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The ABCD Framework for Effective Account Based Marketing

Account based marketing (ABM) means different things to different people. But at its core, it means focusing your marketing efforts to only reach a select group of people within companies that you’ve specifically identified as best-fit customers. 

It requires tight coordination between sales and marketing so that the target contacts are engaged strategically and the effort turns into a meeting (and a sale soon after). 

Many companies have an ABM program of some kind, but we’ve found that no two companies do it exactly the same way. In this post, we’re going to share the ABCD framework that Mutiny uses to design and execute our ABM program, while also giving real examples of our most recent campaign involving custom rap music videos for our target account list.

The ABCD Framework has 4 key sections:

Account selection: How to choose the right accounts and contacts to target.

Borders: Clear constraints that the team can use to stretch their creativity while staying true to the desired outcomes and goals. 

Creative: How to craft a message and offer that inspires your target contacts to book a meeting. 

Distribution: How to deliver the creative and messaging to your target audience. 

Let’s begin with selecting the right accounts and contacts for your next ABM campaign.

 

A – Account selection

Two things must be true for an ABM campaign to be successful. If either of these criteria end up being untrue, it won’t matter how good your message delivery is or how creative you were – the target account will never buy.

1. Does the account have a hair-on-fire problem that they need solving right away? If unsolved, this problem:

• Costs the company (in wasted cash, time, or people resources)

• Limits the growth of the company

• Holds the company back from reaching their mandate

2. Does the target contact at this company have the authority to make decisions and move the deal over the finish line.

Depending on your product and the value it brings to your customers, the signals you use to identify these two criteria will vary. 

But the way that we’ve found to work best is to work backwards from what an ideal customer profile looks like and prioritize what data sources we need to access to validate those accounts. A few company level signals we look for are:

Growth rate: What stage of growth is a company at? Signals include headcount, revenue, product launches, and customer profile.


Active channels: What channels are a company using to grow? This helps us to tailor our messaging and how we approach the account.


Technology stack: Are there technical limitations that make selling to this account impossible? Tech stacks are a strong signal that can qualify and disqualify accounts from an ABM campaign.


Once you’ve compiled the necessary data sources, filter and prioritize an account list. We then assigned an equal number of accounts to each Account Executive (AE), who then do their own research to identify the best contacts to reach out to at each account. 

This is best done manually with some assistance from LinkedIn Sales Navigator because the company structure at every account will be different. ABM is all about targeted messaging, so you want to be sure that the contacts you’re reaching out to are the right people or expect your response rates to be very low.

 

B – Borders

Before beginning to ideate on how you want to reach your target account list, it’s important to have a clear border defined of how far you’ll go to book these accounts. These constraints will act as the border that helps your team to make decisions autonomously, while also clearly defining desired outcomes and goals.

Here’s a breakdown of some borders that we set in place when designing an ABM campaign:

Cost

Knowing your target cost to acquire a customer (CAC) will be crucial at this point in the ABM preparation process. This will give you guardrails for how much you’ll be able to spend on your ABM campaign.

If your marketing team doesn’t yet have a solid CAC goal, work with your financial team to budget a CAC before starting your campaign. This will ensure that you don’t overspend and can accurately report on the effectiveness of the campaign at the end.

Timeline

How quickly do you expect the deals to close? This will depend on the deal size and the type of account you’re going for. Enterprise accounts will typically take longer than selling to a mid-market account.

This is also when you need to take into account lead-time for the marketing and creative team to put together whatever assets are required for this campaign. For example, making a music video will take much longer than spinning up a personalized email. Set clear expectations with your sales to ensure proper execution.

Messaging

Before moving ahead with any creative, you’re going to want to have a strong messaging template to refer back to. This template should include:
• Key value propositions that matter most to your target accounts.
Role-specific messaging for your contacts that speak to their most important goals.
• Clear use cases that tie directly to your account’s goals and problems.

