3 Pillars For Elevating Account-Based Marketing (Using The Persona-Based ABM Strategy)


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Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation in Wadi...

Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation in
Wadi Rum, Jordan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In B2B companies, new account acquisition is an important strategy. Perhaps as important, if not more, is growing the share of business from accounts. This is where the power of marketing and sales coordination can make an impact. Shaping Account-Based Marketing, the concept of marketing to one entity, into a new powerful force.

Not the Domain of One

One of the most important concepts to solidify in Account-Based Marketing is this: to succeed takes alignment between marketing and sales. In selling, strategic account management (SAM), key account management (KAM), national account management (NAM), target account management (TAM), and global account management (GAM) have existed for a few decades. No matter what name you give it – the idea of targeted accounts is a key sales strategy. The recent yet speedy advancing of the digital age is calling for new levels of marketing into targeted accounts. Thus, neither Account-Based Marketing nor Key Account Management is the domain of one anymore. One cannot succeed without the other.

Business Drivers

A cornerstone of success in target account sales and marketing is the understanding of several factors. These factors relate to business issues, industry ecosystems, operational dependencies, culture, roles, organizational behavior, processes, and systems. All related to the business drivers of an account. Today, in Account-Based Marketing, there are significant gaps, which need to be filled. The gaps relate to understanding the changing nature of business drivers, goals, and behaviors of organizations brought on by the digital age.

Fill the Gaps

Account-Based Marketing paired with Key Account Management requires a commitment to deeper understanding of four main areas: 1.) The Industry, 2.) The Company 3.) The Buyers 4.) The Users. While some parts of a B2B organization may have helpful intelligence and insights on some of these, what is commonly found is no enterprise-level understanding of all four. The digital age means you need this know-how or you will fall quickly behind.

What can and is happening with Account-Based Marketing is this: while the focus is on accounts, the approach still has a mass communications context to it. A resorting to the conventional “campaign mentality” in terms of approach. This is not good. It can actually make such an effort backfire. I will just put it this way for you: if it feels and smells like a campaign, you will be ignored.

Persona-Based ABM Strategy™

Account-Based Marketing, as a platform, should be designed to elevate your company’s position in targeted accounts. A Persona-Based ABM Strategy™ can help you to not only understand at a deeper level accounts, but also know how to connect on relevant business drivers. There are three pillars needed for a Persona-Based ABM Strategy to be effective and elevate Account-Based Marketing to the next level:

Pillar One: Ideal Company Persona

What makes the ideal targeted account? This is oftentimes, an extremely difficult question to answer. For Account-Based Marketing it starts here. It is important to move beyond the “list and profile” perspective. Many of you know what I am talking about. It is the mandate of – hurry up and create the list of target accounts! Off goes somebody to generate a list of accounts doing $X sales or has X number of employees. Sometimes companies do one better and develop an Ideal Company Profile. Helpful but not all the way there yet.

Working on the Ideal Company Persona™ takes into account both industry and company. Understanding the business drivers operating on both an industry and company level. There is a focus on understanding goals, behaviors, language, processes, systems, and more. All to help us understand how to help companies succeed more effectively in their industries. The result is better pinpoint accuracy in selecting the right target accounts for Account-Based Marketing.

Pillar 2: Ideal Buyer Persona

If you get pillar one down, understanding the Ideal Buyer Persona™ in the relevant buying centers gets you on target. You will find out if there are more than one buyer personas as well as influencer, stakeholders, and approvers you need to concentrate on. In this pillar, it is important to go beyond a generic buyer journey or buying process perspective. The key here is target accounts can have a unique critical buying path-to-purchase. This method gives you both the organization and the buyer perspective you need to identify how purchase decisions are made.

Pairing the Ideal Company Persona with the Ideal Buyer Persona can give you a powerful communications platform to show how the company’s and the buyer’s world can change with your organization. The result is better accuracy in knowing the right people to interact with as well as how they interact with each other.

Pillar 3: Ideal User Persona

The Ideal User Persona™ is the often forgotten pillar, which makes Account-Based Marketing tremendously more effective. Key business drivers and goals often take people to make them achievable. Organizations (Ideal Company Persona) and managers (Ideal Buyer Persona) are concerned with the effectiveness of their personnel (Ideal User Persona). This connection at the target account level must be made. Let me give you an example:

For a provider of financial asset and contact management applications, the business line managers were focused on expansion as a result of mergers and acquisitions. The institution had significant challenges in merging systems, processes, data centers, and more. As a result, users of the relevant application were very frustrated as the existing application could not handle new requirements. For two years, work-around was done. However, in the two-year period the institution saw its turnover rate in asset management increase. This provider, spent time investigating how the industry worked, the impact of the mergers and acquisitions, and spent time on the floor seeing how the applications were in use. They were able to craft a very targeted and customized one-to-one marketing and sales strategy, which demonstrated how their application did two things for their target accounts – 1.) Improve merger and acquisition assimilation and 2.) Made their “floor” users not only more productive but happier. This provider was able to supplant the existing provider.

Persona Based ABM

Persona-Based ABM Strategy

Beyond A Campaign Mentality

Implementing this three pillar Persona-Based ABM Strategy will give you the ability to go beyond thinking about how many multiple offers to put together or how many buyers to contact. Or, how many campaigns you need. A “mass campaign mentality” mindset if you will. The three pillars give you the powerful insights you need to make your organization relevant to the company, the buyers, and the users. Allowing for a consistent and common platform by which marketing and sales can form a strong bond and partnership – amongst themselves and with target accounts.

A Persona-Based ABM Strategy can not only help you to move beyond a campaign mentality for Account-Based Marketing. It can help you deliver true foresight to an organization. Opening their eyes to a new future, which involves you.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


  1. Tony: you have provided a useful outline for business developers to understand when planning account strategies. But buyer personas and user personas miss one critical reality that many–if not most–B2B purchases are undertaken to support project deliverables and involve teams. Would it be useful to add Project Personas and Team Personas? I think so. We often qualify opportunities in part by looking at how teams are structured, whether they are working under clear goals and objectives, and whether they have a history of working together in the past.

    Based on my experience, there are similarly idealized versions of project teams that portend positive outcomes. A blog I recently wrote, Selling to TINO [Team-in-Name-Only]: Been There, Done That, Lost the Deal, describes what to look for.

  2. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for commenting and always appreciate your insights. Your comment does give me a chance to clarify or rather elaborate. The Ideal Company Persona is the place to do exactly as you describe is needed. It focuses on the company use of teams, projects, and committees. Modeling their goals and behaviors. I am not sure I would add another layer of naming personas so to speak but in my work with organizations, I have portrayed the behavior of projects and teams through the prism of company personas. Very valuable insights when it comes to understanding how – in B2B environments – decisions are made by teams and committees. Thanks Andy for hitting this one on target.



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