How Salesforce Approaches ABM (And Drives Results)

At Salesforce, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has been at the center of our strategies for building relationships and driving pipeline for a long time. But one question we’re often asked is how we actually go about executing on the strategy. What’s our methodology? How do we know which accounts are most likely to close? What types of content do we create? And truthfully, as with all smart marketing, everything we do evolves at the rate of change. However, the core of our strategy always remains the same.

Building out Our ABM Strategy
When we’re going to run an ABM campaign, we break down our process into steps that follow four pillars.

We start by getting together with our sales leaders to identify which accounts we want to target. We also get executive sponsorship involved at this stage. Next, we do a quick assessment of our data to make sure that we’ve got no duplicates, and if we find any we get rid of them. From time to time, we find that we’d like to capture some new data about a particular account, for example: what tech stack they’re running, or where the account(s) are located, or the number of employees. To do this, we use form fills—so we’ll customize our forms so that they’re asking the right questions to ensure we’re collecting the data we need.

When you’re running an ABM campaign, the flavor of engagement will differ depending on the market. This is where our process around building our customer profiles comes in. Our marketers use data analytics tools to help them analyze their data and start planning how to target our chosen accounts. We build an ‘ICP’—an ideal customer profile— that helps us understand who our target accounts are within their industries.

Next, we size the market based on the attributes of the ICP: how many businesses are there in Chicago in the construction industry that are suppliers at a size of 2000 employees or more? Or, how many companies in the south east specialize in medical instruments and distribution? We can get as granular as we need to in order to match our ICP and our target accounts with an accurate size for the segment.

Now why do we do all that? Because depending on how many accounts you’re targeting and where they fit within all that segment data, we can start to identify how we’re going to market to them. We can build out those unique experiences that ABM thrives on by understanding in detail who we’re going to target, and why. The next step we take then, is building out those segments within those markets, stratified around size, sub industries, propensity to buy/score, new business, up-sell or cross-sell, and so on.

Creating The Right Campaigns
So now that we know as much as we can about our target accounts, let’s get to the fun part. At Salesforce, we use different types of ABM campaigns in combination:

Key Account 1-to-1 campaigns:
These campaigns are very high-touch and work better for a single target account, or a market of 1. We usually run this type of campaign for our events, to deliver a white glove experience. We’d invite prospects from the target account to a fully customized event: the presentation would have personalized examples featuring their industry, vertical, and local area, and we’d aim to speak specifically to how we solve for problems that are most pertinent to that account. We do this for our World Tours, where we invite high-priority accounts that are based in the city we’re touring in to come to special one-of-a-kind events with us.

Strategic Segment Campaigns:
These account-based marketing campaigns can be used to target a few hundred accounts at a time. They can be focused on accounts in a specific location or vertical for instance. For example, for the Boston World Tour we set up advertisements customized to accounts located in the Boston area. We themed the entire event around Boston landmarks and encouraged our local accounts to attend for Boston-specific content.

Demand Generation Campaigns:
These campaigns are focused on engaging markets of several thousand. They cast a wider net than the smaller campaigns above, but they still count as ABM campaigns, since they’re still targeting a specific set of accounts. In this type of campaign, our messaging could be geared towards small businesses in the medical space, or enterprise companies headquartered in the midwest.

So how does all this work out? We’ve found that ABM is a powerful strategy for driving engagement and building super-strong relationships with our customers. For the above campaigns that were run through last year’s Boston World Tour, we found some amazing results: 1 in 4 of our target accounts engaged with us during the campaign period. An average of 5 contacts per account engaged with us. In just 6 weeks, we’d contacted 410 total accounts, with 110 engaging with us, and 30% close rate therein.

Yes, you read that right: 6 weeks.

ABM is not a new strategy, and all of us who are familiar with it know that at this point. However, what’s really amazing is the way that today’s martech—and tomorrows—are especially and increasingly well-suited to this kind of marketing. When you look at the strategies that are defining customer relationships and driving these high close rates, ABM is at the top of the list each time. At Salesforce, we see it as a logical next step. It’s ‘the way marketing is going’, which is not to say that it’s going to be the only kind of marketing: instead, it’s going to be a tool that every marketer should have at their disposal.