The B2B Marketer's Guide to Account-Based Marketing

Put Your Customers at the Center of Everything You Do

Over the past few years, more and more B2B marketers have adopted account-based marketing (ABM) as part of their overall strategy.

What makes ABM so popular? The answer is simple: An effective ABM strategy helps you market to every account that matters to your business. And within those accounts, ABM helps you speak to every buyer in unique and personalized ways, building trust and increasing the lifetime value of your customer relationships.

are using ABM today or planning to start soon.

of ABM users see at least double ROI compared to other marketing methods.2

With the right technology and processes in place, any B2B company — regardless of size or industry — can implement a successful ABM strategy.


What Is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing strategy that focuses on specific customers or accounts. Instead of a single, broad-based campaign with a wide audience, ABM uses multiple highly personalized campaigns to engage accounts with an individualized approach.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to ABM, and strategies vary based on business goals. Typically, ABM programs fall into one of three buckets: one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many programs.

One-to-one ABM programs target accounts with high revenue potential. These accounts are going to be where you spend a majority of your ABM budget, time, and energy, but it will be well worth the work based on the potential lifetime value of the customer.

One-to-few ABM programs are a bit broader than the one-to-one programs, but still very targeted. With one-to-few campaigns, the focus should be on narrowing down your account list based on specific criteria that lets you connect with a group of accounts that have similar pain points, buying groups, and business goals.

One-to-many ABM programs identify potentially hundreds of accounts that fall into your target market and also share commonalities across segment, industry, or other relevant criteria. These programs rely heavily on a scaled approach to reach these accounts with what still feels like a personalized message.

The best ABM strategies:

  1. Identify key accounts.
  2. Engage buyers where they are.
  3. Deliver connected engagements.
  4. Grow customer relationships.

To bring ABM to life, you will need a customer relationship management (CRM) solution and a marketing automation platform. Your CRM serves as the single source of truth for data, and powers an account-centric ABM strategy. Your marketing automation platform is critical to engaging target markets at scale. With these innovative technologies, any B2B company can launch and grow an ABM strategy that resonates with their buyers and strengthens customer relationships.

CRM is the source of data.

Marketing automation is for engagement at scale.

Companies that take advantage of ABM’s potential are seeing impressive results.

of ABM users achieve 10% or greater ROI. 3

of ABM users see at least 2x ROI compared with other marketing methods. 4

Additional Resources

  • How To Speak ABM: Getting Started with Account-Based Marketing

    Tune in to the latest ABM insights, trends, and strategies.

    Listen to the Podcast

What Does It Mean to Be “Account-Centric”?

ABM is ultimately about being account-centric, where your buyers are at the center of every interaction. It relies on creating highly personalized experiences by combining targeted content and intentional communications across every touchpoint.

Today, 69% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs. And every buying committee seems to have a language all its own. That’s why ABM is built around being able to interpret and understand buyers on an individual level, so your marketing speaks to them in a way that anticipates and fulfills their needs.

Sixty-nine percent of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs.

The key to doing this successfully lies in your CRM. It’s your single source of truth for account data that gives teams a 360-degree view of the customer and powers account-centric marketing. Next, you can personalize engagements for your audience with marketing automation.

  • Identify and Target Accounts

    Use data from your CRM and input from your sales team to identify the best ABM target accounts.

  • Account Personalization

    Create personalized content for target accounts and distribute it in the ways they prefer.

  • Engagement Orchestration

    Share leads and adjust tactics across marketing, sales, and service teams based on engagement data.

  • Insights and Measurement

    To measure the success of campaigns and increase customer retention, track engagement, awareness, and lead-quality metrics.

Additional Resources

  • How to Speak ABM: Account Anthropology

    Learn how marketers can understand buyers on a deeper level.

    Listen to the Podcast The Marketing Cloudcast

How to Identify and Target Your Top Accounts

A successful ABM strategy starts with identifying the right accounts to target. This can include a combination of new and existing accounts. Use your CRM data to identify top accounts that combine potential for high revenue with a strong likelihood of conversion.

Both marketing and sales should be involved in identifying target accounts and maintaining open lines of communication for sharing insights and data. Once identified, get to know each of these accounts and their buying committees, including the types of content they engage with and the channels they use. Your CRM data will come in handy for this, but you can also search the web and social media to get a nuanced understanding of your target accounts’ particular challenges, priorities, and needs.

Once you’ve identified the accounts you want to target and developed a 360-degree understanding of their needs and preferences, these accounts can be used as templates to build lookalike audiences for one-to-few or one-to-many ABM programs. This can help you find additional accounts, expand your ideal customer profiles (ICPs), and increase the scope of your ABM plan to include all the best accounts for your business.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you identify your target accounts:

  1. Use account, contact, and lead record data to identify the right accounts to target.
  2. Use analytics tools to inform strategic planning and to measure and track results.
  3. Use ICPs to keep sales and marketing aligned on audience outreach.
  4. Use artificial intelligence to score and prioritize leads and recommend deal cycle next steps.

Additional Resources

  • How To Target the Right Accounts and Other ABM Insights From a CMO

    This CMO’s ABM strategy won big. See her 3 tips for building yours.

    Read the Blog

Creating Your ABM Toolkit

With the examples and best practices in this chapter, you’ll have the flexibility to deliver custom content across every touchpoint at the right time.

Explore the tools that can help you enhance your ABM strategy.


Executing Your ABM Strategy

According to the State of Marketing report, 65% of business buyers are likely to switch brands if a vendor doesn’t personalize communications to their company. When you deliver the personalized experiences your top accounts want, you’ll be more likely to land — and keep — their business.

