Understanding how much time each step of an account-based marketing (ABM) program is likely to take is important to a successful effort. Use this timeline during planning to develop realistic expectations. Some stages and steps in the following timeline might overlap; depending on the size of your organization and the extent of your ABM program, different teams can simultaneously work on different steps.
Stage 1: Strategy
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- Weeks 1 and 2: Achieve buy-in from sales, marketing, and management. You’ll need to gather data to bolster your ABM proposal. Sales collaboration—even the small amount necessary for a programmatic ABM pilot—will be a must, to ensure the team is all rowing in the same direction.
- Weeks 3 and 4: Determine key sales-cycle aspects. Work with sales to understand the sales cycle, including its length and complexity. Also gather info about average sales prices, target accounts, and expansion opportunities. And gauge how much commitment you can expect from sales; their willingness and ability to collaborate with you will influence which levels of ABM you can implement.
- Week 4: Prepare your list. With the knowledge you’ve gained, decide which type or types of ABM are the best fit for your program. Remember, you can always scale up as things get off the ground. Confirm the accuracy and status of your account list and make updates or corrections if needed.
- Week 4: Set baselines. Accurate measurement of program success depends on establishing a baseline and defining goals and measurement strategies before you begin developing your program.
Stage 2: Development
- Week 1: Prepare the target account list. Gather your list of target accounts from the sales team and enter each account into your customer-relationship management (CRM) system or marketing automation system (MAS), along with the appropriate tags. (You might need to modify fields in the system first.) Gather and import contacts into the system, as appropriate.
- Weeks 2-4: Interview your sales team. Depending on the number of accounts you have and the style of ABM you’re using, these interviews might be unnecessary, can take as little as a few hours, or spread out over several weeks. For lite or strategic programs, you’ll need to interview each sales rep to determine which accounts belong to them and how to best approach those accounts. During the interviews, you’ll need to talk to sales reps to categorize each account as lite or strategic. For lite and strategic programs, you’ll need the sales reps’ input on each account, including info about their industry, challenges, changes, needs, pains, engagements, corporate culture, and existing relationships. You’ll also want to get contact information for each rep to drive personal engagement with the accounts.
- Weeks 2-4: Determine strategic categories. As you gather account details, decide which strategic categories will work best for ABM customization. For a programmatic plan, this might be as simple as industry, region, or product. For more intensive levels, you might categorize accounts around pain point, product benefit, and so on.
- Weeks 2-4: Prepare master data. Whether you use a spreadsheet, a database, or other method, you’ll need a master location to store all the components of your program: company names, URLs, sales rep, ABM category, messaging, content, and so on.
Stage 3: Content creation
- Week 1: Assemble customized images. Gather logos and other graphics as necessary for banner or page customization, digital ads, social media, and nurture campaigns.
- Weeks 2-4: Create customized content. The amount of content you’ll need to create depends on your ABM level, but might include category templates, ad and banner text, personalized page elements, and targeted assets. Ask your sales team to review content at this stage, when changes are easiest to implement.
Stage 4: Page design
- Weeks 1-2: Draft page designs. Develop designs for the pages you want to serve to target accounts. Get approval from stakeholders for each design.
- Week 3: Resize images. You’ll need to resize your collected graphics to fit banners, ads, and any other element you have planned.
- Week 3: Create design files. Create design files for page and email banners and digital ads.
Stage 5: Supporting material creation
- Week 1: Develop digital ads. Lay out digital-ad targeting, based on developed domains (see Stage 6).
- Weeks 1-4: Create nurture campaigns. Nurture emails can help boost engagement for your ABM pages. Depending on the ABM level, these email series might be categorized around your segmentation or go even deeper, with multiple role-based series per segment. As part of this process, you might need to conduct further sales interviews. You’ll also need to set up the necessary UTM codes to track email performance and set up campaigns in the MAS of your choice.
Stage 6: Technical execution
- Week 1: Research target domains. From your list of target accounts, develop a list of target domains. You’ll need this information for IP-address resolution and digital advertising.
- Week 2: Complete technical customizations. Prepare your web pages and line up IP-address resolution tools (if not included in an ABM support tool like CompassABM).
- Weeks 2-4: Import data into your ABM tool. If you’re using an ABM support tool like CompassABM, this step involves importing your master data into the tool. The task won’t take two weeks but can occur any time during weeks 2 to 4, depending on the size of your effort.
- Week 4: Convert links. Once you have the final URLs for any custom pages, convert them to shortened links for use in emails and sales communications.
- Week 5: Complete final review. All stakeholders (but especially sales reps) should provide a final review of all customized materials. Make revisions as necessary.
- Week 6: Go live. Publish your customized pages, launch inbound digital ads, and turn on your nurture campaigns. If possible, hold a launch meeting with the sales team to encourage strategic account plan execution.
Stage 7: Measurement and review
- Weeks 2-12: Monitor progress. Once your program has launched, conduct biweekly marketing and sales meetings to determine the effectiveness of the effort. You can modify account plan components and move accounts to a different ABM level, as necessary.
- Week 12: Measure results. Allow at least 12 weeks for your program to see measurable results.
Feeling overwhelmed, or worried about resource gaps as you look through this timeline? CompassABM can help. Some of the steps noted above are integrated functionality in CompassABM so that best practices are well supported. For others, we offer optional services to cover content creation, sales alignment, digital marketing management, and more—even a fully-fledged pilot development package. Contact us for more information or to schedule a demo.