Marketing Strategy Blog

Beyond the Basics: Building an Exceptional ABM Program

ABM program direct mail

ABM. What does it stand for? Advisory Board Meeting? Assistant Brand Manager? How about American Beer Month? We wish, but no!

ABM in the B2B marketing world stands for Account-Based Marketing.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

ABM is Personalized

Account-based marketing focuses on targeting specific accounts or companies that would be a MAJOR win for your business. ABM is an alternative marketing strategy to “inbound marketing”. It’s hyper-focused on key accounts, requiring you to build a personalized campaign which resonates with each account. The first step in achieving an exceptional ABM program is identifying specific “best-fit” brands that are already the perfect fit for your business.

When you write a blog or build an email campaign to generate leads, it’s not easy to create personalized messaging for a database of thousands of contacts. The whole idea behind an exceptional ABM program is to narrow your outreach to a more targeted list of those who are most desirable or significant to meeting your business’s objectives. Then, you create individual, personalized outreach strategies to turn them into clients.

ABM is Hypertargeted

Now, we’re not saying don’t write blogs or conduct email marketing focusing on a broader audience, because a truly integrated marketing strategy includes those tools. But why wait for your most desirable leads to come to you when you can go right after them?

hypertargeted abm campaign

Once you identify your target audience, there is always going to be a few who stand above the rest – brands you’ve been dreaming of working with. If these are your dream clients, you should follow them on Twitter and watch their YouTube videos. You can stalk (in a good way) their website and look for areas where working with you would help them meet their goals.

Your prospects are more likely to engage with your marketing initiatives if they specifically focus on them and their particular needs. Why not chase your ideal accounts and, at the same time, help your target brand feel your passion and appreciate all the ways you can help them achieve their goals or eliminate their pain points – after all, doesn’t everyone want to feel unique, important and special?

What’s The Benefit?

If you’re not already convinced that building an exceptional ABM program will have a positive impact with measurable results, then take it from the experts. According to benchmark data from the SiriusDecisions Command Center®, 93% of respondents confirmed that ABM is “extremely or very important” to the organization’s success. While ABM seems to be a shiny new toy to many marketing professionals, HubSpot has determined that 60% of companies plan to build an ABM campaign in the next twelve months.

While executing an exceptional ABM program starts with building personalization into your entire process starting with your outreach, achieving the quality you desire certainly does not stop there. The true beauty of a well-designed ABM campaign is the customized approach that sets you apart from your competition and offers your targeted account a superior customer experience.

How many branded email campaigns have you received from companies in the past year? Can you even recall receiving unique, notable messaging or out-of-the-box calls to action from any of them? Probably not. The bottom line is if you blend in then you don’t stand out.

B2B marketers sometimes use such a broad-brush approach to capturing leads, and they ultimately end up sacrificing quality simply to get more quantity. More isn’t always better. The problem with trying to get as many leads as possible is that the funnel gets smaller and smaller the further down you go, and according to Forrester Research most B2B leads (99%) don’t ever become customers. Those numbers are startling and demonstrate how implementing a “best practices” ABM program may provide you with the opportunity to use your time and resources more efficiently by targeting the brands of your dreams who are also most likely to provide you with the highest ROI.

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How Do I Make It Happen?

Identify Your Target Accounts

The first step is to identify the accounts and brands who you place the highest value on becoming clients – accounts your employees are dying to work with and whom you can help the most – that will ultimately provide the greatest benefits for your business.

Once you have your wishlist, the next step is to investigate all aspects of that brand with a focus on identifying specific individuals within each account and start building a relationship. Whether you begin with an advanced search on LinkedIn (a great source for finding the right people) or use a database such as DiscoverOrg, it is important to target decision makers AND influencers within a company who have the authority to respond to your “ask.”

Identify Their Pain Points

Dig deep and find out what your key accounts’ pain points are and how you can be their white knight to help them overcome their weaknesses and grow stronger. Your messaging must address their specific business challenges they have yet to overcome and show them why you are their best solution. Correctly identifying a problem and showing how you can help solve it allows you to take full advantage of the work you put in as part of your outreach.

