How to Set Up an Account-Based Marketing Team
There’s a lot to be excited about if your team is transitioning to an account-based marketing strategy. Account-based marketing (ABM) is known to drive growth because of its efficient and personalized methods, but the shift from traditional marketing and sales strategies to an ABM program requires an upheaval of old practices. After all, you can’t get new results using the same tired old tactics.
Fortunately, most companies don’t have to start from scratch when building an account-based marketing team and strategy. Take a look around; it’s likely your colleagues and bosses already have versatile skill sets that can be carried over to your ABM team. Companies are wise to observe current talent within their organizations and leverage their skills to contribute to the shifting priorities and ambitions of the company.
If your brain is getting fuzzy at the thought of aligning two departments and shaking up the routine, that’s fair. That’s why we’ve done some of the dirty work: to show you exactly how to move from the initial alignment strategies of your account-based marketing transformation all the way to becoming a cohesive revenue machine and analyzing your progression. Let us guide you through account based marketing basics.
1. Start with Sales and Marketing alignment
Traditionally, sales and marketing teams work in silos, which may bring in plenty of potential leads (yay!) but results in low conversion rates (boo!) most of the time. If you’ve worked on a sales or marketing team before, you know very well that the disconnect between these teams frequently causes he-said-she-said inefficiencies and ego-fueled misfires. That’s not sustainable, but miscommunication and disappointment can be remedied by a conscious alignment of both teams.
Collaboration between the sales teams and marketing teams is mandatory for a smooth and successful ABM strategy, but that tectonic shift will inevitably dig up unforeseen needs within the organization. It’s up to these teams to address these needs or, frankly, hit the curb with the rest of the outdated B2B marketing collateral.
A successful ABM transformation starts with full-bore, pinky-swear status agreements between the departments.
And you can get down to it by aligning your research methods.
Usually, Marketing derives its strategic decisions from carefully crafted marketing personas (Better Late Than Never Betty, Perfectionist Patty, Fast Lane Freddy, Loose-Lipped Linda…you get the idea). Sales, on the other hand, is out there chasing key accounts.
Both teams need to have their eyes set on the same prize for your ABM transformation to be successful.
Account-based marketing derives information from a list of key accounts, not personas, because with accounts, the information is not fabricated for the sake of reference. It’s real data. Transitioning from a persona focus to an account specific focus will help the teams agree to target real people represented in potential target accounts.
Sales and Marketing will need to finalize a list of agreements that act as a set of “rules” the teams must follow to successfully align and complete the project. Some example agreements include
- Sales and Marketing teams agree to meet weekly to review engagement benchmarks.
- Sales agrees to coordinate with Marketing to take action during periods of increased buying activity.
- Sales and Marketing teams agree to communicate about inefficiencies that arise during the project.
Your account based marketing team agreements act as the framework for the change that’s about to occur. Without a plan, there will be no success. Once the stakeholders have sworn their allegiance, they can rally the troops on their respective sides to take action.
2. Designing the “strategy” behind your ABM campaigns
There are dozens of definitions of account-based marketing, all of which have good intentions but ultimately complicate things. ABM, at its core, is about relationships. You want to develop relationships with decision makers who work at key companies. It’s that simple and it’s that difficult.
The most important asset you can acquire in an account-based marketing strategy is knowledge. Do your research and analyze your target accounts so you can segment them into categories. The more information you have, the more informed your strategies will be. Be sure to think outside of the typical qualification metrics. Firmographic data can be misleading because it doesn't reveal the pain points your prospects are experiencing.
This deep account analysis is more comprehensive than traditional marketing persona analysis, so team members will have the opportunity to show their talents in this area and, ultimately, establish themselves in one of the new roles within the ABM team.
The ultimate goal behind account-based marketing is to tailor your marketing strategies to your individual accounts or grouped accounts to increase revenue.
Potential ABM campaigns may feature the following account based tactics:
- Social media targeting (LinkedIn and Twitter)
- Cold email and personalized email marketing programs ( Your marketing automation tools will work)
- Direct mail
- High value gifts and giveaways
- Trade show marketing (booth demos and one-on-one meetings)
- Prospect-specific offers designed to set up meetings (content marketing)
- Personalized experience on the website (login, profiles, etc.)
