You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again. Account-based marketing is just good B2B marketing.
Of course we want to target the right people at the right companies at the right time with the right message. Sure, we want reach, but more importantly, we need accuracy. Lead-based demand gen isn’t cutting it anymore; marketers are now responsible for hitting pipeline and revenue targets alongside our sales teams. Thankfully, the tech is finally here to enable us to do this.
This year, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Michael Globits, Senior Manager of Account-Based Marketing at Salesforce. Our teams have worked together to help Michael grow Salesforce’s ABM program.
We think his story of getting their ABM strategy up and running would interest others. Whether or not you have the same resources as Salesforce, we’re all dealing with similar challenges with how to best execute an ABM program.
How Salesforce defines ABM vs. demand gen
Companies use ABM to identify high-value accounts, engage their buying committees, and measure influence at the pipeline and revenue level. With hyper-personalized content and customer journeys, an ABM approach can deliver connected engagements and thereby deepen customer relationships and ultimately increase revenue.
Ultimately, this personalization means that an ABM campaign focuses more resources on a smaller pool of high-value target accounts.
At Salesforce, if a marketing team wants a campaign to reach over 300 accounts, it’s handled by the demand gen team. If a team wants a campaign to focus on 300 accounts or less, Michael’s team takes the reins.
The ABM team takes a 1:Many, 1:Few, and 1:1 approach to their program. The fewer accounts they target in a campaign, the more hyper-focused and higher-budget the campaigns become.
How Salesforce chose an account-based platform
There is no one-stop shop for ABM; every campaign needs to be supported through a variety of vendors and platforms.
When developing their account-based strategy, the first question Michael and his team asked was if they had the tools and dedicated resources to build their program internally. Salesforce offered the foundational layer required, but there were additional partners that the team wanted to leverage.
The Salesforce ABM team needed an account-based partner that had an easy onboarding process and straightforward set of capabilities. That’s how they ended up working with RollWorks to set up their ABM program.
How Salesforce structured an ABM team for success
With Salesforce as a foundation and a powerful ABM partner in place, the last step before building their program was structuring their ABM team. In the past, various teams were running ABM but in silos.
Thus, they consolidated their ABM resources into one central team in order to support ABM programs at scale. This allowed them to more easily stay on top of ABM trends and provide support across the business.
Now, they were ready to start.
How Salesforce identifies key accounts
For each campaign, the ABM team first receives a target account list directly from the sales team. Previously, marketing would just accept the list as is.
But now, they have the tech to thoroughly validate the list. Michael and his team do a historical look back over the performance of similar accounts, leveraging all the first-party data they have at their disposal from Salesforce. Then, they examine if there’s any third-party data, like Bombora, that can help supplement their analyses.
This process allows them to remove accounts that likely aren’t a good fit—and importantly—include high-fit accounts that might have been missing.
How Salesforce engages buyers everywhere
Once the ABM team has a validated target account list, the next step is serving creative that will engage the right buyers with the right message.
The goal of each campaign is to create a sequential experience that will nurture prospects to enter their sales pipeline.
To do that, the team crafts thoughtful content for each stage of the customer journey. With proprietary data and machine learning capabilities, they’re also able to accurately match users to hyper-personalized messages at scale.
For example, to get someone to visit their site for the first time, they might serve an ad that leads them to a highly-relevant, ungated blog post. Salesforce is able to automatically personalize the ad to include a prospect’s company name and buyer persona. Once someone has visited, the next step might be to increase engagement by serving another personalized ad that sends them to an ungated product video. Finally, they might serve an ad that leads to a gated e-book with the hopes of a qualified conversion.
How Salesforce delivers connected engagements
Once the prospect has entered their sales pipeline, the next step is to continue delivering meaningful engagements to help the sales team close a deal faster.
Michael and his team will build mini-tracks within their overall campaigns with messaging that resonates with specific clusters of target accounts. These mini-tracks are usually built around sales stages.
To do this, they take full stock of all the content they have at their disposal to determine if they can repurpose existing assets or if they need to create new ones that speak to each stage.
Take a look at the sample track below that Salesforce uses to move prospects from awareness to close more quickly.
How Salesforce grows customer relationships
In the past year, these scalable ABM campaigns have seen higher click-through and engagement rates from target accounts. Their awareness campaigns in particular have been the main drivers in getting prospects to engage with a gated content experience.
In order to understand what’s working and what’s not, the team has built an ABM dashboard in their Salesforce platform that connects all their disparate data sources. The dashboard monitors results at both the campaign and account level, providing a holistic view of their entire program.
This has helped them understand which content performs best. For example, in the three ad sets below, the “Thriving Amidst Change” set wasn’t resonating. By removing underperforming creative, Michael and his team were able to increase engagement from previously unengaged accounts.
Through this process, Salesforce has learned some key lessons about what creative will likely perform best:
- Speak like a person; avoid jargon and buzzwords.
- Stay true to the personality of your brand.
- Be specific and clearly articulate what the reader will get if they click.
This process of continually evolving his ABM strategy based on holistic reporting allows Salesforce to keep customers educated and engaged, increasing deal size and increasing customer lifetime value.
What you should do Next
Whether you’re an enterprise company executing ABM campaigns similarly to Salesforce, or you’re a scrappy startup with a marketing team of one, you can still take some of the same actions to optimize your ABM strategy.
First, clearly define what ABM is to your organization. Different companies have different definitions of ABM.
Then you’ll want to figure out if ABM is even right for your business at this moment. Maybe traditional demand gen still makes more sense if there aren’t accounts that deserve special treatment.
Finally, you’ll need to get buy in internally from key stakeholders at your organization to start providing the resources you need to start testing an ABM program. Below, we’ve included some of the questions we ask our customers when they come to us for help.
If you want more information about where you rank on an ABM readiness framework and some concrete steps on how to uplevel, you can check out our ABM Readiness Assessment. As we have more and more tools that allow us to target more accurately, all B2B marketing becomes account-based marketing. It’s just a matter of how advanced you are on that scale.