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Let’s talk ABM: 6 tips for building a winning ABM strategy

In a recent episode of Let's talk ABM, we spoke with Phillip Angerhofer, Global Lead Expansion Marketing at ON24, about the importance of a strong ABM team. Here are the key takeaways.


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Nicky Kemp

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Jul 20 2023 - 8min Read Date published: Date modified: 2023-08-07


In the world of Account-based Marketing (ABM), success is not achieved in isolation but as a collaborative effort. 

ABM is a team sport that requires close alignment and coordination between multiple departments, with Marketing and Sales playing crucial (and leading) roles. 

Together, these teams form a powerhouse that drives growth, fosters meaningful customer relationships, and achieves a new way of working with customers. 

By building a united and cross-functional team, organizations can unlock the full potential of ABM, leveraging the unique expertise and perspectives of each department to create a seamless and impactful customer journey. 

In this article, we will explore with Phillip Angerhofer, Global Lead Expansion Marketing at ON24, the importance of building a strong ABM team, highlighting how collaboration and synergy can elevate ABM strategies to new heights of success.
In the interview (full episode here) we discussed:

  • Building an ABM strategy from scratch
  • How to pitch ABM to your CEO
  • Why first-party data is important
  • The importance of Sales alignment

So, let's dive into some of Phillip's top tips...


Let's talk ABM

6 tips for building a winning ABM team

1. Be a friend to Sales

Alignment with Sales is key to every ABM strategy. Without it, your team could be running in different directions, with opposing ideas on how to achieve success.
Marketers are sometimes guilty of coming up with great ideas and strategies, then expecting Sales to execute them with little understanding of why, or what their value is. This results in divergence between teams, and it limits your strategy’s chances of success.
A failure to communicate and a failure to listen makes for an unstable foundation to build from. To solve this, become friends with Sales. Listen to their insights, learn from them, and explain the account journey for your ABM program.
That way, your teams will be on the same page and working towards a common goal, so you can get the buy-in you need.

“As Marketers, we have a really big inclination to say, 'Oh, Marketing is right. Sales doesn't know, we need to do what we think.' But what I found is that, through an extremely tight alignment, I was able to then influence Sales, and then Sales would influence me. And so, we came to better outcomes by working together that way.” – Phillip Angerhofer, Global Lead Expansion Marketing at ON24

2. Set your account list (and get Sales involved!)

Choosing which accounts to go after will determine the direction your strategy takes. While research and insights will inform these choices, make sure you get input from Sales.
Take their knowledge of existing relationships and reputation within accounts, and combine it with the insights you gather to inform your strategy. 

This is easier when there is alignment between teams, but this method involves Sales, and so helps to build that alignment. It’s a win-win.
It’s also a good idea to gather as much first-party data as you can. This helps you to understand what resonates with accounts, and how best to approach them.

“A lot of ABMers will say this – we had to figure out who we were going after. What were the accounts that we were really focused on. And we spent a lot of time working with the Sales team on outlining what the accounts are, how we want to segment those accounts.” – Phillip Angerhofer, Global Lead Expansion Marketing at ON24

3. Speak the language of your accounts

Once you’ve chosen your accounts, start learning their language!
Every industry is different, and each has its own ways of working, unique challenges, and diverse environments which influence their decisions. You can’t reach your accounts without understanding these nuances.
That’s why it’s important to dive into the industries of the accounts you’re targeting. Try immersing yourself in their world, and learn what steps you need to take to strike a chord with your Marketing approach.
This also helps Sales to ask the right questions and give the right answers, in a way that’s familiar to the account.

“Marketing to Life Sciences or Manufacturing, compared to to Tech, is just a different language. Like, you almost have to have a translation dictionary with you the whole time you're working on it.” – Phillip Angerhofer, Global Lead Expansion Marketing at ON24


ABM readiness workshop

4. Gather first-party data

ABM is about personalization. That’s what makes it such a unique and compelling strategy. Treating an account as a market of one means you have a deep understanding of what makes them tick. 

But, personalization is tough without the right data. The decline of third-party data and the demise of tracking cookies means that marketers must look elsewhere for insights. 

Enter first-party data.
First-party data is the future of how we gain insight into the way accounts engage, their likes and dislikes, and what steps you can take to help solve their challenges and grow their business.
Prioritizing and investing in first-party data collection will give your team a clearer picture of an account, and thus an improved ability to strategize.

“Use your first-party data to know exactly what your audience is interested in and how to speak with them.” – Phillip Angerhofer, Global Lead Expansion Marketing at ON24

5. Get buy-in from the top

Remember the importance of team cohesion? It’s how successful programs are built – when everybody is working toward a common goal.
You may have worked hard to get alignment between Sales and Marketing, but there's still more to do. Getting leadership on board is key to fully realizing your ABM strategy – and allowing time for results to show.
Here are a few ways to get buy-in for your ABM strategy:


Show internal alignment


When your leadership sees that Sales, Marketing and Business Development are all aligned, and recognize the value of a proposed strategy, they’re more likely to accept that your strategy will yield results.


Demonstrate a robust go-to-market strategy

Those at the top will want to see that you’ve thought your strategy through and considered as many factors as possible. Take them through the journey of an account within your program. Show that you’ve considered how your strategy will bring the desired outcome, and what will be done to get there.


Planning and communication

Similarly, your CEO will want to see meticulous planning. ABM programs take time before results show, and leadership will be unwilling to support your strategy without knowing that it’s well thought out. It’s also important to maintain communication. Keep everyone in the loop so you can update them on developments as they happen.

“Whenever we're pitching to our CEO, we want him to see that Marketing, Sales, and Business Development are all aligned, that we're all pointing towards the same objective.” – Phillip Angerhofer, Global Lead Expansion Marketing at ON24


ABM Lunch and Learn

6. Know what is (and what isn't) ABM

This sounds simple, but it helps to clearly define what you want to achieve and to understand whether ABM is the right tool to get you there.
ABM is not a silver bullet. 

It doesn’t sit at the top of the Marketing tree above all other methods. You need to know when ABM is the right approach, and that means addressing some common misconceptions.
ABM is not just targeted display advertising, and it’s more than just a Marketing strategy – it’s a business strategy. It requires time to foster relationships and build your reputation within accounts. 

This can be hard to accept when compared to other methods, but ABM offers the ability to gain a deep understanding of your accounts and truly personalize your approach.
If you’re not aligning with Sales and embedding ABM into your business strategy, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.

“You need to have buy-in to be able to focus on ABM over a long period of time. There are so many companies that expect Account-based Marketing to be this silver bullet... I worked on some accounts where it took us probably 8 months to 12 months before we saw the return.” – Phillip Angerhofer, Global Lead Expansion Marketing at ON24

Want to learn more about everything ABM? Check out our Let’s talk ABM podcast series to hear tips and tricks from industry-leading ABMers.

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