Smarter GTM

Crawl. Walk. Run. A Phased Approach to Developing an Account-Based Strategy

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September 20, 2021

10 mins read

Crawl Walk Run A Phased Approach to Developing an Account-Based Strategy

Crawl. Walk. Run. A Phased Approach to Developing an Account-Based Strategy

Account-based experience or ABX can feel like this impossibly huge, nebulous task, but it isn’t. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the insecurity that comes with exploring what’s new that we make it out to be more difficult or daunting than it truly is.

If you would test the water before jumping in or test drive a car before you buy, then why wouldn’t you take the same approach when looking at the potential of overhauling your go-to-market strategy? The good news is that you don’t have to. Instead of diving headlong into account-based strategies – because diving head first into everything isn’t an approach for everyone – you can take things one step at a time, and that’s what this blog is about.

At Demandbase, we have a tried-and-tested, phased approach that will introduce you and your team to ABX so that you can find the right strategy among the countless possibilities that work for you. Our phases are intuitive, like learning to swim or ride a bike, but easier:

Crawl. Walk. Run.

See? Super easy. So easy, in fact, I can almost guarantee that you’ve done them before (and with incredible success).

Phase 1: Crawl

Learning to crawl, in this case, is all about getting used to the motions and developing the muscle memory of how to use your new platform so that you can launch your account-based strategy. In this first phase, you will lay the foundation that your strategy can stand and grow on.

We’ll focus on three things:

  • Identifying and reaching target accounts
  • Collecting the right data (across all channels)
  • Figuring out who we want to target
Identifying and reaching target accounts

Odds are, you already have a list of accounts that you’re going after (and if you don’t, read all about how to make segmented account lists here!), so you can think of this step as a way to double-check that you’re targeting the right accounts and that your prioritization of them is correct. We suggest using Pipeline Predict for an easy way to accurately measure the likelihood that an account will become an opportunity.  This way, your sales and marketing teams can focus on hot accounts that show signs of being in-market and ready to engage.

When you reach out to the right accounts from the start, you make it easier to identify new opportunities and chances to upsell, as well as predict customer churn so that you can take measures to win them back before they’ve committed to looking at their other options.

Collecting the right data

In order to set up a successful advertising campaign, you need more than just data. You need the right data. With Demandbase One, this step is simple. Demandbase One aggregates all of the data from your CRM and MAP, and automatically layers it with all of the web signals (like intent) that your target accounts throw out every day so that you get all of the insights you could ever need to make informed decisions all in one place. You can even populate Demandbase One fields in Salesforce so that it appears where your sales team already works – no need for everyone to learn the ins and outs of a new platform.

Figuring out who we want to target

Now that you have a list of target accounts and you’re collecting all of the right data, you need to be clear on which personas you want to target. Outreach and messaging to a sales team is going to differ from what you’d send to a Finance or Engineering team. Identify the personas that you’re selling to so that you can develop a more personalized outreach when you launch your awareness and engagement campaigns.

Phase 2: Walk

Once you’ve got the hang of crawling, you’re ready to get a little bit fancy. The first step (ha!) in this phase is understanding that your campaigns won’t be account-based if your systems aren’t.

Traditional marketing and sales technologies are lead-based. One unfortunate byproduct of lead-based tech is that critical data gets spread across disparate systems which makes it exceedingly difficult for your teams to connect the dots and understand how your target accounts engage with your efforts. So how do you align sales and marketing behind an ABX strategy if there is no common dataset and no shared view of engagement? The simple answer is that you can’t. But that’s what this walk phase is all about: getting your teams on the same page.

Adjust your definition of MQLs and MQAs

Not everyone who shows interest in your product or service can be an MQL. Just because a lead magically hit 100 engagement points after seven years of trying doesn’t mean that your lead alerts should be going off. But if someone sends you an email requesting a conversation with sales because they have all this money they want to give you, that’s a different story. Every bell and whistle you have should be going off and someone better call that unicorn ASAP.

The biggest difference between those two examples, of course, is timing. An engagement score benchmark that is met over multiple years isn’t an indicator of interest or intent like a request for you to take their money is.

In Unspam Your Brand: The Definitive Guide to Smarter GTM™ with Account Intelligence and ABM/ABX, Jon Miller goes further into what we use at Demandbase to define MQLs and MQAs and when to unleash sales for timely outreach.

