The B2B Marketer's Guide to Account-Based Marketing

Put Your Customers at the Center of Everything You Do

Account-based marketing (ABM) has gotten a lot of buzz among marketing and sales teams — and for good reason. We face a new world with tighter budgets, fewer resources, and sky-high customer expectations. Brands must efficiently engage with customers, optimize performance, and reduce costs — all while making every moment count. Demand for personalized, real-time customer moments is increasing, and B2B marketers need more ways to drive revenue from high-value accounts. The most strategic approach? Aligning marketing, sales, and service teams with an ABM strategy.

What makes ABM so effective? It’s efficient. A cohesive high-touch strategy with marketing, sales, and service helps you more efficiently market to the accounts that matter to your business. And within those accounts, ABM helps you speak to every buyer in a unique and personalized way — building trust and increasing the lifetime value of your customer relationships.

of B2B marketers have an ABM program.1

of marketers see higher ROI with ABM compared to other marketing methods2

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


What Is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing 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. While it has “marketing” in its name, ABM is not just for marketing teams. ABM involves close alignment across marketing, sales, and service. This close alignment across teams helps you target accounts and ensure a seamless experience — all with a unified message.

As a result, a number of revenue teams are expanding the term to be more inclusive of everyone involved in the strategy. You might also hear terms like "Account-Based Engagement" or "Account-Based Experience," all which showcase how Account-Based Marketing is evolving.

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: 1-to-1, 1-to-few, and 1-to-many programs.

1-to-1 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.

1-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.

1-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 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.

What do you need to bring an ABM strategy to life? It’ll take a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, combined with a marketing automation platform. Your CRM serves as the single source of truth for data, and powers your account-centric strategy. Your marketing automation platform is critical to engaging target markets at scale and in real time. By unifying this tech stack, all B2B revenue teams can launch and grow an ABM strategy that drives business value 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, real-time experiences that combine targeted content and intentional communications across every touchpoint.

Today, 62% of buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs, with over half expecting offers to always be personalized. That’s why ABM is designed to interpret and understand buyers on an individual level, so your marketing automatically delivers relevant, personalized content and messages across every channel. For example, when targeting individual buyers based on their role, a CMO would receive one marketing message while a CIO would get another. Aligning marketing, sales, and service teams allows you to equip each team with real-time insights, data, and messages to deliver the right experiences to the right accounts at the right moments.

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

The key to doing this successfully is 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 real-time 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 personas within those 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. They also must maintain open lines of communication for sharing insights and data, such as previous conversion data, account scoring, buying signals from committee members, and look-alike accounts. Once identified, get to know each of these accounts and their buying committees, from understanding the content they prefer and to the channels they use. Your CRM and marketing engagement 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.

However, an intensive study of your accounts can be exhausting and time-consuming. So how can you take the guesswork and analysis out of identifying your top accounts? Try artificial intelligence (AI). Typically, identifying accounts requires marketing, sales, and service teams to sit down and comb through the data. But AI can make this process easier, faster, and efficient — uncovering insights and giving teams a clear rubric as to which accounts are best to engage.

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, marketing, and service aligned on audience outreach.
  4. Use AI 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 in real time.

Regardless of what tools you use, in order to scale personalized outreach, you’ll want to rely on your demand generation marketing technology. Recent innovations to this technology can now perform scaled personalized outreach much earlier in the marketing funnel. Consequently, demand gen and account-based tactics are converging. As marketers start collecting more first- and zero-party data from their customers, they can pull from firmographic data and buying intent signals when casting their net. The result? Demand gen marketers can be more precise earlier on in the funnel, and thus can build 1-to-few experiences at scale.

This just doesn’t benefit marketing outreach — with the right technology, these insights benefit all teams when they are doing outreach to customers. Sales can tailor conversations based on what content their prospects have downloaded. Marketing can see if a customer has a service ticket in the funnel, and pause communications until it’s resolved. When every team is connected, every team wins.

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


Executing Your ABM Strategy

According to the State of Marketing report, 89% of B2B marketers are using an ABM platform to deliver a unified end-to-end experience. And for good reason: 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/VPs identify key accounts and track the team’s progress
  • Marketing directors create a strategy for targeting key accounts
  • Marketers create content for personalized experiences and execute strategy

Plays for Marketing

  • Marketing automation will be vital for creating hyper-personalized experiences at scale for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 accounts. Use it to automate processes and easily reach specific segments of your audience with targeted campaigns and content.
  • Run highly targeted, personalized digital campaigns to create 1-to-1 and 1-to-few experiences at scale. Personalize these based on industry, business needs, geography, and so on. Use your data (i.e. 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. Consider microsites, personalized landing pages, and hyper-targeted advertising.
  • Predictive lead scoring makes it easy to match accounts to the right content and engagements along the customer journey. By sharing the same data across marketing and sales, target accounts can be seamlessly converted or returned for continued nurturing.
  • 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 works with marketing to identify 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. Give sales teams the tools to see how prospects are engaging, and what factors make them a good prospect.
  • 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. By giving sales a window into how prospects are engaging with marketing assets, they can better tailor conversations to be relevant and effective.
  • Upselling and cross-selling in lockstep with marketing maximizes revenue and develops long-term customer relationships. By aligning with marketing, sales teams are able to better nurture leads with relevant content and offers to close deals.

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.

ABM and Your Industry

Learn essential tips and best practices when building an ABM strategy specific to your industry.

  • Healthcare and Life Sciences

    Navigate complex audiences and personalize the health experience.

  • Financial Services

    Align marketing and customer-facing reps for real-time personalization with a big pay off.

  • Communications, Media, and Technology

    Differentiate your brand while increasing account engagement.

  • Manufacturing

    Deliver hyper-relevant moments that deepen customer relationships.

  • retail-night

    Retail and Consumer Goods

    Turn each engagement into a lifelong customer.

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 primarily a marketing strategy. But aligning with sales and service is vital to its success. 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 range of solutions for companies of all kinds to meet needs of their customers and grow customer relationships with ABM.

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 Marketing and Sales Alignment

  • Sales Cloud
  • Marketing Cloud Account Engagement
  • Marketing Cloud Account Engagement Sales Emails and Alerts

Personalize at Scale

  • Marketing Cloud Advertising
  • Marketing Cloud Personalization

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