To execute ABM successfully, you’ll need a high level of coordination between your marketing, sales, and service teams.

All teams need to be aligned on:

  1. Which accounts to target
  2. What determines engagement
  3. Which metrics to measure
  4. How to build relationships with buyers
  5. What success looks like

ABM brings previously siloed marketing, sales, and service teams together around a single view of the customer. In fact, according to B2B Marketing Trends, top B2B marketing teams are 1.6 times more likely than underperforming teams to collaborate with sales teams on ABM programs.

Your marketing team works closely with sales to identify target accounts. They also drive strategy and personalization for each ABM campaign.

Marketing Roles

  • CMOs identify key accounts and track the team’s progress
  • Marketing directors create a strategy for targeting key accounts
  • Marketers create content for personalized experiences

Plays for Marketing

  • While you’ll build custom, personalized content and manually manage engagements for your Tier 1 accounts, marketing automation will be vital for targeting and engaging Tier 2 and Tier 3 accounts. Use it to reach specific segments of your audience with targeted campaigns.
    • For example, if you’re targeting new accounts in the healthcare space, developing content around how providers use your solution to deliver better patient outcomes will serve as a highly relevant basis for a campaign. Then use marketing automation to target and engage with key accounts at scale.
  • Run highly targeted, personalized digital campaigns to supplement your ABM approach. Personalize these based on industry, business needs, geography, and so on. Use your CRM data (predictive analytics, lead scores, intent measures) and build lookalike audiences to identify the right accounts to target. Account-based advertising is only one part of a full ABM strategy, but it is important when engaging new target accounts.
  • Heading to a conference or hosting an event? Identify key targets before you arrive and serve them personalized campaigns and content to drive event attendance or booth visits.

Sales will use data and marketing-provided templates to drive engagement with target accounts.

Sales Roles

  • Head of sales identifies which leads are most important
  • Sales leaders inform strategy and keep lines of communication open with marketing
  • Sales reps customize campaigns and close deals

Plays for Sales

  • Predictive lead scoring makes it easy for sales reps to match accounts to the right content and engagements along the customer journey. By sharing the same data with marketing, sales knows when a target account is ready to convert, and when it needs to return to marketing for continued nurturing.
  • Guided selling drives data-driven decisions before, during, and after conversations with top accounts. Give sales reps access to the same data that marketers use to build personalized content and engagements, and guide top accounts to the next best action every time — from the first touchpoint to a closed deal.
  • Upselling and cross-selling maximizes revenue and develops long-term customer relationships. By using past engagement data, company growth, or changing industry needs, sales reps anticipate when a key account will be ready for a new product or upgrade, and use that information to send relevant content and offers at the right moment.

Your service and support teams use data and insights to continue growing relationships with target accounts even after the account has been won.

Service Roles

  • Service leaders engage accounts to grow customer advocacy
  • Service reps listen and respond to customers to increase retention
  • Service reps identify high-value customers with potential to atrophy and put a plan in place to reengage the account

Plays for Service

  • Account-based customer support grows the lifetime value of target accounts. Capture the right data throughout the entire customer journey — from early marketing research to the last deal your sales team closes — and apply a 360-degree view and deep personalization to key accounts.
  • An ABM approach to customer service is a potential lifeline to reengaging a red account. The hyper-personalized experiences provided by ABM offer buyers a unique level of attention, insight, and value.
    • For example, if a product or service doesn’t meet the expectations of target account members, ABM’s shared data and aligned goals have already armed your service reps with the information they need to reestablish trust and offer better solutions.

How to Align All Three Teams

The centralized data required by ABM brings your teams together with a single view of the customer. They’ll be able to take full advantage of intent data, predict when and how to engage a buying committee, and clearly understand the goals and metrics they’re responsible for.

At every level, sales, marketing, and service will need to work together to identify the most high-value accounts, set measurable goals, and track progress as each account moves into the sales funnel.

Additional Resources

  • Ramp Up Your B2B Account-Based Marketing Strategy With This Crawl-Walk-Run Approach

    3/4 of marketers report a higher ROI on account-based marketing than any other marketing effort.

    Read the Blog
  • 4 Ways Technology Can Give Your Account-Based Marketing Strategy a Boost

    New tech is making ABM more effective. Here are 4 ways to use it.

    Read the Blog
  • Marketing Intelligence Report: Data, Growth, And The New Marketing Mandate

    Learn why cross-channel measurement and analytics is essential to your ABM strategy.

    Read The Report

Salesforce for Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing is, first and foremost, a marketing strategy. From identifying your top accounts, engaging buyers, delivering connected engagements, and growing customer relationships, the key to ABM starts with being account-centric and putting your customer at the center of every interaction.

Account-based marketing programs will look different for every company based on their audience and goals, so it’s important to find the perfect mix of solutions to run the right program to reach your audience. Salesforce offers a full menu of solutions to help companies run the perfect ABM strategy to meet the needs of their customers and grow customer relationships.

With Salesforce, you’ll be able to market to every account, and speak to every buyer.

And they’ll like what they hear.

Getting Started with ABM Technology

  • Sales Cloud
  • Marketing Cloud Account Engagement
  • Salesforce Engage

Continuing your ABM Journey

  • Marketing Cloud Advertising
  • Tableau CRM

Moving to ABM Maturity

  • Marketing Cloud Intelligence
  • Service Cloud
  • AppExchange Data Partners


See account-based marketing in action.

  • Identify key accounts
  • Engage buyers everywhere
  • Deliver connected engagements
  • Grow customer relationships

Watch Demo