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How to do account-based marketing with HubSpot

15 mins read

Unqualified leads. One of the banes of the digital marketing world - an individual who hasn’t been nurtured through your sales cycle.

Sure, they might be looking for the product or service you’re offering, but they’re unsure of what you actually offer, what they’re looking for in a solution and haven’t even determined a price range for themselves.

It’s like they’re trying to recreate the Mona Lisa with their hands tied behind their back and a bag over their head - never going to happen.

More often than not, an unqualified lead only qualifies you for wasted time. Now, imagine someone who knows the Mona Lisa. They’ve brought their own easel, paints and have an art degree. Perfect, right?

This is the kind of high-value lead we’re looking to sell to. The kind we want to engage and delight.

This is the crux of account-based marketing (ABM), selling directly to the target. Through the alignment of your marketing and sales teams, you can do this while delighting your customers and increasing your income. Win-win.

But what exactly is account-based marketing? How does it differ from inbound marketing? And, most importantly, how do you even do it? Well, we’ve got the answers right here in this blog.

What is account-based marketing?

Account-based marketing is all about identifying and selling to your highest-value customers. It’s a marketing growth strategy that drives marketing and sales teams to work in sync, creating tailored buying experiences for mutually-identified key prospects.

This means you need to go beyond simply aligning sales and marketing. The actual foundation of the strategy places sales and marketing together through personalisation at the account level. 

Those unqualified leads we mentioned? ABM works to avoid them, sourcing the highest-quality accounts and treating them like they’re individual markets. When we:

  • Target high-value accounts
  • Personalise their buyer’s journeys
  • Create bespoke communications suited to their needs
  • And tailor content and marketing campaigns to the account

We see a much-improved boost in customer loyalty and a lovely increased ROI.


DID YOU KNOW: marketing and sales teams that adopt an ABM approach are 6% more likely to exceed their revenue targets compared to teams that don’t?


How to do ABM with HubSpot

To run effective ABM campaigns with ease, you need the right software. One option is HubSpot’s account-based marketing software which includes intuitive ABM tools that help create seamless buying experiences for your highest-value accounts. HubSpot is a go-to ABM platform for many reasons, including:

  • Easy strategy setup: Workflow templates, default properties, AI-powered recommendations and a powerful CRM to back it all up. Setting up your ABM strategy is easy, intuitive and fast.
  • Measuring milestones: Track key milestones through every account’s journey to get a detailed understanding of what’s happening or even a higher-level view with out-of-the-box reporting dashboards.
  • Cross collaboration: Marketing and sales teams are no longer at each other’s throats. They can use shared tools to use the same data in the same place so everyone can come together to support your high-value target accounts.
  • Forge deep relationship with personalised engagement: HubSpot’s ABM tools help to personalise content and tailor how you engage with stakeholders within an account. The features - such as the account overview sidebar, ABM playbook and more - help deepen relationships over time within each account.

With the HubSpot marketing platform, you can carry out your ABM marketing strategies in a fully-customised and integrated manner. So, if you’re looking for how to do account-based marketing with HubSpot’s unique suite, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll break it down for you into easy steps.

1. Activate your ABM tools

To activate these features, you either need to be a ‘Super Admin’ or a user with ‘account access’ permissions. If you’re already at that stage:

  • In your HubSpot account, go to Contacts > Target Accounts
  • Click Get Started

This will load up the target accounts homepage.

2. Update your ABM info

The following default properties are used in the ABM dashboard and its reports, ABM lists, your target accounts home and also your Account overview. To find out more on how to manage your properties, check out the article here.

Contact properties

Buying role: This identifies the role a contact plays during the sales process. Contacts can have more than one role and can also share the same role with another contact. Although you can’t delete the default values, you can edit this property to add new buying roles.

Company properties

Target account: This identifies the companies you’re marketing and selling to as part of your ABM strategy and is a single checkbox property. To identify a company record as a target account in HubSpot, you can update a company record’s Target account property value to True.

Ideal customer profile tier: This represents how close a company matches your ideal customer profile in three tiers. Tier 1 companies should be a great fit for you whereas Tier 3 could be on the lower priority and borderline acceptable side of things. You can also edit this property to match your business strategy.

