How to make a good account-based marketing (ABM) pilot

By Barry Richards |
2 minute read

How to make a good account-based marketing (ABM) pilot

Half of the briefs we receive from clients are for piloting ABM for the first time. They're also always the most testing. Why?

Because pilots are often reduced programmes where there is less time, fewer resources (and budget)… but the expectations of proving ABM are just as high.

Furthermore, as ABM is really a framework – a marketing cycle – there are many moving parts, all of which could be tested. What’s right for one client, and one programme, may not be right for another but you’re not really getting a full picture of the potential of ABM by switching certain components on and off on a short-term pilot programme.

What are the moving parts?

First, you should probably look at what kind of ABM you need to pilot, and this needs to be a reflection of your business strategy.

  • Is it winning over or expanding into a large strategic account?
  • Is it targeting accounts where the biggest opportunities lie – giving you the license to show how marketing can customise its approach and match the uniqueness found in the account?
  • Is it reaching key decision makers in a cluster of accounts around a particular industry or business issue and showing how the right messages and activity can be consistently and repeatedly delivered (as opposed to some ad hoc sales support)?

And being very clear on your goals is just the first step in the journey. Whichever route you take, it will open doors to another set of questions.

  • How do you bring rigour and intelligence to account selection so you can prioritise the right accounts every time and get the right propositions to take to them?
  • How should you tailor your messaging to an account, customise content and test innovative ways of reaching people
  • How can you get sales and marketing to work together, and report on everything?
  • And if that wasn’t enough, how do you meet the expectations that, even though this is a pilot, people within the business will demand at least some success in engaging your chosen accounts

So, what makes a good ABM pilot?

A good pilot is one that gives you a conclusive result on what you choose to test. But with so many moving parts one should probably expect that some of these may not work the way you wanted.

A great pilot is one that also delivers a positive result with the chosen accounts, that drives engagement, that starts or deepens relationships which could lead to a meeting and so on.

To achieve these things the pilot will need the right amount of time and resources to set up, activate, deliver and analyse. Cut any of these things short and you might well wonder why the pilot isn’t delivering what you need. If you think through what might need to be set up and delivered in a pilot – is it reasonable to expect it to perform in a single quarter? If you’re allocating budget should you be thinking of setting funding in terms of discrete assets or running a marketing cycle?

The best pilots are the ones that have a clear remit of why they exist and what they want to test. They will always give good results – where a good result is a conclusive answer to what you are piloting. The least successful pilots tend to be the “Me Too’s”, where the driving factor is something that everyone else is doing.

In summary

You need to consider the following:

  • Be really clear what business need you are addressing and with what kind of account? Are you struggling to get a consistent message out to a set of key accounts or do you need to create a more customised approach for the accounts that matter the most to you (or both)?
  • Identify champions in the marketing and sales teams to make sure your pilot has the verve and drive it needs to succeed
  • Set a realistic time frame and budget to test what you need. Think about what can be realistically achieved in a 3-, 6-, 9- or 12-month window.
  • Be really clear about what you can and can’t measure in that time frame
  • Spend time finding the right partner for you to help you develop and run a pilot.

Find out if an account-based marketing pilot is right for your business on this page.