- Field marketing
- Social media mentions
Once you know the skills necessary to execute your ABM strategy, you’ll know the individual roles you need on your teams.
3. Shifting roles to create your account-based marketing team
One of the hardest parts of the account-based marketing transformation is how roles change. Even if your team is technically equipped for the new and challenging tasks, teams are used to their old roles and need to support each other during this transition.
Your team is likely proficient in the skills necessary to execute (and if not, they will be motivated by the opportunity to learn new skills). Of course, this also presents a great opportunity to analyze your team’s skills to see how they fit into the long-term shifting needs of the Sales and Marketing teams within the organization.
This transition will take compromise, cooperation and some good old-fashioned communication to make sure everyone is crystal clear on the ways the Marketing and Sales teams’ roles will shift.
Coming together to create a list of key accounts will be key to the integration of Sales and Marketing as the teams will work together through the entire process (a few free-food, free-booze bonding events wouldn’t hurt either).
As you move to an account-based marketing approach, it’s important that everyone understands their new roles and, most importantly, their responsibilities within your organization. Your individual ABM needs will become clear once the teams align to create a list of high value accounts and develop the ABM strategy.
Here are the key roles and responsibilities on an account-based marketing team:
- Demand Generation – Develops marketing campaigns targeted toward specific accounts and allocates budget
- Marketing Ops (Operations) – Creates the framework to measure KPIs and penetration into accounts
- Digital Marketing – Develops public-facing marketing including social media, PR and social selling
- Content Strategy – Develops various forms of relevant content catered to accounts throughout his/her journey with your organization
- Field Marketing – Develops and executes the in-person event strategy focused on in-person interactions with representatives on your list of accounts
- Account Executives – Builds relationships with individuals within accounts to work toward a common goal
- Sales Management – Strategizes about sales territories, processes and analysis
- SDR Management – Works with account executives to create opportunities within accounts
4. Account Based Marketing KPIs
Once you have agreed on a plan and work is underway (congratulations, by the way), you’ll want to periodically analyze your results. These results will inform decisions and provide valuable insight as you refine your future plans and the teams warm to their new roles.
Account-based marketing is flexible; you can easily adapt it to the needs of your company. This also means the majority of your KPIs will be unique to your company. There are, however, a few broad KPIs that will ground your initial strategy as you navigate this new territory.
Account-based marketing metrics can be boiled down to three main objectives: account knowledge, account engagement and conversion.
Measure your acquisition of client knowledge. This information will be derived from consistent communication between the Sales and Marketing teams. Examples of account knowledge details to measure include
- How many prospects were acquired
- How many prospects were engaged with face-to-face
- How many prospects were cold-called, emailed, or received direct mail
When measuring account knowledge KPIs, look for areas in your data that appear weak or empty, then redirect your attention to those areas for the next measurement period.
Engagement can be a tricky thing to measure because it technically includes any contact with the prospect. If you’ve ever stood in line for the bathroom at a trade show and connected with a new prospect over “this ridiculous line,” then you know what we mean.
Your team agreements, goals and strategy should provide context and narrow your focus in order to measure engagement metrics that make sense for your business. Without context, it will be impossible to identify successful engagement methods and areas to grow.
Measuring engagement in sales can be even more tricky because prospect interactions are personal and individualized. Nevertheless, there is a wealth of information to be extracted from sales engagement metrics. The key is to pay attention to both quality and quantity. For example, you’ll want to know how many cold calls each sales rep made in addition to how many in-depth conversations were completed.
- Participation in webinars
- Responses to personalized content
- Point in the buyer’s journey when you see the most engagement
In many ways, conversion metrics will look familiar to your Sales and Marketing teams, but how the teams got to those conversions is (hopefully) noticeably different. You’ll need KPIs to measure
- Conversion rates
- Deal sizes
- Cycle lengths
- Average time needed to convert a prospect
Knowing these conversion metrics informs how you change your strategies in the future. With all these metrics, your team will refine its processes more efficiently and reap the rewards enjoyed only by successful account-based marketing teams.
The grand takeaway
Transitioning your team to execute an account-based marketing strategy requires a transformation in the strategies, tactics, roles and KPIs within your organization. We wish you luck during this major transition – we promise it’ll be worth it. Before you know it, you'll be the newest ABM expert!