It can take some playing around with it to know where to go and what to do. Here are some helpful links from HubSpot on how to assign values manually, create a workflow to automate processes and also how to create custom score properties and build it for your business processes.

3. Use workflows to update ABM properties

In HubSpot, the default workflow template is 'Sort companies by ideal customer profit fit' and is designed as an ABM example. It shows how you can assign a tier value based on a company annual revenue value.

If you want to use this template, you can do so when creating a company workflow. Here's how:

  • In your HubSpot account, head over to Automation > Workflows
  • In the upper right-hand side, click Create workflow
  • In the left panel, click the Templates tab
  • Select Companies by clicking the Type dropdown menu
  • Finally, select the Sort companies by ideal customer profile fit template as a possible demonstration for an ABM workflow

You can then customise it to fit the profile of your ideal customer. Take a look at an example from HubSpot below for a better visual representation of what that looks like.

HubSpot ABM ideal customer customisationImage Credit

4. Target specific accounts

How to view recommended accounts to target

At this stage, you should have activated your ABM tools which means you have access to your target accounts home. HubSpot themselves recommend companies as good possible accounts for you to target. If you want to read some more of their recommendations, head to this page.

How to create contact and company lists

Once you've activated your ABM tools, your HubSpot account will create a contact lists for you based on ABM company and contact properties. To view these lists, you can check the Account Based Advertising list folder.

The purpose of these lists is to help segment your contacts and you can use them when creating ads audiences, sending marketing emails and also when you customise smart content on your website with all contacts:

  • Labelled as an Influencer
  • Labelled as a Champion
  • Labelled as a Budget Holder
  • Labelled as a Decision-Marker
  • With a Buying Role
  • Associated with target accounts

Away from these, you can also create company lists for further targeting.

How to create ads for your target accounts

This applies to you if you've connected your LinkedIn Ads account to HubSpot. If you've done this, you can create a company list audience to automatically sync companies from your target accounts or a specific company profile tier to the matches audience on LinkedIn.

When you're creating a contact list audience, you can also select the default ABM contact lists I highlighted above.

5. Working with your target accounts

How to view your target accounts

To view your target account, you'll need to explore your target accounts home. It helps you keep track of the account you want to work on and both sales and marketing members can review target account activity while identifying new accounts to target.

Learn how to access and use your target accounts home.

Use the account overview to understand your target accounts

To view the Account overview for a company record, you'll need to have a HubSpot Sales Hub Professional or an Enterprise seat.

If you do, you can view the overview for company records in your target accounts home, in the right panel of a company record and in Salesforce - but only if you've installed the Salesforce-HubSpot integration and also added the HubSpot Visualforce window.

Once you're in the overview dashboard, you can see:

Using your playbooks to work with target accounts

When you create your ABM playbooks, you can pick the Account-based selling playbook type as a default template. Then, you can customise the template to fit the sales strategy for your business.

The huge advantage of having this playbook is it provides guidance for your team members when they speak to prospects or even when they work with a contact or deal record.

Any integrations?

One popular HubSpot integration is with Slack. This lets you push data and call data right from HubSpot. This includes actions such as:

  • Share notes on Slack on the fly
  • Enter the /hs-report-company Slack command to receive metrics on a target account
  • Create deals and company-based Slack channels through HubSpot workflows

6. Use reports to analyse your target accounts

HubSpot is perfect for running ABM strategies because it boasts a library of robust dashboard and reports based on ABM properties. These let you analyse existing ABM efforts, refine ABM strategies using data and also find answers to sales and marketing questions.

Here what you need to do to create and save the ABM reports dashboard:

  • In HubSpot, head to Reports > Dashboards
  • In the upper right-hand side, click Create dashboard - this takes you to the dashboard library
  • Then in the left panel, click Target accounts so you can see all ABM dashboards
  • Pick the dashboard that suits your business strategy the best
  • Finally, continue setting up your dashboard to meet your needs

If you want to view and access individual ABM reports, you can:

  • In your HubSpot account, head to Reports > Reports
  • In the upper right-hand side, click Report library
  • Then in the left panel, select the Target accounts checkbox to view all of your ABM reports
  • Once you've decided on the report you want, just hit save

Obviously, not even the most seasoned marketer can roll out an effective ABM campaign in under 10 minutes. To get it right, you need to look into each section in a lot more depth and if I did that we'd probably be here for weeks.

