Account-based marketing (ABM) cannot exist and succeed separate from your sales department. Whereas traditional marketing strategies and tactics (many of which are still highly effective and exist in parallel with ABM) can be executed without sales being involved, successful ABM requires tight coordination to achieve the highest-possible results.

I had the pleasure of speaking at a Demandbase event last week in Seattle, and highlighted my eight keys for integrating ABM with your sales team’s existing Target Account program.  Here’s what I covered:

1. Make sales an early partner and collaborator

Don’t build out your ABM program in isolation and deliver it to sales as a finished product.  My advice?  Don’t call it ABM at all – literally don’t give it a name initially.  Instead, go to your sales team and tell them you want to work proactively to build an integrated marketing program that directly supports their Target Account plan.  This way, your sales team will feel like part of the process, will appreciate that you’re aligning behind something they care about as well, and the final product will be a program that they will support and execute with you.

2. Work from common objectives & definitions

This is important no matter what you’re doing, but ABM programs in particular drive a forced revenue responsibility for marketers that’s incredibly valuable.  With ABM done right, marketing and sales are working from the same spreadsheet, the same set of goals, the very same playbook.  This works even better if you also have a common set of definitions – what is a Target Account, what does it mean to have a qualified lead, a qualified opportunity, etc.

3. Build and manage a common set of target lists

If sales already has one, start with theirs.  Then fill in the blanks.  Do they have detailed information on every company target?  Do they have detailed information on each specific decision maker and persona target?  How and where are those lists maintained so that sales & marketing equally has access to them?  How will those lists be updated – with new contacts, new information, activity & engagement detail, etc?  If you manage this information separately, it will lead to (at best) overlapping activity and engagement, and (at worst) inefficiency, frustration & a deterioration of collaboration between your two teams.

4. Execute from a consolidated engagement plan

It’s important for all sales & marketing efforts to appear, to the prospect, as if you’re communicating from a common messaging playbook, coordinating your outreach such that sales & marketing aren’t stepping over each other, etc.  But the stakes are so much higher with an ABM program – there are fewer targets, fewer at-bats, so your margin of error is thinner than ever.  Take the time to map out where sales and marketing are communication with and engaging your prospects.  Marketing may be used to creating its own campaign plan, but with ABM (to be most successful) that needs to directly incorporate sales activity and reach-outs as well.

5. Think in terms of macro and micro campaigns

Just because it’s ABM, doesn’t mean you can’t have 1:many campaigns.  Segment by industry and persona, for example, and send multiple outbounds at once, then coordinate the follow up with your sales counterparts.  But with ABM you have the opportunity to integrate these macro campaigns with much smaller, 1:1 efforts.  What happens, for example, when a particular trigger event or buying signal is identified with a target account this morning?  How do you ensure that’s 1) noticed, 2) recorded, and 3) responded to by sales and/or marketing?  With an ABM effort, those real-time events are even more important to pounce on, and be prepared for in advance.

6. Develop shared data & insights

Work from one integrated system, ONE scorecard.  Develop a rhythm of review to evaluate results and make changes.  Report on your work as one team, not sales & marketing separately.

7. Improve your content precision

It’s more important than ever right now to create and deliver the right content to the right prospect at the right time.  That directive isn’t tied to ABM.  But with the stakes higher, ABM often requires creating content for an audience of one more often.  Instead of just delivering content to the right persona at the right buying stage, consider their unique situation and circumstances.  What’s different about their role, their culture, their personality that might impact how you communicate, what you communicate, and the channel/medium from which it is communicated?

8. Practice the OODA Loop

Observe, orient, decide, act.  Rinse and repeat.  Know that your ABM plan up front will change over time, especially if you’re doing it right.