How to Build an Effective ABM Sales Funnel: A Realistic Guide

This guide is not going to waste your time and repeat the same definitions and tips about ABM you’ve probably read a thousand times. If you are searching for how to build an ABM sales funnel, you must already have a pretty good idea of what ABM is and why it’s the future of B2B sales.

So, let’s not concern ourselves with what and why, and instead focus on how.

How is ABM different from the traditional sales funnel?

How do you build a successful ABM sales funnel?

How do you find your targets, build your marketing, execute it and measure results?

 Is there a to-do list of practical steps? (wink-wink)

Our team at the UMG researched and tested all these questions in the field to determine the best and most realistic ABM solution at your company.

Here’s the guide to the most accessible and practical way of getting quality bookings and increasing ROI.

ABM Sales funnel VS Traditional Sales Funnel

Yes, yes, ABM is the new popular kid on the block, the new clever buzzword that signals the future. But amidst all these blog articles calling it revolutionary, it’s hard to imagine the real difference from the traditional ways of selling and moreover — what it means practically.

ABM promises amazing results for less effort and data-driven intelligent account engagement, but how does it actually achieve that?

The trick is data-driven targeting.

Let’s take a look at how we’ve been selling for the past 100 years.

By Drift

These are the stages that the general buyer will go through before making a decision. It’s fairly easy to deduce the key to successful sales — fill the funnel with as many prospects as possible to gain as much revenue as possible.

But what if we’ve been getting it all wrong all this time? What if we flip the funnel upside down?

This is the key difference between ABM and a traditional sales approach is the focus on the highly targeted list and increasing ROI.

Instead of treating marketing and sales as a numbers game and casting as wide a net as possible, the aim is to focus on a small handful of prospects and to tailor your marketing to the individual.

These are the steps that ABM takes instead.
  1. Identify. Do meticulous research to find and identify that small pool of high-value targets that check all the boxes of your ideal customer.
  2. Personalise. A survey by CEB found that consumers were 40% more likely to become a customer if they perceive that the content was tailored to their specific needs. Using the info found on your target, make the marketing address their specific challenges.
  3. Engage. Design and set up your approach. A combination of the main 3 communication channels — Email, LinkedIn and Cold Calling is one of the most popular and effective approaches.
  4. Measure and optimise. The way the funnel is structured makes it really easy to get exact data by segment on the effectiveness of the approach, measure ROI and address possible issues.

Easier said than done, right? You’ve probably read all that before but still haven’t found an answer to the big important question — is ABM really applicable to the way your business functions?

Based on our experience, the short answer is yes.

It’s important to know ABM is merely a principle that in practice can be adapted to your own business needs.

3 Types of ABM

The spectrum of ABM ranges from truly one-to- one conversations with the largest accounts, to programmatic ABM with hundreds of lower-value accounts.

Here are the most common approaches:

  • Strategic ABM — This is pure ABM methodology that aims at establishing one-on-one connections with only a select few relevant accounts who have the highest revenue potential. Since the target list is short and the marketing materials are highly personalised, sometimes written with a specific prospect in mind, this ABM requires significant investment and patience and may not suit every enterprise.
  • ABM Lite — This is a one-to-few approach that targets clusters of qualified prospects. The marketing strategy does not have to be extremely bespoke — however, market segmentation is crucial.
  • Programmatic ABM — This popular one-to-many approach relies on technology and automation to engage the accounts. The target lists are wide reaching thousands and personalisation is quite light. This approach makes it possible for single sales reps to manage high volumes of prospects at once.

All of these approaches can be mixed and matched according to what your business needs.

The team at the UMG experimented with different ABM types and figured out a unique ABM-inspired approach that combines the best of all 3 worlds and works for most enterprises!

Types of ABM

Practical tips to implement ABM

ABM is a long-term strategy that requires time and money investment, so you can’t afford to get started on the wrong foot and waste hours and thousands in resources for a strategy that would only work on paper.

Reading ABM theory is not enough — theory is mostly written by marketers who only see the top of the funnel and not the end result, which is, arguably, the most important part.

This next part is written with the end goal in mind — the actual conversion rates and ABM effectiveness from a sales perspective. Talk about true sales and marketing alignment, huh?

Here is a tried and tested approach from the UMG team that’s been working for over 500+ of our clients.

Find target accounts that fit your ICP

The whole point of ABM is that you know exactly who you are reaching out to, rather than casting a wide net and hoping it would catch someone.

So, you need to know who exactly you want to be connecting to — specifically, your Ideal Customer Profile.

Whether it’s a new specific ICP, it’s important to imagine that customer to the utmost detail.

Some of the most common criteria that you can use to filter your target is the so-called firmographics — and general and widely accessible information on specific companies.

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Company headcount
  • Annual revenue
  • What technologies they use

But it’s also important to think beyond the general criteria.

What kind of challenges are they facing and how can we cooperate? What might they be interested in? How do they communicate? What’s their buying behaviour and process like?

All these questions can help to determine not only the general characteristics, but also the best way to engage the prospects.

Identify prospects

Once you nail down selection criteria, it is time to find and engage them.

There’s plenty of company databases online that can be bought and used — but the trick with those is, you can never verify the accuracy of information.

The UMG team uses Sales Navigator — LinkedIn’s own tool for lead generation. Here are the pros of Sales Navigator:

  • Open-source database that is continuously updated
  • Affordable and easy to use
  • Provides sophisticated filters
  • LinkedIn is one of the most popular communication channels for business,
  • Provides a level of personalisation that no other channel can give.

Using Sales Navigator, it is easy enough to put in the relevant filters and adjust the list by adding more relevant criteria.