Work with a product marketer to align the messaging with what they know has worked in the past and based on what current customers from similar accounts are saying. This document should be reviewed by all the key stakeholders in this project before moving to the next stage in the process. Once finalized, it will act as the single point of truth for the creative team to pull from.

 

C – Creative

As we’ve been seeing in the news recently, it appears that we’re entering a recession. For high growth companies, this means that the capital that would have otherwise been used to acquire customers through advertising or incentives has become much more expensive and hard to get. 

So the question becomes: how can you keep your CAC low while still closing key accounts? 

The answer: through creativity. 

In our last ABM campaign, we partnered with the talented Ding Zheng and Eric Smith to create completely custom raps for each of our target accounts, like this one:

HubSpot Video

Here’s a summary of the process we took to work with these creators to deliver high quality raps music videos at scale:

Account list and contacts: The AEs were asked to submit their top 3 accounts from their target account list for this ABM campaign. It was up to the discretion of the AE who they included, and which contacts at that account they wanted to be mentioned in the rap. 

Lyrics: Once the accounts were submitted, the creators got to work writing lyrics that were relevant to the B2B audience they were targeting. This included mentions of the target’s company name, key accounts, and how Mutiny could help them achieve their goals. 

Video assets: To make the raps more interesting, they creators filmed themselves rapping and included clips of them editing headlines of the target’s website using Mutiny. 

 

D – Distribution Channels

There’s an art and a science behind ABM distribution. If your message is only seen once by your target account, chances are it won’t be impactful and it will be ignored. If they see it too many times on too many channels, then they’ll grow annoyed and it may have the opposite effect. Delivering your message on multiple channels will reduce the repetitive feel and stand-out to the target audience.

We delivered our ABM campaign on three different channels:

1:1 email

The AEs wrote each target contact an email that included:
• What problem they needed solving
• What solving that problem would mean for their business
• How Mutiny could solve that problem
• Link to the rap video that we made for them
• Link to a personalized landing page with more information

Personalized landing page

Linked within that email was a personalized landing page created with Mutiny that expanded on all these key points, and gave deeper explanations. These landing pages are extremely effective because it allows you to hit on all the key value propositions that your product offers, without extra work for your sales or marketing team to create hundreds of individualized web pages.

Within the landing page is also a calendar to book a meeting with an AE. Here’s an example of one of those landing pages for Plato.

Screen Shot 2022-06-02 at 12.27.17 PM

Rap video on social

Once the AEs had sent their emails to the target contacts, we then began to share the rap videos on social media through our company LinkedIn page.

Screen Shot 2022-06-02 at 12.28.54 PM

Doing so expanded the reach of the asset to not just the target contacts, but also to their colleagues and other similar companies. The engagement in the comments section reflected the lighthearted and fun nature of the campaign. We weren’t totally sure how the contacts were going to respond to this distribution, but overall we received many positive comments and lots of engagement that led to meetings booked.

Campaign Results and Next Steps

The campaign is still active, so we don’t have conclusive results just yet. But early signs indicate a positive trend in meetings booked and accounts reached. 

Screen Shot 2022-06-02 at 1.09.06 PM

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But what we also found was that this campaign validated a hypothesis we had around how ABM could be done. We’re at the very beginning of a shift in how many companies will need to approach their GTM strategies. 

The cost of growth capital has skyrocketed as investors no longer have access to cheap cash to invest. But these companies are still expected to grow at a steady clip. ABM tactics that might have once worked when cash was abundant to spend on ads, swag, or events must be conserved to extend the company's runway. 

The hypothesis we had around ABM was that campaign creative was the most important variable that could influence the outcome. Finding a way to execute high-quality creative, at scale, at a price that has a positive ROI within 30 days is how growth stage companies are going to be able to continue to grow even in a tighter environment. 

We’re going to share more insights on how B2B businesses can work with creators to deliver engaging but effective content to their target audience. 

Stewart Hillhouse

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