We covered the basics of account-based marketing (ABM) in our recent article on the topic. We discussed creating ideal customer profiles; researching target accounts; aligning sales and marketing around central goals and processes; and the benefits of account-based marketing.

Having covered the fundamentals, we now turn to key best practices for using a unified CRM to drive your ABM efforts.

Eight best practices to drive ABM success with a unified CRM

Use the tactics below to maximize the ROI of your ABM initiatives.

1. Secure buy-in from internal stakeholders

Your account-based marketing program will only succeed if you obtain buy-in from your sales and marketing leaders. They allocate their teams’ respective budgets. If they aren’t fully committed to or convinced of the value of running an ABM program, your work is exponentially less likely to succeed.

Both teams and their leaders must be involved in every step of the process. You don’t want to spend a month preparing your strategy and approach, only to later discover that there’s not enough available budget or time to implement the strategy.

2. Build your ABM team

Who will drive your ABM efforts? You don’t want to apply your account-based marketing methodology to all prospect and customer upsell accounts. You need to select the right individuals to engage in and drive the program to a select group of prospects.

A great way to kick things off is by starting with a pilot program to test the waters (more on that below). Select the individuals you feel are best suited for the job. This initial team should include one marketer and at least one sales rep.

That sales rep should only own a few accounts due to the extensive research and outreach involved. We suggest you cap the accounts an individual rep owns/manages at eight or less in the beginning. If you spread a salesperson too thin, they won’t be able to devote the time and effort necessary to make your ABM program a success.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to loop in important members of other teams, such as customer success, who will play a role in your program.

3. Align sales & marketing

Sales and marketing alignment involves more than the two teams getting along well. It requires them to align their thought processes around multiple variables and goals. These include gaining consensus around how accounts are identified and targeted, how ABM plans are created, and the roles each team will play throughout the process.

4. Account identification & selection

At this point, you’ll start using your unified CRM to help drive your program. All the data stored in your CRM will make it easy to identify the accounts with the greatest potential to generate the most revenue.

It’s important that data is entered into your CRM according to your established process. That data will provide insight into each targeted account’s challenges, goals, and needs, allowing you to personalize your outreach and develop content that aligns with those variables.

Moreover, your CRM data will tell you which engagement channels a target account’s contacts use the most. You’ll also gain insight into the content they prefer and the outcomes of previous conversations they’ve had with sales. This knowledge will aid you in the planning stage.

PRO TIP: As you move forward, consider using your unified CRM to set up an account-based scoring model. That model should award points to individual contacts when they take actions that indicate they fit your ideal customer profile. Compile those points for an aggregate account score to identify new candidates for future ABM efforts.

5. Account planning: Building your ABM strategy

At this stage, you’ll want to document the types of outreach that will best engage your target account. You’ll also define campaign cadence and prospect management strategies.

Additional tactics for ABM account planning include:

  • Creating account-specific messaging to drive content creation and one-on-one outreach
  • Developing personalized content that offers solutions to each account’s challenges
  • Defining the metrics that you’ll track to measure success
  • Determining the channels through which your content should be delivered and at which stage of the buyer’s journey they should be sent

PRO TIP: Sales and marketing should collaborate on all of the above from the beginning. Both teams must be on the same page about every aspect of the process, from start to finish.

6. Create automated workflows in your unified CRM

You use your CRM data to identify the best accounts to target. Then, you use the marketing automation features in your unified solution to create meticulously-defined workflows that drive your outreach and internal processes during an ABM campaign.

For example, you might set up an automated, triggered email that is sent when a contact at your target account takes a specified action. In this way, you can deliver personalized content to the right prospect-account stakeholders at just the right time. This moves the account further through the sales cycle.

7. Start with a pilot campaign

When first starting, try a pilot campaign targeting one or two accounts and apply your defined ABM methodology. Your ABM program can stray from the course easily, and if it does, you’ll want to minimize the impact of potential mistakes committed along the way.

A pilot program will act as a learning experience, teaching you where you should improve, what worked, and ultimately refining your ABM strategy.

8. Measure ABM results & refine your methodology

Because you’ll have already defined the metrics you want to track, measuring the performance and results of your pilot program will be easy. Not least of all because your unified CRM will be tracking and collecting data to analyze from day one.

The reports and analysis generated by your CRM will highlight areas for improvement so you can refine your approach.

Ease your way into account-based marketing and continually improve your strategy and accompanying tactics. By the time you’re ready to put your program into fifth gear, your methodology should be rock solid.

Ready to get started?

By following the best practices above, you’ll be much more likely to run a successful ABM program and realize success in less time. If you try to wing it, you’ll trudge through a series of mistakes caused by trial and error. With a set methodology, you’ll have a roadmap that lays out steps to take as you prepare for, build, and launch your account-based marketing.

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