In account-based marketing (ABM), a good program outcome is predicated on planning – specifically on developing relevant account-specific marketing plans. Marketing must collaborate with multiple functions (e.g. sales, product/solution experts, customer success teams) and utilize marketplace and account insights in order to build comprehensive account-specific engagement plans. These plans also require an understanding of internal capabilities and priorities.

ABMIn my experience as a research director at SiriusDecisions, I’ve seen a few really good account plans and, unfortunately, many more plans that did not include key required elements. So, to offer you a jumpstart as you begin your account planning for the upcoming year, here are three essential components you must include in your ABM account plans:

Goals. Don’t start planning tactics until you know what your goals are! Start by articulating the goals that you wish to accomplish with one account (or by identifying a similar goal for a group of accounts). Are you looking to drive revenue or improve the relationship? What is the timing of the goal? How will success be measured? Is the goal attainable? These are the types of questions you need to answer, because they will drive your entire engagement strategy. Unless you have multiple marketing managers assigned to an account, don’t select more than three goals per account.

Personas/contacts. Next, identify who you need to engage within the account in order to achieve your goals. If it’s a revenue goal, you need to know the people who are involved in the buying decision. The average B2B technology purchase involves between six and nine people. Do you know who these people are within the target account and how to reach them? Do you at least know the types of people they are (e.g. buyer personas or job titles)? Look at a number of closed deals in your sales force automation system and map out a distribution of the personas involved in those deals. Once you know who you need to engage, do you have those contact names for the targeted account(s) in your marketing database or marketing automation platform? If not, acquire the necessary contact insights in order to include specific contacts in the engagement plan.

Buyer’s journey or customer lifecycle stage. In ABM, there are revenue-based goals that require understanding where the customer is on their buyer’s journey, as well as relationship-based goals that require understanding their stage in the customer lifecycle. Your audiences have varying information needs and different expectations of their interactions with you. Therefore, it’s important to understand the types of questions your customers are likely to have during each stage and what your objective is with that customer. For example, you may have the same opportunity goal (e.g. sell more widgets) with multiple accounts, but the goal in one account might be starting a new opportunity, while in another account it might be helping sales accelerate an existing late-stage opportunity. The goal, approach and success measurements are different, even though the ultimate goal in both scenarios is to sell widgets.

There are many other considerations in the ABM account planning process (e.g. messaging, existing assets and programs to leverage), but starting with these three important elements will give you the best chance at developing relevant marketing engagement plans that will yield the outcome you (and your sales counterparts) desire.

Happy planning!