Why ABM Is Your Small Team's Secret Weapon

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Caroline Van Dyke
Caroline Van Dyke



We're all too familiar with the dilemma most marketers face: higher expectations, and fewer resources.

This pressure can feel even greater if you're already strapped with a leaner team.

Plus, there's a lot of rhetoric around marketing strategies and buzzwords that seem complex and hard to implement, only making the water murkier.

One of those buzzwords we're here to demystify is ABM — and especially the myth that it takes a large team, and tons of time, to scale. The truth is, having a leaner team may actually be your secret weapon to successfully implementing ABM.

Here, we're going to explore how your small team can reap the ABM benefits that larger teams have been implementing for years.

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ABM is a Mindset, Not an Isolated Tactic

Before we dive into how small teams can take those higher expectations and fewer resources and turn them into real results, it's key to break ABM down to what it really is.

While ABM is often ranked among tactics like 'email marketing' or 'display advertising' or 'social media marketing', it's actually more of a mindset.

In essence, account-based marketing is just a smarter way to do B2B marketing. It's choosing to reserve your budget for those high-value prospects most likely to convert, instead of throwing your budget at a large group of people with less insights into their chances of becoming a customer.

The method was just far more cumbersome to scale before data and AI caught up to make it possible for smaller teams, who needed to show results quicker and on a leaner budget.

If you could, why not reserve your budget for those most likely to convert to pipeline or revenue? That's what ABM helps you do. That's why it's especially powerful for teams without overflowing budgets — because ABM enables you to start with ready-to-buy, high-fit accounts and tailor how you engage with them until you're able to have a fast-tracked funnel from the first to last touch.

Kickstarting ABM for Small Teams

Now that you're in the mindset, we can get to kickoff. The simplest way to approach ABM is to think in three straightforward steps. Let's dive into those in more detail now.

1. Identify your best accounts and associated buying committees based on fit, intent, and engagement signals.

Build Your ICP

We get it, one of the aspects that held smaller teams back from ABM in the past was the ability to parse through data and understand their true ideal customer profile (ICP). For more traditional inbound or demand generation approaches, this usually got left at a persona.

Rather than rely on the buyer alone, this is instead a business-minded measure of who's mostly likely to become a customer. This includes firmographic or technographic information like company size, revenue, industry, location, tech stack, and many other attributes.

Rather than use your 'best guess', you should rely on your CRM data or website traffic to analyze traits of your best customers in the past. This is where ABM tech comes in to help you distill information quickly, instead of relying on manual spreadsheets.

Develop Your Target Account List

Once you have this concept of your best 'fit', you can then begin to build your target account list (TAL) full of companies that are close matches to your developed ICP. Again, this is where you'll want to leverage pre-existing databases with thousands of companies ready to fill your list.

If you want to get even more laser-focused with your marketing budget, you can begin to divide your new TAL into tiers based on how valuable they may be to your business. There's a chance that some accounts are the best fit while others are a looser fit. AI can help save you the headache with predictive models that compare your list against your best customers. From there, you can work with a list of highest to lowest-fit accounts to help you decide where to invest the most time and money.

Beyond Fit

While making sure you begin building a TAL based on the right ICP is critical, there are also other measures of buyer readiness that should be layered on to make sure you're approaching your strategy with the most information at hand.

Account Engagement is a first-party measure of which accounts are engaging with a business through activities such as email clicks, digital advertising impressions, website visits, webinar registrations, physical events attendance, blog post reads, and online product demos. Not all activity is equal (a product demo is probably a stronger signal than a blog visit). However, aggregating activity from all the people who are interacting with a company at the account level is critical so that marketing and sales teams can respond rapidly when engagement is spiking. Follow up speed matters in this digital, always-on world.

What to do:

  • First, list your prospects that are showing clear signs of engagement for high-interest pages like pricing, product overviews, case studies, etc.
  • Next, start to look in your CRM  for sales stages that could be reworked like closed-lost opportunities, past demo requests, meeting no shows, etc.
  • Finally, add colleagues of people who have historically exhibited high value engagement (nothing like name dropping to increase email open rates)!

Account Intent is a measure of which companies are engaging with your solution area but are not (yet) engaging with your business. Intent is measured through third parties (like Bombora) identifying buyers consuming business content relevant to a solution area or topic. These are the accounts that are traditionally invisible to marketers.

What to do:

  • Work with your team to come up with a short list of topics your potential prospects would be looking for that are a fit for you and compile them.
  • From there, work with intent signals that show surging topics for certain accounts, like how often they're searching for topics related to your service.
  • If you have partnerships with review sites, you can also tap into their database of companies searching for your category or visiting your profile.  

2. Define your marketing mix and invest in the channels most likely to reach and engage your audience with the right messaging.

When you ask marketers what being 'account-based' means, some jump to in-person events, direct mail, special sporting events, or dinners with high-value prospects — you name it. These are also typically more challenging to scale as a more nimble team with tighter budgets. But more than ever, recent events (goodbye conferences, lunch and learns, happy hours) have called on marketers to reexamine how they view an account-based marketing mix and what can drive impact.

The resounding answer? Go digital. Even before the world changed, Forrester showed that 65% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct their purchase research online rather than work with a salesperson (and we know that's who you had staffing your booths).

Now's your chance to use that data to rethink your marketing mix and lean in where it makes sense. We know this much: People are spending more and more time online. Within our own internal data, we've seen that prices are going down (50%)  inventory is going up (13%), and key measures of return on advertising spending (ROAS) are moving in the right direction.

Get Started With Air Cover

The best way to begin building momentum and alignment with your sales team (also known as, building pipeline) is to kick off an air cover play. Here's how you can do it:

Screen Shot 2020-07-07 at 10.05.06 AMThe real result you're looking for? Increased site engagement increases the likelihood of your sales team booking a meeting or closing a deal.

In the real world: While running our own ABM program (in 2017), we found that accounts that had a marketing touch during sales outreach were 2X more likely to book a meeting.

3. Shift key metrics used to show impact, slowly moving from lead-based to account-based metrics with multi-touch attribution.

First, you'll want to look at campaign metrics to make slight tweaks or optimizations. This will look like CTR, CPM, CPA, CTOR, etc. You may begin to prioritize spend on certain higher-value accounts and begin drilling down to engagement on the account level.

Here are a few other key metrics you'll want to key your eye on to show demand impact:

Accounts Targeted — As a baseline, you should always be aware of just how many accounts are on your list. By keeping this number front and center, marketers can make sense of other metrics.

TAL Responses Generated — The number of targeted contacts that responded to the offers as measured by a form fill, page view, or email response.  

TAL Meetings Booked — The number of meetings booked with your sellers that had a 3x3x3 play response as a preceding event prior to Opportunity creation.

LT TAL Opportunities Generated — The number of net new opportunities created with a 3x3x3 response as an event prior to opportunity creation.

LT TAL Pipeline Value $ — The dollar value of the net new opportunities generated as defined above.

Spend — Amount spent on all selected campaigns.  

Value Over Volume

What you'll want to dig into is a potential shift in the volume of demand moving more toward value in demand. This is a very typical shift when moving toward a higher fit/engagement/intent audience.

But with this more high-value over high-volume, you'll start to see a faster conversion through the funnel from meeting to revenue thanks to being more selective with your audience. You can measure this, as well.

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