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Let’s talk ABM: 8 ways to get ABM right, every time

In a recent episode of Let's talk ABM, we spoke with Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent, about the ins and outs of launching ABM. Here, we unpack the key takeaways.


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Nicky Kemp

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May 30 2023 - 14min Read Date published: Date modified: 2023-08-22


How do you get Account-based Marketing right? 

We’d say it’s about getting the foundations right. 

We’d also say it’s about getting the right support, the right people, and doing the ‘right’ homework first.

And for one of our latest podcast guests, the secret to getting  ABM right is something she has undoubtedly mastered over the years. 

In a recent episode of Let’s talk ABM, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent, about the ins and outs of launching ABM.

In the interview (full recording here) we discussed:

  • What excites Jess about ABM
  • How to build an ABM strategy from scratch
  • The different use cases for ABM
  • Jess' advice for anyone launching an ABM program

Let’s take a look at some of her secret ingredients for ABM success:


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8 ways to get ABM right, every time


1. Build, pilot, scale

“Crawl, walk, run” is pretty solid advice when starting anything new. After all, you wouldn’t dive straight into the deep end of the pool before you learned to swim. 

The same process applies to Account-based Marketing

Adopting ABM requires an entire shift in perspective and approach. You’re stepping away from general demand generation and ‘spray and pray’ tactics, and instead opting for a much more targeted and strategic approach.

But diving straight in isn’t the answer. You need to take the journey in baby steps and make sure you are ready for Account-based Marketing

Which means, first, you need to focus on building out the foundations of your program – the building blocks that will support your ongoing ABM efforts.

  • Focus on educating and enabling your teams
  • Invest in your tech stack where necessary
  • Share and build out best practices
  • Secure alignment and buy-in across the organization
  • And create an environment of experimentation and continuous learning

A game-changing ABM program was never borne from playing it safe. The first phase of launching ABM should always be about trial and error, assessing what does and doesn’t work, and encouraging innovative and creative thinking.

“It's also essential to have time to build, to pilot, and then scale. The whole crawl, walk and run thing, it's very, very real when it comes to building a motion like this. And I think also understanding that enablement and education is really key.” – Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent
Let's talk ABM

2. Build 'white glove' programs

If Field Marketing is like your highstreet stores, think of ABM as the luxury brand experience. It’s a step above the average marketing tactics, and offers your target accounts a bespoke, personalized, meaningful interaction with your brand.

It’s the silver service of the marketing world, and it certainly promises high-end results!

Jess Larkin refers to this Account-based Experience as a ‘white glove’ program.

And what does that ‘white glove’ experience entail? 

It means distinguishing your business from the pack, by going above and beyond to show your target accounts that you understand them and their challenges, and you genuinely care about fostering a human connection.

In action, this can be anything from showing up as a sponsor to events, to supporting key initiatives within your target account, offering customized workshops and presentations to help empower key decision-makers, and providing your target accounts with the resources and support they need to achieve their goals.

It goes beyond a transaction, and is about nurturing your relationships with the accounts that matter most to your business.

If you take the time to focus on the little details that can take your account experience to the next level, these are what make your program truly ‘white glove’ and will make your brand stand out in the noise.

“It's making sure that you're showing up as a sponsor, you're supporting what those initiatives are within that company [...] to really separate yourself from the rest of the pack and be not only a vendor but being a partner for their team as well.”  – Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent

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3. Develop 'champions' within target accounts

Whether targeting new logos or expanding and building on existing account relationships – having a singular point of contact to engage with makes a huge difference with ABM.

The decision-making unit is often large and complex. Various departments and roles are involved in the buying committee, and their opinions will hold varying levels of weight depending on their seniority and responsibilities within the company.

This is where a ‘champion’ within your target account can make your life easier.

Once you have engaged with the account and started to build a relationship with key decision-makers, taking the time to develop a champion within that account can help you go deeper with your relationships.

This champion will be someone that becomes your main point of contact for your program. They will educate you about their pain points, and they will become your ultimate source of truth to inform your efforts moving forward.

This role also extends beyond new logo acquisition. Having a champion, or a key contact, at your target account makes deepening existing relationships and expanding within accounts significantly easier, as you already have a strong point of contact to branch out from.

Relying solely on intent data and third-party insights won’t be enough to fully understand your target accounts. You need to hear it straight from the source to get the bigger picture. 

“I don't think it's solely enough to rely on intent data or interesting moments to craft your next move, it's also essential to develop a champion at that account when possible” – Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent

4. Shift towards an ABSM mindset

After 20 years of evolution, shifting trends, and new technologies, it’s unsurprising that Account-based Marketing is ready for a makeover.

When coined in 2003, ABM was very much considered a Marketing-led approach. But now, it’s increasingly apparent that ABM goes beyond the role of Marketing. It’s an organization-wide initiative, and requires the input and expertise of every department.

Especially Sales.

Now, the best way to secure alignment between your teams is to recognize that ABM is about more than Marketing. It’s time to shift from Account-based Marketing, to Account-based Selling and Marketing (ABSM) – or even an Account-based Experience (ABX).

