At least twice a week, marketers ask me how to best measure the performance of their company's account-based marketing (ABM) program.

It's the type of thoughtful question I'd expect from savvy marketers. After all, ITSMA research has shown that 85% of marketers measuring ROI are reporting ABM as delivering higher returns than any other approach. So, let the benchmarking commence, right?

Although I'd like to immediately give those colleagues a cut-and-dry answer, I instead often find myself digging a bit deeper. The truth is, before you can even start to effectively measure the success of your ABM efforts, you've got to first erect four strategic pillars:

  1. Identifying your target accounts
  2. Prioritizing your audience and resources for a particular campaign based on a tiered system
  3. Gaining agreement between Sales and Marketing on trigger events
  4. Tracking and optimizing results across a shared scorecard

All four are all critical, foundational components that must be in place before you crunch the numbers.

Not sure your marketing function has set itself up for future ABM analytics wins? Take these four steps to help you get your ducks in a row.

Step 1: Identify target accounts

The practice of ABM revolves around engaging and converting best-fit accounts that would provide the highest ROI for your business. Therefore, it makes sense that a key step in building a winning ABM program is deciding what kind of companies to target.

To do that, you'll want to create an ideal customer profile (ICP), defining the type of company that is a great fit for your product or service.

Lots of tools out there can help you identify your ICP (this handy worksheet might help). In addition, you'll want to leverage the following:

  • Your ABM tech stack: Use your existing ABM platform to identify accounts that meet your ICP. Take advantage of other predictive tools you have: Assess which of those accounts are in the decision-making process, and estimate when they'll be ready to buy.
  • Your CRM and marketing automation tools: Mine these treasure troves for a wealth of insights both on prospects and on currents clients ripe for upsell opportunities.
  • Info about your competitors' customers: Taking advantage of tools such as iDatalabs and HG Data, as well as conducting manual research via review sites and LinkedIn, engage in a little reconnaissance mission: Who are your competitors' customers, and how can this data help you shore up your ICP?
  • Info about your customers' competitors: You've got clients that love your products or services, so doesn't it make sense to consider similar companies when formulating your ICP? Business insights platforms, such as Owler, are fantastic tools for getting intel on businesses, including a list of their competitors and updates on industry news and events.

Step 2: Prioritize target accounts and align resources

Once you've created your ICP and come up with a list of targeted accounts, start prioritizing which ones should get the most attention, and what organizational resources will be utilized to give them that attention.

Important considerations include the following:

The campaigns: Which marketing campaign will your team be running when, and what type of accounts from your target list best sync with that content?

The tools: Which tools in your existing tech stack or other business insights applications can you lean on to gather account data? The more info you have, the better you'll be able to match specific accounts with specific campaigns and assign prospects to tiers.

The tiers: Different organizations prioritize accounts differently, but I often recommend a three-tier system:

  • Tier 1: Accounts that are perfect ICP fits
  • Tier 2: Accounts that strongly fit the ICP but might have a lower lifetime value
  • Tier 3: Accounts that fit the majority of ICP criteria, but not the full spectrum (worth going after, but not worth squandering significant resources on)

The resources: Cross-functional alignment between your Marketing, Sales, and Client Success teams is a paramount factor of ABM success. What message will be used for which accounts? Which will take ownership over particular prospects or tiers? What are the budget considerations at play? Get these details worked out well ahead of time so disorganization doesn't undermine your performance.

Step 3: Agree on triggers

In the world of ABM, a trigger event is a consequence that affects one of your target accounts, and/or a resulting action that can often signal the opening for new business opportunities.

Because every company has its own differentiators, its target accounts might also have different interactions that signal the motivation to buy. Those signals can range from no-brainers, such as the opening of one of your emails, to more subtle signs, such as a change in leadership or fresh financial news.

It's therefore imperative for your Sales and Marketing teams to agree on interaction thresholds that trigger steps by members of both functions. For that, you'll need to...

  1. Do your research: Which trigger events are most indicative or target accounts' potential to buy?
  2. Gain consensus: To be effective, Sales and Marketing must agree on the important triggers.
  3. Establish an SLA: Determine who is alerted to specific triggers, and what the handoff is from there? Establish a detailed workflow and deadline for the various steps.

Step 4: Establish one scorecard for measuring results

Once you've identified and prioritized key accounts and set up a process to act on trigger events, it's time to—drumroll please—haul in the data. But a word to the wise: to really benefit from the ABM process, Sales and Marketing should route data into a centralized scorecard that seamlessly attributes pipeline and revenue metrics.

Accordingly, look for an ABM application that allows you to track, compare, and optimize the results across one streamlined dashboard. That will align your efforts by breaking down...

  • Targeted accounts
  • Engagement metrics
  • Opportunities created and potential value
  • Accounts closed/won and their value

Once again, that scorecard is not going to look the same for every organization. Seek out ABM technology that allows you to customize your data hub to truly reflect your buyer's journey and sales lifecycle.

Because it has a direct impact on attribution, revenue insights, and organizational buy-in, effective measurement of ABM efforts is key to getting the most out of your investment. Just make sure you're setting yourself up for success by taking proactive steps to target the most promising accounts, collaboratively interact with them at the right time, and cohesively track your wins and challenges.

As Peter Drucker famously said, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." And I'd add: If you don't have the foundation set, you can't effectively measure it—yet. So lay the groundwork with these foundational steps, and then you can track your results the right way.

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image of Sangram Vajre

Sangram Vajre is a co-founder of Terminus and a book author. His latest book is is MOVE: The 4-Question Go-to-Market Framework. He is the founder of the FlipMyFunnel community, where B2B marketing and sales innovators foster the account-based mindset and learn from each other.

LinkedIn: Sangram Vajre

Twitter: @sangramvajre