How to deliver ABM at scale and drive spectacular sales growth

All articles | Marketing
Published Aug 08, 2023 | Written by Osian Barnes

As ABM (Account Based Marketing) becomes a mainstream marketing discipline how can you best automate and scale the approach to deliver on its promise?

What is ABM?

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a targeted sales approach that concentrates resources on a set of ideal customers. Using highly personalised campaigns, it attracts, engages, and converts pre-identified key accounts to secure transformative revenue growth. 

In recent years marketers have been focused on finding ways to scale its implementation and accelerate its impact.

Is ABM on course for mainstream adoption?

In 2019, according to Gartner’s hype cycle, ABM was in the ‘trough of disillusionment’ as marketers struggled to use available tools to scale and automate their approach. 

Even so, the results from those who were successfully implementing ABM were a continual source of wonder for those looking on:

But by 2022 Gartner had found marketers were already on the ‘slope of enlightenment’ - with the  knowledge, tools and support available to use ABM to improve the quality of their pipelines.

Even so, it's a highly targeted approach to sales challenges that for many businesses would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

So, who are the businesses who could most successfully exploit the potential of ABM? And what tools do they need to harness its power?

What sectors can it help with?

Industries with intricate purchasing networks and significant deals at stake can reap the rewards of the customised sales approach of Account Based Marketing.

For example, in B2B industrial sales, where services and equipment are expensive and buying cycles are long.  In these sectors, manufacturing marketers must persuade complex networks of engineers and other specialists to engage with them, often months or even years before they are actually ready to buy.  

When your sales targets are so hard to reach and impress, a bespoke and personalised approach to the sales mission may be required to get your message through.

ABM in action - a short case study

GumGum, a contextual intelligence platform, used their ABM process to identify and speak to key stakeholders at highly-targeted accounts in just this way. They created a customised comic book just for John Legere, then CEO of T-Mobile, who is a self-confessed Batman-enthusiast. This bold ABM tactic helped GumGum land a huge contract with T-Mobile, as they captured a key buyers attention in the most dramatic and flattering way.

But can you scale ABM?

ABM at scale can feel like an oxymoron. If you’re commissioning, beautifully finished, bespoke comic books for all your target clients, that may not sound very sustainable. 

But, just remember - a peacock doesn’t waste its energy displaying its fancy tail at display at everything that moves. Instead, it only presents at key moments in its romantic life, when it is most likely to (ahem) convert.   

Success in ABM is about streamlining and automating as much of its earliest stages as possible, so you have the time and resource available to concentrate on the critical, later stage, 1-2-1 conversion pieces:

Five-steps to planning and executing ABM at scale

1. Align your marketing and sales teams

Complete alignment between teams is vital to make ABM work.

At the start, ABM  is a process of marshalling sales and marketing resource to undertake research and intelligence gathering. You need to ensure everyone in the business is aligned in the objectives of the ABM project, and that you have the tech stack, process and resources in place to plan and execute the strategy properly.

2. Identify your target customers

This is the process of identifying the accounts that are most likely to convert.  It is about moving from generalised Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas, to real-world company and buyer profiles whom you can specifically target and convert.

It’s here the business agrees its most promising targets.  It builds a picture of the buying networks in the target organisations, and the kind of messaging and targeting they will resonate and respond to.

Establish a matrix early on, using a simple Excel sheet.  This will be a repository showing the challenges faced by each target business and the job roles within them.  This matrix can contain approved messaging, keywords and collateral suitable for each job role, so there is a common base to refer to before you start customising and personalising each approach.

3. Use the content you already have

Once you’ve established the specific wants and needs of the target organisations and the individuals within them,  you need to customise the content that you’ll use to attract, nurture  and convert your prospects.

At this stage you don’t need to create brand new, long form content or unique collateral like the superhero comic mentioned above. Your ABM approach can and should dovetail with your existing content strategy.  

Identify the content you already have for each stage of the buying cycle, that can be customised and made relevant to the narrower segments and job roles you have identified.

The customisation process may involve top and tailing existing content with specific messaging, or adding case studies, examples and language that you know will resonate with the audience.

