Hunter & Bard's S.C.A.L.E. framework

Read Hunter & Bard's S.C.A.L.E. framework for account-based marketing eBook to connect your product or service to the people who need it most

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✍️ Table of Contents

Who is this eBook for?

After more than two decades in marketing, I can tell you — account-based marketing (ABM) isn’t for everyone. But this book can help you determine if it’s right for your business and, more importantly, how to make it work for you.

If you’re experienced in ABM, skim this for a refresher, confirmation that you’re doing all the right things, and tips to use when managing up. If you are looking to start ABM, read this and take notes. If you’ve got further questions, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Do you need to explain to a superior why ABM is the right way to go? This is a great guide for you. Just got ABM under your purview for the first time? We’ve got you. This eBook has something for everyone who is focused on strategic accounts. And if you’re looking for a team to help you strategize for and execute your ABM programs, well, we can help with that, too.

Good luck, you’re going to do great.


Shira Abel
C E O  &  F O U N D E R,  H U N T E R & B A R D

What is account-based marketing?

To understand what ABM is, it helps to start with what it is not.

It is not spray-and-pray marketing. For ABM to work well and bring a return on investment (ROI) the audience must be narrow, specific, and focused. This means ABM does not fit for every product. It is not for a $10 a month SaaS (software as a service) product that sells to small businesses and has an annual contract value (ACV) of $99. That type of product needs a Product Lead Growth (PLG) or High-Performance Marketing strategy. If you are selling a high-value product, with an ACV of $250k+ that can grow from there, ABM is the best approach to win long-lasting, high-value accounts quickly and smoothly.

Due to ABM’s highly-targeted, time-intensive approach, it only works for strategic accounts with an expansion potential of over $1M in annual revenue.

If you have a land-and-expand strategy, a large buying committee, an account executive, and a sales engineer, the odds are ABM would be a great marketing strategy for you.

As mentioned above, ABM takes time.

Building a good list takes longer than 10 minutes. Curating and creating materials that will matter to your audience requires real research and quality output from your writers. On top of that, materials must be properly edited not just for grammar, but for subject-related content that speaks to the appropriate audience level. 

The work should also have a high level of design, with imagery that evokes the industry and title you’re targeting. In ABM, the details matter, because that’s what connects with people subliminally on an emotional level. It helps build trust and relationships. It shows how much you care — just as generalized messaging shows how little you care.


What does that mean in practice?

If you’re creating a program aimed at pharmaceutical healthcare executives, the messaging and imagery should evoke pharmaceutical healthcare relevant to the executive’s work life, not a generic factory floor.

If you’re experienced in advertising but haven’t done ABM before, it will hurt in the beginning. The numbers you’re targeting are completely different. You don’t want an audience of 10M or 3M or even 1M when you’re doing ABM. Instead, you want to target much smaller numbers. Think 20k – 80k for an ABM Lite campaign (more on that later). Your numbers could go down to a few thousand. Even a few hundred. If you know exactly who you need to win over, you could even go down to 1-to-1 (although LinkedIn will let your audience be as small as 35, as of this writing.)


More to think about with ABM

Account-based marketing should not be your only method of marketing. As it focuses on prospects deeper in the marketing funnel, it doesn’t help much with building awareness widely in the market. But an ABM campaign will benefit significantly if your brand is already developed, so you still need marketing tactics that encapsulate brand and awareness building. You still need a full, holistic strategic initiative that encompasses your long-term goals.

If you’re a start-up and your budget is limited, generally I’d recommend focusing on both awareness tactics and accountbased marketing, as ABM is a sales-marketing play. Add tactics that focus on other stages of the funnel as your team and budget grow.

Quick recap

ABM helps companies prioritize their marketing efforts by only targeting the accounts that matter. This approach drives more closed wins and generates larger deals. Hunter & Bard’s S.C.A.L.E. framework helps companies understand the fundamentals of strategic ABM.

What is S.C.A.L.E. and why do you need it?

We took a hard look at ABM programs that were failing. Here’s what we observed:

  • Many people have a tough time making the mental switch from large number marketing to small number accountbased marketing.
  • Marketing and sales teams do not work with each other.
  • People don’t audit their results.

We developed a framework – S.C.A.L.E. – to help you overcome these challenges and successfully navigate your ABM journey.

