As the first full-time account-based marketing (ABM) practitioner at Evergage, I spent a lot of time developing our own ABM framework. While each company’s approach to ABM will vary depending on their market and their needs, I wanted to share the approach that worked for us — which I’m referring to as the 5 P’s of building an ABM framework. I described the first two P’s in my post last week, so read that one first if you haven’t already. This post will describe the remaining P’s: partner, pilot, and produce. Let's dive right in!
Sales-marketing alignment is not just important, it is necessary and critical to the ABM effort. If you are a marketer building an ABM framework, always consider how a certain tactic or option affects the sales team. This does not mean that you should disregard the marketing team’s objectives, it just means that there should be unity around what both teams are trying to accomplish. You are partners. Understanding what motivates both teams will help guide your decision-making as you outline the plan and help you anticipate potential roadblocks. In addition, your consideration of what both sales and marketing are looking to achieve will contribute to your program’s success.
I come from a sales background, so I know where certain gaps are with our own organization and where the sales team would like to receive more help. We developed our framework with this in mind. If you don’t have that kind of hands-on experience within sales, that is okay! Connecting with sales leadership and different members of the team will help provide an important perspective on the program you are building. Your relationship with sales is a key component of the plan, and that team has a vested interest in the program’s success. Don’t hesitate: collaborating with sales on each aspect of the plan is vital if you value a true partnership.
Once we selected target accounts and finalized our proposed plan, we presented it to the sales team and asked for feedback. We gave sales the opportunity to review and accept or reject the accounts we recommended, and to suggest additional ones. You might ask, why would you manually choose accounts if you were just going to give sales the opportunity to potentially select other ones? This is a great question.
We did this because we wanted to reinforce that sales and marketing are partners — that marketing was not going to select target accounts without consulting sales, and that marketing wouldn’t expect sales to do all the work either. In the presentation, we shared how we selected the accounts (per Part 1 — we did an analysis on our most successful customers, we built an ICP that reflected the data we collected, and we selected accounts that fit this model). Then, after we shared our process and the levels of support the marketing team was planning to provide for these target accounts, we asked the sales team to review the list. We worked together and made some changes along the way, keeping the process highly collaborative.
You don’t want your sales reps to feel like you are imposing accounts on them. Instead, you need to build a framework with a partnership in mind to help alleviate any potential strain. Outline the steps in the framework that you need (and want!) to ensure you are enabling a true ABM partnership.
Once you’ve prioritized your ABM program’s target accounts, planned your activities and outreach, and partnered with the sales team so they understand the plan, you are then ready to pilot your program. The pilot should be a scoped-down version of your ABM plan that you use to test your approach and make tweaks before rolling the program out completely. How you run your pilot, and for how long, is up to you. In the Evergage ABM framework, we included both the plan for our pilot, as well as the full ABM rollout plan.
Our pilot focused on the top tier accounts (Strategic — review my first post for more detail on this) and driving discovery meetings with those accounts. Based on the results of the pilot, we made adjustments and improvements before rolling out the full ABM program. Setting the proper expectations, as well as deadlines for activities, during this step is crucial, so each individual who is participating knows what is going on.
At this time, you will also need to identify which metrics you will be using to measure your pilot (and your ABM plan in general). You will also want to be explicit about your goals — what you are trying to achieve, the benchmarks to use to identify whether you have been successful, and more. Goal-setting and measurement will be the subject of a future post!
Once your pilot is up and running, it is important to produce. “Produce what, Catherine?” you may be asking. The first thing you want to produce is a way to share your progress. Whether it’s a spreadsheet, CRM dashboard, or another tool, it is critical that you have a way to monitor your ABM pilot and overall program activities. You should also ensure there is visibility around this process, so that other stakeholders can also understand what is happening in your program.
The second thing you want to produce (which you can probably already guess) is results. In an ideal world, you have written and started executing on a framework that is performing well. But if you are seeing little or no progress, there may be a problem. Listen to what the sales team is saying, and don’t be afraid to dig in deeper. Your framework is just a guide, and, as you start to work on reaching your target accounts, it is likely that certain aspects of your framework will need to be updated. That’s ok! New programs aren’t going to be perfect when they start, but it is important to catch issues before they escalate into something more serious. Remember the metrics that you carved out for your program, and see how you are benchmarking against them.
Finally, let’s not forget...you want to produce the framework itself! You have spent time building and writing this framework. You’ve worked cross-departmentally to gather materials. Other colleagues are going to hear about what you are doing, and they will want to understand your plan. The framework is your ABM ”master guide.” Every important initiative you would like to accomplish with your ABM program, as well as how you’d like to achieve it, should be in there. You should also feel comfortable sharing it with individuals at your company who want to understand what you are doing.
Bonus P: Personalize
If you are a regular reader of Evergage content, you may already know that we believe that personalization is a critical component of ABM. As such, personalization at the industry and account level is a critical component of our ABM program. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check it out, I’d highly recommend my colleague Eileen’s blog post on creating account-specific experiences. It provides a great overview on one way that we are leveraging personalization for our own ABM purposes, and the results are speaking for themselves!
Building an ABM framework is not an easy task. There are a lot of elements to consider, and it takes a long time to do this well. Our Evergage ABM Framework is over twenty pages long! However, if you are specific and thorough (and remember the 5 P’s), building a framework is an excellent opportunity to contribute to the foundation of a major program within your organization. It also provides transparency and clarity around what you want to achieve with ABM, and it gives you the opportunity to think both strategically and tactically about how to align your program with the goals of the business.
If you are looking for additional, in-depth resources on how to build an ABM framework, I’d highly recommend A Practitioner’s Guide to Account-Based Marketing by Bev Burgess with Dave Munn and Account-Based Marketing for Dummies by Sangram Vajre. And if you’re a subscriber to SiriusDecisions, they have several excellent resources on ABM strategy and program development. These books and resources provide great insight on why ABM is important and how to build a framework that works for your organization. I referred to these regularly while we were building the Evergage ABM framework. But remember... just because something works for someone else, that doesn’t mean it will work for you. As long as you know your business and understand its goals, you are more likely to build a framework that centers around what you need to do to be successful.