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Mastering Account-Based Marketing

A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing ABM in HubSpot

Comprehensive guide to implementing ABM in HubSpot, tailored for high-value accounts.

When You Should Choose Account-Based Marketing

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is an ideal strategy when your business targets specific high-value accounts or operates in a niche market. It's most effective for specialized products or services in niche markets, where personalized engagement and an understanding of each account's unique needs are essential. You should use ABM when the quality of relationships and depth of engagement with a few key accounts is more important than broad outreach to a large audience.


when select ABM chart

When Do You Leverage ABM?

Leverage ABM when you have clearly identified target accounts and need a focused strategy to engage them. It's ideal for high-ticket items and services requiring significant investment, where building trust and demonstrating value is key. It is best to use ABM when your sales and marketing teams are ready to collaborate closely on tailored account strategies, especially in scenarios involving multiple decision-makers within a company.

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Selecting Your Accounts for ABM

When starting ABM, it's crucial to initially select a specific group of target companies for effectiveness. The number of companies should be enough to keep your reps going, even while they work on existing deals, but not so many that they feel like they are not making progress.

The number depends on the deal size and complexity of your deals, but figure eventually, you want to get each rep to have 20-50 average-size target accounts or 100-200 smaller accounts. For whales, you may want as few as 3-5 each. If you’re just starting your journey and building a program, you can feel comfortable with as few as 10-20 total companies and building as you go.

Defining Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Before you can start reaching out to accounts, you need to know that if you win them, you’ll want them as customers! If you haven’t defined your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), you must do that before embarking on an ABM strategy. Why? If you spend time and energy going after accounts that a) don’t have a problem your product solves, b) won’t pay the price you want to solve your problem, or c) won’t find value in your product once they’ve bought it, you’re no better off than when you started.

You should narrow down to ONE ICP for your first ABM effort. You should then identify ALL the buying personas for that ICP,  but note the most important two or three (more on the personas in a minute.) Don’t try to sell to large manufacturers and small technology companies in one ABM effort. Your resources will be spread too thin.

If you need a guide to help you in this effort, make a spreadsheet of all your paying customers with this template:

abm customer profiles

Fill in a BUNCH of attributes and look for commonalities. If that’s ALL you do, you’ll be better off than before.

Utilizing Predictive Analytics in ABM

If you have a lot of existing customers, this exercise may be too difficult to do on one sheet. There are predictive modeling tools that can help you narrow down your most likely target accounts, including HubSpot’s native Target Account “Recommendations.”

This can be useful to speed up the process. Don’t agonize over these target accounts, or you’ll delay seeing if ABM will work for your company.

Account Tiering in ABM

Account prioritization will become a factor if you have many target accounts per rep. In this case, create tiers to help the rep prioritize. In HubSpot, this property is called the “Ideal Customer Profile Tier.” These tiers are Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. Typically, your highest priority accounts will be Tier 1 and the lowest, Tier 3. This rating helps your rep prioritize their day.

Setting up the ABM tool in HubSpot

First, you simply need to enable the ABM tool in Hubspot. You can turn this on under Contacts > Target Accounts.

Once you enable the feature, it will ask you to select an account to choose first. If you’re starting small, you can choose all the accounts. If you have an extensive list, you can “update” your companies using the Company ID and setting Target Account to True or by creating a list and editing the records in bulk. Of course, you can also edit them one at a time.

You’ll do the same thing with the Tier.

If you don’t already have contacts in those target accounts, it will look something like this:

target accounts in hubspot

Now, it’s on to the next step.

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Identifying the Right Contacts for ABM

Identifying Key Decision-Makers  

You're all set if you have identified the target personas in the buying committee. Remember, these can include both the functional role in the organization AND the buying role in the buying committee. In HubSpot, the Buying Role is the default in the ABM tool, but you can (and we recommend) add their functional role as well, so it can help you ensure you’ve covered all your bases—just some quick definitions.

A functional role is a position within an organization defined by its responsibilities and tasks rather than the individual, which would be more like a job title. For instance, consider the functional role of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) in a corporation. The CIO, in the context of ABM, would be responsible for aligning information technology strategies with broader business goals. They would also oversee the development and implementation of technological solutions tailored to the needs of high-value accounts. The CIO's role is not merely defined by their title but by their strategic and operational responsibilities within the organization.

By contrast, the buying role may be any functional role, but it is the individual's role in the decision-making process. Part of an ABM play is to know the actual human beings that occupy those roles. You usually CANNOT guess these by functional role, job title, or LinkedIn profile. That’s the whole point of this thing: you have to engage with multiple people within the organization when there is a consortium buying decision. 

Here are some overly simplistic definitions of HubSpot’s default buying roles.

