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Shining a Light on the Anatomy of an Account-Based Play

March 6, 2017 | Justin Gray | 2 Comments |

Quit chasing shadows.

As our friend Sangram shared with us this morning, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is what’s next for B2B. It brings Sales and Marketing together once again to engage in a more collaborative, hybrid practice. Marketing does a little Sales. Sales does a little Marketing. Everyone leaning on the data and tech stack to make magic happen.

But how, exactly, does Marketing do Sales? Or vice versa? More to the point—how does everyone do that little bit of everyone else’s job right consistently over time? If we’re going to flip our funnel and intentionally limit our focus to a much smaller group of accounts, how do we make sure we do it right?

Set up your playbook.

Look, it’s like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave which, if you’re not familiar, suggests we’re all blind to the full spectrum of reality, and only perceive what we can figure out from shadows cast on the cave wall in front of us. Instead of chasing our own shadows, we put our head’s together and come up with specific, repeatable plays.

account-based allegory of the cave

We keep our plays in a playbook and run them like macros. If THIS happens. We do THAT. And here’s WHAT that is. This isn’t rocket science, but it lets us act like rocket scientists—launching moonshot after moonshot after moonshot. So now that everyone is aligned and has access to the playbook, what goes into a play?

Remember the 5 W’s.

Hyper-personalization is at the heart of Account-Based Marketing. Everything is built around threaded, multi-touch plays woven throughout the organization; everyone executing their piece and delivering value across every touchpoint. If you want to build great plays, remember the 5 W’s.

  • WHO? Map the account teams on both sides of the deal. Who on our team is engaging? Who on their team is engaging? What’s that look like?
  • WHAT? What do we know about them? Can we surface any relevant pain points? And what do they know about us? How do we fill in the gaps?
  • WHEN? When do we invite them to our first high-value touchpoint? No, we’re not talking 30-minute demo. We’re offering a one-and-a-half hour deep dive to share a highly customized report we built exclusively for them.
  • WHERE? Where are we making these connections? On LinkedIn or social media? At industry events or conferences? Over drinks and dinner with local peers?
  • WHAMMY! The best part: threading our plays through the organization; watching our consulting directors align to theirs, seeing executives get to know each other—everyone delivering value in bite-sized pieces most relevant to their peers within the account.

Visualize the outcomes.

We understand our solution and trust how it drives revenue and success in our customers’ organizations. We understand their pain points and know how to both prevent and relieve them. Our focus is narrowed significantly. We are filtering out the noise, and locked on frequency. This is the perception you want to become reality.

Deals that slip or go to competitors all come down to coverage. There shouldn’t be any surprises when it’s time to sign. The 5 W’s are an easy way of remembering what goes into a successful account-based play.

If you know who all the players are, where to find them, what they need—and have a solid playbook guiding your team to consistently deliver value and engagement—you’re already out of the shadows. You’re stepping into the light of Account-Based. It’s time to rise. And shine.


  1. Avatar Lauren Patrick on March 6, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Love these 5 Ws of Account-Based Marketing, Justin! Although, I do miss seeing “Why” on this list. What would Simon Sinek say?!

    • jgray@leadmd.com jgray@leadmd.com on March 6, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      The “why”is always trust. And I needed an extra why left for Whammy!

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