Start with the 5K Version of Account-Based Marketing: Embrace a Simple Approach to Get Your Program Off the Ground

August 21, 2017 | Katie Bullard | 2 Comments |

Most of us think it would be an insane (and dangerous) plan to try to run a marathon before we’ve ever run a 5k. But, how many of us are trying to run an ABM marathon without running an ABM 5k?

Almost every sales and marketing team today is trying to decipher and breakdown how to implement account-based marketing (ABM) successfully without either abandoning all of their current marketing efforts or hiring an entirely new ABM focused team. That reality is a clue that many of us have over complicated the process – and the overwhelming and fragmented marketing technology landscape is definitely not helping. If you’re spending MONTHS working on compiling a list of target accounts before you ever get ABM off the ground (and we’ve heard of teams that have!), it’s clearly time to stop, simplify, and then get moving.

So, where’s the best place to start?

It is true that Step #1 in any ABM strategy is to identify your target accounts. But it doesn’t have to be a painful process. The easiest way to identify your top target accounts is to get a list of your best customers from your finance team and figure out what makes them unique. Those should be the customers that spend the most, are the most profitable, and stay with you the longest. In marketing lingo, we call that building an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), but in plain terms, it is as simple as saying what company attributes (size, industry, location), buyer attributes (title, role, department), and technology attributes (what technologies they have installed) set apart your best customers from everyone else. While you could spend months doing an in-depth statistical analysis of thousands of data points, that will more than likely sabotage your efforts. In the fast-paced environment we all operate in, we have to embrace progress – not perfection. So, this is a great place to apply the 80/20 rule: the top four or five attributes are going to get you most of the way there. An example ICP if you sell compliance management software might be:

  • $50m+ revenue and growing at 10%+ annually
  • 200+ employees
  • Highly regulated industries (Energy, Automotive, Financial Services, Insurance, and Healthcare)
  • North America HQ
  • No compliance management system in place yet

Once you have a good list of those four or five key attributes of your best customers, it’s time to find lookalike prospects: companies that have the same characteristics of your best customers. There are marketing and sales intelligence tools like DiscoverOrg that will help you both identify your ICP attributes AND quickly find your target prospects using your specific and unique criteria.


This is how straightforward it can be:

I was recently talking with Clinton Reeves, a DiscoverOrg power user at Pivotal, and he mentioned that when he joined the company recently, he was tasked with building out an initial ICP without over complicating or slowing down the sales process. His approach was to use DiscoverOrg to quickly analyze the technology stack of his 30 best customers to make a technology-based ICP since that is the most important criteria for them. Then, he used that information to rank prospect accounts in DiscoverOrg based on their current tech stack and created a simple search to build a target contact list at those accounts based on job function and title so that the team could engage with the right people at the right accounts and with a highly personalized message. To take ABM to the next level, build out a simple profile for each account and buyer persona and execute a series of coordinated plays around those prioritized accounts and contacts, including, but not limited to:

  • Personalized emails
  • Personalized calls
  • Direct mail campaign
  • Ad targeting
  • Events
  • Targeted content syndication
  • Personalized videos
  • Personalized landing pages

Start small and don’t try to boil the ocean – maybe your first list is only 30 accounts so that you can prove out the value of the ABM strategy. That is totally fine.

The keys to early success are to:

  1. Have a highly collaborative approach between sales and marketing,
  2. Take the time to be highly personalized in your outreach efforts, and
  3. Measure, measure, measure the incremental improvements in your success along the way. I had a friend once who was self-admittedly not a runner – in fact, she had never run more than two miles before.

But she wanted to run a marathon before she turned 30, which is a great goal. Unfortunately, she dove right into a rigorous training regimen without ever doing a 5K or 10K first. Her body literally broke down and she wasn’t able to even line up to start the race. She admitted later that she would have been just as happy if she had done a 5k. So, embrace the 5k or 10k version of ABM when you first start out. It can be just as satisfying as the 26-mile version.


Katie dishes more on ABM in the latest Monsters of Funnel ebook. Check it out and download!


  1. Phoebe Tran on August 22, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Great overview of how you can get an ABM program running with small, yet effective strategies. I would like to add in for Step #1 in Identifying Your Target Accounts that you also do an audit of your progress with those target accounts before you start your ABM efforts. It’ll give you something to compare back to. You could find that you’re actually having a lot more success than you thought!

    • Katie Bullard on August 22, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Great idea Phoebe – totally right!

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