Decision Maker: This person has the ultimate authority to approve the purchase. They make the final call on whether to proceed with a proposed solution.

End User: These are the individuals who will be using the product or service daily. Their feedback is crucial as it provides insight into the practicality and functionality of the solution.

Blocker: This person can slow down or even stop the sales process. They might have concerns or objections about the product, service, or change in general.

Budget Holder: This individual controls the finances. They decide whether the funds are available to purchase the product or service.

Champion: The champion advocates for your product or service within the prospective customer's organization. They understand your solution's value and actively promote it within their organization.

Understanding these roles helps guide the sales and marketing strategy, ensuring communications and content meet the needs and interests of each role.

Finding the ABM Contacts  

Ok, now that you know who you’re looking for (functional roles), you can start finding the people you want to add to the system, and THEN you’ll find out which of them are the buying roles.

Practically speaking, you should add anyone who looks like they could be in the right functional role, and then you’ll reach out and touch them until you figure out the buying role (if any.) So how do you get them?

Social Platforms: Social platforms like LinkedIn Sales Navigator are a no-brainer for searching for the right contact at a company. If more than one looks like the right fit, add them all (good tips on this here).

Web Scraping: Whether you do it manually or using some toolkit, this can effectively find the right contacts at your target company.

Data providers: Companies like Zoominfo, Seamless, Lusha,, or name your millionth provider, can help shortcut this process. Just know that generally speaking, you get what you pay for in data quality

Load them in HubSpot

Ensure your contacts are in HubSpot and rolling up (associated) to your Target Account. In your Target Account Tab, set the FUNCTIONAL ROLE within the buying Role section (you will add these under Properties> Buying Role). This will become useful in the next step.

Now your system should look like this:

Set them as Leads

If you are using HubSpot Leads, you will also want to set all of these contacts as “New” leads. That way, the automation will kick in, and you’ll be very clearly able to see who’s never been contacted, who’s in a sequence, and who has responded or reached the end of their sequence.

We recommend using “cold” as the label for now so that you can differentiate from warm or hot inbound leads. Eventually, that label will be modifiable, and you can set it to ABM or similar.

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How to Prepare an ABM Account Plan

The next step is to create an actual PLAN for each account. We recommend doing this in a team environment, as multiple people within YOUR company may know a lot about your target account.

Understanding Your ABM Account

To achieve success in ABM, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of each target account. This understanding goes beyond knowing the company's size or industry—it involves understanding the business's unique needs, challenges, and opportunities. A comprehensive ABM account analysis includes:

  •  Business Landscape: Understand the company's market positioning, key competitors, and industry trends.
  •  Company Dynamics: Gain insights into the company's organizational structure, its culture, and any recent major changes (like mergers, acquisitions, or leadership changes).
  •  Initiatives and Challenges: Identify the strategic initiatives the company is undertaking and the challenges it is facing, which your product or service can help address.

To assist in this analysis, you may use various sources such as company websites, press releases, annual reports, and social media profiles. Specific software tools, such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator or other sales intelligence platforms, can also help with this analysis.

As a note, ChatGPT Pro might help you a little bit here. Try the following prompt or something similar:

You are an expert enterprise sales rep who is knowledgeable about ABM sales. You are targeting (account name, Account URL). Create an ABM account plan for this account, including the following:

The overall health of this company
The business landscape of their industry
Company Dynamics, including organizational structure changes, M&A, culture
Initiatives and Challenges: Identify the strategic initiatives the company is undertaking and the challenges it is facing, which your product or service can help address.
Then, create a table with the names, titles, and, if possible, the contact information for the key stakeholders for my product.

Your product is X, and your unique selling proposition is Y.
Do not tell me how to create a plan; use your browsing capabilities to develop this plan. You will be wrong if you tell me how to create a plan.

Setting ABM Goals and Objectives

Each target account in your ABM strategy should have specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. These goals could range from securing a meeting with a key decision-maker, increasing product usage among a certain user group, or closing a sales deal. Some examples of ABM goals and objectives might include:

  •  Engagement Goals: These could be getting a specified number of attendees at a webinar or a certain level of engagement with a personalized marketing campaign.
  •  Sales Goals: This could be closing a specific deal size within a specified time frame.
  •  Relationship Goals: This could involve moving a contact from a passive user to an active champion of your product within the account.

Setting these goals will give you a clear direction for your ABM efforts and a concrete way to measure success.

