Three signs you need to break up with your ABM program - relationship advice from Drift

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher December 1, 2022
Learn to love your Account-Based Marketing program all over again...


Are you unhappy with how your Account-Based Marketing (ABM) program works? Maybe it’s the way you have it set up? Maybe you’re looking at the wrong accounts or can’t get sales on-side the way they need to be? Is it you or is it the program?

Well, let’s look at a real world example.  At the 6sense Breakthrough 2022 event, Justin Keller, VP of Revenue Marketing at Drift, shared how Drift’s ABM program was not working and what they did to get it back on track.

Keller shared three signs to look for to let you know it’s time to stop and rethink your ABM program.

First, he said you might be holding on to good memories. According to eMarketer, in 2018, 43% of companies said ABM was critical, but that number dropped to 19% in 2019. Today, most companies still believe ABM is important, but many struggle to make it a workable program.

The second sign is that you’ve stopped putting in the effort. Personalization is an integral part of a successful ABM program, but we’re still stuck trying to figure out how to do it well, sometimes at all. And some think we don’t need personalization at all.

The third sign is that there is no serious commitment. If your executive team has not bought into ABM as a strategic program, and your sales and marketing are not working together collaborative on the right accounts, then this lack of commitment will result in a program that isn’t going to show the performance you expect.

Keller said that Drift had worked in terms of accounts long before Keller joined the company and they had a sophisticated program:

  • Volume - the entire ICP universe
  • Target Accounts (10,000) - these were accounts with high firmographic scores, constantly scanned and refreshed. There was limited personalization within this group of accounts. Instead, webinars and syndicated content were prevalent.
  • Drift 250 - The best-fit, highest contact value - what Keller called “white whales.”

The truth was they weren’t generating revenue from these white whale accounts and weren’t actually doing much with them. Keller said they had built a model that addressed everyone but these critical accounts. So they changed the model and shifted to creating unique 1-1 experiences, but not for these accounts.

Falling back in love with ABM

Instead, they developed a new ABM program called the ENT51. Essentially, they had seventeen enterprise Account Executives (AEs), and they gave each one three accounts to work with, hence ‘ENT51’.

The new ABM program focused on three key elements:

  1. Build personal relationships - they wanted human-to-human interaction and to create conversations.
  2. Communicate better with sales - Drift created new engagement signals for AEs to pay attention to, and they would sit in small zoom meetings to talk about the accounts.
  3. Lock it down - They worked hard to let these key accounts know they were listening and understanding their challenges and needs and wanted to help them.

The question was, which accounts fell into this new ABM model? Drift didn’t just pick 51 accounts; they performed intense research and data reviews to determine a strong account list to work from. And, of course, they had a number of tools to help them:

  • 6sense for their central account intelligence hub
  • Alexa rankings were used as a limiting factor because Drift customers needed a lot of inbound traffic
  •, Cognism, and Zoominfo (which they use less now) for additional data, along with data offered from 6sense offerings

The result was what Keller called an “HD-vivid picture of their universe.” It was from this much smaller list that marketing developed that AEs could pick their three accounts to work with.

Showing that you care

Drift leveraged several capabilities to work with accounts, of which 6sense was vital. Along with 6sense’s predictive and account intelligence, they also used 1:1 social and display advertising for LinkedIn and Facebook. In addition, SDRs and AEs performed personalized outreach using Outreach, including custom email templates with white space to make it highly personalized. They also used Intellimize for personalized landing pages and Drift’s personalized chat and live conversation features. And finally, they worked with ROI-DNA to help them execute the advertising strategies.

According to Keller, the tactics they used were very straightforward. First, they launched 1:1 ad campaigns that greeted the account by name, built on the hard and fast rule that personalization drives engagement.

Next, they offered a reason to pay attention, including offering custom-branded podcast microphones and AirPods. The idea behind these gifts was to have better conversations with everyone. Finally, the AEs created custom Drift videos for each account that showed up in the Drift chat when someone from the account hit one of the landing pages.

Keller said this wasn’t an expensive program to run. The most significant expense and time came from putting effort into letting the account know they cared. The program ran for a little under three weeks, and the results were impressive:

  • Advertising resulted in 5x CTR
  • Landing page engagement was 23% (the account interacted with a Drift experience), and 50% provided contact information to learn more.
  • There were four opportunities created, one of which was inbound, resulting in $267k in pipeline and 33x ROI.

This new ABM program resulted in a $1.1 million influenced pipeline in under three months. Since this program ran, Drift has started new ABM programs, including the ENT102, building out some 1:Few programs with a renewed approach, and established an ABM Council comprised of Demand Generation, Field Ops, and Sales Leaders, and run by Marketing Ops. Keller said the Marketing Ops team is neutral and provides the data and benchmarks that everyone needs to understand what’s working and what’s not.

My take

Keller did a great job explaining Drift’s new ABM program and why it had to change its strategy. Taking a much more personalized approach does require working with fewer accounts, depending on the size of the AE team, so it made sense they reduced the number of accounts they worked with.

What’s interesting is that tactics like 1:1 advertising, personalized gifts, personalized landing pages, and email outreach are not new. There’s nothing groundbreaking about using these tools. What worked for Drift is the dedication to finding the right accounts to work with and the effort put into understanding them and creating the right messages and conversations. This is what ABM is all about, and it’s where most companies fail to get it right and wonder why their programs aren’t successful.

Without the right accounts, no ABM program will work, regardless of how much time, effort, personalization, or gifts are put into it. If more companies stood back and looked at the accounts they are working with, they might fall out of love with their ABM program too and find a new, better one.

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