Create an ABM Calendar

Exceptional ABM programs are much more than just “I really want to work with XYZ brand” followed by the occasional effort to spark their interest in what you have to offer. They require a methodical and systematic approach to maximize the impact of your personalized outreach. How often and through which avenues you reach out will greatly affect the success of your campaign, so do your research. At the very least you should have brand touchpoints every month, and often you’ll want your outreach cadence to be faster – for example, every week or twice monthly, etc.

abm program calendar

It is imperative that you create an ABM calendar so your targeted account can consistently “feel the love” you have. Take note: while a solid calendar helps achieve consistency in making contact, don’t risk the danger of relying on it exclusively. You very well may miss your best opportunities to show how you can meet a need they have.

For example, if you notice through your IP detection software that one of your target accounts is on your site and consuming lots of information, break from the calendar and reach out.

In addition, set up a Google Alert for each of your target brands, assign appropriate people to monitor those alerts, and be ready to provide timely, focused and captivating content that resonates with your contacts based on what’s revealed through the alerts.

Get Creative with Your Mediums

Just like most marketing campaigns, with ABM, communication is key. Leverage a variety of communication channels when reaching out to your audience. One method might focus on a series of emails showing your prospect weaknesses in their approach to something and the many ways you can improve it. Video is a fabulous medium, so another tactic might involve creating a personalized video directed to your prospect explaining how you could help improve their home page. From email and video to social media and webinars, here are a number of tools which help you vary the way you present your targeted message.

Make Your ABM Program Scalable

If you’ve done something fantastic for one targeted brand there’s no reason some of that work can’t be translated for a different audience. Integrate a think-ahead approach so your content can be easily re-purposed for a broader audience. Consider creation of scalable content using an 80/20 rule – 80% of content stays the same and 20% is customized

There are many ways of maximizing use of content you work hard to create. Sensedia, an API management platform, targets five segments and three personas giving them 15 areas where they can focus their message so their ABM campaigns are more scalable. They do research and use customer stories within their industry to create and repurpose content from their top accounts.

Scalability allows you to create a dynamic yet manageable ABM strategy, giving you sufficient time to engage with your target list as often as possible.

Focus on Them

Remember your ABM calendar? Create a calendar for timeliness but also for content organization. Each new piece of content should build upon the last, thus providing increasing value at every stage of your ABM program.

Think about their biggest challenges and offer suggestions, ideas and tools, all the while making it ALL about them! The most effective ABM programs show everything you can do to help them.

Be Valuable – Really Valuable

You can launch your ABM program focused on a variety of marketing tactics from a video to a blog post, from emails to an in-person sales pitch. But regardless of the channel or activity, it should always be about providing the customer real value.

Exactly how best to get that message across will vary, but always honestly assess your own strengths and keep your company’s business objectives in sight as you reach out to others. Solving their problems will be the most important factor when deciding which ABM strategies will be most effective.


Many B2B companies are approaching ABM campaigns using a 3-tiered approach that segments low, medium and high priority accounts. For example, Tegile, a flash storage company, implemented this approach by separating 13,000 accounts into three priority levels based on estimates as to how likely an account was to respond and engage with their outreach. They carefully evaluated their marketing and sales scores, intent signals, active opportunities and number of contacts.

The data gave their sales team information they could use to prioritize their segmented target accounts. Perhaps your business is amenable to using a similar approach. For example, you might have 10 Priority 1 accounts, 20 Priority 2 accounts and 30 Priority 3 accounts. Use tools like Engagio to help measure each account’s engagement with your content.

Think Outside the Box

lit lightbulb above desk surrounded by employees

Once you know who your target accounts are, what they need, where they stand in the market and how and how often to reach them, it’s time to create the actual campaign. As Steve Jobs would say, Think Different!!

While this isn’t just another Tuesday-afternoon email blast going out to 30,000 people, that doesn’t mean you can’t use email as a tool for your ABM campaign – you can and you should. However, ABM is about so much more than just a customized email.

What works for your audience and shows how you’re constantly aware of their needs? Do they respond to video? Well, then be sure to incorporate video. You should explore the abundance of tools for maximizing the impact of your content – it might be a personalized white paper for some; it might be creative direct mail for others; it might be a happy hour event for others. Perhaps a LinkedIn request or a good ol’ fashioned telephone call will do the trick? Start thinking about using different approaches and watch your list grow!

Varying the approach and the message helps refine what does or does not work for a particular target account. Maybe one round of outreach is an email focused on areas of weakness for your targeted accounts and how they can improve – with your help, of course. Round two might be a personalized video calling out the specific names of each contact you are targeting within the organization and offering a unique approach that will spark their interest in what you offer. Maybe round three features a product or service demo showing specific, tangible results your tools can offer. Round four could be a direct mail campaign that features explosive content showcasing how you can help them grow.

jellyvision abm campaign

Jellyvision, a communication software platform which helps employees make better decisions about their benefits and finances, has an ABM program that sends direct mail packages to prospective accounts. A creative way they introduced a new product was sending a kit that included unique swag intended to excite their audience and make them feel special. They created personalized “care-packages” and sent them to HR staff overwhelmed with leave-of-absence administrative tasks. Through PFL, a marketing technology company allowing them to delve into behaviors exhibited by their prospects, Jellyvision built an ABM campaign that allowed their marketing team to deploy these packages at just the right time because their research gave them insight into their prospects’ behavior.

Focusing on their audiences’ pain points, Jellyvision created HR Horror Story booklets, sharing tips and tricks designed to help the recipients survive various crises that come up during the course of their daily duties. This was a clever and unique way they could create real value – far superior to a boring swag bag with branded pens and a logo-imprinted notepad.

Use IP Detection and Behavioral Intelligence

Learn how to use tools like IP detection software and behavioral analytics as part of your ABM activities to understand who is on your website, what pages they are looking at, which buttons are clicked the most and how much time they spent on each page – information which provides detailed insights on what your prospects are thinking and doing.

Suppose your analytics show a company goes to the “Services” section of your website and spends two minutes reading about your strategic consulting. That is important information you should use when you focus on your next outreach.

Perhaps another company has browsed the site for quite some time and are all over the “Contact Us” page, but have not filled out any forms. Your ABM program uncovered a need for speed – reach out to them as soon as possible!

Data might uncover that the sales prospect of another target is more of a slow burn – which ought to lead you to think of creative ways to grab their attention and accelerate their decision to do business with you. Use behavioral analytics to focus and personalize conversations, follow-up and anything else of unique importance directed to the potential client.

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How Do I Measure ABM Success?

Like any marketing campaign, metrics in an ABM program are critical to success. You need to routinely measure and analyze campaign results so you can optimize your future ABM actions. Because ABM programs focus on a smaller pool of accounts that offer a much higher potential value, you may find it’s actually easier to measure success with your ABM efforts over your other marketing initiatives.

Here are some examples of what you can monitor:

  • Were you able to reach your desired list of contacts?
  • What’s your email open rate?
  • What’s your click-through rate?
  • Did they watch your videos?
  • What percentage of each video did they view?
  • Are they visiting your website after you’ve reached out? What’s the overall traffic from your target accounts, and is it increasing over time?
  • Are they converting?
  • Are you experiencing an increase in opportunity velocity?
  • How many new sales meetings have been scheduled with your target accounts?
  • How many new clients did you secure?
  • How much new booked revenue did this result in?
  • Is ABM increasing your average deal size? If yes, by what percentage?
  • How much incremental revenue are you projecting from these new accounts over the coming 12 months?

As you build your ABM program and do more campaigns, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t so you can continually optimize your strategies.

Just remember, ABM results improve over time – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.


Rest assured knowing that converting your target accounts results in increased revenue and is a WIN for the entire team. According to SiriusDecisions, 91% of marketers who use ABM have experienced a larger average deal size, with 25% of those marketers achieving an increase in their average deal size by over 50%!