Creating a SWOT Analysis for ABM

A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) can provide valuable insights for your ABM account planning. This SWOT analysis is of YOUR company that you can use to match against the target account’s needs. For ABM, a SWOT analysis could look something like this:

  •  Strengths: What advantages does your product or service provide to this account? What unique value can you deliver?
  •  Weaknesses: Where might your solution fall short for this account? Are there gaps that competitors could exploit?
  •  Opportunities: What problems or challenges can your solution address for this account? Are there upcoming initiatives or changes where your solution could be valuable at the account?
  •  Threats: Could external factors, like competitive actions or industry trends, negatively impact your relationship with the account?

This SWOT analysis can inform your overall strategy and help identify areas to focus your efforts.

To guide you through this process, HubSpot offers a free Strategic Account Planning Template that you can download and use as a starting point for your own ABM account planning​​. The best way to collect this information in HubSpot can be by using a Playbook. That way, you’re doing it in a structured way every time and keeping your notes on the company record.

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Creating an ABM Outreach Plan

In ABM, creating a personalized outreach plan is essential for success. Unlike traditional marketing approaches that cast a wide net, ABM targets specific high-value accounts. To effectively engage these accounts, a personalized outreach plan allows you to tailor your messaging and content to meet each account's unique needs and preferences. By delivering highly relevant and customized experiences, you can build stronger connections, establish trust, and increase the likelihood of generating meaningful engagement and conversions.

Segmenting Your ABM Outreach

Now you must choose your channels. Each company’s channels may be different, and they may differ due to the potential value of the account. For example, you may consider a matrix to decide who to go after with which channels. You will also want to consider:

  •  Overall preferences of the industry, recognizing privacy, work location, etc. 
  •  Value of the company or contact
  •  Preferences of the individual, if known
  •  The capabilities of your sales, marketing team, or marketing automation platform.

Example matrix:

segmenting ABM outreach

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Identifying and Creating Content for ABM

Content that resonates with the decision-making team is vital to ABM. That doesn’t necessarily mean content is written explicitly for that company, although it could. The more common and doable option is to design content for groups of roles and company types. This is where AI can help you out. You can take existing pieces of content and re-shape them for the individual buyers and ICP.

Here’s a simple example: Suppose you sell a novel HR benefit to enterprise companies, such as those in the Fortune 500.

Here’s an AI prompt to rewrite a blog post:

You are an ABM Expert. You need to customize content for multiple constituents within an ideal customer profile. Based on the information below. Please provide new blog titles for the blog called Why It’s Time to Make Your Company’s Breastfeeding Policies Public Knowledge, but tailor the title for each of the buying committee members. Use what you know about people in those roles and what you can infer from the company from the title of the original post. you sell a novel HR benefit to Enterprise companies, let’s say the Fortune 500.

Your ICP is:
Companies that truly consider their employees assets, and provide them with the tools they need to do their job, plenty of benefits, and above market pay. This company has a diverse population.

Your personas are:
CHRO - Head of HR, final decision maker
Head of benefits - Recommender, Influencer
Corporate communications - They want to brag about these new benefits
Head of diversity - Influencer
CFO - Has to approve all new benefits
CIO - Needs to have their team’s approval for all new tech, do security review.

Here’s the results. See, it can be pretty easy to tailor the content. You’d then ask ChatGPT or your favorite AI to tailor the entire blog post accordingly. Now, you’re ready to start a campaign for your target accounts.

Title: Evolving Workplace Wellness - Spotlight on Progressive Breastfeeding Policies

For CHRO - Head of HR:
- Title: "Enhancing Employee Wellness: Why Sharing Breastfeeding Policies Matters"
- Recommendation: This title aligns with the CHRO's role in overseeing employee wellness and emphasizes the importance of transparency in breastfeeding policies.
For Head of Benefits:
- Title: "Boosting Benefits Transparency: Unveiling Our Breastfeeding Policies"
- Recommendation: The title reflects the Head of Benefits' interest in optimizing and communicating benefit offerings, with breastfeeding policies being a focal point.
For Corporate Communications:
- Title: "Showcasing Our Commitment: Publicizing Progressive Breastfeeding Policies"
- Recommendation: This title caters to Corporate Communication's desire to highlight the company's innovative benefits, portraying a positive image externally.
For Head of Diversity:
- Title: "Fostering Inclusivity: The Impact of Open Breastfeeding Policies"
- Recommendation: The title underscores the role of breastfeeding policies in promoting diversity and inclusivity, aligning with the Head of Diversity’s goals.
For CFO:
- Title: "Investing in Employee Well-being: The ROI of Transparent Breastfeeding Policies"
- Recommendation: This title highlights the financial implications and the positive return on investment of employee wellness through transparent breastfeeding policies, appealing to the CFO’s fiscal responsibility.
For CIO:
- Title: "Tech-Enabled Transparency: Streamlining Access to Breastfeeding Policies"
- Recommendation: The title highlights technology integration in promoting transparency and ease of access to breastfeeding policies, linking to the CIO's role in tech approval and security review.

