You might be in a rush to get an ABM program running—if so, we get it. We've been there. What we've learned is that the fastest way to get a program going, and to keep the program on track down the road, is to hold an internal workshop before you begin.
At the risk of overemphasizing the point, every successful ABM program we’ve run for our tech clients, without fail, has started with a good internal workshop.
When you get the core people in a room hashing out ideas, you find out important information, get to alignment faster, speed up your time to market, and increase the likelihood of great results.
So, what makes a good workshop? Here’s how we do it.
1. Get the right people in the room
We make sure to invite the individuals who know how to run marketing and sales and the people who have decision-making authority for the program. Regardless of title, think about who will be involved in or making marketing decisions across the entire buyer journey.
Keep it to 10 or fewer people who have roles like:
- VP of Marketing
- VP of Sales (target account focus)
- Marketing automation lead
- Regional Sales Director
- Marketing content lead
- Sales Development Rep Lead
- Marketing manager
- Sale Enablement Lead
- Research Lead
If your list has more than 10 people, write out what each person will bring to the discussion. This’ll help identify who doesn’t need to be there.
2. Prepare for the workshop
In the weeks prior, compile documents and information that will help you make the most of your workshop.
At Yesler, we ask for the documents listed below, and our integrated marketing strategist reviews them to build a framework for the ABM strategy.
- Business goals: revenue targets with average customer and sale values
- Marketing and sales objectives by quarter
- Buyer personas: target audience, job titles, pain points, any specifics available
- Buyer journeys: the purchase path from becoming aware of a problem, identifying solutions and making a purchase
- Industry overview: trends, challenges, etc.
- Competitor research
- Messaging frameworks
- Previous marketing performance, general demand generation, and ABM-specific tactics
- Overview of current marketing infrastructure and measurement capabilities
This stuff isn’t always documented. In that the case, identify and interview the individuals who know it.
3. Run the workshop
Being responsible for and running the workshop can be a big task. You’ll have a diverse group of people with a range of job titles and seniorities, and it’s your job to keep people engaged and motivated. We like to make the workshop interactive, with handwriting on cards posted to the wall and active participation to keep people moving and engaged.
Tip: Make sure participants know when breaks are scheduled so they can plan to check email during those times. And yes: stick to the breaks on the dot.
Bonus tip: If you go all day, order a light lunch.
We begin the workshop with the goals written on a large white sheet stuck to the wall. After intros, we review them first thing. At this point you can cross things off or add to it based on feedback from the people in the room.
With goals locked down, quickly review the agenda so you can make any adjustments. It’s easy to overpack the agenda, so we always ask the group: “If we had to remove one thing, what would it be?” That way, if we start running long we know what to skip.
Establish business context
The workshop begins with reviewing and agreeing on the business goals—written on a large white sheet or board.
Some business goals are locked in for the year and others change by quarter and can differ by groups. The goals often include numbers for revenue, leads, MQLs, pipeline, and so on. Note any other goals for project work as well.
Once written and agreed on, everyone can refer to them when talking about other priorities throughout the day.
Think your company could benefit from an ABM workshop?
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Create a target account list
Does everyone agree on what an ideal customer looks like? This is when you find out.
We give a quick overview of what should be included in an ideal customer profile (ICP). Demographics, firmographics (demographics for companies), and technographics (a company’s technological characteristics) are the usual primary buckets, but they can vary.
Next, ask everyone in the room fill out a card describing their idea of the ICP. As people finish, ask each to give a quick overview of their ICP before sticking it on the wall.
When the cards are up, group similar cards together and review similarities and differences with the group. Then discuss and come to agreement about what the ICP should be and if there should be more than one.
You’ll then have the first components of your ABM target account criteria.
Using the ICP as criteria, ask everyone to list the companies that they think fit the profile and that should be on the target account list. We often find a few more criteria to add to the ICP during this exercise.
Get all the companies up on the wall and identify duplicates and ways to group them. Now you have a target account list. (A much larger list should be built during a research phase following the workshop.) All companies should be evaluated based on likelihood of helping you reach your business goals.
Agree on your target audience
If you have documented buyer personas, that’s a great place to start. Review these with the group.
If you don’t have buyer personas, start by asking everyone to write down target job titles on cards. Get the cards on the wall and go from there: Segment them by decision makers and influencers.
Your goal is to get everyone to agree on who you should be targeting. You also want everyone to understand the roles that make up the buying committee.
If you have time, drill into persona pain points, primary drivers, and how to influence them.
Map your buyer journeys
Then work through the paths buyers will take to making a purchase. In B2B, you can usually start with two main journeys: the direct journey and the partner-channel journey. Map these during the workshop so you can draw on all the knowledge in the room. Then, pinpoint where in those journeys the target audience can be most influenced.
What topics are on the minds of the personas at which buyer stages?
These journeys will guide your marketing strategies and highlight where you have gaps. If buyers are getting free trials during the evaluation stage from your competitors and you don’t have a free trial, you have a gap.
Build your ABM plan
Think about specific people within a target account, name them if you can, and list all the ways you can reach them—include all channels and tactics. Then rank channels and tactics from best to worst and align them to the buyer journey to determine how the effectiveness of the channels differ when you have contact info and when you don’t.
Your budget is a key factor in how you reach your audience and for building your distribution plans. It’s usually more difficult deciding what not to do. This is where ranking channels helps. During the workshop, you don’t need to finalize your distribution strategy, but you should walk away with a good idea of the main channels you will use—and you need that before you can discuss your content strategy.
Determine your content and messaging strategy
We recommend thinking about distribution content first because your channels will influence what content formats and messages you should create.
Start with your buyer-journey maps. Ask:
- What topics are listed for each buyer stage?
- Where can you provide the most value while influencing the target audience to your solution or product?
The sales team usually has good insights into what works best at later buyer stages for different personas. Build out as much as you can with the knowledge from the room, and note where you need to do more research.
Sketch out measurement and reporting
Make sure to touch on how you will measure and report the program’s performance, relying on the knowledge in the room to inform the group. ABM is best measured by:
- Reach within an account
- Engagement with your marketing, and
- Pipeline velocity.
Overall, you want to influence the individuals involved in an account’s buying decision.
How you measure this influence will be determined by your martech capabilities and ABM program details. At Yesler, we always map out what’s possible with the current infrastructure and what isn’t.
Think through coordination details
The entire workshop is about alignment and making decisions as a team—everything from the ideal customer profile to the content topics that work best for different personas. We always discuss specifics about communication and handoffs between different teams because ABM requires precise orchestration to keep the personalization working smoothly.
List the main tasks to be completed and assign responsibilities to teams and individuals. Identify the actions that trigger the handoff of a lead from marketing to sales. You won’t solve for every task during the workshop, but it will get you thinking about what actions you’ll need to pay attention to and where you might have process gaps.
4. Wrap it all up
It’s been a long day of heavy thinking, and your team is at the end of their attention span. If you’re leading the workshop, this is the most difficult part to the day. Hopefully you’ll now know:
- The criteria for the companies you want to target.
- Names of some companies that match target criteria.
- Who the target audience is and the personas you plan to target.
- What the buyer journeys are, the topics you need to focus on at each stage, and where you can be most influential.
- How you can reach your target audience.
- The content topics and formats that will be most effective.
- How you will measure success.
Look at what you’ve listed out: Will it work to reach your business goals? Where are the gaps? What do you need to focus more on?
Finish by setting priorities and establishing a list of roles and responsibilities.
Workshops like this are a big undertaking, but if you do them correctly they’ll accelerate your account-based marketing efforts and align your marketing and sales teams.
We find that getting cross-team alignment early can save weeks during the planning process.