Closing Time

Mastering the Art of ABM: Tips for Running a Successful Account-Based Marketing Program

Running a successful account-based marketing program can be challenging.

Whether your organization is just starting out, has a few campaigns under its belt, or is an ABM pro, there are almost certainly ways to improve your processes and results.

In this episode of Closing Time, Meredith Fuller of Quarry emphasizes the importance of setting up strong foundations, aligning marketing and sales, investing time in the proper setup, evaluating what works, and building on successful campaigns.

From personalization and scaling to sales team participation and contact sourcing, you’ll learn practical advice for getting started and achieving ABM success.

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Expanding your ABM motion

Expanding your ABM program requires building on what works and evaluating what doesn’t. Define your end goal to align your ABM activities with your desired outcome. Do you aim to establish an ABM Center of Excellence that provides guidance for ABM initiatives across the organization? Or do you seek a streamlined approach that enables field marketers to implement ABM?

Reflect on past successes and failures to inform future efforts. Evaluate your ABM initiatives against tenets such as creative approach, account selection, fit, engagement, and intent. Meredith shares the eight tenets of excellent ABM they use to evaluate ABM initiatives against at Quarry. Marketers now have access to both quantitative and qualitative signals, as well as data-driven insights, enabling more precise account selection. 

Expanding your ABM program requires patience. It takes time to refine your approach and achieve optimal results. Grant yourself the grace to navigate this process and seek understanding from executive leadership regarding the time investment required for ABM success.

Aligning go-to-market teams

ABM initiatives can (and should) be measured with internal KPIs in addition to the obvious external ones. A few of these internal metrics include: assessing the level of collaboration and alignment between sales and marketing, determining if internal processes between the teams have improved, and noting the seamless data integration between MarTech and SalesTech. By focusing on building internal processes, collaboration, and integration, marketing leaders can achieve significant ABM wins. While external performance in terms of driving the pipeline and opportunities is crucial, the value of internal progression should not be underestimated. It is essential to recognize the positive impact of enhanced internal collaboration and alignment.

Leveling up your ABM motion

Transitioning from good to great ABM involves continuously pushing boundaries and exploring new possibilities. One area where improvements can be made is in the level of personalization and sophistication. While basic personalization, such as incorporating the account or individual’s name and relevant messaging, is now considered essential, taking it a step further is the key. Real-time personalization based on intent signals and buyer behaviors allows for a truly differentiated experience tailored to how and where they engage.

Another aspect to consider is sales-driven ABM, where marketing sets predefined ABM plays that sales can activate when they identify an account that would benefit from a highly customized approach. This collaborative approach between marketing and sales adds another layer of effectiveness to the ABM strategy.

Moving from good to great ABM involves various levers to pull. Scaling the strategy, leveraging automation, and enhancing personalization through advanced techniques are all areas where improvements can be made. As you progress, explore these levers to unlock the full potential of your ABM efforts.

Gaining buy-in from sales and leadership

In the realm of ABM, it’s not uncommon to encounter sales reps who are resistant to participating in the ABM motion initiated by the marketing team. While some reps may be enthusiastic about ABM and eager to invoke it, others may prefer sticking to their tried-and-true methodologies. So, how can marketing leaders respond to this challenge?

One effective approach is to identify a sales champion within the team. Look for an individual who exhibits a degree of openness and interest in ABM, even if it’s just one person out of the group. Engage that individual in a pilot program, allowing them to experience the benefits firsthand. By doing so, you can demonstrate the success and value of ABM in a tangible way. Conducting a pilot program with a receptive sales champion serves multiple purposes. It not only proves the efficacy of ABM but also enables you to fine-tune and customize the program to align with sales preferences and workflows. Starting small and building from there provides a solid foundation for expanding ABM adoption across the sales team.

While having an engaged sales champion is crucial, it’s equally important to secure buy-in from sales leadership. These conversations should ideally take place at the C-suite level, with the CMO engaging the head of sales or the CRO. Gaining senior leadership support is instrumental in fostering a collaborative journey between marketing and sales.

First steps for launching a program

For sales and marketing leaders interested in starting an ABM program, the initial steps don’t necessarily require sophisticated technology. With a CRM and a marketing automation platform, you can successfully launch an ABM program. The key is to begin by clearly understanding your goals and target audience.

Identify the specific objectives you aim to achieve through ABM. Is it greenfield growth, acquiring new logos, or driving top-of-funnel engagement? Or perhaps it’s focused on upselling and cross-selling to existing key customers. Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience and goals, you can move forward with the following steps.