Securing ABM program goals

Every marketing program or campaign should start by securing your goal. Doing so requires two actions:

  1. Define your S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goal
  2. List the strategic initiatives you want to achieve

Knowing what success looks like will help you make sure you’re on the right track and get there faster. Energy goes where there’s clarity.

Goal setting

Pick a single S.M.A.R.T. goal. For example:

We’re launching an ABM program to connect with cybersecurity companies that are looking for agencies who understand their market and how to do accountbased marketing. Our goal is to secure two Opportunities by the end of June 2024.

We’re launching an ABM program to connect with cybersecurity companies that are looking for agencies who understand their market and how to do accountbased marketing. Our goal is to secure two Opportunities by the end of June 2024.


Most companies have preset definitions for Marketing Qualified Account (MQA), Sales Qualified Account (SQA), Sales Accepted Account (SAA), and Opportunity. If you don’t already have these defined, you can reference many resources online, or we can work with you to do so. For the purposes of this eBook, we define an Opportunity as a sale that has advanced to the prospect’s procurement and legal teams.

If we start the program in June 2024, we will not realistically achieve our goals. It typically anywhere from 90 – 120 days after a program begins to get a deal to the Opportunity stage. Keep in mind, the Opportunity stage involves security in addition to the procurement and legal teams, and can take an additional 6-12 months to close.

Strategic initiatives

We follow the methodology laid out in Breakthrough Marketing Plans by Professor Tim Calkins from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

This includes one goal, broken down into three strategic initiatives, and the tactics that support those initiatives. As with S.C.A.L.E., you start with your goal and branch outward from there. Here’s an example:


$2M in Annual Revenue by Q4 2023


Build awareness

Build buying rate

Attract competitors’ customers

Strategic initiatives
  • Video podcast 
  • Blogging 
  • Industry events

  • ABM program 
  • Partnerships 
  • Referrals

  • SEO 
  • Targeted ads 
  • SEM

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) & account-based marketing metrics

Securing your program goals means establishing the right metrics, which depend on the type of campaign you’re running. You might be focused on creating net new accounts or expanding existing ones. We recommend choosing five KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) from the following options.

Having a short list will keep you focused:
  • Email open rate 

  • Click-through rate 

  • Folloze board visits

  • Content engagement

  • Accounts engaged

  • Accounts influenced

  • Deal velocity

  • Sales Accepted Accounts

  • Opportunities

  • Closed wins


Campaign benchmarks

Net new account

The open rate for a net new (cold), non-ABM outbound email is 1-2%. We’ve found an ABM program, with targeted lists and content, averages a 5-10% rate. If it’s an incredibly timely email, it can deliver a 20 – 30% open rate (think re-opening the office and clean air review in the middle of COVID closures).

Expanding accounts

This could be a cold list aimed at new people inside an existing account, or it could be a warm list aimed at people you already sell to. The rate for a cold list is the same as a net new account campaign. Selling to current customers, assuming that they are happy, is easier and simpler than selling new things to prospective customers. The open rate benchmark for current clients is higher, as they’re receiving a warm email. Expect anywhere from 10-20%, depending on the industry.

The more relationship connections you forge within an account, the more potential opportunities you will have to transform a prospect into an Opportunity. Pay attention to things like expanded reach within a key account, increase in meetings booked, or faster journeys through the pipeline. Whatever your focus, identifying your desired outcome is the key to crafting your approach to an ABM campaign.

Choosing strategic accounts

What differentiates a “strategic” account from any other account? In a word: quality. Narrow your focus to only the most important accounts that can deliver the biggest reward to close, and to where your solution brings the most value. ABM is highly customized and, as such, more labor-intensive (hint: more people/higher agency budget). This requires you to be deliberately strategic when using it.

With that said, there are levels of ABM, and the discipline of choice gets looser as the number of accounts aimed at gets larger.

Choose your type of ABM campaign

Strategic ABM

Strategic ABM targets the level of exact accounts and/or specific job titles. This could mean a list of as low as 10 people in one company, up to a list of 150 in 10 companies. We recommend keeping your strategic ABM list tight. Sending one-to-one, highly researched emails, to a list of 150 people is very time consuming.

This tier of ABM is used in situations when the objective is to:
  1. Target important accounts that could change the trajectory of the company
  2. Change a perception
  3. Secure a larger deal
  4. Build relationships
  5. Identify opportunities

Annual contract values for these accounts start at $500K and can grow to $1M+.