Creating great personalised content involves understanding clients’ pain points and problems and trying to provide them with answers. The content should be educational and solve problems to create trust. 

Any content is valid—podcasts, blogs, eBooks, whitepapers, webinars - but focus on the platforms and media you know your target audience prefers to consume. And if you identify any gaps, create new content to fill them. 

4. Set SMART goals

SMART goals = specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. 

You must make sure you know how your ABM plan will be carried out. Don’t randomly target clients without being able to measure your marketing efforts. And don’t aim so high that you set yourself up for failure. Your target clients should be chosen because you have a high probability of success with them and your marketing budget will be well spent. 

5. Lever marketing technology to execute campaigns

There are many great marketing tools out there, and you should choose the one that best suits your budget and your company. 

Platforms like HubSpot can bring a range of useful features you can harness to plan and execute ABM.

  • Target Specific Accounts: HubSpot can recommend potential companies to target. It can handle complex  contact lists based on ABM contact and company properties.
  • Build bespoke workflows: Identify and tag those who fit your target criteria, and funnel them into bespoke nurturing campaigns.
  • Create ads for target accounts: If a LinkedIn Ads account is connected to HubSpot, a company list audience can be created to automatically sync companies.
  • Working with target accounts: HubSpot provides a home for tracking accounts and an account overview for a company record. It displays associated activities, contacts, internal stakeholders, deals, and tracked page views 
  • Analyse target accounts through reports: HubSpot provides a library of dashboards and reports based on the ABM properties to analyse existing ABM efforts and refine the ABM strategy.

You can use Hubspot and other ABM tools to help you build structured campaigns.  These tools can help you build a mixture of outbound and inbound approaches to filter and convert ABM prospects to contacts, and then contacts to leads.  

Much of this process can be automated, but in the later stages of lead nurturing - you can use collected data and customer insight to build impressive bespoke campaigns for the individuals you know can reward the attention you expend on them.

4 best practice tips for scaling your ABM approach

1. Do a pilot

ABM is a long-term growth strategy - not a short sprint for revenue. It’s best to run a pilot to test assumptions, content, data and the buyer experience. Translate this into a minimum of 30, 60 and 90-day plans. 

2. Use LinkedIn

Most buyers list LinkedIn as the most influential social media outlet during their buyer’s journey. A recent study by WeAreSocial found that 663.3 million people can be reached by adverts on LinkedIn.

Unlike other social platforms, LinkedIn is made for business, which is why you should ensure your target accounts see your advertising campaigns. Paid promotions offer an even more targeted audience. 

3. Use intent data

Intent data reveals an individual’s interest in a particular product and, therefore, what they could buy. But only a quarter of businesses use it. Intent data is extremely useful to target the customers most likely to buy your product or service with ABM.

You can gather intent data from many different sources, but the most readily available for most businesses is accessing the data through the company website. Examples of intent data include:

  • How many times a person has visited your website
  • The exact pages they looked at
  • How long they stayed on each page
  • Create great content with brands that complement your business 

Work with a brand that complements yours. Invite them to write a guest blog or to do an interview with you. It might seem counterintuitive, but you can significantly grow your audience. Working together may even provide you both with previously unforeseen benefits. Perhaps together you can offer a service that both of you were not able to offer individually.

4. Personalise

The key to ABM is being targeted and personalised.  That doesn’t mean creating bespoke campaigns for every individual, but ensuring in the first place you address their specific problems and pain points in the automated nurturing activity you undertake. For example, you can do this by building custom landing pages that serve up the blogs, case studies and guides that speak specifically to them.  This is a more effective customisation than a clunky mail merge relating to some captured personal detail.

As your relationship deepens, then the opportunity to deliver more bespoke and targeted creative starts to emerge.

But don’t be creepy

Don’t forget; there’s a distinction between ABM that delights with its ability to predict customer needs and speak to their deepest professional aspirations - and the kind of stuff that will just freak them out.


Account-based marketing has been a concept for years, but recent technological advances have made it easier to do and scale. It is time-consuming. It is multi-disciplined. It uses inbound and outbound outreach. It’s no quick-fix. However, it can yield significant revenue growth when planned and executed well. 

Published by Osian Barnes August 8, 2023
Osian Barnes