First: assess your account identification process. Determine how you will identify and prioritize the accounts you wish to target. Second: consider your content coverage strategy. What kind of multi-channel, multi-touch experiences do you need to create for your target accounts? Tailor your content and messaging to meet their specific needs and preferences.

Communication and alignment between sales and marketing are vital. Clearly define the rules of engagement and ensure both teams understand the game plan. Building this shared understanding will facilitate a smooth launch. Additionally, be prepared to take a deliberate and thoughtful approach. Going slow initially, investing time in building a solid foundation will ultimately enable faster success downstream. Focus on establishing the proper infrastructure and processes from the start, which will support your ABM program’s effectiveness and scalability.


Are you starting, expanding, or fully executing ABM? We’ve got tips for you no matter what stage you’re in, in this episode of Closing Time. Thanks for tuning into Closing Time for the show for go to Market leaders. I’m Val Riley, I head up content and digital marketing here at Insightly. Today, I’m joined by Meredith Fuller. She is co-owner and head of demand strategy at Quarry. Welcome to the show, Meredith. Hi, Val.. Thanks very much for having me. Let’s jump right in. You know, Meredith, ever since we’ve all started flipping our funnels and doing more spearfishing versus net fishing, account based marketing has been all the rage. You recently moderated a panel discussion and you had marketers with varying degrees of sophistication with ABM. So if you’re just starting out with ABM, can you talk us through some of those early challenges? Yeah, I think there’s a lot of things that marketers need to bear in mind when they’re beginning their ABM journey. First is that it does take time and discipline to set up properly and investing that time, although it might feel like you’re going to be a little bit slower getting to market with ABM, is really critical because if you don’t have those foundations set up properly, you will not achieve the success that ABM promises. When I speak about foundations,. I’m talking about, you know, certainly philosophical alignment between marketing and sales, for example, as well as process alignment, as well as the technologies that you need to underpin ABM. Certainly ABM isn’t a technology. But there are certain martech platforms that really help support a strong go to market ABM program. So spending the time to get the foundations right,. I would say is critical if you’re really starting into the ABM journey. I think that’s a great point in terms of like expectation management, because like any initiative, it’s going to take some time to start up and build momentum and we have to make sure there is alignment between sales and marketing to understand that the steps that are going to be involved there for sure. Okay. So let’s say you’ve got a couple of successful ABM campaigns under your belt and you’ve decided to expand. What are some of those challenges or how do you prepare for that? Yeah, that’s a great question. I think first and foremost, it’s looking at what’s worked in terms of what you’ve delivered so far from an ABM standpoint and building on that and letting go what hasn’t. Again, any time you’re starting a new or working your way through a new go to market approach, there’s going to be learnings and there’s going to be testing and there’s going to be trialing and there’s things that you might be really hopeful about that unfortunately don’t deliver on expectations. So as you’re expanding, it is important to really evaluate what has been successful and not just from a market standpoint, an engagement standpoint, and a trajectory along the buying journey with those targeted accounts, but even internally and operationally. I think the other thing when you’re sort of in that mid-stage is being very clear about where is it that you’re trying to get to with your ABM program. Is it that you’re looking to ultimately establish an ABM Center of Excellence that’s really going to provide the guidance for all ABM across your organization, whether locally or globally? Is it about something that you want to be able to sort of wrap up really neatly and allow all your field marketers to deploy? So understanding what your end state goal is really will help you make sure that as you continue to build and progress your account based marketing activities and structure and processes, etc., that you’re doing so in a manner that really is aligned to where you’re hoping to get ultimately at the end of the day. Yeah, I think a part of that stage you mentioned is kind of critically looking at what’s working and what hasn’t worked. And in my experience,. I thought we had the most amazing ABM campaign and just did not experience any success with it. And I look back now and I think, gosh, the creative was spectacular in my opinion. But I don’t think we were looking at the proper, like buyer intent signals when we were creating the list that we were going to target. So maybe looking back critically at, you want to do more ABM, great. What worked and what didn’t at that stage? Absolutely. At Quarry, we talk about sort of eight tenets or foundations of great ABM and really evaluating what you’ve done against each of those tenets is critical. And they do include things like your creative approach. Absolutely your account selection. How did you come to identify those accounts? Fit, engagement, intent. There’s lots of ways that now we’re able to, as marketers, evaluate both quantitative and qualitative signals as well as, you know, objective data driven signals. So that account selection is so critical. And as I said, you know, there’s a number of other tenants that we look at, but making sure that you’re thoughtful and you take the time again to evaluate critically and I will stress that I think that’s one of the biggest challenges