By Marc Woodland on November 26, 2019

ABM: A four-step process to deciding your Account-Based Marketing target accounts

One of the most crucial steps - if not the most crucial - in the ABM process is selecting your target accounts. It’s so vital that if you get this wrong, the rest of your ABM work, no matter how good, will be ineffective. It’s also often the step that ABMers rush and get wrong most often, falling into the trap of thinking “our creative is going to be so great anyone would want to work with us”. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. You can have the best creative in the world but if the opportunity isn’t there, you’re not going to get very far and you can end up wasting a lot of time and money, leading to others in the business thinking that “ABM doesn’t work...”.

Guide: How to adopt ABM

The way to avoid the above happening is to ensure you spend sufficient time on this step in the 5-part ABM process. A common pitfall is for marketing to request from sales a list of accounts they’d like to target and not question whether they are right or not for your ABM campaign. As with all of the ABM process, this is a time for sales and marketing to work together, sharing their knowledge to get to the best outcome.

You may also like: Account-Based Marketing: Setting your strategy

This article will talk you through how to select your target accounts and check that they’re the right ones.

Step one: It starts with strategy

If you follow my content you’ll know that all of my advice starts with strategy, and your ABM activity is no different. Before you begin you need to know what you want to achieve and define the best strategy to get you there. In ABM there are two dominant strategies (which I explain in this article), which are:

1. Protect and grow
2. New business

Once you’ve defined what the business objectives are for your ABM strategy, you’ll be able to decide which of these two strategies is most appropriate for your ABM or what blend of the two you’ll need.

For example, if your business is overly reliant on one or two big clients, you might want to adopt a ‘protect and grow’ strategy for those clients to ensure you retain them, and a new business strategy to win new clients of a similar size to ensure your reliance on a couple of big clients is less.

Step two: Decide on the type of ABM

There are three different types of ABM, which I talk about in more depth in this article on my LinkedIn page. These are:

1. 1:1
2. 1:Few, and
3. 1:Many

Pretty self-explanatory by the titles, determined by the number of target accounts your ABM activity is targeting. The temptation here is to target as many as you can to spread your bets, but you need to consider the number of resources it’s going to take to target an account effectively. For example, if you’re looking to land a large account, chances are they’re going to have a decision-making unit of 6-8 people and will have a lot of your competitors also seeking this business. Because of this the creative you create has to be extra-personalised and hard-hitting to cut through the noise and get their attention. This will require a lot of resources being directed into one target account, so a 1:1 ABM strategy will be best. Over time, as you refine and scale your ABM activities (step number five in the ABM process) you’ll find you can cluster selected accounts together based on similar wants and needs to target more target accounts at one time.

You may also like: Content marketing needs business leaderer engagement

Again, the type of ABM you choose is dependant on your objectives, strategy and also the resources you have available for your ABM activity, including time and budget.

Step three: Writing your target accounts list

OK, so you now have your business objectives, you’ve decided on your ABM strategy and the type of ABM you’re going to undertake, now you need to list your target accounts.

Listing your target accounts is what makes ABM different from traditional marketing. You have a list of exactly who you’re targeting, making your marketing focused with the aim of creating personalised content for those targets.

To complete this step, sales and marketing should come together and answer the following questions:

  • Are there any existing accounts that we really couldn’t afford to lose?
  • Are there existing accounts that show a huge opportunity for growth?
  • What opportunities do we currently have that would be significant for the business if we were successful?
  • Who would be an ideal new client that would propel our business forward and help us to achieve our business objectives?
  • Are there previous opportunities or clients that were lost that we’d like to reignite and/or get back on board?
  • Are there any tenders in our market that an ABM approach would give us a competitive advantage to win?
  • Is there a business in our target audience that would propel us to fame and be a great case study to win future work?

Sales and marketing can either work through these questions separately and then bring their lists together to discuss or use a workshop to come up with the answers together. The important thing is that this is a collaboration between sales and marketing and that both are on board with whichever target accounts you choose.

Step four: Qualifying your target accounts

As mentioned at the start of this article, getting your target accounts right is vital to the success of your ABM strategy. With this in mind, there’s an extra step to ensure you have chosen the right accounts, which includes going through a set of three criteria:

Criteria 1: Account value

This means looking at the forecasted spend for the target account or the value they would bring. It’s important that your target account adds enough value to your business to warrant an ABM approach. This value is usually in terms of revenue but can be fame, fun or leading to future business growth opportunities.

Criteria 2: Achievability

How likely are you to win or grow the target account? Do they have a complicated buying unit and do you know how to engage with the people in it? What’s your competition and how deeply entrenched are they in this account?

Answering these questions will give you a good idea of whether it’s going to be realistic for you to achieve your goals with the target account.

Criteria 3: Co-operation

Are they already engaging with you? Do you need to work with anyone else internally for this target and will they be co-operative?

If the internal team that will need to work together to land or grow a particular account doesn't get on, your ABM strategy could be a non-starter. ABM requires collaboration and alignment between departments, whether that’s sales, marketing, operations or account management.

There you have it, your four-step process to deciding your target accounts. Is there anything else that you use to select your accounts? ABM is developing as a discipline all the time, and I’d love to hear about your tips and experiences.

Guide: How to adopt ABM

Photo Credits

Kettlebells via Adobe Stock @Andrey Gonchar

Dogs via Adobe Stock @GreasePhoto

Published by Marc Woodland November 26, 2019