Let’s take a look at how we would have done it for a real-life example.

Practical example

Digital Guru is a digital marketing company designing and developing a full marketing funnel for B2C retailers.

Using Account results in Sales Navigator, our team sets up the list of relevant filters:

  • Industry: Retail, Fashion, Luxury Goods
  • Location: Europe
  • Company Headcount: 1–50
  • Annual revenue: >5 million euros

This is the baseline for enterprises of which we got 3,000+. However, from this big number how do we know that they might need help with their digital marketing efforts?

This is where other sophisticated filters come into play, such as

  • Hiring now: companies seeking to improve their marketing might be on the lookout for marketing professionals — perfect demand meets offer.
  • Department growth: smaller businesses might not have the resources for proper marketing departments that would take care of conversion. Therefore targeting companies that have a decline in the marketing department or lack such would be a good bet.

After these additional filters, we get a list of 900+ companies that fit our profile.

You must remember though that you don’t contact companies however, but people inside those companies. The distinction is important since success rates depend on how personalised and approachable your marketing will be.

Through further research it’s easy to extract individuals and their contact details if they have a profile on LinkedIn. So in the end, we have a list of 1000 relevant prospects with similar challenges and pain points that can be addressed through marketing.

Create personalised marketing

So, once you know exactly who your audience is, it is time to craft marketing materials that would catch their attention, address their needs and inspire them to reach out back.

This part of ABM has no boundaries — feel free let your creativity run wild.

The only rule is to focus on bringing genuine value to your prospects and not sound like a sales robot.

The marketing materials should speak to your strengths and at the same time inspire curiosity in potential buyers.

These can include:

  • Case studies
  • Videos
  • Articles
  • Landing pages
  • Sales presentations
  • Blog posts
  • Free interactive demos (quizzes, diagnostics, etc)

When designing any of these materials, keep in mind the profile of the person who will be seeing them.

Avoid speaking too much about yourself and your product — focus on the kind of outcome your prospect would like to see at the end of cooperation.

Now let’s see how it works for our imaginary company.

Practical example

Digital Guru have already done digital marketing optimisation for a few retailers, so they have multiple case studies with impressive numbers.

While they have experienced marketing experts in-house and a brilliant innovative process, it might not be a good idea to overwhelm the unaware prospect with the nitty-gritty of daily digital marketing operations.

Instead, they would be focusing on describing the end result their target audience aspires.

Choose the right channels

ABM is a multichannel marketing strategy that takes many shapes and forms. There’s no one-size-fits-all because some buyers might prefer to engage in one particular channel that others. Tactics depend on what buyers will resonate with, so diversification will increase your chances of success.

Don’t think of ABM simply a digital tool. While most of it relies on technology, things like events and phone calls can also be integrated in the process.

Here’s a list of the channels you need to consider when planning and executing your ABM program:

• Email marketing

• Phone calls

• LinkedIn InMail

• Digital ads

• Events

• Webinars

At the UMG we did some research into the strengths of each channel and put it into words for your convenience.

Here the alignment of marketing and sales departments is crucial.

Sales reps should know exactly at what stage of the funnel prospects are coming from and what would be the best way of reaching them.

Marketers should understand how the sales process works and synchronise their activities across departments.

Practical example

Digital Guru have decided to use a combination of LinkedIn and Email approaches with an initial drive to a free digital marketing webinar for beginners.

After connecting with the potential prospect, they receive a personal invite to the webinar.

If the person attends a webinar and expresses an interest in further cooperation, sales reps take over the job.

If they don’t attend or don’t engage, they receive a further sequence of Email and LinkedIn follow-ups, encouraging them to look at the recorded version of the webinar, the landing page or the blog article.

At any point of the journey, once the prospect replies with interest, communication is handed over to the sales rep.

Measure. Optimise. Repeat.

ABM is a long-term strategy and needs a clear way of setting up automation and keeping track of incoming leads and outgoing marketing.

The software the UMG provides does all that for you. The automation runs seamlessly in the background while you only see the front-end of the works, doing what your sales reps do best — connecting, speaking and converting.

One of the main perks of it is easy access to campaign data.

The UMG team sets it up in such a way that at any point of the campaign it is easy to clearly measure the ongoing success, keep track of leads and messages sent, as well as address possible issues and adapt the campaign.

ABM is never set in stone — both the target, the marketing and the approach change according to the situation, Despite heavy preparations beforehand, it’s impossible to account for the ever-changing needs of the market, so your system needs to be transparent and flexible.

This are the KPIs you can measure with the UMG approach:

  • Engagement rate
  • In-funnel conversion rates
  • Reach within an account
  • Content engagement

Shared metrics is the final component of successful sales and marketing alignment.

Both teams can look at the same metrics and KPIs and work at improving those figures together.

Moreover, you can get crucial data on your target and their engagement with the material such as:

  • Industry
  • Seniority level
  • Location
  • Most engaged message

These you can use to learn and adapt for future campaigns.

Wrap-up

This has been quite the journey but true ABM requires commitment and understanding of the process to the fullest.

Let’s wrap up all the steps you need to take to implement ABM for your sales funnel.

If previously Account-Based Marketing seemed more like a fever marketing dream, it’s becoming more and more of a reality for enterprises across industries and countries.

There is a way to adapt this revolutionary approach to the needs and works of each business. The UMG has been helping companies across Europe and the US make the first step in the ABM direction and revolutionise their sales.

If you feel inspired to implement best ABM practices for your sales funnel but also need help to make the first step, contact our team for a demo of what ABM would look like for you.