This is a great starting point if you're brand new to ABM and even HubSpot. HubSpot does have a fantastic guide (which you can check out here) that breaks every step down into a lot more depth.

If you feel as if you need more of a helping hand to guide you through your ABM efforts, there are companies who specialise in rolling out effective ABM campaigns. Or, ask them to explain things to you verbally for better understanding so your ABM strategies succeed.

If you didn't notice by now, HubSpot is going BIG when it comes to ABM. This year at INBOUND 2020, HubSpot announced plenty of new features to help with your ABM strategy when you use the HubSpot platform. 

abm inbound 2020 in digital 22 office

Click here to find out all of the new features HubSpot announced at the virtual conference as well as more in-depth information on everything I mentioned above.


Why ABM?

ABM is that laser-focused marketing. As markets and buying circles are growing, a lot of marketing teams can be left throwing content into these markets and hoping it will hit the relevant interested party. ABM allows us to see through the murk, spot the high-value account and grab them - hook, line and sinker. 

When marketing and sales offer personalised strategies for attracting customers, those customers with the highest need and the right budget can be found sooner rather than later, without having to weed through unqualified leads. 

Because of the size of markets and the breadth of products and services on offer, customers are more and more inclined to look for the company that’s talking directly to them. Apologies, this will be my third metaphor of this section - ABM cuts through all that noise! Buyers react positively to tailored outreach as they’re seen as select. And they truly are, because these are the people you want to sell to.

We marketers become really good at identifying target audiences, but we’re not the ones talking directly to them. Discovering those crucial details that might be the difference between a qualified and unqualified lead. ABM bridges the gap.


DID YOU KNOW: one in five targets identified through ABM becomes a qualified sale opportunity?


ABM is a well-considered approach. By refocusing your time and resources away from unqualified leads, you’re actually getting more time and budget to spend on the buyers you want. When you get the time to create a well-personalised marketing strategy, you’re more likely to come across buyers. 

Now, you may be thinking “But I thought inbound marketing was the marketing strategy of choice?”. Well, you’re right. But it’s a little more complex than that. At first glance, inbound and ABM can seem like two separate marketing strategies and that you must choose between the two of them. 

However, that’s not the case. In fact, inbound marketing and ABM is a match made in heaven. 

Inbound marketing vs. ABM

Inbound marketing and ABM aren't mutually exclusive. When it comes to marketing, inbound is our bread and butter, but we’re never ones to argue it’s the be-all and end-all when it comes to marketing.


DID YOU KNOW: 87% of marketing professionals state ABM initiatives do better than other marketing investments?


We explain in our guide to inbound marketing (which you can check out here) what it actually is:

“Inbound marketing involves producing and sharing quality content (blogs, videos, eBooks, infographics and more), for free, to Attract future customers to your business when they search the internet.


"You continue to market your business by earning a lead’s trust. When the time comes to make a purchase, they already have a relationship with you so are more likely to choose your company.

Instead of wasting valuable time and money on outbound techniques (billboards, interruptive advertising, directory ads), inbound marketing attracts visitors at the right time by providing content aimed at solving problems they’re facing in that particular moment. This includes: How-To guides, advice blogs, case studies…internet users search for content which helps them at their own particular stage of the Buyer’s Journey.”

Essentially, inbound is the foundation, the bedrock, the roots of any good marketing strategy in our digital age. When you implement a strong foundation like this, you create the necessary environment conducive to starting a thorough ABM strategy. Let’s explore some of the inbound/ABM facts.

FACT: ABM speeds up the flywheel

HubSpot’s flywheel model is a key part of the inbound methodology. I discussed earlier about how when using ABM, you can go from identifying high-value accounts to closing deals and delighting fairly quickly - this is what accelerating the flywheel is all about.

FACT: You can use content for both inbound and ABM

We all love a good deal and getting double the value out of your online content is an opportunity not to be missed. When you create content, it can be made to serve both inbound and ABM purposes. 

For example, when identifying a high-value account, you may determine that they’d get a lot of use out of a personalised case study. Something like this can also be used in your inbound strategy, added as a CTA to blogs or shared as downloadable content on your website.

