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Let's talk ABM: 8 steps to building an ABM ecosystem

As part of our Let's talk ABM podcast series, CMO Declan Mulkeen spoke with Elise Miller, Director of ABM, EMEA at ServiceNow about the steps to creating an ABM ecosystem.


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Declan Mulkeen

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Feb 2 2022 - 11min Read Date published: Date modified: 2022-03-14


ABM - as we all know the ‘M’ stands for Marketing – Account-based Marketing. But ABM is not a Marketing strategy.

Not a Marketing strategy? OK, I’ll clarify what I mean here. Marketing may be the initiator but ABM is far too important to be a Marketing strategy. It’s an organization-wide strategy. 

It’s a strategy to build your organization’s reputation, develop important relationships with your current and future customers, and ultimately, drive revenue opportunities.

It’s a strategy not just to win new customers, but to grow and importantly retain existing customers. 

So you can see ABM is far too important to be left to just to Marketing.

So, what are the most forward-thinking organizations doing? 

They are building an ABM ecosystem to enable the wider Marketing community, Sales, Account teams, and everyone else in touch with customers (current or future).

That’s the role that the ABM team at ServiceNow is pioneering.

I was fortunate to sit down with Elise Miller, Director of ABM, EMEA at ServiceNow, to discuss all things Account-based and learn more about their ABM ecosystem. 

In the interview (full recording here), we discussed:

  • How to scale ABM
  • The importance of an ABM Center of Excellence

  • Why psychology plays such an important part in ABM success

  • Advice on how to succeed at Account-based Marketing

So let’s take a look at some of Elise’s top tips:

8 steps to building an ABM ecosystem

1. Psychology is your secret weapon – use it!

When it comes to ABM, your focus is the ‘A’. Your accounts. 

Remember that the people you are trying to influence in that account are exactly that - people! 

Your Target Account will consist of an entire buying committee, involving C-Suite, executives and many other key decision-makers. But to really connect with them, you need to look beyond their job titles and status. 

These decision-makers have likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, needs, desires. It’s your job to figure out what makes them tick.

This is where psychology comes in. To understand the account, you must first understand the individual. What keeps them up at night? What are they trying to achieve (either personally or professionally)?

You can’t create personalized experiences if you don’t know who you’re personalizing for. 

There’s a wide range of supporting technology in the market today that can help you really get to know your key decision-makers. 

At strategicabm, we use Crystal Knows, both to gain insight into the individuals within our Target Accounts, and also internally to better understand the dynamics within our team.



“ABM naturally forces you to put yourself in the customer's shoes. And I think to achieve that and to help you along the way, you also have to continuously be putting yourself in the shoes of your Salesperson or of your Solution Architect, or of your Field Marketing counterparts and whoever it might be that you are creating that approach with.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

Once you have this psychometric data at your disposal, you can arm your Sales team with the knowledge needed to really enhance communication and nurture those high-value relationships. 

It’s about being human, and knowing how to interact and engage with the people you care most about. In this case, it’s your Target Accounts.

“Learning a little bit more about what makes them tick, what are they trying to achieve, personally and professionally, and how you could better communicate with them, I think is a really key standpoint.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

2. Adopt a solid and consistent methodology

ABM is not a one-person band. 

It’s a team effort, and to get the most out of it, you should be willing to put in a fair investment (both in money and time).

But the truth is, you won’t get far without total alignment between Marketing and Sales. That means you need a consistent and actionable framework to build on to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

By adopting a framework across your organization, you’ll have a clear, actionable plan laid out in front of you. This forces you to think in simple steps, instead of getting lost in the bigger picture.

How do you get from account selection to forming a relationship with that account? And how do you then progress that account to get them to close?

By breaking your approach down into these smaller steps, your team will be more bought into the process, and know exactly what needs to be done - and when. 

Of course, every organization will have a different process, a different culture, a different team. And ABM isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy, so be flexible with any frameworks you choose to adopt and make changes to suit your organization.

Personalize it. Customize it. Make ABM your own, and ensure it complements your long-term business goals and strategy. 

At strategicabm, we use the ITSMA framework both for our internal programs and those we run for our clients. But we will adapt and modify elements as necessary to ensure the best-fit program for each organization. 

“I think using consistent language, showing very simple and consistent slides across the board is very, very important. And I think the ITSMA framework just lends itself really nicely to it.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

3. Train, educate and inspire!

For a strong program, you need buy-in. But it doesn’t come free, and it certainly won’t arrive on your doorstep out of nowhere.

You need to earn stakeholder buy-in. That means investing in training and educating your team to help inspire and motivate them.

Whether you’re expanding into new geographies, adopting new technologies, or simply trying out a new approach; your team needs to be educated, bought into that element, and inspired to use it.

