How Spicy is Your ABM Strategy? 3 Plays to Move From ‘Mild’ to ‘Hot’ – with Kate Adams

Kate Adams


Kate Adams is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Validity Inc. She has over 15 years of experience in marketing, and has led many notable companies! Kate is talented in creating compelling and consistent messaging through the customer life cycle. If being a marketing leader wasn’t enough, Kate also gives back to her community by helping at the Pine Street Inn, providers of services to nearly 2,000 people experiencing homelessness in Boston daily.


“You know that these are your prime fit companies. The companies that you do the best with that are most valuable to you as long as you set that strategy off right from the get go… Inflation and the economic uncertainty that we are driving towards right now are really what are driving purchase decisions for consumers.” 

Key Points

  • the right ABM strategy can uplift marketing revenue by over 200%. 
  • ‘Heat up’ your strategy by narrowing your ICP and tailoring your marketing campaigns.  
  • ABM is about details – and the details are in your data.  
  • Email providers give you a email credibility score, similar to a credit score. Be mindful to not abuse cold emailing, you’ll put yourself in spam.  
  • Buyers are demanding a personal approach to sales.  


Hey, everybody, thank you so much for joining me for “How Spicy is your ABM Strategy? Three Plays to Move From Mild to Hot in 2023.” So first things first. My name is Kate Adams. I’m the SVP of Marketing at Validity. I’ve been doing this marketing game for more than 15 years, if you can believe it. I know I look so good for my age.

It’s incredible. I would love to connect you, connect with you on LinkedIn. You can find me at that QR code or that link, and I’d love to hear from you on Twitter. So let’s talk about what’s on the menu for today. So first up, we’re going to talk about what’s the big deal about ABM, just to all get on the same page with our ABM knowledge and end game.

Although I know you all are experts. We’re going to talk about number two level setting your strategy. So we’re all on the same page around what we are talking about when we’re talking about an ABM strategy. And then the third piece is that I’m going to give you three ways or three plays to spice up your ABM playbook.

So first things first. We’ve got hot stuff, right? ABM is hot right now. It’s burning. It’s on fire. And it has been for quite some time. Right. And that’s largely because of stats like these, like the staff or marketing profs here that talks about the right ABM strategy can uplift marketing revenue by over 200%. Over 200%, which is insane, right?

ITSM reports that 87% of marketers report ABM outperforms other marketing strategies in terms of ROI, and it makes a ton of sense why that’s the case, right? Because you’re honing in on the key accounts that, you know, you and your sales team can perform the best with. So it makes complete sense. Why the ROI is through the roof when it comes to account based marketing.

And then lastly, Forrester says that 91% of companies using ABM increase their average deal size. And why is that? Makes complete sense again, right? You know that these are your prime fit companies. The companies that you do the best with that are most valuable to you as long as you set that strategy off right from the get go.

ABM is hot stuff, no doubt about it. But what’s happening right now is consumer appetites are completely changing. Right. We’ve got a lot of food puns in here which shout out to the to my team here. They really knocked it out of the park with this one. But consumer appetites are changing. And so what do I mean by that?

So it’s it’s tough to keep up with the headlines these days for sure, whether it’s political or around the pandemic or around a social cause, right? It is crazy what’s going on right now. And the latest is economic. Right. And so inflation and the economic uncertainty that we are are driving towards right now are really what are driving purchase decisions for consumers.

Right. I don’t know about you, but I feel it every single time. I have to go to the grocery store every week. Right. I know that I am paying a heck of a lot more for that grocery bill than I have ever paid in in the last 12 months. It seems to go higher and higher on the every single week, and so that is really what is driving consumer behavior. It was before what was driving consumer behavior was nobody had any toilet paper or things were running out. We had a major or and still have to some degree major supply chain issues. But now, inflation is really taking a toll on people. And even as I’m as I’m speaking right now.

The headlines are all over the place in terms of Meta’s layoffs, Twitters layoffs, and whoever comes next. Right. And so that is absolutely on the tops of people’s minds. And so it’s been folks, this has this stuff that says consumers want hyper personalized outreach. 86% of consumers say that personalized option influences their buying decisions. So now I’m getting more selective with the decisions that I’m going to make, and so if I’m getting more selective, you can bet your last marketing dollar, right, that I’m going to make a decision based on who I think knows me the best and who is sending me the most targeted, most relevant message possible that I know can meet my needs. Right. The DMA cites that 59% of consumers, they say they have changed brands because they buy from in the past six months just to save money.

