Account-based Marketing and account-based everything programs have been all the rage for the last few years.
But most resources for these programs cater to companies with mature programs, large budgets, and expensive software. So, what about those trying to build an account-based everything program from scratch, and on a limited budget?
Cue UserGems...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.
I’m Trinity Nguyen, VP of Marketing, UserGems, and I’m going to walk you through the foundations of account-based everything programs, share key success factors, and provide a step-by-step blueprint for implementing account-based everything.
What is account-based everything?
Account-based everything programs, (also called ABE or ABX programs), allow companies to pool their sales and marketing resources to go after specific, most likely-to-convert accounts. This results in more wins, bigger contracts, and more strategic customer logos.
Rather than chasing individual leads or going after everyone using a spray-and-pray approach, businesses identify key target accounts and use them as a starting point for their 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 you have sales and marketing alignment
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a marketing strategy where sales and marketing teams work together to target specific accounts with personalized messaging.
The word "marketing" in account-based marketing leads people to assume marketing owns and drives it, making it a siloed approach. But for an account-based marketing program to be successful, it must be a collaborative effort across key revenue teams, including both sales and marketing.
“A key difference [between account-based marketing and account-based everything] is the focus on account-based customization at every stage for marketing AND sales in account-based everything,” explains Isaac Ware, Director of demand generation at UserGems.
Benny Bridger, Director of Demand Generation, CloudAcademy, adds, “Account-based marketing 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.”
We refer to our account-based framework as “account-based everything” to reflect the alignment of sales and marketing in its execution. Although account-based everything programs can involve your customer success team, we’ll focus on generating new business in this guide.
3 things you should know about account-based everything programs
Before you launch an account-based everything program, here are three things you need to know for a successful outcome.
1. Account-based everything is not the right strategy for every business
A common belief is that account-based everything programs are best for enterprise deals where the contract size is at least six figures and your sales cycle runs longer than 6-12 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 our enterprise targets.
Having said that, if you target small and midsized businesses (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 reduce your chances of success.
Plus, the return on investment for your account-based everything campaigns would likely be too low for your average deal size. If you are considering account-based marketing vs. lead generation in this situation, lead gen will be more effective since it suits low-touch, low-priced products.
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.
2. Account-based marketing frameworks fail without alignment
When account-based everything strategies fail, it isn’t because they’re missing fancy tools.
Failure happens due to misalignment between sales and marketing teams. Specifically when they don't go after the same accounts together.
As I explained in this article on why ABM campaigns fail, “In one of my previous companies, we had all the best ABM tools. We also had alignment on our target account list and process. Or so we thought.
A quarter after launching the program, we realized that the sales team only worked on half of the target accounts. So essentially, the marketing team wasted 50% of their ABM spending. [No wonder] the results weren’t as stellar as the team had hoped. This led to mistrust between the two teams, and there went the ABM program.”
Watch for these signs of misalignment between your sales and marketing teams:
- Your marketing team is advertising to one set of accounts while the sales team focuses on another. Or, one team cherry-picks a small sample of the initial target accounts instead of approaching the list as a whole.
- Your sales and marketing teams are using different messaging for the same accounts. For example, your sales rep communicates one message, while your marketing team uses another in their advertisements.
- Your sales and marketing teams can’t come to an agreement about success metrics and qualification criteria.
It sounds simple. But according to a 2021 ABM Benchmark Study, stronger alignment between sales and marketing teams correlates with having productive ABM programs.
For a successful account-based everything framework, you need three things: alignment, orchestration, and personalization.
1. 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 teams need to move together to amplify reach.
When we started our program, the conventional wisdom was we should run ads for 2-4 weeks to “warm up” the accounts before we moved forward with sales prospecting efforts. 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 to build habits and make sure the team knows what they should be doing at every stage, we’ve been very intentional about turning our account-based everything program into a recurring cadence.
Here’s our approach to orchestrating teams:
- Have a game plan and defined schedule
- Make sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them
- Keep your plan consistent and predictable, so everyone knows when to do what
- Provide the tools and training necessary for your teams to execute their duties
- Over-communicate the upcoming account-based everything batch, including the status and the results you hope to see
To ensure alignment and seamless orchestration, Account Development Reps (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.
As marketers, this is the most fun and challenging part of any account-based everything campaign. Before we start brainstorming ideas and tactics, we talk about:
- What are some ways to convey the benefits of our product specific to our target accounts? For example, messaging, graphics, digital assets, or physical advertisements.
- How can we communicate these benefits at a glance, both digitally and in-person?
- How can we stop the audience from scrolling?
Most revenue teams focus on personalization when building out an account-based everything program. At UserGems, the past two years have taught us it should come after sales and marketing alignment. If you don’t have that locked down, a lot of your personalization efforts will be wasted. But when you do get it right, magic happens!
“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 Bridger, Director of Demand Generation at CloudAcademy.
If 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.
6 steps to building your own account-based everything program
Step 1: Define the objectives for your account-based everything program
Is it to go after a certain market segment? New industry? New geography? Or a specific set of companies?
Whatever they are, your objectives must be clearly defined, agreed 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 of developing an account-based everything program, but it’s incredibly valuable for a successful campaign.
If you’re not sure where to start, an internal product marketer is usually your go-to person to help define your ICP. A report by Gartner on companies using an account-based everything framework revealed that 81% of top-performing companies are confident in their ICP.
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. Here’s how to get started:
1. Identify your ICP
We use our account-based marketing Salesforce tool to find out the common trends across our best customers by setting 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. Then, we use it to create a target account list that we’re confident will be a good fit for our product.
