How to Keep Engagements Personal While Automating ABM with HubSpot

May 2, 2022
Mandy Thompson

As marketers move more and more towards creating 1:1 experiences at scale, teams are turning to account-based marketing (ABM) to deliver superior personalized experiences that yield excellent results..

Why automate ABM?

While ABM is exciting given the efficacy of its personalized approach, deploying an ABM campaign takes significant time, effort, and tools. That’s where HubSpot comes in.

There’s a variety of ABM tools on the market, yet few integrate your front office data and allow for wide-spread automation and integration capabilities as HubSpot does. Hubspot allows you to build your strategy into the platform and automate the aspects where human effort is not needed, such as labeling ideal customer profile (ICP) tiers or moving a high intent audience into a different ad campaign or email nurture. 

By automating these steps, your team can spend more time on research and asset creation to feed your ABM engine. 

(source: HubSpot)

ABM campaigns thrive with strategy + scalability

HubSpot enable companies to execute ABM campaigns—however you can’t rely on automation and built-in tools alone. Your ABM campaign requires a thoughtful strategy and deep understanding of your prospects and target accounts (TAs). It also relies on aligning sales and marketing for consistent feedback and smooth handoffs.

Even if you can’t bank your entire ABM strategy on HubSpot doesn’t mean it should be deprioritized.

After all, a HubSpot instance configured to fuel your ABM strategy means you’ll spend less time manually or sorting accounts and updating targeting, giving you more time to iterate, optimize, and experiment your way to better results. 

Let’s explore how you can combine strategic vision with super charged tools to create impactful ABM campaigns at scale 

What are the elements of an ABM campaign? 

Before we can determine automation strategy or explore HubSpot’s ABM features, let’s define what an ABM campaign needs in totality in order to thrive.

Strategy

Your ABM strategy takes into account the tools you will use, who you are targeting, what the problem is that you are solving for your audience, who is likely to be on your buying committee, whether your accounts are in market or not, how and when you will handoff from marketing to sales, what content should be used with which job roles on which tier of target account, and much more. Ensure that you have covered the entire scope of your campaign before getting started with automations to avoid pain down the road.

Schematic of campaign flow

A good ABM campaign is likely to have many conditions, exclusions, targeting shifts, and paths down which your prospects can venture on their buyer’s journey. These nuances can make your campaign truly stand out, but they can also make the campaign hard to maintain. Unless you have a visualization of what your campaign is doing and when. Make sure you have a well-thought-out schematic to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that you can easily iterate the structure of your campaigns down the line.

Target Account Lists (segmented by tier) 

Since ABM campaigns target entire accounts as opposed to individuals, you need a list of target accounts that meet your ideal customer profile tiers. Tiering helps break down target accounts by the value that they represent to your organization so that you can prioritize your marketing and sales efforts accordingly.

Audiences for Targeting

Your audiences for targeting are not the same thing as your target account list. Within your target accounts you should know what job roles, titles, and functions are likely to show up in your buying committee, and your audiences should be broken down accordingly. You are not likely to be solving the same problem for the COO as you are solving for the CRO or CFO. Ensure that you have messaging and content offerings that align with each audience and segment your marketing efforts accordingly. 

Content for your buying committee 

Once you have your audiences, you need to ensure you can support the buying journey for each. Think premium content offerings, messaging, blogs, videos, and more. Each audience will have their own needs and priorities pertaining to your product and should be treated as such. 

Clearly defined buying committee criteria

Who is in your buying committee? Do you know already or is this something you will find out in discovery when you speak to prospective buyers from your target account? Additionally, how many members of the buying committee will you require in order to create an opportunity? What individual lead score will it take to signal that a buying committee member is engaged? Define these criteria before you build out your campaigns. 

Clearly defined handoff criteria

This is one that can be tricky for ABM campaigns at scale because handoffs can and should be varied based on ICP tier, which buying role you are engaging with first, etc. You will have different priorities for your ICP tier 1 accounts vs. your tier 3 accounts and you will move the deal along differently if the decision maker is your first contact on an account vs. the last. Determine these criteria and then allow your CRM to do the heavy lifting.