So they want personalization and they want a great deal. Right. That’s what consumers want. And I know that you’re looking at this data and saying, yeah, but this is all consumer and I work for B2B. And so that’s completely different for B2B. These stats aren’t the same. Like here is a newsflash for you. At the end of the day, B2B is made up by these consumers.

Just because I’m experiencing tightness in my grocery bill, I am also being more vigilant all the time economically, even in my business life, especially in my business life, as I’m hearing things like hiring freezes, or layoffs, or not achieving revenue goals. Right. Those same things are happening in a B2B environment right now, but consumers are also far more wary about protecting their own personal data.

Right. And so they are way more cognizant, I don’t know about you, but we do extensive security training. And I know a lot of my colleagues across different organizations do it all the time where my own security team is trying to send me phishing emails so that I that I know that during a test, I’m being vigilant all the time in scanning my own email, making sure that I’m replying to SMS messages that I know are from the source, right?

That I’m always double checking things and making sure that I’m not giving away too much of our data or, God forbid, putting my organization at risk in any way. Right. They’re being so much more vigilant about how who they’re sharing data with, how people are getting their data and inspecting that even more and more. So, look, it’s time to heat it up.

Right. I happen to be a frank red hot girl, but I also have a jar of this stuff, Cholula, in my in my cabinet. It’s excellent. Whatever hot sauce is your favorite – get it. Take that top cap off and pour it vigilantly over your ABM strategy because now we’ve gotta heat it up. So let’s level set a little bit on how mature your ABM strategy actually is.

So this is the ABM pyramid, right? That we’ve all we all know and love. Right. Starts out with at the bottom the mild version is that one too many version, right. So maybe you’ve identified 1500 accounts that fit your ideal customer profile. For me, we tend to pick accounts. Have we looked at what industries we are most successful at?

I can tell you what industries? 67% of our air is are in, right? We pick organizations with firm or graphic attributes like the number of employees we are most successful at selling to. We pick organizations who happen to send a certain amount of email or have a certain number of sales employees as team members in their organization. Right.

All of those are attributes for me, firmographically that make the best ABM targets. And then we layer in the demographics of those and understand, well, who in those organizations are we most successful selling to? Who do we have the best run with? How? Who are the people that are on the buying teams where we win most often, right?

So that we can layer in that demographic information. So that’s how we get to that kind of one too many. Right. So that’s the mild version, right? That’s the that’s the version my kids love. My little guy. Doesn’t complain is too spicy. It’s it’s great. Right? One too many, one too few. Next up is when we start to carve out.

Okay. And now these are the top tier of those accounts of the one to many, these are the top tier of those accounts. Maybe it’s the top 10 to 20% of those accounts. Right where we’re doing way more you’re doing way more personalization on that side. You’re really creating industry specific content. You’re creating demographically specific content. Maybe you’re even keying in keying in on key regions, right, and you’re really getting more and more targeted around the one for you. Right? So if you have a lot of those key accounts that are in New York, you’re doing field events, in New York, you’re doing direct mail drops in California. You’re really surrounding those accounts in a way that you have never been able to before, and then you get into that’s heating up. Right. And then you get into super spicy, ultra hot thermometers, break in here on the right side of the screen where you’re doing 1 to 1. You are straight up understanding an account from the inside out. You’re reviewing maybe they’re their latest quarterly earnings call. You are understanding organizationally exactly who reports where you are understanding you’re coming up with a full account plan on how you’re going to navigate into the organization.

You’re creating content specific just to a single account. You’re devising strategies just to that specific account in order to gather their attention. You are doing every single thing you can to encircle those accounts and really understand and almost as if you’re an employee in the account, how you can help them push their whatever your solution does become more secure or increase their revenue or whatever, or be more productive.

Whatever it is that your solution delivers, you are thinking about it almost as if you’re an employee of that 1 to 1 account, right? And so that’s kind of the three flavors from mild all the way to super spicy, super hot of account based marketing. And so one of the things that I talk about a lot and so far in this presentation, I’ve called it account based marketing, but I’ve got a hot take on account based marketing for you.