for folks from an ABM perspective is that it takes time to get it right. But it is so worth doing. It takes time. So, you know, give yourself the grace and hopefully you’ll have your executive leadership understand that it takes time as well. Yeah, and it’s one thing when you’re on the marketing team and you can say, okay, we had this campaign, it wasn’t successful. Let’s look inward on our team and figure it out, where did the funnel? Was it the journey? Was it the landing page? Was it the offer?. Was it the response, etc.? But when you’re sharing that with marketing and sales, you have to be critical across teams and there can be some diplomacy there that we have to be careful with. And that goes back to,. I think what you said earlier about both the sales leader and the marketing leader kind of jointly owning ABM. Absolutely. And actually, I think you’ve touched on something that really is key to bear in mind is that it isn’t just about those performance metrics when we look at sort of the in-market engagement or, you know, move along the buying journey, it is about internal metrics as well. Have you been able to increase the collaboration and alignment between sales and marketing? Do you have better processes or data integration now across MarTech and SalesTech so that the data is moving more seamlessly? Do you have shared vision in terms of those KPIs? If you’re building those internal processes, if you’re building that internal collaboration and integration, those are all wins as well. So you know, as much as obviously everybody’s very attuned to ensuring that we’re getting that great external performance, driving the pipeline, driving to opportunity, whatever it is, don’t underplay the value of that internal progression as well. So my next question, I feel like maybe we touched on this a little bit, but, you know, we had talked about early stage. ABM kind of hitting your stride with ABM organizations that are super advanced with ABM. What kind of challenges are they facing? Yeah, I mean, I think going from good to great ABM, there’s always more you can do. So again, it’s a question of, what does that more look like? Is it about the level and sophistication of your personalization, for example? So, you know, I think a lot of table stakes personalization now really is about being able to deliver an experience that has, whether it’s the account name or the individual’s name represented, perhaps their vertical, the messaging is attuned to, again, their particular needs as a buyer or their particular needs from a vertical or a segment standpoint. But getting to the point where you’re actually doing sort of real time personalization based upon intent signals or based upon buyer behaviors where you’re creating a differentiated experience based upon how they’re engaging or where they’re engaging. That’s the way to take from good to great. We talk about sales driven ABM that our program aims that are sort of preset and predetermined by marketing, but sales can actually invoke them whenever they get an account to a point where they think an ABM play, a highly customized ABM play, would be valuable. So there’s lots of ways to move from from good to great. As I said, some of it is about scale. Some of it is about automation, sophistication from a personalization, etc.. So there’s lots of levers that you can pull when you get to that point. So, yeah, you mentioned a sales rep who’s super excited about ABM and wants to invoke it. But let’s flip on the other side of that coin. What about when you have sales reps who, you know, they just really want to move forward with their methodologies and they just don’t want to participate in whatever ABM motion that the sales and marketing teams are putting into action. How do you respond to that? Val, that’s a great question. And we run into that time and again with our marketing clients where they see the value of ABM and they have, you know, tried to explain that value and bring sales on board. But very often there is always, you know, whether it’s an individual sales person or a region even sometimes, that is more hesitant. In those instances, what we always advise is try to find a sales champion, someone who is leaning in, out of your five, ten, 20 sales folks, Is there someone who seems to be a little bit more open to it and just do a pilot with that individual. That is probably one of the best ways to then prove success. fine tune to ensure that you’re creating and deploying a program in a way that really is manageable and workable for sales and then build from there. Having a champion inside sales, somebody who’s been along the journey has experienced some success with it is the best way to get sales on board. In addition to of course, getting sales leadership bought-in and that really should be conversations that are happening at that C-suite level. If it’s the CMO speaking to the head of sales, if it’s the CRO, whatever it is that senior leadership support really is going to be your best, best partner throughout this type of journey. But pilot with somebody who’s engaged, I guess, and open to it. So I’ll share with you something that tends to be a bit of a hot potato in our sales and marketing organization, because when it comes to ABM, a lot of times you have to source contacts, right? And that can be really time consuming. And sometimes reps just don’t want to do that work. They’re frustrated by the manual work involving contact sourcing. So, you know, how do organizations typically solve for that in your experience? Yeah, that’s a great question. So a couple of things come to mind. First and foremost is identifying and understanding the contacts you actually do already have. So who are the contacts, whether it’s in the CRM, whether it’s in your marketing automation platform, perhaps it’s in, you know, an Outlook Rolodex for that sales rep has once you have those accounts identified and you know the roles, those buying group roles, doing an assessment of all that coverage that you have is an important