The Biggest Mistake You Can Make With Your Account Based Everything Strategy

We all make mistakes. Don’t make this one when forming your Account Based Everything plan.

Life itself doesn’t exactly come with instructions, and in the fast-moving world of B2B marketing, we seem to be educating ourselves as fast as we are executing. When it comes to Account Based Marketing, companies are ramping up their skills to support ABM programs at a growing rate.

53% of companies said they had the skills necessary to be successful with ABM in 2015, and that number has grown to 62% in 2016 according to SiriusDecisions.

In this environment of nascent ABM maturity, where we are learning on the go, errors are par for the course. But when formulating your Account Based Everything strategy, there’s one major mistake you can make early in the process that could destroy your chances of success:

Selecting the wrong target accounts.

Slow down, and get this step right. Companies who make assumptions, rush through the selection process, or consider it an afterthought will squander their investment of time and resources in their account-based initiative, and risk losing revenue, shrinking pipeline, and decreasing the quality of their leads.

No pressure.

It’s like building a house of cards.

The first layer of the pyramid is the most important layer to get right in order to support the rest of the structure. This forms a steady foundation for the future of the build. The base determines how tall – or how fragile – your house of cards will eventually be.

So too is the importance of your account selection with Account Based Everything. Underestimating this step can threaten your ability to generate revenue, grow pipeline, or generate high quality leads. But getting it right allows you to reach new heights with your account engagement strategy. The wider, more deliberate, and more sound your base is, the taller your result.

“It’s incredibly important to pick your accounts wisely,” says Sam Laber, of sales intelligence company Datanyze, “You’re only going to have the bandwidth to effectively work a certain number of accounts. And if you pick the wrong ones, you’re going to be wasting your team’s time on leads that won’t amount to anything.”

That’s why account selection is the most important step in any account-based program.

Selecting your accounts for ABM

According to SiriusDecisions, a variety of ABM is deployed today:

  • 77% named account
  • 58% large account
  • 48% vertical (industry)-based account
  • 39% segment (eg. role)-based account
  • 17% customer lifecycle

Clearly, getting to a list of target accounts will be a different process for every company. Effective account selection combines gut feel, historical performance, and sometimes predictive data science to come up with an “Ideal Customer Profile.”

This process can combine firmographic information (such as company size, industry, etc), technographics (what technologies are currently in use), intent data (signs of in-market activity) and engagement data (how active an account is with your company).

Not all accounts are created equal.

The goal of account selection is to align time, headcount, and budget on the accounts most likely to drive big revenue. It’s not enough to select a general list of target accounts, you should also prioritize these resources when forming a game plan. If you’re putting 100% of your marketing effort into the top 100 accounts, be prepared to articulate how those 100 accounts will help the whole company meet its growth goals.

ABM itself refers to a wide range of strategies, from intensive, hyper-focused activity aimed at a handful of mega-accounts, to highly scalable activity aimed at thousands of smaller accounts. When thinking of account selection, consider the three tiers or styles of Account Based Marketing, “classic,” “lite” or “hybrid.” Understanding the nuances between these styles will help guide your thinking about resource allocation, level of automation, and impacts on scalability.

Truth be told, account selection is the most important step to maximize your return on the Account Based Everything process. It’s the most foundational thing you can do. Get it wrong, and you’ll miss out on deals you could have won, waste effort on low-potential opportunities, and under-resource your best shots. That’s a losing hand.

What are you doing to ensure proper account selection?

Jon Miller
Jon Miller
Jon Miller is CEO and founder of Engagio. Previously, Jon was the VP Marketing and Co-Founder of Marketo. He is a speaker and writer about marketing best practices, and is the author of multiple Definitive Guides including Marketing Automation, Engaging Email Marketing, and Marketing Metrics & Analytics. Jon has a passion for helping marketers everywhere, and is on the Board of Scripted and is an advisor to Optimizely and Newscred. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

6 Responses to “The Biggest Mistake You Can Make With Your Account Based Everything Strategy”

July 19, 2016 at 5:43 pm, Dan Ziman said:

Jon, great thoughts here. Very important to think about those tiers and how it aligns with the field team structure. Would be interested in hearing more from you and Engagio on how companies keep these target lists fresh. i.e. how do others address the review process, frequency, and criteria. Additionally, mapping the progress in the CRM system (w/in or another application).


July 19, 2016 at 5:57 pm, Jon Miller said:

Thanks, Dan. My recommendation is that you limit turnover on the target account list by no more than 25% per quarter. That way, lists stay fresh without having too much churn and burn. It’s pretty straightforward to map in a CRM system using a few custom fields. How you seen it done diffrently?


July 20, 2016 at 12:38 am, Dan Ziman said:

Jon, have seen the gamut from no changes, only additions yet no removals, to maybe 20% swap of new accounts in a quarter. Works best when it’s known when the named accounts will be reviewed or reassigned, like beginning of quarter, which helps set expectations across sales ops and marketing ops. Additionally, publishing an agreed up on criteria (hopefully) helps keep the total number of named accounts or massive account changes in check.


July 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm, trish bertuzzi said:

Great questions all. So many companies are rushing into “Account Based” without building a solid foundation that includes rule of engagement. In other words they are executing a “fire, then ready – aim” strategy. After talking to dozens of clients and prospects we have identified 5 main pillars that are required to pull off an AB strategy that actually yields revenue and not just activity. They are:

► Strategy & Alignment
► Account Selection
► Players & Positions
► Insights & Plays
► Tools & Measures

My point in sharing this is that strategy and alignment have to happen before account selection etc. In AB the strategy and all that encompasses has to be rock solid before you even think about selecting accounts. Just MHO and know I will learn more via Engagio as they are one of the thought leaders in this space.

PS – Hi Dan Ziman!!


July 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm, Jon Miller said:

Thanks for commenting, Trish! I love your line “strategy and alignment have to happen before account selection”… totally agreed. But I have seen that sometimes the process of going through account selection can help build some of that alignment. No?


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