Building an Effective Account-Based Marketing Program

Q&A with Demandbase CMO, Peter Isaacson

Account-Based Marketing or ABM is a rapidly growing trend in B2B marketing. According to SiriusDecisions, 92% of companies recognize the value in ABM, going as far as calling it a B2B marketing must-have. The theory behind ABM? B2B marketers should identify and target the accounts they value most. We invested in marketing technology company Demandbase three years ago and while the term ABM was still in its infancy, we kept hearing from marketers within our portfolio how this company and the approach was changing their marketing significantly. In advance of the Marketing Innovation Summit next week, I sat down with Demandbase CMO, Peter Isaacson about the ins-and-outs of an effective ABM program.

SC: How do you define ABM?

PI: Account-Based Marketing is really about identifying the specific companies that are going to make the most impact on your business results. Many B2B companies have been doing some form of ABM for years. Typically, this was a high-touch, expensive, siloed process that really only targeted a few strategic accounts. Today, ABM has the potential to have an even broader impact, thanks to technology that helps us automate and scale.

SC: How has ABM evolved?

PI: The most significant, fundamental difference between old-fashioned ABM and what’s possible today is that now you can employ ABM at scale and integrate it into every stage of the marketing funnel. Although there are a number of touch points across the funnel where ABM will play a big part, before you can execute on these things, you need a plan to identify, market and measure your target account list.

SC: What do you think has contributed to the rapid growth of ABM?

PI: Today’s B2B Marketers are conflicted. They are tasked with driving revenue and growing the business but at the same time the B2B buying cycle has become extremely complex. Add marketing and sales misalignment and the whole process can be frustrating. AMB provides a solution that delivers strategy and technology to better align with sales and drive higher convergence.

SC: What are the Demandbase basic tenants of ABM?

PI: You can approach ABM from a high-level perspective—broadly identifying companies you’d like to see convert into customers or go granular and focus your efforts on understanding the common attributes your customers share.

Once you understand the key fundamentals of ABM across the funnel, getting started, making progress, and measuring results become more accessible —and a gateway to broader, more successful ABM programs.

The number one focus should be a plan to 1) identify, 2) market and 3) measure your target account list.

SC: So first, step it to identify the list. What’s the best process for that and how big should the list be?

PI: The goal in building a target account list is to focus on 
the companies with the most potential to your business, which can include customers, prospects, partners or a mix of all three. Most companies build an initial list of target accounts and then expand from there. We have customers that strategically target 200 accounts, and we also have customers that target 8,000. At Demandbase, we have our DB3K—a list of 3,000 accounts that we aim to attract, engage, convert and measure against. However, when we first embarked on our ABM journey, we were focused on 1,500 target accounts. We wanted to validate both our methodology and the list itself. As we saw great results and expanded our sales team, we scaled up our ABM efforts.

SC: Ok, so you have got the list then it is marketing as usual?

PI: No, quite the opposite. Marketers need to rethink the notion of that we should reach as many people as possible and acquire as many leads as possible. It means giving up on untargeted, mass audience marketing tactics and instead focusing on the accounts with the greatest potential.

With an ABM approach, you’ll be able to use your target account list to guide both your digital and analog programs. The most effective plans include both digital, like account based advertising or personalizing your web experience, and analog, which is creating an account based lens to all other activities like local events and trade events.

At Demandbase, our field marketing organization relies on our target account list to plan their quarterly activities. By identifying which cities have high volumes of target accounts, you can determine which regions require the most marketing investment and focus.

SC: How do you keep everyone accountable?

The key foundation of your ABM strategy is the analytics that define how you’ll set your goals and measure your success. Measurement should happen at every stage of the funnel and it should focus on metrics that matter to B2B, rather than traditional metrics. A majority of your marketing data doesn’t provide actionable insight on how to drive revenue or improve performance. What you really need is an account-focused view of website traffic, engagement, conversion rates and the ability to connect siloed datasets across the funnel.