ABM Lite

ABM Lite generates a wider list that targets at an industry level. Expect lists in the low hundreds for an email campaign, with an advertising audience of 20-80K, and an ACV upwards of $250K that can grow to over $1M.

ABM Lite is useful for:
  1. Larger deals
  2. Increased deal velocity
  3. Relationship building


Programmatic ABM

Programmatic ABM campaigns reach a larger list of targets because accounts are targeted at the company size. Expect lists in the few hundreds to low single-thousands if you’re emailing, with an advertising audience of 80-200K, and annual contract values of $250K–$500K per year. This is perfect for identifying opportunities and generating marketing qualified accounts (MQAs). It’s also a great way to determine interest before investing deeper effort into an account.

Align your sales and customer success teams to maximize CLV (Customer Lifetime Value)
Talk to sales:
  1. What determines your bonus / pay structure / getting into President’s Club?
  2. How is your work assessed?
  3. What’s your number for the year?
  4. How long does it typically take you to close a deal?
  5. What is the typical purchasing process?
  6. Who’s in the buying committee?
  7. What are the typical touch points?
  8. What’s needed to keep the process moving?
  9. What “Nos” do you see happening in the sales cycle?
  10. How do you get around those “Nos”?
  11. How can marketing best help you?
  12. What are your expectations for this ABM program?
Talk to customer success:
  1. Who are our highest and lowest value accounts?
  2. Which ones have grown the most?
  3. Who takes advantage of all we can offer?
  4. Which accounts don’t seem to “get it?”
  5. Which traits should rule out an account?
  6. Where do we already have an advantage?

Speaking with sales will give you clarity about which clients are the easiest to close. Meanwhile, your customer success team can identify which clients benefit the most from your offered solutions. Focusing on prospects that are a combination of both will deliver the highest CLV.


Know your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Build your personas based on differentiating criteria:



Company revenue



Any defining trait (e.g., they must use X technology, or they cannot have a product lead growth marketing strategy)

Where they’re active online

  • What do they post on LinkedIn?

  • Are they active on GitHub?

  • Are they in a professional organization (e.g., ASME) with a community?

  • Are they in a think tank (e.g., Pavilion)

  • Are they on Twitter?

  • Overall, what is this individual truly interested in?

Supervisors/buying committee
Craft your pitch accordingly:
  • Does your target seem to like storytelling or compelling visuals?
  • Do they prefer humor?
  • Do they appreciate directness?
Segment your lists so you can target your messaging:
  • What is the industry or vertical?
  • How much revenue does the company earn?
  • How many employees does it have?
  • What’s the size of its customer base?
  • Where is it located?

Breaking your list down by these criteria will enable you to segment and deliver customized messaging and visuals.

Advance targeting tactics

The first step to build your sales tactics is to reverse-engineer your platinum closed wins. Through intent, tracking, and analytics platforms, you can examine the buyer journey your top accounts went through before you successfully closed them.

Should you have access to that data, review the following:

  1. Which parts of your website did they visit?
  2. What emails did they open, and what content did they view?
  3. How long was the sales cycle end-to-end?
  4. Was the process easy or difficult?
  5. How many meetings did you have, and what was the focus of those meetings?

Patterns will emerge once you’ve laid this out for some of your best closed wins. You can then use these patterns to inform your understanding of the buyer’s journey. Create a flowchart of the typical successful journey and monitor which accounts choose that user journey over another.

Tracking the activities of each targeted account will help you decide where to focus your attention in the future. Just keep in mind that a customer journey is subject to change. Testing constantly is your best bet.

Also look through the accounts that were lost and see if you can answer:
  • At what stage did you lose them (MQA, SQA, SAA, or Opportunity)?
  • What actions did they take (did they go to the site, what did they read, who did they talk to)?
  • Why was the account lost?

Creating the messaging brief

Messaging can be tricky. What you say and what your potential client hears can be completely different.

Here are some helpful questions to consider while honing your message:
  • Who are you targeting? 
  • What problems do they need solved?
  • What approach is most likely to get their attention?
  • How do you want them to feel?
  • What action do you want them to take next?
  • What trigger words will move them to action?
  • What’s the cost of them doing nothing?

Share this brief with your marketing and sales teams. As your sales team works directly with customers, they may have some insights your analytics tools might not capture.