I can’t stand it. I can’t stand the name account based marketing. I can’t stand it so much. It drives me absolutely wacky because it makes it sound like account based marketing is only the responsibility of the marketing department, and then the rest of the organization can go ahead, put their feet up and wait until marketing does its job in order for the organization to do its job, and I don’t think there could. There is a bigger error in the cat in in how we talk about that buy or a bigger miss naming or miss branding, if you will, which is ironic for a marketing function. Right. But a misbranding than calling it account based marketing because I believe that when done correctly, when I just talked about what you do for those 1 to 1 account when done correctly, it’s something that marketing does that SDR is do and that account executives do and account managers all do very orchestrated in a way that it is really the method in which you generate revenue for your business.

Here’s another misnomer, I think, or a misconception around account based marketing, or from here on out, I’m going to call it account based revenue, which is don’t oversimplify it, right? Like for a long time when your thought leaders were trying to sell the concept of account based marketing or account based revenue to us as workers, they made it seem like so simple, right?

They made it seem like it was the Taco Bell version of marketing, right? Where simply all you had to do was, one, identify your target accounts to market to them and three, count that money. Right? It was like which one from the value menu do you want? Do you want to number one, two or three and you want to beef or the chicken version.

Right. But that is not that is not actually how that works. Right. The reality is that in order to do account based revenue really well, what you need to do is start with your customer base. And if you don’t have a large enough customer base to do that right now, because maybe you’re in the early stages of the business, you could also present some hypotheses on who you think your best customer would look like you.

Then segment down that customer base, like I just mentioned before, which is like, okay, now let’s find where the meaningful where some meaningful trends are within our customer base in order to identify where we win most. Right. So what I one of the examples I gave earlier was I can tell you the industries that we perform best in that we’re 70% of our revenue is right, and so honing in on those large segments or large likenesses that your customer base has, in order for you to build what that ideal customer profile or ICP actually looks like. Right. And from there, you can start to build out a financial model that aligns to your strategy. Right? And so you can start to say, okay, if we have any number of accounts and we need to do X in revenue, then okay, great.

Now I can work my way back and I could start to use my put my average selling price in can understand how many deals that is. I can understand what my account penetration of that ideal customer profile has to be in order to achieve our revenue targets. And then you need to sell your strategy to your organization. and primarily you need to sell it into sales, right? Because you get it. You’ve got to grab the hands of your SDR leadership of your sales leadership, of your account management leadership, of your customer success leadership even hold their hands right and sell this into them and help them understand why this makes sense for your organization. And then you may think about if you want to leverage technology, what technology do you actually need to do in order for you to measure account engagement account level engagement, not lead level engagement?

How do you look at an entire account and all the things that are happening there? Right, because we know as marketers that we’re not single threaded on deals. We don’t sell to one person anymore. We just don’t. Especially not if you’re in SaaS, you don’t sell to one person anymore, you’re selling to multiple stakeholders and you have to pass the gate for multiple stakeholders along the way.

So you’re going to want to start to look at things from an account base perspective, not just a lead based perspective. Then you’ve got to train your SDR or BTR team. You’ve got to train your sales team, your account management team, your customer success team. You’ve got to create a regular cadence of meetings for accountability so that you can understand, okay, who are the key accounts that we’re going off of?

If we’re going 1 to 1 marketing and sales. Let’s talk about what’s going on in our 1 to 1 accounts this week. What have we done? What what activity have we done? What results have we seen as that as a result of that activity? Right. And then identify wins and losses and continue to iterate through that. Right. That’s that’s an exhaustive list.

Like whoever was trying to sell us in on the Taco Bell of identify the accounts market to them and then count your money like it’s a gross underestimation. So now that we’ve level set, let’s move into the three plays that are going to help you spice up your ABS strategy. First up, you’re going to dial up your data quality, right?

You’re going to dial up your data quality. ABM is about the details and the details are in your data. So here’s why data quality matters so much. If you have multiple accounts in your CRM reporting on one and you’re trying to get to an account engagement score, but you have duplicate accounts in your CRM, how are you going to measure?

How are you going to get to a single account engagement score if you have duplicates and that engagement is spread across multiple objects? Short answer is you’re not right. If your data is dirty and you have duplicate contacts and leads in your CRM, how are you going to actually understand who sales and marketing should be targeting the best?

