To develop and execute an effective account-based marketing effort, we believe the following seven components are critical.

1. Goals/Objectives
What does success look like?  What’s the measurable, tangible impact of ABM for the business after 12-18 months?

Some clients use a version of our ABM ROI Calculator to ballpark this, and use that measure as a foundation for the “why” across the organization.  But however you do it, start with the end in mind.

Develop executive-level goals based on target account pipeline and closed deal momentum.  If you’re still selling an ABM effort internally, measure as well the “lift” your ABM effort is likely to help achieve vs. current run-rate momentum against your target accounts or Named Account efforts.

2. Target Accounts (Definition & Selection)
Two components are critical here.

One, define what a target account looks like.  This is more than mere demographics.  It isn’t just the biggest logos.  What account characteristics make someone most likely to engage and buy?  What makes them most likely to be open to change to achieve an outcome that you represent?  Literally develop a bullet list of these demographic, firmographic and psychographic criteria.

Once you have your profile developed, select the specific companies you will target.  This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list to start, especially if you’re going to engage in a “proof of concept” ABM campaign that goes after a portion of your total addressable audience.

This is where many companies fail in building an ABM program that both sticks and works.  If you don’t have a target list that everyone agrees on, including WHY they’re on the target list in the first place, everything else is more likely to fall apart.

3. Enumerate Key Personas and Stakeholders
According to CEB, enterprise organizations now have, on average, 6.8 members of the internal buying committee that will collectively decide if they move forward (or not) with your solution.

It is therefore imperative that you define each of those key stakeholders – who they are, what they care about, what their objectives and obstacles are currently, etc.  I’d recommend developing general personas for each type of stakeholder based on their role and worldview, such that you can apply these personas across sales & marketing activities moving forward.

I’d further recommend developing a content grid identifying key messaging points and questions for each key stage of the buying journey for each persona.  We have a template you can use for this.

4. Determine Each Persona’s Role in the Buying Committee
Who are the final decision-makers?  The stakeholders (with something at stake in the decision)?  The influencers (who may sway internal consensus positively or negatively)?  It’s one thing to speak to each persona individually.  It’s another to understand the dynamics between them.

In other words, how does that internal buying committee make decisions?  In what order do they have conversations, who has the power and why, etc.

5. Develop Your Sales and Marketing “Plays”
Now the rubber meets the road.  Using what you know about 1) your goals, 2) your account targets, and 3) the internal stakeholders, you can now develop an operational plan across sales and marketing that implements content, channels and tactics (together in what the ABM community describes as “plays”) to mobilize accounts and buyers in a conversation with you.

Many companies go straight to the plays vs getting the previous steps in order, and I can’t blame them.  This is where you start generating activity and momentum with your accounts.  But if you’re executing without objectives, without focus, without precise messaging and targets – well, you’re just guessing.  And your likelihood of success goes down dramatically.

6. Create An Operational Scorecard
It’s important to distinguish between operational and executive scorecards.  At an executive level, you’re tracking results from an ABM program – new opportunities created and closed deals primarily.  With your operational scorecard, you’re tracking results from your ABM plays.

This includes tracking momentum within accounts – where do you have active conversations, how many accounts have multiple members of the buying committee engaged, which accounts have committed to a change and/or confirmed that conditions exist that need rectifying, etc.

This operational scorecard helps you manage week-to-week execution of your sales and marketing plays and ideally should provide insight into what’s working, what’s not, and what adjustments you need to make to existing and future plays to increase results.

7. Agile Execution “Sprints”
I’m a firm believer that objectives are constant, but operational strategy/execution can be intensely agile.  In other words, the end goal isn’t agile but how you get there can be.

As you execute on sales and marketing plays moving forward, consider developing a cadence that reflects the OODA loop – observe, orient, decide and act.  Frequency of these sprints will depend on how (and what) your team executes, but for most ABM efforts monthly works fine.

Most importantly, be prepared to stick with plays until you can firmly decide if they’re working or not, work to isolate variables of campaigns that can be adjusted or optimized, and work closely across sales and marketing to make tactical and strategic adjustments to better align execution with intended results.