To get the most out of your program, you need to work shoulder-to-shoulder with your salespeople. You need to speak the same language, use the same metrics, and work towards the same goals.

There are several steps to achieving this:


  1. Education. Taking the time to educate your salespeople on the ABM motion, have them buy into the process, and ensure they fully understand the approach will help ensure everyone follows the same process and is willing to invest the necessary time and effort to launch successfully.

  2. Alignment. Your salespeople have access to some of the richest, most up-to-date insights on your accounts. Fail to leverage this, and you will fail to stay relevant. Align with your Sales team and ensure you know their plans, their goals, their drivers and their processes.

  3. Enablement. How can you expect your Sales team to prosper without the right support and resources? Provide valuable context, content and communication to arm your salespeople with the information and tools they need to do their job effectively. 


It’s no longer all about Marketing. You need every department to be bought into the ABM motion, and without Sales on your side, you risk investing in an irrelevant and ineffective program that will fall flat with your target accounts.

“I don't really think ABM or Account-based Marketing is accurate in this day and age, I think it's ABSM, it's Account-based Marketing and Selling. We need to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our sellers for an Account-based motion to be successful” – Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent


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5. Succeed as a team

The debate surrounding Demand Gen and ABM has been ongoing for some time now. And while some ABMers firmly believe that the two strategies are separate, Jess’ position on the issue is clear.

With ABM, it always comes down to one team.

For Account-based Marketing to be successful, it’s crucial that Demand Gen and ABM become best friends. Both teams should be aligned, working towards the same goals, and continuously communicating with one another to ensure they are on the same page.

For your Demand Gen team, pipeline contribution is the be-all-end-all. It’s the key metric they are focused on. And for ABM, your target accounts are usually one of the biggest contributors to pipe generation – so the alignment between these two teams is even more necessary to meet both teams’ goals.

The key is to look beyond siloed teams, and see your organization as one large team working towards the same endpoint – landing and expanding your highest value accounts. 

“We win as a team, we succeed as a team, everybody needs to show up every day to the best of their abilities. As an Account-based Marketer, I rely very heavily on the information from the wider Demand Gen organization.” – Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent

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6. Invest in vendors

There are many moving parts to an ABM strategy. And especially when starting ABM from scratch, it takes a lot of resource, time, and effort to get the program off the ground and start seeing results.

It’s for this reason that businesses shouldn’t underestimate the power of external vendors.

Having access to the right technology, the right talent, and the right data could be the difference between a successful ABM program, and a failed one.

The right vendor can help you tap into your insights, create messaging that resonates, enhance your creative strategy and build data-driven campaigns that land with true impact.

Whether that’s working alongside third-party and intent data providers, investing in software that helps you build out engaging account experiences, or seeking external support to help you automate and streamline internal processes – you shouldn’t be afraid to look outside of your internal teams for extra support and guidance with your tactics.

It is, however, important to note that technology does not make up for lack of strategy. With ABM, it should always be strategy first, and technology second.

“Vendors are absolutely essential and can act as an extension of your team. I'm lucky to have worked with some of the best of the best, whether it's been Marketing Operations support or graphic designers” – Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent

7. Don't be random. Be strategic.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with ABM is to market simply for the sake of marketing.

By nature, Account-based Marketing is an incredibly strategic, targeted, calculated approach that is driven by data, insights and empathy. So unsurprisingly, random acts of marketing won’t do your program any favors.

The worst thing you can do is exhaust your time, money and resources by overloading your key contacts and leads with marketing material that fails to speak to their individual needs. They will already be bombarded with content from your competitors – so ensure that the conversations you are having provide real value and are backed by strategic thinking.

With ABM, every interaction matters. You can send a thousand cold outreach emails, drown them in eBooks and articles, and bombard them with workshop offers – but they won’t land with impact if you don’t take the time to craft truly meaningful interactions.

“I think that's the biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to ABM. Don't be random, be very strategic. And it's hard to do that, it's hard to scale back.” – Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent


8. Give yourself time to build

Have you ever kicked yourself after rushing a task, knowing that you could have done it better if you hadn’t left it to the last minute? Don’t worry – we’ve all been there at some point! 

But when it comes to ABM, it’s such a significant investment of your time, you want to know that each and every step of the process is executed in the best way possible.

And that includes the initial foundations. 

As cliche as it sounds, those foundations are what will hold up the rest of your program. Having the right tech stack and processes in place will set you up for a much stronger and much more effective program in the long run.

And as part of that initial setup, you need to be prepared to invest from the outset. Pinching pennies in the early stages won’t do you any favors in the long-term. 

That’s not to say you have to spend a fortune in order to be successful, but be strategic about where you invest, and be ready to put in the necessary investment to support your teams and help them do what they do best.

As Jess so aptly explained, “you have to spend money to make money”.

“A build stage is essential. You can't fly the plane if you haven't attached the wings to it; you can't drive the bus if there aren't wheels on it. Pick an analogy. You need to have time to build.” – Jess Larkin, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Financial Services at Confluent.



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