Lifecycle stage definition 

With ABM your lifecycle stages will likely be tracked at the individual and the account level. This means that lifecycle stages in ABM might have more complex criteria than in a traditional campaign. For example, a company’s lifecycle stage might be determined by how many people with buying role have individual lifecycle stages or lead scores equal to X. That same lifecycle stage may also be reached by booking a meeting with a decision maker. Be sure to define your lifecycle stages at the company and contact level before getting started. 

Assets for advertising and nurturing 

Your campaign flow schematic and your understanding of the buyer’s journey will help ensure that your campaign assets are in alignment. Many marketing teams start with the assets first, but overall campaign structure and clarity allow you to be even more informed when it comes to building out the steps on the path of your buyer’s journey.

Intent data or other intent triggers defined

Tracking intent data can be confusing. Will you use outside data or will you use engagement and behavioral triggers to track intent? Perhaps a combination of the two? Define your intent and data strategy and align it with your handoffs, scoring, and audience targeting plans so that you can seamlessly update your targeting based on the level of intent and engagement of an individual account. 

Lead & company scoring plan

Scoring is the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of an account’s engagement and level of interest as it pertains to your specific product or offering. When building out a scoring strategy, much like the lifecycle stages, you must consider your individuals and your company scoring and how they may interact.

What can we automate with HubSpot?

HubSpot offers dozens of opportunities to automate your ABM campaigns and while it would take writing an entire book to share all of them, I want to offer you some of the ways that you can automate ABM with HubSpot.

Labeling of Target Accounts

Set up workflows to label target accounts based on the parameters that you have set for them. This can be based on meeting the requirements of one of your ICP tiers or based on the source that the list came from, like ZoomInfo. Any property or activity that can be called on in workflows can determine whether an account is labeled as a TA or not.

Labeling of ICP Tiers

Much like with the labeling of target accounts, labeling ICP tiers should be done automatically using workflows.

Steps Required:

  • Defining your ICP Tiers
  • Defining TAs or how they will come into HubSpot

Features Used: 

  • Target Account - company property 
  • ICP Tier - company property 
  • Workflows

Moving TAs in and out of targeting audiences

When your audience’s behaviors, intent data, engagement, score, and lifecycle stage changes you are likely to want to shift your targeting, add more personalization, etc. Using workflows in HubSpot you can move your target accounts in and out of various ad audiences, nurtures, and lists that drive delivery, smart content, and more. Updating the buyer's journey with automation is powerful and allows your ABM efforts to scale more easily. 

Steps Required: 

  • Defining your audiences for targeting 
  • Defining trigger events or qualifications for being added to or removed from an audience 
  • Creating lists for your audiences

Features Used: 

  • Lists 
  • Ads
  • Workflows 
  • Smart content

Labeling buying committee members

Do you already know that the COO is likely to be a decision maker or that the VP of Demand Gen is your champion? Leverage workflows to label your buying committee members and buying roles so that your sales and marketing team know who they are interacting with.

Steps Required: 

  • Defining what job titles and functions are likely to have which buying roles
  • Determine if you will label all people or only those at target accounts

Features Used: 

  • Buying Role - contact property 
  • Job Title/Function - contact property 
  • Workflows

Tasking sales to update TAs and buying roles

Sometimes you don’t know what a prospect’s buying role is until you make contact with them - ensure that sales is reminded to make this update by notifying them to do so after completing a call or meeting that was longer than X amount of time. This will support other automations in your ABM campaigns, such as updating lifecycle stage or initiating a handoff.

Steps Required: 

  • Determine who to notify if no contact owner 
  • Check for workflows already existing that rotate contact owners to ensure you run your workflow for tasking the contact owner at the right time 
  • Determine if you only want to do this for TAs or all accounts

Features Used:

  • Buying role - contact property 
  • Workflows
  • Tasks

Scoring companies and leads

Set up lead and company scoring and leverage those scores to drive other automations, such as surfacing a lead, updating targeting, updating company lifecycle stage, and more. 

