressable market. In other words, how many and which companies match your ICP? Figuring this out is how you will come up with a list of target accounts. This step is essential – yet often overlooked. Instead, many organizations rely on the list of named accounts that Sales leadership or reps come up with. However, companies on a targeted account list are not always actively in the market. The ideal is to focus on those that fit your ICP and are actively in the market to make a purchase.

Just like the process for defining your ICP, it can take time to pinpoint your total addressable market, as shown in the process diagram below. We’ve had great success helping our clients arrive at total addressable market using a combination of Dun &Bradstreet, Mintigo, Leadspace, Oceanos, and EverString (which provides firmographic, technographic and intent data). In fact, we helped one of our clients, Trifacta, arrive at a very tight definition around a specific industry vertical, contributing to Trifacta winning an award in ABM performance.

Process to get to addressable marketProcess for arriving at addressable market via EverString and Dun & Bradstreet

Assess market sizing by setting filters on technologyAssess market sizing by setting filters on technology

Addressing these three elements is the smart way to kick-start your ABM strategy.

Jon Russo

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *