The Three Steps You Need To Launch Your ABM Strategy

This post is based on a podcast with Elle Woulfe. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below!

If you’re starting your ABM strategy with the M in ABM before the A, you’re doing it wrong.

Elle Woulfe is the VP of marketing at PathFactory where she helps marketers optimize the path to purchase.

When it came to building their ABM process, she’s quick to admit that her team stumbled into, what is now, an agile approach to ABM.

Elle decided to embark on the ABM process in the first place when she noticed a bad funnel conversion. They were running a wide top of funnel, demand strategy approach. While they had lots of people in the funnel and were pretty good at getting them to commit to a meeting, they struggled with moving them down the funnel. People would just fall out.

Thankfully, PathFactory has always been a company that believed in breaking off a little piece at a time to iterate it, rather than jump into big changes. So it was natural for them to take this problem and focus on one specific thing at a time to see what they could improve.

She started by looking at the sale’s teams targeted accounts. As it turned out, the targeted accounts weren’t the right customer base for the product they were selling. The sales team was choosing accounts based on the most recognizable brands rather than customers they could actually sell to, customers that would actually buy.

She also noticed that the target account strategy was optional across the team. The sales team members had target accounts but there wasn’t enough focus on them. So she began by teaching them how to be more strategic in choosing and narrowing down a target account.

The Strategy

She accomplished this in three careful, strategic steps that worked.

  1. Start an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) model

By launching an ICP, they were able to run regression against all of their past opportunities and customers while actively looking for what was underneath the surface. They already knew a lot of surface level details about their customers. Things like firmographics and technographics, but they had to look deeper than that.

They looked for trends among their most successful customers.

Did success have anything to do with their customer’s founding year or how much technology they owned? This new ICP model yielded a few thousand accounts they could focus on.

  1. ABM Light

Once they had this new cohort of accounts, they could begin a very basic level of ABM.  First, they made sure they were already marketing to this cohort. They took the same campaigns and programs they were already running, moved them to the top of the funnel, and made sure they ran these programs to this specific cohort of ICP accounts.

They flagged these accounts in order to intentionally observe how they moved, or didn’t move, down the funnel. How would they perform against those not in their ICP?

Turns out, they did pretty well, and once they reached the MQL status, what they really learned was that these customers were willing to spend more money. They also learned that more than 75% of their churns came from companies that were not a part of their ICP.

One of their biggest goals in doing the ICP was to find customers that were not only going to buy something today but going to stick around, renew next year, and become advocates.

  1. All in.

Although they had this solid cohort, it’s really hard to focus on them when it’s a couple thousand companies. They had to narrow the cohort down even further, so they built in scoring to do so.

They took their ICP model and looked for the signals that were stronger than other signals in terms of likelihood to convert and become a customer. This allowed them to create an ABCD model within their ICP and build some account tiering according to what their spend potential was.

Finally, they built in a psychographic component. They were looking for characteristics among marketers that point to them being early adopters. Some indicators were things like awards they’d won, were they early adopters of marketing automation, are they excited about new ideas and want to be on the cutting edge?

Using this, they built what they call their Tip of the Sphere accounts. It narrowed the original cohort to about 1400 target accounts that they believed would represent the best path to revenue.

ABM Today

This three-step process pushed PathCompany to move into a 100% target account selling model. Those 1400 companies became the target accounts for their sales team and, moving forward, they would run very focused, outbound campaigns directed at them.

They still have a traditional inbound funnel for non-target accounts and they go through the MQL process. But from the outbound perspective, they’re just focused on those 1400 accounts. If you just have a marketing strategy in place, you’ll fail. You have to have consistent, focused effort on ICP accounts.

This is when the “real” ABM began.

They broke up those 1400 accounts into different buckets so they could observe and learn what would resonate with each. And that’s what they base their programs, campaigns, content, messaging, etc. on today.

The result is good. It clearly illustrates that they are much better able to convert accounts if the account meets their ICP, and they move 44% faster than those that don’t meet their ICP.

Key Takeaways Before You Begin Your AMB Strategy:

  1. Know the accounts your targeting by having a clear ICP in place  
  2. Start small, bite off one thing at a time to learn what works and what resonates
  3. Constantly set new goals once you’ve accomplished one