If you’re looking at two separate records right? The short answer is, you’re not, right. But your data needs to be working for you, not against you. So here’s my question for you. Is your data working for you or against you today? Because I think the first step that you need to do is clean up that data. And so our own data study from a data that we have tells us that 44% of CRM users say their company loses 10% annual revenue because of poor quality data, like to me, that’s mind boggling, right? Ten we lost 10% in revenue because of poor quality data and we are literally looking for every penny that we can literally find under the cushions right now. Right now is not the time to think. Oh, okay. Yeah, sure, I’ve got dirty data, but I can handle that later if it’s costing you 10% of revenue.

That is no joke. Right. Another data point that we have from a study that we did was 50% of people said their company loses new sales because of poor CRM data quality. 50% of companies are losing new sales. I don’t know about you, but we are literally on top of every single new sales deal that we can possibly be right now.

Right. As a marketer, I know what kills us. We get to that opportunity space and then we can’t get it across the line right and can’t get it across the line. We can’t get it further. I mean, that is no joke. We can’t we can’t let data get in the way of that. So here’s a step by step data quality plan for you.

The first one is evaluate, right? So let’s just take a look at a high level. Let’s do some exports out of our data and understand what our current status. Right? Just do some exports out of our data, random samples and just run some evaluation, random sample of account objects, random sample of contact objects, random sample of lead objects, and look at, okay, what do we have from a duplication standpoint? What do we have from a data standardization standpoint that that is missing for us? What do we have from a just straight up wrong data or or data that’s old, right? That that contact record that you’ve had in your CRM since 2017 is more than likely out of date now, right?

We’ve gone through a pandemic, massive layoffs, massive changes in the workforce, the great resignation and now the great coming back into the workforce of the of the folks that resigned, going through massive people moving and changing locations. Right. That data is more than likely out of date. Pre-pandemic, but our our CRM data was aging 33%, 33% of our CRM data was old after a year post pandemic that skyrocketed.

I have you folks estimating that that is up to 50%, 50% per year right now. Right. And so let’s run that evaluation next. Let’s clean up that data and let’s verify it. Right. So I don’t care how you do it. If you hire a team of folks that that help you go do this internally, if you outsource this to an agency, if you go run data automation technologies that allow you to help the help you to do this, let’s cleanse and verify it, because the one thing I want to make sure and when I say verify, I mean using that, making sure that the phone numbers, excuse me, in your CRM that the email addresses you have in your Sierra are actually going to give your SDR, your API, whoever is reaching out to your customers, the best opportunity to connect every time, because I know that every single time an SDR does an activity out there on our sales floor right now, I want to make sure that I’ve done everything I can to set them up for success. And so we’re going to clean that, we’re going to verify it, and then we’re going to monitor and enforce it. Right. Next thing is and also we’re not just going to clean it one time, we’re going to implementation.

We’re going to implement cleansing over and over again in an automated way. Because if you do a one time cleanse, sure, that data will be cleaned for the next 1 minute. But literally 60 seconds after that cleanse, depending on how big your organization is, you are now unclean because somebody is inputting data that is not accurate into your CRM or somebody’s changed a job, and so how can you make sure that you’re implementing technology that can help you do that in an automated fashion on an ongoing basis? So it’s not just clean it and forget it, but it’s clean it and maintain it over time. And then monitoring and enforcing rate – what data rules can you can you put into your organization? How can you instill data standardization within your organization?

How can you make sure that you are holding your team accountable to inputting all of the data that you need into your CRM in order to get their deal done right? For more hot takes, you can read the dirt on data quality a step by step guide to Data Management. Totally free e-book. Not selling you anything in there.

Just take a look at it. Help you in terms of how you’re going to run that play. Number two, you need to make it to the inbox. You got to make it to the inbox. That’s an important next step. Inboxes are more crowded than ever. Are email volume global sending volumes? This is a global sending volume chart. Over the last two years, they’ve gone up by 82% right?

This is right. When the pandemic hits, we have a massive jump there and we have never come back down. And this is the holiday season and this is this is another holiday season. And you can see they’re just getting bigger over time. Right. Overall, this trend line is up over time. We’ve grown by 82% in the last two years.

It’s nuts. So mailbox providers like the Gmail’s, the Yahoos, the Microsofts of the world, they have no choice but to get stricter about how they’re filtering mail because so many of us are trying to send more and more mail. So the first thing you’re going to do is protect your sender reputation. You’re going to say, What in the heck is a sender reputation?

Sender reputation is like your credit score, right? As an email sender. It’s the credit score that mailbox providers reference or have on you as a sender to tell us to tell them how reputable you are. And it combines data like the number of email bounces you get, the number of unsubscribe you get, the number of block lists you’re hitting, the amount of opens and forwards.

