Going All In On ABM: 18 Months of Agile Account-Based Marketing

Target accounts should be your best revenue opportunities. As long as you’re doing it the right way…

What does “doing ABM” really mean?

While targeted ads and programs are an integral part of ABM, the real meat is the core work you do on the operational side. The stuff that really pays dividends in ABM is not the sexy stuff, it’s the strategic stuff.

It’s important to remember that account-based marketing can’t exist without account-based selling. So keep that in mind when planning your ABM programs. They work best in conjunction with a focused account-based selling strategy. You’ll see the best results where account-based selling is baked into the mentality of your company.

Over the past 2+ years, the marketing team at PathFactory has worked really hard to develop a systematic approach to ABM that sets our sales team up for maximum success. While our ABM journey is nowhere near over (I mean, a solid program is constantly evolving) we’ve certainly learned a lot. We’ve boiled our experience down to these 5 steps.

5 step agile ABM process

At PathFactory, we are fairly agile in everything we do. We operate with a small team and a sense of urgency and our approach to ABM is no different–we bite of one small piece at a time and learn and iterate as we go. As a result, we’ve developed a surprisingly agile approach to ABM.

This approach can be boiled down to 5 steps:

  1. Evaluate the A: Target account tear down

Target accounts should be the fastest path to annual recurring revenue (ARR) and advocacy. Even more important than renewal is creating customers that are rabid advocates. A great customer and target account is one that will go out and tell other marketers about the problem you’re solving for them.

Therefore, our first step towards an ABM strategy was to get laser focused on exactly who these target accounts were. Like many B2B organizations, sales was selecting their target accounts themselves. On closer inspection, the accounts they were choosing weren’t exactly what represented the fastest path to ARR–not by a long shot!  We decided to tear the whole process to the ground and build it back up.

Marketing set a goal to create a better class of target accounts. We built out an ideal customer profile (ICP) based on specific criteria. The idea behind this was to give sales the chance to take high percentage shots and be more successful overall. There was a lot of rationale and research that went into our ICP list:

Who should we target?

  • Current customers and won/lost opportunities

What attributes should they have?

  • We looked for attributes that would yield the most successful outcomes. For example, basic demographic and firmographic attributes like MAP, revenue, and industry etc.
  • We also need to know what we didn’t know. For example, more advanced technographic and firmographic signals like year founded, Alexa rank, tech stack etc.

Once we had our ICP process down we had to operationalize it. We assigned our 75 target accounts to each BDR every quarter and give them a prescribed plan on how to touch them. We let that process run for a while to see how it unfolded.

  1. Sprinkle in some M: ABM light

While we let sales run with the ICP list, we decided to sprinkle in a bit of M which we affectionately refer to as ABM light. This early version of ABM was targeted but with minimal customization.

What we did was simple: we took all our campaigns–retargeting, display, paid social–and ran them to our target accounts.

The overarching message, however, was the same for everyone at this stage. We ran this ABM light program for approximately 9 months just to see if these ICP accounts would convert better.

Turns out, they did (surprise, surprise)! MQL to SQL converted 15% better and SQL to SQO converted 22% better. But here’s the kicker: when we actually closed these customers, we saw a way higher ACV–up to 2X better!

This confirmed to us that we were on to something.

  1. Narrow the beam: Tighten the target

The next step was to get even more focused on the target accounts. This is where things got even more interesting.

Firstly, we did some ICP scoring. We built an A, B, C, D score for everyone in our big ICP list based on some specific details:

  • Do they have a mature tech stack?
  • Spend potential: how well funded and how big are these companies from a revenue perspective?
  • Psychographic profiling model: our ideal customers are early adopters and generally performant marketers (this was a very manual process)

Next, from this precise profiling, we whittled our ICP list from a couple thousand down to 1250 accounts. We now had a list of accounts we value above all other accounts.

  1. Revisit the goal: It’s about selling

With a more sophisticated ABM structure, we knew we couldn’t continue on with business as usual, so we made some pretty big changes to our sales process:

  • We got rid of geographic territories
  • We removed the idea of having mid-market and enterprise BDRs
  • We removed the idea of non-target demand

This isn’t to say we said goodbye to other standard marketing processes. We still run a standard MQL-based process and funnel, but it’s much harder for an account to reach MQL status these days. We will still take meetings with non-target accounts; however, they don’t tend to convert very well (which honestly, is very validating for me and all the hard work we’ve done with ICPs).

  1. Get serious: ABM with a capital “A”

Now we have to figure out how to really activate these 1250 accounts and light them up for sales.

First, we identified some segments within our ICP based on very specific problems:

  • Need to improve free trial activation on website
  • Need better buying signals to qualify leads
  • Need to unlock the key to ABM success
  • Need to activate content (all accounts are in this bucket by default)

Every ICP account is put into one of these buckets. We built programs with specific content, messages, and cadences.

At this stage, we know all the accounts and segments we want to talk to, so we can really build out targeted campaigns. Today, each call-to-action leads to a PathFactory Content Track which includes the asset they clicked on as well as a package of related content. We track how much time they spend with each piece of content and we can share that data with the salesperson.

Don’t care about conversion

One final word. If you care enough about target accounts and heating them up, you can’t care too much about conversion. Be more interested in allowing buyers to have deep experiences with your content rather than putting forms up in front of everything. The conversion will come if you’ve done your homework and targeted your most valuable accounts with the right message.