As put into practice in the Crawl phase, you should be identifying the accounts most likely to produce opportunities using their Pipeline Predict and Qualification scores, but that isn’t everything that you should be going off of. If the Pipeline Predict score for an account is 99% but no one at the account is interacting within a reasonably defined time period, then you might want to revisit that account later.

Automate notifications

Anything and everything that requires immediate response from sales or a customer-facing team needs to have automated notifications. There are all sorts of ways that you can automate these notifications through Marketo, Salesforce, Slack, and more, but the important thing is that you’re making it easier for the relevant teams to know exactly when an action needs to be taken.

Equally as important as automating these notifications is pushing them to where those teams that respond to these notifications live. If your sales team lives in Salesforce, you don’t want to push email notifications, you want to push the notifications to their Salesforce Dash because that’s their homebase.


Orchestration is one of the keys to a successful account-based strategy, and when done correctly, it ensures that all the moving parts of your ABX strategy work together to achieve your goals and reach your target accounts.

“Marketing orchestration is an approach to marketing that focuses not on delivering standalone campaigns, but instead on optimizing a set of related cross-channel interactions that, when added together, make up an individualized customer experience.” – Forrester

One example of orchestration is taking data from multiple sources and creating one list without having to look at multiple sources. This ties in with what we were getting into with automated notifications – you don’t want to send your sales team on a wild goose chase just to track down the information they need to reach out to MQAs and MQLs.

With Demandbase One’s Orchestration solution you and your teams can rest easy knowing that our data is fed into your current systems so that everyone in your organization can find everything they need for outreach and campaign creation in one place, be that Salesforce, Marketo, Demandbase, or wherever you prefer to get your information.

By adding lead-to-account matching on lead records or including an account’s overall score on lead records you can set your BDRs up for success. This way, when your BDRs get leads and start their days, they see their leads’ scores and the overall account score right next to each other. This tells them where they can dig in before they get into outreach for the day.

And this is where everything starts to come together for the next phase.

Phase 3: Run

Everything that you’ve done up to this point has prepared you for this last phase. You’ve got the fundamentals and the tools and the know-how. Running is all about putting ABX into practice to best serve your strategies and achieve your business goals.

All of the data that you’ve harnessed and made sense of in the crawl and walk phases of this journey can create account and people lists to qualify MQAs and MQLs for actions. 

With Demandbase One you can turn your data into action, automatically.

Data to action blog image

Once an account and its people are qualified, you can use cross-object data from Salesforce, marketing automation systems, uploaded data, and sales activities automatically synced from your sales team’s email inboxes. After defining the who (data, left), you can set up the automated actions (right).

Your options are limited only by your imagination and your wealth (or disparity) of information. 

Take everything that you’ve learned and really run with it. No one strategy works the same way for two businesses, so you’ll have to play around to find what works best for you and your company, but you can take the fundamentals that you’ve become comfortable with and apply them to all stages of your lead journeys:

  • Post-sale activation
  • CX activation
  • Deep sales territory analysis

Don’t worry, we’ll get you up to speed

We broke it down, but ABX can still be a lot to take in. Hopefully, by this point you see that creating an account-based strategy isn’t as daunting as you initially thought. With the right guidance and proper pacing, any company can breathe new life into their old marketing, sales, and revenue strategies.

And you don’t have to do it alone! Demandbase can be there every step of the way while you figure out what ABX strategy works best for you and your specific business goals. We can guide and support you from Day 1 with:

  • A dedicated implementation manager and customer success manager
  • ABX certifications
  • Professional services and a vetted partner network
  • Support from ABX strategists
  • Online education and best practices through Demandbase Academy
  • Sales and marketing training during rollout

Parting thought

So there you have it: crawl, walk, and run. You’re the master of your own account-based destiny. But before you spread your wings and take your ABX strategy to new heights, I’ve got one last thing, and it can be a real winner. Ready? Here it is:

The most important thing to remember when you take off with your shiny new ABX strategy is to personalize interactions.

At the core of sales and marketing is people, and people like to hear from other people. Don’t reach out with canned business-robot lines or mass-push email lingo – no one wants to engage with that. Take the time in each stage to humanize yourself through your interactions with accounts and the people who work there. It’ll take you further than corporate lingo ever got you. Honestly.

On your mark, get set, go!

Want to see what all the hype is about? Check out Demandbase One in action or watch Why We Chose Demandbase: Matillion to see how we helped Sonya’s team move from crawl to walk to run, and eventually take off and soar to new heights of campaign success with an account-based go-to-market strategy.

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Paul Gibson

Vice President, EMEA, Demandbase

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