This includes sharing best practices, successes, potential outcomes, and even mistakes you’ve made along the way. 

To create that ABM ecosystem, you essentially need to become an ABM consultant - there to guide and support your team throughout their journey.

“What you really want to do is inspire others to use the mindset, to use the tool, to use the methodology and make it as easy and inspiring as possible for people to adopt the same approach.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

4. Create a Center of Excellence

So how can you centralize this training and knowledge throughout your organization? 

According to Elise Miller, the answer lies in a Center of Excellence.

This is essentially a central hub with all the training, tools, success stories and templates needed to run an effective and successful program.

ABM takes a lot of time and investment, as we’ve said before.

So each time you launch a new initiative or a new variation of your program for a different cluster of accounts, the last thing you want to do is start from scratch.

With a Center of Excellence, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, as you’ll have access to previous use cases and templates that have proven to be successful.

Think of it as having an in-house consultancy team to support the rest of the organization as and when they need it. 

Whether that center is for your ABMers or your Salespeople, it’s all about sharing expert knowledge across your team, and getting the most out of previous experiences.

“The purpose of the ABM Center of Excellence is essentially to be the central hub of all things ABM. So when we're thinking about coming back to being the Custodians of ABM, you are providing a service to the rest of the business.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

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5. Get Sales on your side

Sales form the backbone of ABM. 

Without your Sales team, you lack insight, understanding and communication with the target account. So it’s pretty obvious that you should have Sales on your side!

So what can you do to ensure you get the most out of that Sales relationship?

  • Use humor. At the end of the day, this is no different from forming a basic human relationship. You have to bring your authentic self to the table and create a camaraderie that you can then build upon professionally.

  • Be flexible. Marketing and Sales have a reputation for misalignment, but that’s because we both have a tendency towards stubbornness. If you want a strong relationship with Sales, you need to be willing to flex here and there and work alongside them - not against them.

  • Do what you can to inspire them. Share mini success stories, share figures and case studies. Chances are they’re already familiar with ABM, so it’s less about education and more about inspiration and support.

“I think bringing confidence, bringing your authentic self to the table and working with Sales as your counterpart, so you both have something to add becomes a critical part of any program. And if you can do it from the beginning, you're really on the winning side of ABM.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

6. Custom content is not ABM

With ABM being such a hot topic, it’s only natural that there will be a lot of misleading information out there.

Luckily for you, we’re here with some of the top industry experts to help you separate fact from fiction.

ABM is a program. It’s not a tactic. It’s an organization-wide initiative that is centered around the customer.

Contrary to popular belief, that’s not the same thing as custom content. 

Personalization is a small element of an Account-based strategy - a contributing factor, if you will.

The custom content you create is to support the strategy and engage your target account, but it isn’t the sum of your program. It is simply a stepping stone to help you move to the next stage.

And to get the most out of custom content, you really need to be thinking about:

  • What channels should we be using?

  • How can we incorporate that customer psychology?

  • How can we make this more specific to our target account?

  • How can we get this content in front of key decision-makers?

“Custom content is a critical part of ABM. It’s how you address your customer's challenge and how you articulate and prepare your position to them, but it's not a beginning and an end.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

7. Invest your time in account selection

You can’t have an Account-based Marketing program without your accounts. So it makes sense that you should invest a significant amount of your time into selecting the right accounts for your organization.

But this isn’t always a straightforward process, and chances are, you’re going to go back and forth a few times before you get it right.

The key is to start early, and ensure you get input from your Sales team - after all, they know your accounts better than anyone.

Whichever campaign tactics you choose later down the line will live or die, succeed or fail, based on the account selection. 

Think of it as the scaffolding for your ABM skyscraper. Without solidifying that first framework, the rest will come tumbling down.

“I think if you've got your accounts wrong, you can't do any of those other parts. So it becomes critical that you spend as long as you can and do that process really thoroughly.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

8. Keep the bigger picture in mind

When it comes to ABM, it can be easy to get caught up in the details. But it’s also crucial to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that business can change in an instant - for better or worse. So always keeping one eye on the wider industry and your longer-term plan is key if you want to stay ahead.

This means being willing to adapt and flex in response to certain situations. Maybe the industry has run into a pitfall. Or maybe the accounts you selected are no longer in a position to purchase.

It’s all about adaptability. You need to be able to come off the trodden path if necessary, and make the most out of the opportunities that present themselves - even if that means deviating from your original plan.

“I'd say, don't wait for perfect. Something now, is better than perfect later because that perfect may never come.” - Elise Miller, Head of ABM (EMEA) at ServiceNow

Keen to find out more about the world of Account-based? Hear from some of the leading industry experts in our Let’s talk ABM webinar and podcast. 

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