With all the focus on the tactic of account-based marketing in recent years, a lot of clients ask what’s actually required in a successful account-based marketing (ABM) campaign.

It starts by understanding what ABM is. Many organizations have defined ABM, but one of the easiest definitions to visualize comes from an Integrate Marketing SlideShare, which calls ABM “a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with specific businesses as markets of one.”

As for practical examples of ABM, there are as many options as there are organizations. ABM efforts can be as straightforward as sending personalized emails to a select list of top-tier account contacts. Mentioning target accounts by name in blog or social media posts. Having gift boxes of product samples delivered to hand-picked account contacts across different departments. Hosting a special event for specific groups of client contacts during a trade show.

They’re all fun ideas, but none are likely to be successful if the organization isn’t first set up and prepared to implement account-based marketing from start to finish.

It Starts with Sophistication

Successful ABM has a few baseline requirements. One is a certain level of marketing sophistication. We’ve blogged about the fact that different organizations approach marketing from different levels of marketing sophistication, and that becoming more sophisticated is a step-by-step process.

Getting to the point where ABM adds value requires that the organization be aligned across departments. The organization has to understand the value of delivering a consistent message to specific groups of customers. Its operations need to be planned around this brand story and messaging, too.

Marketing-Sales Alignment

A second requirement is alignment between marketing and sales. These two groups need to collaborate and reach an agreement on prospective accounts that would be the best fit for the organization both operationally and for future growth.

This is a narrow focus that doesn’t depend on website traffic, conversions or even how many contact forms get completed. It does depend on long-term engagement of the right contacts at the right organizations. Both sales and marketing teams are pursuing leads at the same accounts that are meaningful to the organization in terms of its future growth.

Multiple Plans with a Common Goal

Which brings us to a third requirement of ABM: marketing and sales need to agree on their plan to engage multiple contacts at their top-tier accounts. Both marketing and sales are responsible for engaging key account contacts in line with the plan. They may use different implementations to achieve engagement and grow the relationships, but they are still working toward a common goal.

Unlike conventional and disparate marketing and sales efforts, developing an ABM-focused engagement plan takes time. Outreach efforts may begin with one contact, but they expand to include other stakeholders in the product decision.

It should be relatively easy for these two groups to agree on how to engage contacts at top-tier accounts, because with ABM, advertising messages and outreach efforts are tailored to specific customers or types of customers. These efforts are also implemented on specific channels that target accounts are known to favor. As long as marketing and sales teams have insights about what business challenges they’re faced with and how to solve them, they’ll be on a solid path to success.

The biggest challenge becomes having the insights and creative vision to engage those individuals and hold their attention, and the sheer determination to continue nurturing the relationships, gain more insights and ultimately increase revenue.

Even with these guidelines, many misconceptions about ABM remain. This is sometimes the case with organizations that have tried ABM without much success. We’ll explain and debunk some of these myths in the next blog post.

If you’d like to start an offline conversation about whether ABM is appropriate for your brand, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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