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Let's talk ABM: 7 tips for startup ABM

In a recent episode of Let's talk ABM, we spoke to Davis Potter in his previous role at Scale AI. Here, we summarize some of his key takeaways for launching startup ABM.

SaaS   |   ABM

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Declan Mulkeen

strategicabm 550 60

Apr 5 2023 - 9min Read Date published: Date modified: 2023-08-20


So, we all know that Account-based Marketing is the right fit for large enterprises. But what about SaaS startups? B2B tech brands that are on a stellar growth track? Is startup ABM possible? 

In a recent episode of Let’s talk ABM, we had the pleasure of speaking with Davis Potter in his previous role as ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts at Scale AI, about the reality of startup ABM. 

In the interview (full recording here) we discussed:

  • Key learnings from two major ABM leaders
  • How to launch an ABM strategy from scratch

  • How startup ABM differs from enterprise ABM

  • How Sales make or break ABM success

So, let’s take a look at some of Davis’ advice for startup ABM:

7 tips for startup ABM

1. Build a strong ABM Center of Excellence

An ABM Center of Excellence isn’t reserved for only large organizations. Startups can also benefit hugely from having a single source of ABM truth.

Consistent templates, ways of working with Sales, best practices, and success stories will all help to secure alignment across the organization, and keep your teams working towards the same goal. 

Think of the Center of Excellence as the operational wing of your Account-based Marketing program. It’s the central source of truth for all your team members, guiding them toward the finish line. 

For enterprises, this method of knowledge-sharing is essential to ensure your teams are aligned and fully bought into the process. 

But for startups, having a Center of Excellence helps in different ways. 

Faced with smaller teams and limited headcount, having access to templates and standardized ways of working can help save significant time in the rollout of scaled programs.

Not to mention how useful it will be when it comes to expanding your teams, as you move out of the startup phase. 

“[A Center of Excellence] helps to drive best practices, from templatization, from how you speak on ABM, from your MarTech stack, how you even collaborate and communicate with the Sales teams, just driving consistency and also taking in what's not working.” – Davis Potter, previous ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts, Scale AI

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2. Plug your SDR team into the ABM function

The difference between ABM success and ABM failure very often sits within the SDR team. Having a strong, aligned, bought-in SDR team can totally transform your ABM efforts.


Because SDRs have their finger on the pulse when it comes to your target accounts. 

Sales sit on the frontline, dealing with prospects day-in, day-out – identifying their pain points, learning their challenges, and helping them find solutions in a personal and humanized way.

Nobody knows your accounts better. And that means your Sales team is your ultimate source of knowledge and insight – you’d be foolish not to tap into them!

From supporting personalization at scale and leading the outreach side of the program, to providing critical feedback on the effectiveness of your strategy – their outlook will be key to molding the perfect program.

And particularly from a startup perspective, you’re going to want all the expertise and support you can get when launching your first Account-based program.

“Having an awesome SDR team is unbelievable, and it makes your life on the ABM side so much greater, easier, and also allows for your program to execute at such a higher level.” – Davis Potter, previous ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts, Scale AI


3. Be intentional about where you invest

As a startup, the available budget you have to invest in your program may be limited. So, the key is to be intentional about where you invest.

What do we mean by that?

Prioritize what matters most – and stick to it.

Contrary to popular belief, an extensive tech stack is not a necessity for ABM. In fact, so long as you have a pen and paper, a strong team, and the motivation to work hard, you’re pretty much set. 

Of course, technology will help you automate and streamline processes, and harness the full potential of your data. 

Intentional investment will, though, help you to maximize your potential, first. As a guide, aim to prioritize investment in your team, the absolute necessities for your tech stack, and in content curation to make the most of your assets.

“Some of the challenges that come with this are investment and the ability to bring on some MarTech solutions. You have to get really specific in event sponsorships and where you put your dollars, along with content curation and a lot of other pieces on the tactical side.” – Davis Potter, previous ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts, Scale AI

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4. Prepare to be agile

As a startup, agility is even more important than for other organizations. Fail to keep up, and both your business and your program will get lost in the noise.

Luckily, with a smaller headcount, making agile decisions can be that much easier, with significantly less red tape to navigate.

However, as a smaller organization competing against various enterprises for your target accounts’ attention, you need to think fast, act fast, and learn fast. 

That means onboarding new tech and tools quickly, being prepared to pivot, and constantly adapting and reshaping your program as and whenever you need to.

“If you have an idea or you need to iterate, you can do this pretty quickly, given there's less red tape and internal processes to go through.”  – Davis Potter, previous ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts, Scale AI

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5. Launch your program in stages

With a smaller team, smaller budget, and fewer resources available, startups need to be prepared to take baby steps with their first program.

Diving in head-first will almost certainly end in disaster!

In a startup organization – or, for that matter, any organization new to ABM – you need time to lay the groundwork, find out what does and doesn’t work for your business and your accounts, and be prepared to make some mistakes. 

Launching a program in stages will give you the time and space to experiment, then adapt accordingly – without putting your entire ABM initiative at risk.

The program at Scale AI was broken down into three stages: the pilot phase, the standardized phase, and then scaling. 

By breaking things down into digestible chunks, your team will have the freedom to discover what works and build upon it, helping to line you up for greater success in the long run.

“Our long-term vision is: launch ABM in three phases. First, your pilot phase, then your standardized phase, and then scale.” – Davis Potter, previous ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts, Scale AI

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6. Leverage personalization

Whether a startup or an enterprise, one element of ABM is always there – personalization. 

Leveraging personalization in your ABM campaigns is a great way to build relationships, and to lay the groundwork for success. After all, your target accounts want to be understood – so it’s up to you to prove that you do.

Whether that’s through humanized, one-to-one messaging, e.g. on platforms such as LinkedIn, or building creative campaigns that speak directly to that account’s individual challenges – building that level of empathy and understanding early in the program will have a huge impact on your long-term success. 

The key is to use the insights available to you – whether through your own first-party sources, third-party providers, or intent data platforms – to inform your entire strategy. 

Messaging informed by data and insights will always hit harder than a wild stab in the dark. 

“We had some great success with personalized ads, and this came in both revenue sourcing and generating some pipeline, which was an amazing, quick win and early ABM success.” –  Davis Potter, previous ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts, Scale AI

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7. Don't be afraid to pivot

Account-based Marketing will always be a trial-and-error approach. What works for one organization won’t always work for another – and certainly, when looking at the difference between startup and enterprise ABM, approaches will differ greatly. 

It’s natural to want to get it right the first time. After all, nobody likes making mistakes. But, when launching ABM from scratch, you need to reprogram your mind, be ready to make some errors – and learn from them! 

Failing fast is what will allow you to discover what works for your unique setup. No two organizations are the same – and, naturally, the same goes for ABM programs. 

By experimenting in the early stages and assessing what works best for your program, you can then adapt accordingly, making changes and upgrading your approach as you go.

With ABM, you can’t be afraid to pivot. If a certain tactic or strategy proves to be ineffective, or just isn’t bringing in the right results, change it. Change the approach, change the accounts you choose to target etc. 

“Do not be afraid to pivot and switch accounts. You will 100% thank yourself later down the line. And you'll also be able to drive a greater business impact.” – Davis Potter, previous ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts, Scale AI

Keen to find out more about the world of ABM? Check out our Let’s talk ABM podcast series where we pick the brains of some of the industry’s top ABM experts. 

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