FACT: With this combination, your prospects are broader

Like a goalkeeper with eight arms, covering multiple areas at once is always a good idea. Using one strategy, you might miss a certain high-value prospect that you would have identified with the other. When you combine ABM and inbound, you prevent this from happening.

chris in digital 22 office paid search

FACT: Inbound is the foundation for effective ABM

After you’ve implemented inbound, ABM is constructed on top. It helps to really target high-value accounts and more efficiently allocate resources to those clients.

TL;DR: Inbound marketing is perfect for pulling in large, general audiences - it really gets the word out. ABM, on the other hand, further attracts the prospects that are most likely to make a purchase.

The benefits of ABM

Streamline your sales

More often than not, sales begin with prospecting accounts, then go onto connecting with them. After that you research, present your offering and then hopefully close a deal. After that, you offer continued support or service in order to delight the client.

That’s a lot of steps. The more steps you have, the more chance of something going wrong either in them or between them. ABM does away with that long-winded sales paradigm, streamlining into something that looks like this:

  • Determine high-value accounts
  • Present to those accounts
  • Close the deal
  • Delight

Much simpler. A more refined pool of leads saves time by doing away with a number of different approaches you may have to take. Plus, closing is easier because you’re bringing together your marketing and sales teams through a personalised service offering.

More accurate ROI measurements

For management, ROI is a vital metric. ABM makes this metric easier to measure and much more accurate. Because you’ve invested time, effort and resources into accounts you deemed to be more high-value, any gain (or loss) in ROI is much more accurate as it’s been tacked to a customer you’ve deemed the right choice to sell to.

Any loss of ROI means it’s not the right choice and you can more quickly get back to the drawing board. But when you’ve inevitably gained in ROI, you can then further nurture those high-value accounts and go on to target similar ones in the future. 

Continuously align marketing and sales

When sales and marketing teams are aligned with mutually-agreed upon goals, budgets, target information and tactics, it means top-quality communication and collaboration are easily captured or demonstrated. You’ve probably heard of aligning your sales and marketing teams before, but it’s an incredibly important thing. 

Through ABM, you can capture a holistic, symbiotic relationship between the two. The key focus is for both marketing and sales to have an understanding of the wants and needs of the other. This provides consistency and even helps team members, who can easily continue from the aligned work that has already been done - rather than wasting time chasing up info. 

And the easiest way to achieve this alignment? By using an integrated marketing platform like HubSpot, that allows for real-time information sharing and transparency between teams. 

Seamless, right?

Increase your standing with mutually-identified high-value buyers

ABM isn’t about speedily closing deals with accounts that might not even be right for your business. It’s a longer game, where you create time to build trust, helping to enhance that relationship and even retain high-value accounts for longer. 

This is a key advantage. Did you know that it costs more to find new customers than to retain them? With ABM, you can cut those related costs by focusing on the relationships that matter. 

The knock-on effect of this is being able to watch your brand be passed between that high-value accounts network through testimonials, referrals or good ol’ word-of-mouth. And that’s what we want; an organically expanding business. 

Improve the buying experience

When delighting the client, a lot of that rests on the consistency and quality of your service offering. Now, because ABM is a longer process, lasting months or even years, you’re in a good place to deliver that consistency. 

A client or customer knows what they want, which does seem a little daunting at first if you’re unsure of what to deliver. However, this is where ABM really shines. Because of the alignment between marketing and sales, because of the mutual understanding of the high-value accounts wants, needs and paint points - you’re in a much better position to continually provide for them. 

Through ABM comes universal understanding. Through understanding comes consistency. And through consistency, comes delight. 

Let’s recap. The benefits of ABM are as follows:

  • Streamline your sales
  • More accurate ROI measurements
  • Continuously align marketing and sales
  • Increase your standing with mutually-identified high-value buyers
  • Improve the buying experience

ABM statistics

At this point, ABM might be looking more and more appealing to you. But I’m not quite finished with convincing you of its merits just yet. Here are the best ABM statistics worthy of your consideration.

ABM best practices

Now that you know how to do ABM with your HubSpot platform, it’s time to learn our best practices so that you’re always staying ahead of the game. By adopting these tactics, you can make sure your ABM efforts and also your investment are successful.