You get the number of link clicks that you get within your email, the number of overall messages you send, and how often you send those messages. All of those data points go in. Do establish your sender reputation ,or your credit score, as a sender that mailbox providers are looking at. So one thing that you can do is make the opt out bigger.

I know it sounds counterintuitive. I understand that. Right. But look at this. Let me show you this one more time. These mailbox providers are looking at the number of unsubscribed you get. They already know they know what’s going on in your email. They know how many people are unsubscribing to your email. They know how many people are complaining to them about your email.

They already know this. They know how many people are throwing your mail in the trash. They understand how many people never open your mail already. So get those people who don’t want to participate in your mail off of your list so that you can improve your reputation and then improve how you are getting to the inbox. At the end of the day, you got more hot takes on this, right?

There’s a whole lot more that goes into all of those things about getting into the inbox. You can get that from the five minute guide to email deliverability. Again, completely free e-book. I’m just giving stuff away. I am just giving things away. I’m not doing anything, not selling you anything right now. The last play Personalize your customer experience so I already provide it.

Provided you with some stats on this about how buyers already are demanding that you provide a more personalized experience. Here’s another one from Wilder 76% of B2B customers report a lack of personal attention and customization in their buying experience because too many B2B marketers like you and I say what I said that you were telling me earlier, which is, yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re show me a bunch a bunch of consumer data, but I don’t care.

I’m a B2B. Those consumers are the same people. They are the same people who are getting highly customized consumer outreach from all of those direct to consumer or B2C companies. They know what is possible and they are demanding, you to do better. Right. So first up, first tip on here is collect zero party data. And so what do I mean by zero party data?

Zero party data is something that somebody explicitly tells to you, something that they tell you. Right. And so here are some examples of folks that are actually doing this via their email. Right. And I know I’ve got a bunch of B to C examples here because I believe the best marketing is the best B2B marketing comes out of B to C, right, but here is where this company is actually saying like, hey, tell us, wait, what do you want to feel like? Do you like drama? You want to laugh, you want to take a deep dove? What do you want to feel like? Right? Here’s Clarke saying, Hey, please just update your preferences. Like, I don’t want to tell you anything.

Just tell me what you like so that I can improve how I market to you. Right? Here’s the office coming over here and saying, Have we got it right? Male or female? Pick which one you’re most interested in, right? Then you can layer in first party data and first party data is the data that somebody tells you without expressing expressly telling you.

What does that mean based on their behavior? Right? Here’s Timberland using an example of a quote that you left in your cart and you did not check out with. Here is that Spotify annual summary that goes off every single year where people like absolutely love it. Right. And they’re only just reporting your behavior back to you. But people love this stuff, right?

Your support is saying like, hey, here’s Kohl’s, rather saying, hey, we just added for a store within your local Kohl’s store. Here it is like and here’s how to get there and here’s the map and here’s how you can click on that on mobile to get your directions right. That’s all about first party data just based on behavior, and then lastly, is power up your preference that I showed you earlier about that example of clerks who was saying, hey, just update your preferences. This is a great way to get that zero party data. Let people tell you what they want. I guarantee you’ve got to blow some dust off your preference editor right now. You or anyone on your team probably hasn’t looked at it since 1999.

This is an opportunity for you to get more data, which is going to become more important than ever, especially as we talk about the looming cookie updates that are going to happen. And more and more privacy regulations, all of those things. Right. And lastly, spicy account based revenue, not account based marketing starts with clean contact data. So maintain a clean database by preventing bad data from entering your system in the first place.

Right. You can add verification APIs in real time to your forms so that you can never put a bad email address into your systems ever again. You can reach and engage more people by reducing your bounce rate and protecting your sender reputation. And you can also focus all of your account based revenue efforts on real opportunities in customers.

Look, when you roll this out and you roll those three players, your prospects, when they see your eBay account based revenue strategy, they’re going to go a little retro retro on you here and go, ‘that’s hot’ from Paris, right? Paris Hilton making a big comeback with their moms’ prominence on on Real Housewives. But Paris is going to think that’s hot.

So where are your prospects? Look, if you enjoyed this presentation, which I hope you did, and thank you. Thank you. Thank you for spending your time with me. I hope you’ll connect with me on LinkedIn or on Twitter. I’d love to see you there. Thank you so much for your time today and have a great day.