The sales and marketing teams work closely during this process and set parameters to prevent our account-based everything strategy from getting out of hand. For example, if a sales rep wants to add an account just because they saw it on a billboard, but it doesn’t fit the criteria, it’s a no from us. You’d be surprised how often this happens!
Using our ICP list, we select the accounts to prioritize each month. It’s important not to go after the full list immediately. You need to be selective, as this will allow you to focus your efforts.
When we first started using an account-based everything program at UserGems, we only targeted 30-40 accounts each month. We used the extra time to optimize outreach, measure success, and figure out what was (and wasn’t) working. After a quarter, we were able to scale to targeting 200-300 accounts per month.
2. 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. Once you know what they are, build customized outreach sequences for each one.
3. Research the accounts and industry
Once we know who our target persona is, our campaign team researches each account we plan to go after that month and pulls out insights that can be used in ads and sales outreach.
For most companies, this task falls to sales reps. Now, each sales 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 team, preventing them from making the ads more personalized and relevant. Plus, you could end up with different messaging between your marketing and sales touch points.
Instead, 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. Here are the steps you need to take:
1. 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.
2. 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 benefits 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. (FWIW - This is our main product - playbooks for automating pipeline generation through turning buyer job changes and relationship insights into qualified pipeline). This way, we show—instead of telling — them the benefits of targeting previous customers in a way specifically relevant to them.
3. Build other marketing touch points
Your touchpoints depend on your tech. stack and the experience you want to create.
Some examples include:
- Personalized sections in landing pages based on an ICP’s 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
- Informed about campaign timelines
- Informed about 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 other email sequences so we can compare results.
Step 5: Select prospects
Now to the bread and butter of a successful account-based everything program — ensure that your sales reps identify and reach out to the right prospects.
We’re very prescriptive about who we want our ADRs to target. For example, we filter by:
- Number of prospects per account to encourage multi-threading from the start
- Job titles and seniority
- Prospects who have been previous customers (i.e., used our product at their previous company) or previous prospects (i.e., evaluated in the past)
- Executives that just started a new role or who were recently promoted
To do this quickly at scale, our ADRs use our own ABM playbook 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 in a couple of 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 might be A LOT more manual work, which means reps might not evaluate all the accounts thoroughly.
Step 6: Go live and communicate, communicate, communicate
On the day of launch, all the campaigns and outreach sequences 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 Bridger, Director of Demand Generation at CloudAcademy, adds, “don’t forget to share early results, any wins and losses. Communication is key to build[ing] trust and confidence around the program, which translates to more excitement and support from the team and leadership.”
Expert tips to consider if you plan to build a successful account-based everything framework
The step-by-step guide above tells you exactly how we built and executed an account-based everything program at UserGems. However, that’s only one part of the story. Before building a program of your own, you need to evaluate if your efforts stand a chance of being successful.
Which factors actually make an account-based everything program successful? Here are tips from our in-house sales and marketing experts, and Miguel Palma, Head of Marketing at Appsembler, a developer marketing startup that has run similar account-based everything frameworks.
Expert tip #1: 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’re setting your team up with the warmest paths into an account by finding the most likely buyers with relationship data (like previous customers, previous prospects, and new executives) and intent data (such as newsletter subscribers, followers, and website visitors).
Your past customers are 3x likely to buy from you again. With UserGems, you can take advantage of the buyer job-change trigger to automate lead generation and relationship insights to build a qualified pipeline.
Expert tip #2: Nurture throughout the buying journey
Similar to other marketing campaigns, don’t forget to re-target and continue nurturing the prospects throughout the sales funnel, i.e., open opps.
You’ll get extra brownie points (and a higher success rate) if the messaging and themes of these retargeting campaigns match your account-based everything campaign at top of the funnel.
“For lower tiered contacts, have proper fit-for-purpose messaging with routing/sequences doing all of the heavy lifting,” Blaise Bevilacqua, Enterprise Account Executive at UserGems, recommends.
Expert tip #3: Get internal stakeholder support
ABM takes time to prove its ROI. And it’s easier to plan an account-based everything program than it is to implement one. You need stakeholder support (at the director and higher levels) to shield account-based everything program operators from time-consuming day-to-day demands and to back up requests for additional resources.
Expert tip #4: 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," says Miguel Palma [smiling].
If you’re still trying to figure out product-market fit, account-based everything isn’t the answer. Instead, it’s something you use to scale an existing product-market fit and a large enough market.
Expert tip #5: Don’t be afraid to do things that don’t scale
Many marketers start the account-based everything journey with scale in mind.
We’re 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 before you think about scaling, you need to test to know what parts of the account-based everything program work and don’t work.
“Focus on automating as much as possible, but don't be afraid to push the boundaries by doing things that don't scale,” advises Isaac Ware, Director of demand generation at UserGems.
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.
Getting started with account-based everything
An account-based everything campaign’s success starts from identifying high-value accounts that are likely to buy.
With coordinated efforts from sales and marketing, you can increase conversions and ROI, even if you’re working with a limited budget.
For companies starting from scratch, confirm that it’s the best fit for your business and get buy-in from your sales and marketing teams. Then, you can:
- Define the objectives of your account-based everything campaign
- Research your ICP
- Build your ad campaign and other marketing touchpoints
- Enable your sales team with the right tools and resources
- Select prospects to target
- Go live with your campaign
UserGems helps you power your ABM execution by identifying buyers who are likely to buy from you and surfacing them in your CRM to ensure sales and marketing go after the same buyers.