Make sure everyone is aligned

Sounds straightforward, right? But it's usually one of the biggest obstacles to overcome - everybody needs to be on the same page and aligned with ABM. That means anyone involved, including stakeholders, all need to be on board.

bilal creating content digital 22 office

It just makes everything easier so you can consistently create better experiences for your target accounts. It also means all of your strategy will be efficient and streamlined. It doesn't there, though. It's also about spreading awareness so there's never a divide.

This awareness should include marketing and sales teams who'll be directly involved. Budgets, resources, goals, KPIs - literally cover every base possible for the best chance of success.

Build an ABM super team

To deliver ABM strategies, you'll need a dedicated team to ensure the ship sails smoothly. That means the relevant marketers and sales teams need to be involved at all times so they're always dedicated to your target accounts.

Their role is to make sure content is regularly pushed out and also manage and close deals. More isn't always merrier, however. Try and limit the number of people in your ABM team to enough that can look after each account, but not too many that it's just gets out of hand.

Carefully select your ideal set of target accounts

The fact is, not every account is going to be the right fit. You need to identify and pick the high-value target accounts as you'll invest your time and resources in them. Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Use a platform like LinkedIn to set search alerts for ideal customer profiles
  • Try to make sure each member of your sales team only has around 10 accounts
  • Identify accounts you can use for reference
  • Pick target accounts based on industries and locations
  • Create workflows that filter incoming leads based on specific criteria
  • Use characteristics of precious deals to help identify good-fit customers
  • Review leads who use and engage with your inbound content but don't have deals attached yet

Have your marketing and sales teams work together

When sales and marketing are on the same page, ABM strategies tend to succeed. That's why both teams and members need to be directly involved in the account planning stage.

They need to know which channels they need to use to share contact, how they'll offer the right level of support, what they need to know about each account and much more. This sort of easy access and collaboration is encouraged so your teams know how they need to offer support.

Other ways to make your account plans successful is by making sure marketing and sales are aligned on your service's value, create personalised content and also customise allocated resourced and budget for each account.

Use high-quality accounts to attract contacts

Having a lot of contacts for specific accounts really depends on how long you've been in business and if you've done any previous ABM work. The way to attract high-quality accounts is to personalise content to them to build brand awareness, maximise relevance and more.

You can do this by engaging accounts on social media, creating podcasts an inviting leaders from relevant accounts, send direct messages, distribute content and so much more. You can even ask for referrals - basically anything that's GDPR compliant, you're good to go.

Build strong relationships

Attracted high-value accounts? Perfect. Now it's time to forge strong relationships with them. Hold your horses, though, as it can take months or even years to create these bonds. You can't rush them and remember, the process of delighting accounts never ends.

Creating long-lasting relationships with accounts is quite straightforward too. You can provide education, create and share personalised content to exceed expectations, have regular meetings, use email sequencing and any other way account members can get to know your brand.

Tip: HubSpot's ABM software has features that help you forge these strong relationships.

Measure results and make any necessary changes

Using the tactics I've mentioned will definitely help, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't tweak anything. You need to monitor your success and apply any learnings from your ABM results to make future campaigns an even bigger success.

The KPIs that'll show you how you're doing are things like deal creation, engagement, deal-to-close time, percentage of deals closed and more.

The best of both worlds: pairing ABM with inbound marketing

Although we're huge advocates of inbound marketing, it's not a case of picking one or the other. The truth is, you can use inbound marketing and ABM in tandem for the best results. Both ABM and inbound marketing need you to understand your target buyers and what sort of content resonates with them.

faizal and becca digital 22 office using hubspot

There's no stopping you using your inbound content and repurposing it for your ABM channels as ABM usually takes that content and personalises it a little more. The purpose is the same: they both focus on delivering great buying experiences.

The easiest way to understand it is by thinking of inbound marketing as a method to attract the right customers, while ABM uses marketing and sales to speed up the flywheel and provide better experiences. As a whole, both strategies enable you to win target accounts.

Using both together isn't just doable but it's encouraged. Both inbound and account-based marketing - combined with software like the HubSpot CMS - helps you not only create a more robust strategy but also achieve the results you need.

To do ABM the right way, you need to understand the principles of inbound marketing and how it has changed over the years. We have a guide that outlines all the different techniques and tactics you need to help you stay on track as inbound continues to evolve.

To discover these new tactics, go ahead and get your copy of the guide using the button below.