Stepping Through the 4 Ps: A Guide for Successful Account-Based Marketing

Blog Post
June 07, 2018

In this third installment of our four-part series about account-based marketing, we click through the “Four Ps” essential to the process: prepare, prioritize, plan and perform. You can read the first part in this series, about the five essential ingredients to building an ABM strategy, here.

Much of marketing is about pursuit. But we’d all be spinning in circles if we did not first invest the time to identify and get to know the prospective customers we are best suited to help—and consider the ideal approach to engage with them.

The implementation process of any marketing strategy is, in many ways, like choreographing a perfect dance; it requires managed steps. In the case of account-based marketing—applying deep insights to tailor precise offerings for specific accounts rather than focusing on generic demographics or industries—the sequence of steps is uniquely refined.    

In earlier installments of this series, we reviewed the five essential ingredients to building an account-based marketing strategy, and then how to select the ideal prospect accounts, building personas around them. It’s now time to understand the tools that shape and perfect these steps. I call them the Four Ps: preparing, prioritizing, planning and performance. 

Prospecting Through the Four Ps  

Account-based marketing is achieved through personalization that opens a relationship to a deeper level. The key composition tool is deep analytics, which can trace issues unique to an account and inform effective communications, as well as how and when to present them. 

Our Four Ps are simply the process for managing an ABM program. Each step should be carried out with the expectation that in totality, they will enable the marketing and sales teams to understand the prospect accounts well enough to develop knowing communications that accurately anticipate needs. Let’s leap in. 

1. Prepare

As any choreographer would, we begin by blocking out our ABM strategy steps, which typically include the following:

  • The ABM scope and framework—basically what you expect the strategy to accomplish.
  • The tiered or prioritization plan that will serve that framework.
  • The processes and technologies required to carry out the plan.

You also will need to align a staff dedicated to the venture. Often, a designated ABM manager works alongside marketing leaders to manage the preparation, welcoming input from sales and client services teams. The team is tasked with creating and maintaining technological tools, ABM plan templates (workbooks that describe the plan for engaging desired account clients, including specific profiles and strategies), and a playbook that details the end-to-end engagement process and serves as a continuous guide for the team. The playbook and templates save time and resources by bringing to the surface common tasks and information sources for building a typical top-tier account strategy. Yes, there are always exceptions, but starting with a common set of guidelines allows the team to more easily focus on the specifics of each account. 

2. Prioritize

Think of this step as an audition. A choreographer must consider the best collection of dancers to deliver an outstanding performance—and not everyone will make the cut. In the same way, this step allows you to identify and organize the “sweet spot” prospects for your service or product and tier them accordingly. 

Often, accounts are selected based on size, value and strategic fit, creating a standard set of rules for high-priority accounts. However, outside events like regulatory changes, corporate mergers and economic trends will influence decisions to promote or demote accounts within a tier. 

In many organizations, a designated ABM manager oversees this step with input from the marketing and sales team and client services. Account scoring technology and tiering models allow the ABM manager to grade and prioritize new prospects, without bias, against predetermined criterion. 

3. Plan

Now we move into designing the actual sequence of activities and outreach efforts for the select accounts. During this discovery process, the ABM team deepens its insights for key accounts through a variety of data, from basic contact information to industry trends and specific nuances of the account itself. Certainly, some data points are easier to gather than others, but all work in unison to give full picture of the account. 

Essentially, the ABM team creates a specific strategy for approaching each individual account. Built on account profile data, this plan guides prospecting and pursuit activities by informing messaging, tactics and content selection as well as identifying specific contacts within the account to approach. 

The overall strategy should be reviewed both quarterly and annually, to assess immediate or longer-term changes needed in resourcing, process enhancements and technologies needed as the account changes. 

4. Perform

With specific engagement movements blocked, it’s time to step out on the stage and begin communicating with our prospects. An ABM program involves execution of play tactics, tracking performance, reporting and refining the plan as necessary. Success can be measured against initial goals as well benchmarked against other ABM programs. 

This process may require an ABM steering team to oversee and approve key changes, including those that affect budget. This team supports the ABM manager and may tap other agency partners for certain aspects of the program execution. 

While the program is managed daily, it is important enough to also facilitate weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reviews, meetings and reports. An ABM program involves many moving parts, but the pre-work to define the sequence and rhythm of steps is what sets the stage for success. 

Creating and executing an ABM program involves ongoing profiling, prospecting and pursuit as well as collaboration among the sales, marketing and technology teams. Be sure specific team members are assigned at each step to measure and report activities regularly. 

In the pursuit of ideal client relationships, a well-choreographed plan with just the right steps and tempo can move top-tier prospects into meaningful, long-term client relationships. 

In the final installment of this four-part series, we will focus on details around the technology required for a successful ABM program. Check it out here: The Technology You Need for Successful ABM—6 Recommendations.