These are a great start for customized content, but it’s not just the personas you need to craft content for in ABM.

Understanding the Buyer's Journey in ABM

To successfully implement ABM, it's vital to identify the stage of the Buyer's Journey for each key person and account. This means recognizing whether they are at the awareness stage (Top of Funnel or TOFU), considering options (Middle of Funnel or MOFU), or ready to take action (Bottom of Funnel or BOFU). 

By understanding these stages, you can provide tailored content that effectively addresses the needs of each primary persona at their specific point in the journey.

Top of Funnel (ToFu)

The top of the funnel focuses on awareness and discovery. It's where potential leads first encounter your brand or product.

The content should be educational and broadly appealing at this stage, designed to attract a diverse audience. Ideal types of content include blog posts, infographics, and videos that address general topics relevant to your industry. For example, articles like "Emerging Tech Trends in 2024" or introductory guides to new technologies can be effective for a technology client.

The goal is to provide value and establish your brand as a thought leader, not to sell.

Middle of Funnel (MoFu)

Here, the focus shifts to consideration and engagement. Leads are aware of your brand and are considering it as a solution to their needs.

Content should be more detailed and specific at this stage, helping leads understand how your products or services can solve their problems. This includes case studies, webinars, ebooks, and detailed guides. For example, a case study on how a specific technology improved business outcomes can be particularly compelling.

The content should start bridging the gap between the lead's problem and your solution.

Bottom of Funnel (BoFu)

This is the decision-making stage. Leads are now considering a purchase and need that final nudge.

Content here should be highly specific and persuasive, including product demos, free trials, detailed product guides, or personalized consultations. Testimonials and success stories can be very effective, as they provide real-world proof of the value of your services or products.

The aim is to provide all the necessary information and reassurance a lead needs to make a purchase decision.

So yes, this is all a little bit complicated at scale, so we recommend starting with just a couple of buying personas and a single Ideal Customer Profile.

Consider a matrix like this, and then let ChatGPT be your friend again.

mapping out the buyers journey

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Leveraging ABM Contacts to Connect with Others

Building Relationships in ABM

In ABM, building real relationships with each contact is the goal. Unlike traditional marketing approaches that cast a wide net, ABM focuses on forging strong, personalized connections with key individuals in target accounts. ABM's relationship-building aspect involves understanding each contact's unique challenges and needs and providing tailored solutions.

Networking within ABM isn't just about making connections; it's about cultivating meaningful, long-term partnerships. By engaging in thoughtful, targeted communication, marketers can establish trust and credibility, turning contacts into champions for their brand within their organizations.

Utilizing Referral Techniques in ABM

Referral techniques in ABM are potent tools for expanding your reach within a target account. By nurturing strong relationships with key contacts, marketers can encourage these individuals to make introductions to other decision-makers or influencers within their organization.

This strategy hinges on providing exceptional value and creating positive experiences for current contacts. A satisfied contact is more likely to advocate on your behalf, facilitating organic growth within the account. Tactics such as offering exclusive resources, personalized solutions, or even referral incentives can motivate contacts to open doors to new opportunities within their organization.

Following Up and Nurturing Contacts in ABM

Regular follow-ups and nurturing are crucial in maintaining and strengthening relationships within each account in ABM. Consistent, value-driven communication ensures that your brand stays top-of-mind and reinforces the perception of your company as a committed, attentive partner.

An effective ABM follow-up strategy should be systematic yet personalized, addressing each contact's evolving needs and interests. This could include sharing relevant content, updates about your products or services, or insightful industry news. The goal is to provide continuous value, fostering a sense of ongoing support and engagement that nurtures these relationships over time, gradually guiding contacts further down the sales funnel.

Summing It All Up

Ok, so now you’ve selected accounts, added contacts, set up your CRM, created customized content and started deploying it through multiple channels to the right personas at the right stage of the buying cycle. You’ve engaged others to help you connect with them, and you’ve done your share of outreach. Now what?

Your KPIs should now be coming into view:

  •  What percent of your target accounts have you reached out to?
  •  What percentage of your target contacts engage (opening emails, replies, meetings, website visits)?
  •  How many deals have been created from your target accounts?

As you step back and assess your ABM campaigns, remember that success in ABM is a journey, not a destination. It's about fine-tuning your strategies based on real-world data, understanding the unique needs of each account, and building lasting relationships beyond mere transactions. By following the insights and methodologies outlined in this ebook, you're well-equipped to measure, analyze, and enhance your ABM efforts, ensuring they yield fruitful, long-lasting results. 

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