Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a focused effort to win business from your most desirable prospects. Because these prospects are typically large, and their business is often controlled by a committee of decision makers and buying influencers, your ABM pilot program will span many months, if not years. And once success has been achieved, ABM in roll-out will become a mainstay of your marketing efforts, taking its place beside your traditional demand-generation initiatives.
With that in mind, what are the milestones along the way to a successful pilot?
- ABM Plan
The first milestone is the development of your ABM plan. As ABM is a program that will impact your largest prospects, you need to build your plan around a close collaboration with your sales team, since they will be responsible for following up on the leads. Salespeople on your ABM team need to have an incentive to succeed with the early parts of the program, even though revenue from converting these large accounts may not hit the books until next year or later. Goals, objectives, and KPIs for success should be part of the plan.
- ABM plan and budget approval
Next is approval of the plan and budget from the highest level of your organization. Because acquiring and eventually servicing these large accounts is likely to affect every part of the organization from senior management to the plant floor, it is important to secure approval and support from all the stakeholders early in the planning.
- Prospect definition
Gaining consensus on the target accounts—the accounts that deliver not just the revenue you want, but whose culture also makes them a good fit with your firm—is well worth the time you devote to the effort to define them.
- List acquisition
Now that you have defined your dream prospects, it is time to begin the real work of ABM: understanding how each customer’s buying committee is constituted, who the buyers and influencers are, what house lists you can start with, what lists are available on the outside, how they will be merged, and how they will best be pursued. This is often the most time-consuming part of the ABM preparation, so having a working list is a major milestone in your ABM program.
- Persona development
Understanding the concerns and pain points of each buying decision maker and influencer is the key to developing offers that will cause them to engage with you.
- Offer (content) development
Based on the personas you have created, your team will develop offers designed to engage and cultivate the members of your prospects’ buying committee at every stage of the buying continuum.
- Web customization and tracking
When a prospect engages with you, whether through a conversation with a salesperson, a visit to your website, or downloading content, you need to know about it. Building the analytics into your program early is critical to fine-tuning your content and offers—and can greatly accelerate your success.
- Publish your ABM Playbook and reveal it at program kickoff
Your Playbook will keep all the stakeholders on the same page. It will help you set expectations and it will be important when you make progress reports. Large accounts take time to win, often years before they pay off. But when they do convert, they pay off big! That’s why it’s important to keep management’s eye on the goal, and to measure it against the objectives you have published in the Playbook.
- Progress reports
Make sure you report to your management at least once per month on progress against your stated KPIs, goals, and objectives.
- Celebrate your wins
Your first engagement results from a new prospect event that is worthy of celebration. Celebrate your first sales touch. Celebrate the addition of a new buying influence or decision maker to your list of target accounts. Celebrate the first in-depth sales encounter. Celebrate your first site visit. And, of course, celebrate your first proposal and sale.
Make sure your entire team knows about these milestones and will celebrate along with you as you achieve them. Build incentives into your program for the players—to keep them motivated right up to the time you convert your first extra-large prospect to a major sale—a prospect that you could not have attracted without this program.