Steps Required: 

  • Create contact scoring plan
  • Create company scoring plan 
  • Implement

Features Used: 

  • Company properties
  • Contact properties

Shifting content delivered to a TA or individual based on consumption history

Wouldn’t it be nice to show your target accounts and buying committee the content that they seem to be enjoying the most? Create scoring properties that score companies and individuals on the type of content that they are consuming and then use this score to update their list membership and targeting to deliver more of what your buyers want.

Steps Required: 

  • Define what content consumption buckets or segments you would like
  • Define how you will add and subtract from scores 
  • Create the lists for the smart content 
  • Create workflows to move people on and off of lists to update their content consumption
  • Create workflows to deliver different nurtures/campaigns based on content interests

Features Used: 

  • Smart content 
  • Lists 
  • Workflows 
  • Scoring properties

Surfacing a TA to sales based on score, buying committee, intent, etc.

You want your sales team to get the information they need at the exact time it is needed. You can leverage workflows in HubSpot to notify or task sales of important account changes such as a buying committee member reaching a certain score or visiting a pricing page. Ensure that sales stays in the loop and can act quickly in your ABM campaigns using workflows. 

Steps Required: 

  • Align on handoff requirements 
  • Define when sales should be notified on account/prospect activity

Features Used: 

  • Scoring properties
  • Workflows 
  • Slack notifications
  • Tasks

Suggesting content to sales to use in their process based on content consumption history or content scoring

During the lead up to an opportunity being created and sales being engaged, your marketing team can leverage automation to ensure that buying committee members are seeing the right content, but what happens once you are no longer delivering content through those channels? Well, you can continue to use the scoring and engagement tracking mechanisms you set up earlier, but now you can suggest assets or content types to sales based on what we have scored the prospect on in terms of the content that they are most engaged with.

Steps Required: 

  • Define which content buckets do you want to focus on 
  • Define criteria for placing a contact in a content bucket

Features Used: 

  • Scoring
  • Workflows

Creating a deal based on your criteria for identifying an opportunity

There are a number of reasons why you would want to automate deal creation. From saving your sales team clicks to ensuring that your opportunities are created and moved in real time for accurate forecasting, automating deal creation brings a lot of benefits. Use workflows to create a deal in the correct pipeline when the criteria you set are met.

Steps Required: 

  • Define when a deal will be created 
  • Define what properties you will auto-fill when creating the deal 
  • Define what properties you want to task sales with populating 
  • Define naming conventions for deals

Features Used: 

  • Deals 
  • Workflows 
  • Target Account - company property 
  • Number of contacts with a buying role - company property

Offline marketing once an opportunity has been identified

What about the offline efforts that support your ABM campaigns? Sending a gift to a decision maker once you have engaged them, delivering goodies that make a webinar truly experiential, or sending a big thank you to a new account that you just closed - all of these touches are important to your ABM strategy but are often left out when they can’t be automated.

This is where Postal comes in. You can use workflows to send individual gifts or collections of gift options to your prospects automatically during the buying process based on the criteria you set. Leverage any data point or activity that is available in the workflow tool to condition your gifting.

Steps Required: 

  • Define when you want to send offline marketing materials 
  • Define what offline marketing options to send based on criteria 

Features Used: 

  • Target account - company property 
  • Ideal customer profile tier - company property 
  • Buying role - contact property 
  • Lifecycle stage - contact or company property

Automation doesn’t have to mean impersonal

HubSpot provides you with a robust, cross-team, and powerful toolbox to run your ABM campaigns at scale. While a tool will not do all of the heavy lifting for you, it can allow all of the strategic, creative, and insightful work that you do to shine brighter and farther than without the support that automation can bring.

Want to learn how to build the automations outlined in this blog? Register for World Certification Week and attend my session at 12:30 ET on Monday, May 9th, Automating ABM with HubSpot.

Mandy Thompson

Mandy is the Chief Revenue Officer at Digital Reach Online Solutions. She leads by taking a holistic approach—learning, listening, and solving problems by asking thoughtful questions. Mandy is a HubSpot expert and excels at closing loops with well-designed automation and AI.