How to Automate Account-Based Marketing

By Madison Taylor
April 3, 2020
person typing on a laptop

Account-based marketing is the latest and greatest development in the marketing world. A big part of marketing is putting your materials out in the world and hoping someone will notice, but ABM is flipping that on its head. You’re not waiting for leads to come to you — you’re going out and getting them.

Sometimes your ABM efforts will focus on a few of the biggest accounts in your industry — we like to call them “whales,” but you could pick any large object for your metaphor. Sometimes, you’ll focus on accounts that might not be the most profitable, but they’re trendsetters in your market, and landing them will be a huge boon in bringing other accounts on board.

How Technology Can Help

One of the reasons that ABM has taken off in popularity in recent years is that modern marketing technology enables us to track and plan information like we never could before. As recently as a decade ago, creating specific marketing campaigns for individual accounts at scale wouldn’t have been possible.

Now, a CRM can track all the contacts in your target accounts, how they like to communicate, and which materials resonate best with them — you can even engage with an entire company, even if you can’t find the right individual people to talk to.

Even better, technology can help you automate your marketing plan to make your team even more efficient, keep track of the contacts you’ve made, and find the right materials to convert prospects into sales. Here’s how.

Start With the Contacts You Already Have

If you’re thinking of starting an ABM plan, the best place to start is with the accounts, companies, and people you already have in your CRM. Go through them and look at which accounts have been the most satisfied with your service, the ones who have generated the most revenue, and the ones who have been the most receptive to upsells and new products. Look for the things they have in common and look for that in your future prospects.

Once you’ve established what a good customer looks like, you can use the automation tools in your CRM to automatically find, tag, and segment the accounts within your CRM into as many tiers as you want — perfect fits, close fits, and prospects that could use some work.

Build a Target List

The B2B version of a buyer persona — a concept we’ve been huge proponents of — is an ideal company profile (ICP). Once you have a sense from your existing customers of what a good customer looks like, you can turn your business development team loose with a checklist. Look for things like:

  • Industry or vertical they operate in
  • Employee headcount — both company-wide and within key departments
  • Annual revenue and the budget they can dedicate to your product
  • Location — think about time zones, language barriers, and your ability to provide service to your customers
  • Technology stack they use and whether it’s compatible with what you use in-house
  • Size of their customer base
  • Level of organizational or technological maturity

ABM software can automate a huge portion of this process. Sorting through an initial target list to find companies that fit your ICP is faster, easier, and more accurate with a computer to crunch the numbers for you.

Match Leads to Accounts

Even in the B2B world, where your customers are corporate entities, you’re still marketing to people. There are usually half a dozen or so decision-makers at a given company that you need to convince, and it’s vital that you find out who they are in order to direct your marketing efforts in their direction.

You can do some in-depth research on LinkedIn and Facebook, but it’s time-intensive and not always accurate. If people aren’t conscientious about updating their info (and let’s face it, sometimes they’re not), you might not find the info you need.

Instead, you can use third-party data brokers and company websites to find the right personnel to get in touch with, but beware — up to 70 percent of company contact info is out of date within a year of acquiring it.

Automation can help with this, too. Your CRM can monitor social profiles and tell you when someone’s info changes so you can follow up with them, update their contact information, find new contacts, and keep track of how long it’s been since you followed up with them.

Automate Your Workflows

Once you’ve established a list of a few dozen target companies, you’ll need to guide each of them through the buyer’s journey in their own way and at their own pace. It can be hard to keep track of who’s seen which materials, how long you’ve been working with them, and what to send them next.

Automating those sequences can be a huge help. Every sales cycle is going to look different, but no matter what the process looks like, there are simple steps that can make a much more positive impression with your prospects.

Send your targets an email with a relevant whitepaper after they fill out a form on your website. After they’ve downloaded it, link them to another pertinent piece of information. Once they’ve started to read a few pieces of information that indicate that they’re interested, set up your software to alert your sales staff that it’s time to reach out to them one-on-one.

Test and Measure Everything

Normally, we recommend A/B testing your marketing campaigns — running two versions of an email or social ad and seeing which one does better. The downside of running A/B testing with ABM is that there are fewer accounts in question, so you might be sacrificing a significant number of prospects by showing them the “wrong” campaign. On the plus side, it’s a good way to test and hone your approach for future prospects.

You’ll also need to monitor the success and progress of your ABM efforts. Tracking the data on ABM campaigns is a lot easier than tracking similar data on more typical campaigns — rather than a large, amorphous pool of potential customers, you already know who your campaigns are directed at.

Even though the data is easier to track, automation can be a huge help. You can set up alerts for each step of the sales cycle, notifying your marketing and sales teams when milestones are reached or follow-ups need to be made.

If you’re in a B2B industry, ABM can be an incredibly lucrative supplement to the marketing campaigns you’re already running — and the right software can add an extra edge to your ability to plan, execute, and measure your campaigns. The marketing world is always evolving, and this is the next big thing.