Account-based Marketing and account-based everything programs have been the rage in the last few years.
But most content about these programs often caters to companies with mature programs, large budgets, and expensive software. For those trying to build an account-based everything program from scratch, and on a limited budget?
So, we’re sharing how we built our account-based everything program from the ground up to 5x our revenue in one year while targeting 200-300 accounts per month. No special tools. No agency. No gargantuan budget.
We’ll walk you through the foundations of account-based everything, share key success factors, and our step-by-step blueprint for implementing account-based everything.
What is Account-Based Marketing?
The term “account-based marketing” came about as a marketing strategy. So, most of its content focuses on demand generation and marketing.
What is Account-Based Everything?
But as you’ll see below, successful account-based programs must be owned by both marketing and sales. We refer to it as “account-based everything” (similar to “CxO”).
Some account-based everything programs involve your customer success team. But we’ll focus on generating new business here.
Everything you need to know about Account-Based Everything
allows companies to pool sales and marketing resources and go after specific, most likely-to-convert accounts. This often results in more wins, higher contract size, and more strategic customer logos.
Rather than chasing individual leads or going after everyone in a spray-and-pray approach, businesses identify key target accounts and use that list as their starting point for sales and marketing efforts.
account-based everything is guided by two overarching questions:
- Where do we think most of our revenue/growth comes from?
- How can we coordinate efforts to bring these target accounts on board?
account-based everything isn’t just a tactic—it’s a mindset shift to align the entire revenue team to drive growth. For account-based everything to work for your business, you have to
- Commit to the process.
- Ensure 100% orchestration between both marketing and sales teams.
Most companies get the first. But fail at the second point. As Benny Bridger, Director of Demand Generation, CloudAcademy puts it:
ABM doesn’t work by itself, or at least, it shouldn’t work independently so that we can collectively prioritize time, effort, and budget on high priority prospects. I also call it ABSM - account-based sales and marketing.
Is Account-Based Everything right for your business?
A common belief is account-based everything programs are best for enterprise deals where the contract size is at least six-figure and your sales cycle runs longer than 6 or 12 months. Anything else, and your investment in account-based everything isn’t worth it.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve made account-based everything work for our mid-market segment as well as enterprise.
Having said that, if your segment is SMB, and the average contract size is less than $10k-15k per year, account-based everything might not be for your business. Your growth depends on volume (a large number of customers) and velocity (short sales cycles). So, having a finite list of target accounts would be a blocker. Plus, the return on investment for your account-based everything campaigns would likely be too low for your average deal size.
But if your average contract size is more than $15k per year, account-based everything can work. Keep in mind there’s no one-size-fits-all account-based everything program – adapt your approach to fit your audience and budget, start small, iterate quickly, and scale.
Why some Account-Based Marketing programs fail (and how to prevent it)
When account-based everything programs fail, it isn’t because they’re missing fancy tools. Failure happens due to misalignment and lack of orchestration between sales and marketing. Specifically when sales and marketing don’t actually go after the same accounts together.
Signs of misalignment include:
- Marketing advertises to one set of accounts while sales work on others—or cherry-picks only a small sample of the initial target accounts
- Your sales reps reach out with one messaging, while marketing nurtures and advertises with a different messaging.
- Sales and marketing can’t come to an agreement about success metrics and qualification criteria
It sounds silly and simple. But according to a 2021 ABM Benchmark Study, stronger alignment with sales correlates with having successful ABM programs.
For a successful Account-Based Everything framework, you need three things: alignment, orchestration, and personalization.
Align (and stay aligned)
Management and revenue teams must align on the following:
- How success is measured and how long the attribution period is
- Criteria of accounts (ICP) and list of target accounts
- Persona and messaging to address pain points or benefits
- Timeframe to go after target accounts and/or persona
- Expectations of accountability and a marketing-sales service-level agreement (SLA)
Then, both teams must stay aligned. One tip to build and maintain alignment is having the same goal(s).
At UserGems, marketing is measured by revenue. So, we keep an eye on top of the funnel metrics, e.g. open, click, traffic, response rates, engagement rates, etc. But those are only to inform us where to optimize to get more results. The ultimate metric for our account-based everything program is how many of the targeted accounts turned into meetings.
Sales and marketing need to move in lockstep to amplify reach.
When we started this program, the conventional wisdom was we should run ads for 2-4 weeks to “warm-up” the accounts before sales prospecting starts. But, we noticed our booking rate went up significantly when our ads campaigns and sales prospecting started on the same day.
In hindsight it makes sense—all of a sudden, our prospects see our brand and messaging everywhere, on all channels. This helps us stand out and stay top of mind during the campaign. It’s similar to when you’re on Twitter and notice a particular book or tool is mentioned everywhere. It creates a halo effect of “if this author is everywhere, they must be successful.”
But it’s generally challenging to “herd cats.” So, from the get-go, we have been very intentional about turning our account-based everything program into a recurring cadence to build habits.