starting place. And that’s one thing that regularly from a Quarry perspective, we’re always supporting clients on is mapping the contacts that they do have and then identifying what are the gaps. Are there key roles that you’re missing at each of those targeted accounts that you really know you need to have backfill before you can launch a successful ABM program? When you know what those holes are, then there’s lots of different platforms and service providers out there that can actually backfill those holes for you. So it’s really a question of contact depending, contact acquisition, there is a cost to that. But I would say that the costs that you bear to build out that buying group is really small compared to the benefit that you’re going to get if you’re actually able to reach all those buyers. The other thing that we’ve found is that when we do that contact depending, and usually again, it’s done with a vendor, it’s done sort of under the auspices of marketing that it really opens sales eyes to say,. Oh wow, Now instead of just having two contacts at this particular account that I’ve been working, I now have eight contacts and they’re all marketable contacts, etc. So that’s actually a great way at an early stage way for marketing to show sales the benefit of ABM because it isn’t, unlike demand gen activities, just a single representative or lead from an account. It is about reaching as many of those buyers as possible within the buying group, within an individual account. So that’s a lot of value right there for sales. Even if they don’t participate in any other aspect of ABM marketing is giving them valuable contacts to work. Yeah, I imagine if you were at an organization where, you know, contacts were supplied to you and then you moved to a different organization and you’re expected to source your own contacts, that could be a pretty abrupt change. But, you know, the other way would probably seem like a holiday. So I guess it’s a universal issue that different organizations handle differently. It is. And I would say that most of the organizations with whom we work do have some sort of database contact providing license, whether it’s held on the sales side or the marketing side, that may vary, but whether it’s ZoomInfo or D&B, or SalesIntel, or whatever it is, most organizations have those.. Have they use them to full advantage? Maybe, maybe not. Is ABM a great opportunity to absolutely employ those technologies and partnerships? 100%. All right. So we’ve covered a lot. But, you know, let’s just say you’re a sales and marketing leader right now watching this and you want to start an ABM program. You know, you had talked a little bit about some of the early challenges. You had talked about some strategies. What would be your message to those folks, like how do you get started? How do you get out of the gate? Yeah, So I would say that you don’t have to have a lot of sophisticated technology. You can absolutely launch a successful ABM program with a CRM and a marketing automation platform. It’s really about understanding first and foremost, what is your goal? What are you trying to achieve and with whom? So is it greenfield growth? It’s new logo, it’s top of funnel, trying to get folks to sales conversation or it’s upselling or cross-selling key customers. Once you understand who you need to target or who you wish to target and what your goals are, that’s the starting point to then start to go through and figure out, okay, if that’s what we’re trying to get to, what do we need to do from an account identification standpoint? What do we need to do from a content coverage standpoint? What is that multi-channel multi-touch experience, what does that look like, etc.. So it’s just being really clear with sales and marketing, what that game is. And starting from there. I think the other thing is, is, you know, just be prepared to go slow, to go fast. As I said, spend the time building it correctly from the get go, putting in those foundations. And that will allow you to achieve success more quickly downstream. So that would be the other advice. I guess I’d share. It’s great advice. You know, I feel like as a marketer, I’ve got, you know, 20, 25 years under my belt. If I look at organizations that aren’t running ABM right now, I think you’re missing out. I think it’s a really key motion that today’s organizations that are in high growth spaces like absolutely have to have as part of their arsenal. I completely agree. And, you know, I certainly wouldn’t say that it has to be all in that you’re all ABM and nothing else. There’s absolutely still a place for broader based demand generation for brand awareness programs, all those sorts of things. I mean, if you think about that ABM pyramid with one-to-one at the top, one-to-few, one-to-many. That one-to-market is still a really important base or foundation for the pyramid. But you know, think about it, smart account, targeted marketing, ABM, whatever you want to call it, ABX, ABS, it’s about putting your chips where you think you’re going to have the most return and the highest ROI. So that’s just smart marketing overall. So I really do think that, account targeted, account based, is here for the long term. I don’t think that’s going to go away. I think that’s just going to become a matter of course for B2B marketers. Well, this is a great conversation for me personally, and I hope for the folks out there, you know, we’re knee deep in an account based marketing program here at Insightly. And so it’s nice to hear other folks how they’re, you know, achieving great things and how they’re struggling. So thank you so much for sharing some of your thoughts with us today. Oh, my pleasure, Val.. Thanks very much for having me. All right. Thank you for joining us on this episode of Closing Time. Remember, you got to like the video. Subscribe to the channel and hit that bell for notifications so you don’t miss an episode. We’ll see you next week on Closing Time.

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