Part II: Creating and executing your first ABM play

This article is co-authored by Ross McFadden and Lindsey Christensen

Hi we’re back, as promised. In our last blog we discussed a bit about our team’s journey into a full-court press (#sports) for Account Based Marketing. It came about after deliberation over why certain marketing and sales tactics were falling short. Our hypothesis was that for a target market like the one we were after, a market that is both limited in size and highly skeptical (of new vendors, of marketing campaigns, you name it…), we needed to ditch casting a wide net, slip on the white gloves, and have the entire Go To Market team get hyper-focused and personalized.

Targeting high priority accounts is key to success in ABM. However, considering that many of our priority accounts have tens of thousands of employees spread across many locations, we decided the best way to be hyper-precise in our ABM was starting with more prescriptive targets. Therefore, we defined not only targeted accounts, but also targeted opportunities (as discussed in the previous blog).

A quick reminder on our ABM goals for the quarter (aside from directly contributing to the sales revenue goal of course):

1) Determine 1 ABM play that creates net new sales opportunities

2) Determine 1 ABM play that escalates existing sales opportunities

3) Determine Account Based metrics to track

You might be thinking — ok, but, what does an “ABM play” entail exactly? Glad you asked!

Defining and Selecting ABM Activities, Campaigns, and Plays

First a few definitions and then we’ll give some examples to help clarify.

Definition [ABM Activity]: an individual sales or marketing action such as sending an email or direct mail, calling a prospect, posting an advertisement, or hosting a prospect dinner.
Definition [ABM Campaign]: a set of identical sales or marketing activities such as a series of emails or phone calls, a batch of ads etc. to achieve metrics/KPIs.
Definition [ABM Play]: coordinated sales and marketing campaigns for a target account over a given time period (one or more ABM sprints) to achieve a key ABM goal such as surfacing a new sales opportunity.

Think of a PLAY as an orchestration of CAMPAIGNS which are a series of sales and marketing ACTIVITIES. This sets us up testing the success of individual activities, campaigns and ultimately our ABM plays.

TIP: prioritize crystal clear communication within the extended Go To Market team. Go as far as to define the ontology — terms and concepts you are using and how they relate to one another in the broader context.

Some of the first questions to answer around these ABM plays were -

  • How many targeted account plays can/should we run?
  • How are we going to choose which sales and marketing activities to include?
  • Will the campaigns be the same for all the accounts?
  • How do we make sure people are executing on the areas they need to be at the right points in the plays?

By teaming with the account executives, we identified our first 6 priority account opportunities to target for the first ABM sprint. Marketing and sales held strategy sessions on each of these targeted opportunities to sync on important information including, internal initiatives, key stakeholders, and existing relationships and engagement. On the marketing side we analyzed and contributed the available data on coverage and engagement for these accounts.

TIP: Start with a small and manageable number of accounts so as to get your bearings and be able to work through unforeseen challenges, especially within the context of figuring out roles and processes.

Establishing baseline metrics and analysis

We wanted to establish initial metrics to have a baseline at each of our accounts. They may not tell us a ton to begin with, but they’re critical to measuring our success. It also helps align the entire Go To Market team on what success looks like. Instead of thinking only about opportunities and pipeline we’re thinking of success in terms of continued and expanded engagement between our team and the targeted account. Let’s take a look at some dummy information from a single account.

First we’ll take a look at this account’s coverage:

Definition [Account Coverage]: a high-level view of prospects within our database a specific account. We like to split these by persona and title level to give us some view into the mix of prospects and identify any gaps.

You’ll see we’re looking at one account and quickly getting an idea of who (based on persona and level) is in our database including their status and owner.

Let’s now take a look at engagement at a single account:

Definition [Account Engagement]: the story of meaningful engagement between our Go To Market team and an account. Meaningful engagement is important to define for your organization. For us this included sales calls, downloaded marketing content, and in-person events.

Here we can see key sales and marketing engagement points rolled up at on a single account.

You may be wondering — how do I set up these metrics?! Fear not. In our next post we’ll cover how to aggregate your data and visualize coverage and engagement all with just Google Sheets and Google Data Studio.

Creating and orchestrating your first ABM play

We aggregated sales and marketing activities that had been successful to date or we theorized could be successful supporting activities in the context of a larger set of integrated campaigns under a single messaging theme. This became what we would start referring to as the Chinese Menu of activity choices.

Examples of campaign options:

  • Sourcing leads
  • Email
  • Cold calling
  • Targeted digital ads
  • Direct mail
  • Account webinar
  • Video voicemail
  • Executive dinner

Campaigns were aligned with personas and levels such as:

  • Finance Exec
  • HR Manager
  • Sales IC (individual contributor)

And then a core campaign theme or message was chosen which would tie all of the separate components together such as

  • Lean product development
  • Digital transformation for the enterprise
  • Enabling data collaboration

As previously mentioned we started this endeavor with 6 companies and a short, 2-week sprint so that we could quickly evaluate how our hypotheses were shaping up and where we could optimize — fast.

Here’s a look at a simple timeline reflecting our ABM play executing against multiple target opps/accounts. You’ll notice we have a number of pre-sprint and post-sprint activities while other campaigns had moments of activity during the course of our 2-week sprint.

Scheduling and executing your first ABM play

After we established goals, laid a foundation for analysis, and identified our first ABM play, we’re ready to kick off our first ABM plays! However, orchestrating activities across multiple sales and marketing (and even customer success) folks is easier said than done. We decided the best way to start was by using a simple spreadsheet. We quickly found this was tough to maintain and far from scalable so we recommend using calendar invites effectively and even looking at a project management or activity tracking tool like Trello, KanBan, or Asana.

Here’s a view of how we divided ownership of campaigns and activities amongst Marketing, Sales Rep, and BDR.

TIP: identify all the pre-sprint activities (list generation, content creation etc.) and knock them out early. This gives flexibility within your sprint and ensures you have the messaging, content, and audience to devote resources to.

Lastly, orchestrating a play included lining up activities across several stakeholders. We decided Marketing was in charge of scheduling these activities.

Here’s a simple look at how we thought about activities and making sure we were executing on time and in a logical manner (i.e. we shouldn’t be following up on a direct mailer that has yet to be sent.) Again, we started with a simple spreadsheet, but you may find a tool better suited for managing activities.

In the next post we’ll cover:

  • Choosing systems and automation
  • Deciding on metrics and how to track them

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