- Have a game plan and defined schedule
- Make sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them
- Keep it consistent and recurring so everyone knows when to do what
- Make sure that everyone has the tools and training necessary to execute
- Over-communicate the upcoming account-based everything batch, the status, the results
To ensure alignment and seamless orchestration, ADRs at UserGems are within the Marketing team. If this isn’t an option for you, it’d be best to work with your sales leaders/partners to get one or two dedicated ADRs focusing on the account-based everything program. Otherwise, your account-based everything goal might be lower on the reps’ priorities.
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As marketers, this is the most fun and challenging part. Before even coming up with ideas and tactics, we follow this framework:
- What are some ways to convey the benefits of our product that are specific to our target accounts? (messaging, visual, for digital and/or physical)
- How can we convey these at a glance? (especially for digital but also for physical interactions)
- How to stop the audience from scrolling? (digital)
Most revenue teams focus on personalization when building out an account-based everything program. But the past two years have taught us that it should come after alignment and orchestration between sales and marketing. If you don’t have these two locked down, a lot of your personalization effort is wasted. But when you get it right. Magic!
“The magic typically happens when accounts get that one-to-one treatment. When it’s truly a personalized experience across every touchpoint – from the ad to the landing page, to the prospecting sequence, to the phrases the salesperson is using – that’s when you see the full success of the account-based everything,” says Benny.
Now that you’ve decided that account-based everything is right for you and your teams are committed, let’s start building your account-based everything program.
How to build your Account-Based Everything program: a step-by-step guide
Here’s the process we follow…
Step 1: Define your objective(s) for the program
Is it to go after a certain market segment? New industry? New geography? Or a specific set of companies?
Whatever it is, the objectives must be clearly defined, aligned on, and approved by your sales and marketing leadership. Not only does this help provide direction, but it will also hold teams accountable throughout the program.
Step 2: Research your ICP, persona, and target accounts
To some, this is probably the least fun part but it’s incredibly valuable. Tip: Your product marketer is usually your go-to person to define this.
At UserGems, we spend a disproportionate amount of time and effort in this step of the process because—as you’ll see below—the more work we do upstream, the easier it is to standardize, 'templatize,' iterate, and scale.
Identify your ideal customer profile (ICP)
We look into our Salesforce-account-based marketing tool to find out the common trends across our best customers. We use the following filters:
- Sales cycle times
- Contract and lifetime value
- Product adoption
- Company size
- The composition of their tech stack
This helps us build a list of objective criteria for our ICP. And then a target account list that we know with high certainty would be a good fit for our solution.
The sales and marketing team work closely during this process, and set parameters to prevent our account-based everything strategy from turning into a “potluck” or a “wish list.” If a sales rep wants to add an account just because she saw it on a billboard, but it doesn’t fit the criteria…nope (You’d be surprised how often this happens!).
Using this account list, we select the accounts to prioritize each month.
Pro-tip: Don’t go after the full list immediately. You need to be selective, as this allows you to focus your efforts. When UserGems started this program, we only targeted 30-40 accounts each month. We used this time to learn, optimize outreach, measure, and iterate on what was working. After a quarter, we were able to scale to targeting 200-300 accounts per month.
Know your target persona
After you’ve built a target account list based on your ICP, it’s time to identify your buyer (and champion) personas. And then build outreach sequences for each persona.
Most marketers have a good grasp of their target persona and ICP so I won’t dwell too much here.
Research the accounts and/or industry
Our campaign team then researches each account of that month and pulls out insights that can be used in ad creatives and sales outreach.
For most companies, this task falls into the reps’ responsibilities. Now, each rep probably has 20 to a few hundred accounts to find insights for prospecting. So these insights tend to stay within the rep’s Google Docs or post-it notes (really). This means it doesn’t get shared with the marketing (campaign) team to make the ads more personalized and relevant. Plus, you might end up with different messaging between your marketing and sales touch points.
So we pull this task 'upstream'. That way, we can templatize to scale and keep the messaging and research quality consistent across all account-based everything touch points.
Step 3: Build your ad campaigns and other marketing touch points
You’ve collected relevant information on your target accounts. It’s time to develop marketing campaigns to reach decision-makers and stakeholders using the consistent messaging you’ve already developed.
Select your channel(s)
Similar to other marketing campaigns, go where your target audience is. Start with one channel and scale from there. Our campaign team sets up a campaign for each account, applying appropriate filtering where necessary to optimize for impact and costs.
Do we only target the decision-makers? It depends.
- For the mid-market segment, we noticed that information is shared top-down and bottom-up. A sales rep might screenshot an ad and Slack it to their managers, and the reverse also happens—which prompts us to be more relaxed with the filters.
- However, it’s critical to be as targeted as possible with the enterprise segment so you don’t burn through your budget.
Build your ad creatives
Following our personalization/relevance framework, we build ad creatives that answer the following questions:
- What are some ways to convey the benefit of our product to the audience that is uniquely relevant to them?
- How can we convey those at a glance?
