The tactics, content and technology behind account-based marketing


Account-based marketing means taking sales and marketing teamwork to another level. In the second part of her series, Barb Mosher Zinck looks at the tactics required to get ABM off the ground. She quotes experts who’ve been down this road, and illustrates a sample ABM stack.

mapping-winning-strategyIf getting the foundation right is the first step in finding success with account-based marketing, then figuring out the best tactics, content, and technology comes next. There’s no one right answer; this you well understand by now. But our experts lend you a few insights that will help you find your focus.

Taking a page from your digital marketing strategies

Is there a difference between traditional digital marketing and account-based marketing tactics? It depends on who you ask and their answer depends on their context. I think my favorite advice on this topic came from Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing:

If you were doing “traditional” marketing right, it’s not that big of a shift.  Customer-centric messaging, alignment with the buying stages, tie into internal & external buying signals to drive urgency and velocity of the deals, etc.  Now take an account orientation instead of an individual/lead orientation and you’re on the right track.

The key here is “customer-centric” messaging, or personalized messaging as both Victoria Godfrey, CMO of Avention and Charm Bianchini, senior director of marketing at Marketo, spoke about. Godfrey did agree that on some level, account-based marketing is similar to traditional marketing, but she pointed out that you need to take it further by really focusing on the personalization of messages to individuals within your target accounts. Bianchini agreed, noting that you need to have a “keen understanding of the opportunities and challenges at the account level.”

Godfrey also provided one very key difference between ABM and traditional digital marketing – the need to have sales and marketing tightly aligned on the strategy. This alignment is good in all marketing, but it’s critical for account-based marketing.

Sangram Vajre, CMO of Terminus, provided a slightly different perspective saying that there is a big difference between the two types of marketing. He said that difference lies in the scope. You need to have a “laser-focus” on the right combination of high/low tech/touch activities. His advice to get the key target personas interested is to do a combination of:

  • High tech/low touch campaigns that provide “air cover” for sales (here he says you need ABM technology)
  • Low tech/high touch sales tactics leveraging email and direct calling to contacts within the account.

Bringing content marketing into the fold

What’s the right content to create? What asset formats work best? The best content is personal, useful and timely, said Godfrey. To figure that out, you need to understand your target personas intimately. And to understand your accounts you need to ask questions or have access to data that can provide that information.

Vajre agreed saying it’s about answering the right questions and discussing the pain points of that particular account. Heinz notes that as you define your target personas, learn the content themes and content formats they prefer.

Two things to consider:

  • Did the content download lead to a conversation or engagement of sales? Then it’s the right content. (Vajre)
  • The format is important, but the message and the offer come first and foremost. (Heinz)

Here’s a tactical approach from Bianchini:

  1. Do your research – know your accounts inside and out (at least as much as you can).
  2. Take inventory of existing ABM content – what content and creative do you have, what accounts are they used for, what stage of the ABM campaign are they used? An inventory tells you what you have, what’s missing, what needs to be updated and so on.
  3. Craft a content strategy plan – Create a content and messaging matrix for each target account broken down by stage in the purchase journey.
  4. Personalize at scale – “…the idea of personalizing each piece of content can seem daunting. Instead, repurposing current content is an efficient way to personalize content at scale. “

The right technology could be new or very old

Yes, there is a lot of new technology in the market to support account-based marketing, some standalone with key integrations, others fully integrated into an existing marketing platform. And it’s very useful. Heinz said that ABM-specific solutions can help “scale the efficiency, predictability, and reliability of ABM results.”

But that doesn’t mean you need ABM technology. Heinz said the minimum you need is a telephone and email.

I may be in the minority when I say you don’t need an extensive martech stack to execute a successful ABM strategy.  You can get a successful program off the ground with just a CRM, a marketing automation system, and a data solution. – Victoria Godfrey

If you do decide to purchase ABM technology, the best solutions integrate with your CRM, marketing automation, and analytics platforms. And there are other technologies in the marketing stack that work well for ABM.

Here’s a sample ABM tech stack using Terminus’ Stack Grader (this stack is graded Novice), but it gives you an idea of the different types of technology you could use to implement your ABM strategy. Vajre makes an important point, though, “No amount of technology will make up for lack of a comprehensive account-based marketing program.”


Created using  ABM Stack Grader from Terminus

My take

If you are just starting out, it may be too soon to look at ABM technology. You need to get your strategy well-defined, your target personas and accounts identified and that’s no easy task. It takes time and a coordinated effort between marketing and sales to figure out the right accounts and define their challenges, pain points, needs and opportunities.

Then you have to figure out what content to create in what format and the messaging across the entire buyer’s journey. After that you start thinking about technology and how you can leverage it.

Of course, technology can help you define strategy and identify content and messaging too. It ranges from email and phone systems to connect with accounts to ask your questions, to analytics and data solutions to marketing automation and CRM systems filled with account data.

Let’s look at it another way, though. What if you wanted to test-drive ABM? Figure out if it’s an approach that can work for your company? You could sign up for a SaaS ABM solution and do some testing, or pilot an ABM program. What a pilot can help you do, is figure out all the things you need to get in place to do ABM well. Sometimes technology helps you figure out your weak points faster and get you moving forward faster.

The final column in our series will look at ABM post acquisition, tips for getting sales and marketing to play nice and a close look at measurement and metrics.

Image credit - Feature image - Man drawing a soccer game strategy © Ivelin Radkov - AMB stack maker credited above.