Account-Based Marketing Crash Course: 4 Basic Steps

Account-Based Marketing Crash Course: 4 Basic Steps
Less than one percent of leads turn into customers, according to Forrester Research. If that doesn’t make you sweat bullets, there’s something wrong with you. Or maybe it’s just your mindset. But this statistic puts the writing on the wall: marketers are still using “spray and pray” tactics, generating low-quality leads who waste sales’ time, and they can’t identify when a lead is actually a good opportunity. In the end, most leads go cold before marketing can identify their positive behavior. Modern marketers are expected showing ROI from their campaigns, but their KPIs don’t align directly with revenue, which means they can’t prove that they actually moved the needle. With the traditional funnel, you blast your message to a million people who might be a good fit for your product or service, and maybe two percent of those convert, and then maybe less than one percent of that two percent actually become opportunities later down the road.  That’s why account-based marketing has taken the world by storm, and it’s also why we created #FlipMyFunnel. Neil Patel is talking about it. Marketo is talking about it. DemandBase, Engagio, Terminus, and others are all chiming in on this important topic.  Rather than the traditional model, we’re turning B2B marketing on its head and looking at the accounts first — not the leads. Accounts must be where we start; otherwise, we’re wasting time on people who don’t fit our customer profile and will never buy from us anyway. With proper training and information, anyone can do account-based marketing and completely turn their marketing department upside-down  — in a good way.

Where B2B Marketers Should Begin

We can’t begin with account-based marketing without addressing the most obvious component: accounts. The traditional way of thinking about marketing is to start with leads. The majority of marketers work with leads, and leads belong to opportunities, and those opportunities belong to accounts. But by the time a lead becomes an opportunity that belongs to an account (if it even makes it that far), the opportunity has moved beyond the marketer’s hands. Marketing might know the company the lead came from, but beyond that, it’s out of sight and out of mind. If we reverse the process and flip the funnel (see what I did there?), marketers actually start out with accounts instead —  but only the accounts they think will buy. Instead of the “spray and pray” methodology, you’re starting with accounts who you know are infinitely more likely to benefit from your services and then move on to the people in those accounts —  the personas, segments, and ideal customer profiles (ICPs) within those accounts.

1. Identify

Identifying your ideal customer profile (ICP) and target accounts is a lot like buying a car. There are requirements (the must-haves), and then there are nice perks (the nice-to-haves). Finally, there’s the don’t-really-cares (things you’re mostly indifferent about, but it’s still important to know in case a pattern arises). Perhaps you absolutely must have a family vehicle — something that can fit more that four people comfortably. You might also care about gas mileage, the size of the vehicle, and general safety. Some people won’t even buy a car if the price per pound isn’t at the ratio they like. It’s amazing how quickly we throw out certain cars that don’t fit our profile or aren’t exactly what we’re looking for because of seemingly small factors. And yet, we junk up our CRMs and marketing automation platforms with worthless leads and accounts that “kind of fit the profile.” We junk up our CRMs and marketing automation platforms with worthless leads . . . Identify the absolute must-haves and nice-to-haves about your target accounts. What size company should they be? Who are you selling to in their organizations? Does industry matter? What other facets about a company let you know you’ve got an excellent lead?

2. Expand

Once you’ve identified your list of target accounts and/or ICP, you’ll be able to start using this list to reach your audience. In other words, it’s time to map out the organizational structure and key decision-makers and then gather some data on those people. First, brainstorm what you think the buying committee might look like. Maybe you’re selling to digital marketing managers. Who do they report to? Director of marketing? And who are their colleagues? Do they have any direct reports? Content marketer? Marketing coordinator?  Next, you can use third-party data providers (or do the dirty work yourself) to find information for these contacts and map out each account’s organizational hierarchy.  

3. Engage

The Engage stage is probably my personal favorite, because this is where we get to optimize, test, and truly embody sales and marketing alignment, or “smarketing.”  This stage is all about how fast an account can become a customer. Pipeline velocity is important here; metrics for success will have to do with actual time it takes to become a customer and if smarketing is able to speed up the process together. Increases in engagement per account are incredibly valuable. They signify that the account is more likely to purchase and that you have more internal advocates. Marketing and sales activities could include strategizing together around outreach, sending a case study, creating custom content, event planning, email nurturing, sending email cadences, etc.  Ultimately, the actions in this stage will depend on what both teams agree is the best way to turn a target account into a paid customer.

4. Advocate

Finally, focus on turning our customers into brand advocates  — people who rave about your company while still being your best customers. The old 80/20 rule suggests that 80 percent of your revenue comes from 20 percent of your customers. That’s huge! Customers are important, and it’s imperative that your brand continue to surprise and delight throughout the customer journey.  Some of the ways you can turn customers into advocates include:
  • Regular communication from a customer success manager
  • Special VIP invitations to events you host, including an annual user conference
  • Discover other ways to get to know the customer and develop meaningful relationships (for example, can you make any special introductions that could help someone’s career?)
  • Create a customer-only education program
  • Get regular feedback from your customers to see what parts of their experience your brand can improve

Where to Learn More

There are several places you can get more information about account-based marketing and detailed how-to instructions. To start: 
  1. Read Account-Based Marketing For Dummies.
  2. Check out #FlipMyFunnel’s recently-launched Account-Based Marketing University (ABM University).
#FlipMyFunnel launched the premier online ABM course to teach B2B organizations the best practices, tools, and tactics they need to get started, as well as how to execute your first account-based marketing campaign. With more than 40 videos from ABM thought-leaders and practicioners, 250 lessons, and a comprehensive final exam offering certification in account-based marketing, ABM University students can expect a fully immersive and actionable learning experience that drives real results.  Happy funnel-flipping! ABM University
Sangram Vajre, co-founder and CMO of Terminus and Founder of the #FlipMyFunnel movement, is a passionate marketing geek at heart and loves to solve problems, both analytically and creatively. Over the years, Sangram has amassed invaluable experience from his exposure to startups, consulting, and global companies. Most recently, he lead marketing at Pardot, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2013. Sangram also authored Account-Based Marketing for Dummies. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangramvajre.
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