- How to stop them from scrolling?
To illustrate UserGems’ value proposition, our creative shows an example of the target account’s own customer who changed jobs to a new company. (FYI - This is our main product, tracking buyers' job movements). This way we show—instead of tell —them the benefits of targeting previous customers in a way specifically relevant to them.
Build other marketing touch points (where appropriate)
This depends on your tech stacks and the experience you want to create. Some examples include:
- Personalized sections in landing pages based on their company
- A chatbot that recognizes the account
- Sending unique gifts that tie back to the campaign’s messaging
Step 4: Enable your sales team
Make sure your sales team is fully trained and informed about campaign timelines and the tools available to them to work these accounts. We’ve seen great success with a quarterly cadence for sales enablement, but to be honest, this is an area we are still working on as we scale.
If you already have high-performing sequences, those can certainly be used for your account-based everything accounts. But make sure the messaging is consistent from the marketing campaigns to the sales emails. We separate the account-based everything sequences from others so we can compare the results from our other campaigns.
Step 5: Select prospects
Now to the bread and butter of a successful account-based everything program that most marketers never think about (but they should!): How to ensure that your sales reps identify and reach out to the right prospects.
We’re very prescriptive about who we want our ADR to select:
- Number of prospects per account to multi-thread from the beginning
- Types of titles and seniority
- ALWAYS prioritize prospects that are our previous customers (i.e. used our product at their previous company) or previous prospects (i.e. evaluated in the past)
- ALWAYS prioritize executives that just started their new role or were recently promoted
To do this quickly at scale, our ADRs use our own Account Tracking product which:
- Automatically surfaces only prospects that we care about (along with their email addresses and phone numbers),
- Ranks them based on our criteria above
- Allows us to add them into Salesforce and specific Outreach sequences with literally two clicks
This product has been a game-changer for our revenue team in terms of efficiency.
It allows us significantly scale the account-based everything program targeting 200-300 accounts per month with only 2-3 ADRs. I know this sounds like a shameless plug but it’s 100% true. If your team has other sales intelligence software like ZoomInfo or LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you could try doing this too but it would be A LOT more manual, which means reps might not work all the accounts thoroughly.
Step 6: Go-live and communicate, communicate, communicate
On the day of launch, all the campaigns and outreach are activated at once. Our goal is to make sure the target prospects see us everywhere, with consistent messaging across all channels.
Internally, don’t forget to keep your team and management updated on the progress, results, and learnings.
Benny adds, “don’t forget to share early results, any wins and losses. Communication is key to build trust and confidence around the program, which translates to more excitement and support from the team and leadership.”
Other tips to consider for your Account-Based Everything framework
The step-by-step guide above tells you exactly how we built and executed an account-based everything program. However, that’s one part of the story. Before building an account-based everything program of your own, you need to evaluate if your efforts stand a chance of being successful.
What factors actually make an account-based everything program successful? We asked Miguel Palma, Head of Marketing at Appsembler, a developer marketing startup that has run similar Account-Based Everything frameworks.
Prioritize target accounts that are more likely to buy
Your target account list can be ambitious, but it should also be achievable.
Make sure you are setting your team up with the warmest paths into an account by finding the most likely buyers with relationship data (e.g. previous customers, previous prospects, new executives) and intent data (e.g. newsletter subscribers, followers, website visitors).
Nurture throughout the buying journey
Similar to other marketing campaigns, don’t forget to re-target and to continue nurturing the prospects throughout the sales funnel, i.e. Open Opportunity.
You’ll get extra brownie points (and a higher success rate) if the messaging and theme of these retargeting campaigns matches your account-based everything campaign at top of the funnel.
Get internal stakeholder support
ABM takes time to prove its ROI, and it’s easier to plan an account-based everything program than to implement it. You need stakeholder support (at the director-and-higher levels) to shield account-based everything program implementers from time-consuming day-to-day demands and back requests for additional resources.
Have product market fit
This one is obvious but it needs to be said. No amount of marketing can cover up a bad product-market fit. "You can't account-based everything your way out of a bad product-market fit," Miguel Palma
If you’re still trying to figure out product-market fit, you can’t account-based everything or ABM your way out of it. account-based everything is something to scale an existing product-market fit and a large enough market (TAM).
“Do things that don’t scale” - Paul Graham
Many marketers start the account-based everything journey with scale in mind.
We’re so used to the volume that marketing programs drive and the automation that marketing software enables. So, we’re easily sucked into the grandiose promises of ABM vendors. These sophisticated tools can scale your account-based everything program.
But you need to test to know what parts of the account-based everything program work and don’t work first, before thinking about scaling.
Otherwise, you’ll end up spending time justifying the ROI of the tool instead of driving revenue from target accounts.
Start small -> get results -> iterate -> templatize -> scale.
What is UserGems
UserGems helps companies hit their aggressive revenue goals by offering new and untapped channels of buyers that are 3X more likely to buy. With UserGems, customers get a bigger pipeline and win more often.