How to run a successful B2B account-based marketing (ABM) pilot

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Your company is ready to embrace account-based marketing. Now all that’s left is figuring out how to get started!

But let’s start with a refresher: what is Account-based Marketing (ABM), anyway? 

ABM is defined as a highly targeted, personalized marketing approach that focuses on engaging the accounts that matter most to your business. One thing to keep in mind is that starting an ABM strategy requires a lot of time, energy, and collaborative effort between sales and marketing. 

So, what does a realistic, actionable, and measurable ABM plan look like? The simplest answer is to look at what not to do: don’t invest in new ABM tech or launch a global ABM program just yet.

Starting off small will give you the agility to make frequent course corrections as you gradually roll your program out to incorporate more and more accounts. Then you can use what you’ve learned from your pilot to expand and scale a successful ABM program.

 

Running an ABM pilot program

There are three steps to running a successful pipeline ABM pilot program that’s set up for continuous improvement and growth.

 

Step 1: Partner with sales to build your ABM plan

Look no further than your sales team for your partner in success! While you don’t need full sales team buy-in at the start, pull in one account executive or sales manager who is interested in experimenting with you.

Together, agree on a handful of strategic accounts to target, and then measurable marketing and sales goals and metrics for each target account that will guide your account-based marketing plan. Also include a snapshot of how your current programs are doing on those same metrics so you have a baseline to measure your lift against later.

Next, prepare some questions that can help guide discussion and define what success will look like. For example:

  • What are the sales objectives and priorities for the account?
  • Are they trying to improve account mapping and contact coverage across the account?
  • Is there a specific buying cycle or buying group that the account executive is trying to influence? (If yes, who is in the buying group and what problems are they solving?)
  • Are there engagement or revenue goals associated with the account?

Start small and focus the pilot phase on proving that an account-based marketing approach will work for your business and will benefit your sales team.

 

Step 2: Customize campaign touchpoints for each target account

In the spirit of keeping it simple, incorporate account-based customization into some of the marketing tactics and touch points you already have. Try to do what you can with the tools you have. Your digital advertising platforms, marketing automation platform, CRM and website content management system can be powerful ABM tools with the right plan and execution.

What should you customize? Here are some recommendations: 

  • Digital advertising. Narrow your targeting to zone in on your target accounts. Customize more generic ad creative, offers and calls-to-action (CTAs) to connect with them.
  • Content assets. Spin out customized versions of ebooks, infographics, articles or one-pagers by updating titles, cover pages, background images, and language specific to certain industries.
  • Landing pages, forms, nurturing emails, and direct mail. Grab the visitor’s attention by leading with segment-specific language and imagery. Use lookalike customer logos or testimonials for social proof, and use custom CTA language.
  • Website content. Update generic headings and copy with target-specific references and keywords. Replace generic images with customized versions. Swap out generic conversion mechanisms with more custom calls-to-action and content asset downloads.

Customizing your existing campaign assets isn’t as complex or resource-intensive as it sounds.

How do you approach customization? Consider how you might segment your target accounts to customize your campaign touchpoints for each target account by using some of the common ABM account attributes: company size, industry vertical or geographic location. Which ones will have the most meaningful impact on your messaging and content for one target account versus another?

Then imagine or mock up how you could create customized versions of some existing campaign touchpoints for a few different target accounts by making simple changes to headings, copy or images. The goal is to customize generic campaign assets using company-level attributes to make the assets more relevant and engaging.

Remember that you’re adding an ABM approach onto your existing marketing strategy, so experiment with customization at the account level but also at the individual prospect/lead and buying group/opportunity levels. As you run your ABM pilot, lots of knobs and dials can be adjusted to balance effort and investment with the increase in relevance and engagement you’re hoping for. It’s impossible to know what the right ABM approach is ahead of time, so go in with a test-and-learn mindset!

 

Step 3: Measure impact against goals and identify areas to improve

In the first 90 days, keep your measurement expectations reasonable. If your business deals with long buying and selling cycles, you may not make a huge impact on marketing-sourced opportunities or revenue in the first few months. But you may be able to track marketing-influenced opportunities and revenue for the target accounts you’ve been focusing on.

You should also see short-term improvements in your campaign performance metrics. Focus on the higher value campaign metrics like cost per acquisition, visitor-to-prospect conversion rate, call-to-action conversion rates, and contribution to your account manager’s goals like discovering new account contacts, influencing members of a buying group or engaging with key contacts more than before.

 

Scale your ABM pilot for success

At the end of the day, by demonstrating lift on those high-value campaign metrics early in your ABM program, you’ll be able to make the case for continued investment. When you approach your ABM program as a series of incremental phases of expansion, rather than one big strategic initiative, you’ll be able to build momentum, buy-in, and expertise along the way.

– Nolin LeChasseur, Co-founder and CMO at Brainrider

 

*A similar version of this article was originally published on Forbes.com.

 

About Brainrider

Brainrider is a full-funnel marketing agency that helps B2B companies like yours get started with account-based marketing. If you’re interested in adopting an ABM strategy, scaling your ABM efforts, or are looking for some help executing ABM campaigns, contact us today.

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