Let’s take a step back in time to Q3 of 2019, when I was asked to lead the ABM experiment. I recall the conversation with my CMO and what was running through my head. I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I thought, WOW, this is going to be a great opportunity. I’m always up for a challenge! On the other hand, I thought, What the heck do I do first, and will it work? With excitement and optimism in my sails, I set off on the sea of ABM.
ABM is a multi-faceted approach using highly personalized persona, situation, and industry messaging to reach, capture, and compel the recipient to act on a deep and meaningful level.
I began by piecing together what I had to do first to build a solid foundation of success. A slew of things needed to be tackled out of the gate to ensure I set myself and the team up for some early wins. After gaining leadership's approval to move forward (this could be a whole article itself!), here are some things I did and learned as I traveled down the path...
Name it an experiment. It would be wise to use the word experiment early on when launching your first ABM effort. As with any experiment, you're testing what works and what doesn't. Naming it an experiment helps others understand that things may change as you move ahead--turning dials and pulling levers. And trust me, things will change.
Research and then research some more. Dive into articles, reports, videos, whitepapers, etc., on the ABM successes and pitfalls others have experienced. Create a library of research that you can go back to (and you will often!) for reference as you build your first experiment. I’d suggest allocating 4-6 weeks to do your research right. It seems like a long time, right? Perhaps. However, ABM isn’t a flick-the-switch overnight effort. There’s a fair amount of knowledge you need before you start planning your moves.
Communicate early, clearly and often. Be clear in your communication to Sales and other groups about what ABM is, how it aligns with business goals, and what you intend to prove from your experiment. Again, emphasis experiment. Create an overview of your ABM strategy in the form of a live or recorded presentation. Set 1:1 meetings with those involved to ensure they are clear on what you are trying to achieve. Get their needs outlined so that you know too what they expect from the effort and how they'd like to know where things stand on an ongoing basis.
Determine what group you want to focus on first. ABM best practices can be applied to both existing customers and new logos. It has roots on the customer side; however, prospect-focused programs have shown positive results as well.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t try to tackle more than one experiment to kick off your efforts, especially if the required internal resources are limited. ABM can put some strain on resources, so be sure to discuss how balancing initiatives will occur, especially within marketing and sales, the two groups that have the most involvement.
Metrics matter. Set metrics early that help guide you along to know if you’re achieving the desired business outcomes. Are MQLs what you're after? Or perhaps first meetings? But what about pipeline opportunities? Think about what metric matters most and start there.
Line up your team. Decide who is on the journey with you and what role they play? You might think that it’s just Marketing, or perhaps you pepper in some folks from Sales. Fact is, it’s Sales and Marketing plus others like delivery and customer service. ABM isn’t a one-person, one-department initiative. It’s a companywide endeavor.
Saying ABM is only for marketing is like saying digital transformation is only for IT.
Hold on ABM technology. Some may think an early step is to onboard ABM-specific technology like Terminus or DemandBase—two great platforms, by the way! However, I don't believe that it's necessary to onboard an ABM platform out of the gate. Instead, consider a more human-driven process. (This is an entire discussion of its own, which if interested, reach out, and we can banter this a bit.) Human involvement helps to understand better the inner workings and needs associated with ABM. With that said, you need some email automation platform that allows you to send emails, track metrics, create landing pages, and score content engagement—examples: HubSpot and Pardot.
Bonus tip in the form of a book suggestion: “How to Get a Meeting With Anyone” by Stu Heinecke. It’s not about ABM per se but rather creative approaches used by all kinds of companies to reach, resonate and rustle up a reaction with a buyer. I guarantee this book will unleash your creative thinking when you begin to strategize how to grab your audience's attention in your ABM experiment. This book never collects dust on my bookshelf!
Finally... have fun! In my many years of marketing, ABM is one of the most challenging, exciting and fun experiences I've ever had. It's a ride like no other.
I plan to release other tips to dive deeper into the areas above and share tips for the more mature ABMer. Be sure to "follow" me on LinkedIn so that you can grab more nuggets of knowledge when they are released.
If you found this read helpful, please consider engaging further by liking or sharing it. If you have been on your own ABM journey, share some of your tips by commenting below.