Marketing /Everything you need to know about Account Based Marketing

Everything you need to know about Account Based Marketing

Have you been curious about Account Based Marketing (ABM) for a while, but want to know more? Or have you never heard of it, but you’re keen to know what it’s all about? Well, you’re in the right place!

We sat down with Paul Robertson, Founder of MarketBoost Consulting, who has over 15 years of experience in marketing, and 10 years successfully marketing growing B2B SaaS companies. We picked his brain on everything Account Based Marketing – what it is, how to go about it, the tools you need to have and how to get leadership buy-in and more. So sit down, relax and keep reading.


Paul, let’s start with something simple – what is Account Based Marketing?

I define Account Based Marketing as a B2B, go-to-market sales and marketing strategy where you focus a set of resources and attention on a set of target accounts that are ideal for your business.

It can be done on a one-to-one basis where you target actions and activities towards winning one specific company, or it can be done on a one-to-few/one-to-many basis, where you look for commonalities in the target companies and put together strategies to win business from those that meet your ideal customer profile.

ABM, while commonly used in the SaaS and software space, is great for B2B companies if their offering is high value and has a long buying process. There tends to be multiple approval layers, due to compliance or legislation and many cross-departmental stakeholders, so this targeted marketing strategy can be perfect for it.


How do you go about identifying those target accounts?

There’s two main ways. The first approach involves doing your own research. Look at your ideal customer profile, put together a list of target accounts that meet that criteria and score them based on whether they’ve engaged with you or not.

If you don’t have an ideal customer profile set up yet, there are a number of things to consider to create this, like:

  • The regions you serve – if your product isn’t compliant in a certain country or region, there’s no point trying to target companies based there
  • Company size – if your product is high cost, then you probably don’t want to target small businesses that’ll have smaller budgets
  • Internal personnel – Do they have a team which can use your solution?
  • Land and expand potential – this is a concept in software or SaaS. You get the company on board with a low initial purchase, but you can grow with them over time.

The second way is to look through your first party data. Look through the data in your CRM and see if there are particular companies showing high intent. They may be looking at case study pages on your website or you may have given them a product demo in the past that didn’t result in a sale for whatever reason. Perhaps multiple contacts from the one company are engaging with you now (or have in the past) and could do with a focused push. You can also use third party data such as visitors to your G2 review page or LinkedIn Sales Navigator or ABM software insights (such as 6Sense – more to come). Often there’s six – ten decision makers in the software purchase process, so you might need to do a bit more of a focused push and run campaigns targeted towards these decision makers.


How do you engage sales in this process?

For ABM to succeed or run optimally, you need to work cross functionally and absolutely must engage sales before setting up ABM initiatives, as well as regularly throughout the process – I would recommend weekly or bi-weekly touch points with assigned owners from both sales and marketing.

I’ve seen what can happen when there’s misalignment on roles and responsibilities and timelines between the two functions. I joined a company that had attempted to launch ABM initiatives, but because they didn’t work together on the strategy and desired outcomes, there was friction between sales and marketing. In one example, Sales was saying marketing weren’t delivering the content requested and timelines weren’t being met and marketing was saying that they weren’t briefed well enough to produce the content.

A discussion with sales about what constitutes a sales ready lead and intent is necessary, otherwise there can be a lot of wasted time and effort for both teams. If marketing operates in silo, while they’ll be targeting accounts and turning leads over to the sales team, they may be providing leads after one or two touch points – which aren’t actually warm leads that are worthy of a follow-up. If you’re a tight and integrated team, then you can decide together on how many touch points or what actions are necessary for leads to be considered warm.

ABM doesn’t have to be used just for finding new leads, it can be a useful tool to drive new business from your current clients. Looking at your client data, you may see lots of seats being used or lots of usage of a current product – this could indicate the client is getting high value from your product. You can run campaigns to drive them to use a complementary product (if you have a multi-product offering) or to upgrade them to a different pricing tier. It’s important that sales and marketing are aligned on this as well.


What’s the best approach to content?

Great question. Gated content is still one of the best ways to get contacts in your database. Once the contact is in the database, it becomes a form of first party data and you can follow their actions across your website, email marketing, paid ads and social media to allow for more deeply segmented targeting.

Some of the more progressive companies have a different approach. They’re un-gating their content and focusing less on leads and more on education to drive new business. A great example of this is Chris Walker and his team at Refine Labs – they’ve built a strategy around educational LinkedIn videos. You watch his videos natively on LinkedIn but then you don’t immediately click anywhere. They’re aiming for viewers of their videos to then search for them or type in their webpage directly or share what they saw, which can overindex their search volume.

So while most businesses will still go down the gated content route and find it to be successful for them, there are some taking this more non-traditional approach and reaping the rewards.


We know you’re a big fan of HubSpot, what other tech do you recommend for ABM?

There’s a whole tech stack that you could use to do ABM well. You need a strong CRM, I would recommend something like HubSpot – this is a non-negotiable. You need a marketing automation platform – once again, like HubSpot or Marketo.

Live chat software is something to consider too. I’ve used Drift in the past and it’s great for ABM. If you’re able to identify the person or company who is on your website, you can tailor messages and put them on a playbook that’s related just to them to personalise the on-site experience.

ABM often involves physical or digital gifting as well, so there’s programs to help with that ReachDesk, Sendoso or Alyce to send personalised gifts – it can be nice when people arrive at their desk or open their inbox and see a gift from you.

Finally, there’s sales intelligence systems, like Cognism or LinkedIn Sales Navigator. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is actually dual purpose – you can build audiences of who you want to target for outreach or if you have LinkedIn’s tracking pixel on your website, you can see if contacts from the target company is engaging with your website content or giving signals of purchase intent. It integrates with many CRMs as well.

All of these solutions depend on your budget and if your business has the manpower and capability to use them. For example, if you don’t have a marketing operations or a revenue operations team, you might not get full use of some of the tools. You need to assess whether each solution is worth it or not.


How do you measure ROI and manage leadership’s expectations of ABM?

All of the inputs we’ve discussed need to result in outputs. The best B2B revenue attribution systems I’ve seen are Dreamdata and, as they allow you to integrate and visualise your data from the different systems we’ve touched on. They can provide a full funnel view on how your campaigns and content are influencing the path to purchase or opportunity. This is really important in B2B Enterprise environments where the journey to purchase can take six months or more, with six to ten contacts involved in the buying process.

In terms of managing up, it depends on the environment you’re in. Are you in a business where there’s a good understanding of marketing or is marketing new to the business, so there’s little knowledge around what it can do beyond lead generation? Stakeholder education is needed in environments where marketing is seen as just a lead driver to transition more broadly into deeper brand awareness, positioning and taking a full funnel approach to growth. Aligning the marketing goals with the goals of the business and managing expectations is critical.


Keen to chat with Paul about ABM or why HubSpot is the superior CRM? Connect with him on LinkedIn today!