Be clear and consistent with your teams

Marketing and Sales should be aligned with definitions on terms such as Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQAs), Sales Qualified Accounts (SQAs), Sales Accepted Accounts (SAAs), and Opportunities. With ABM programs, there should be regular meetings to discuss the accounts in the SAA and Opportunity stage so that marketing can supply materials to help sales win over or neutralize opposition in the target account.

Marketing never stops

A closed win is not the finish line. Post-sale, marketing should collaborate with your customer success team to help the account grow, propelling the feedback loop. Maintaining an active client relationship, even after initial sales, creates a lasting partnership. By approaching each account as a marathon rather than a sprint, you can increase trust, reciprocity and, eventually, Customer Lifetime Value.

Lead a seamless campaign

Sales and marketing must work closely together to ensure a seamless campaign. If your sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned, they could undermine each other’s efforts, making the company appear sloppy and disorganized.

Change management so ABM can work

Getting started with ABM requires a level of change management in your organization. It’s hard conceptually to go from thousands of (often crappy) leads to a few dozen strategic ones. This shift can make a sales team nervous, especially during an economic downturn.

This means you need to find the right partners on your sales team to be successful with ABM. It’s typically obvious who the friendly salespeople are, and the ones most likely to be a real partner in an organization’s first ABM test run.

Change management is only successful when it goes both top-down (the executives give a directive) and bottom-up (involving and giving the sales team agency in the decisionmaking process). Finding your first follower makes getting buy-in from the rest of the team significantly easier, so find your leader in sales to team up with in the beginning. Then look for someone who shows interest — the first follower — and invite them to the weekly review meetings to see the results of the program.

Encouraging buy-in from Sales

Collaboration with sales is critical for ABM to succeed, so make sure your sales team feels comfortable with the process.

This can be achieved by:
  • Planning together

  • Drawing on their expert market knowledge

  • Encouraging participation

While it’s important to involve your salespeople early in the process, be careful not to overdo it. They’re busy too, and it can be counterproductive to overwhelm them.

During the preparation part of the program, don’t pull them into meetings unless you have materials for them to review. This helps facilitate buy-in and helps make sure messaging is aligned without wasting their time.

After campaign launch, we recommend having a weekly accountability check-in. In these meetings, you should review which prospects are showing intent signals (email opens, clicks, etc.). This meeting can be as short as five minutes, but make sure you have an agenda and go through it quickly. Sales teams appreciate brevity, so they can focus on sales.

Make sure to offer your salespeople touchpoint materials, such as scripts for follow-up emails, or relevant case studies as they begin outreach and start conversations.

Evaluate progress and measure results

The final stage in the S.C.A.L.E framework is to evaluate the campaign’s process and progress to measure what has and hasn’t been working. Results bring in a treasure trove of data to inform and improve your next campaign. If you’re not analyzing your campaign results, you’re not learning why it succeeded or failed. You want to be able to replicate successful results and build from underwhelming ones.


1. Review the whole program

2. If you exceeded your goals by a wide margin, were the goals ambitious enough?

3. If you didn’t make your goals by a wide margin, were the goals too ambitious? What went wrong?

4. Were they the right goals?

5. Could anything have gone better? Could the process have been smoother?

Track and report metrics
  • Was your campaign personalized enough? 
  • Was your targeting too general?
  • Did you communicate your services clearly enough?
  • Was the tone and content of your messaging appropriate for your target audience?

Track pipeline growth

The pipeline provides a detailed overview of where leads are within the sales funnel and shows you whether your salesmarketing cadence was effective.

Track email engagement
  • Did they open your email?
  • What was the click-through rate?
  • Did they respond to the email?
  • Was the response positive or negative?

Through Folloze boards, you can see how many views your page received, where the traffic came from, how long users stayed on a particular page, the number of opt-ins, downloads, and more.

Track ROI on ABM investment

When tracking success, it’s important to measure total revenue tied to ABM initiatives, the win rate/closed wins, and deal velocity. If your ROI shows that your ABM strategy has been successful, you can use that data to design future campaigns.

Improve by iterations

What you learn from one marketing campaign is transferrable to future campaigns. By noting the things that did and didn’t work, you can pinpoint the areas that need more testing.

For example, B2B buyers receive upward of 60 emails per week from suppliers. They’re much likelier to engage with messaging that speaks directly to their needs. You’ll know after the first email goes out if the subject line works by the opens. From the responses, you could infer if the email created a connection and hit the mark with your prospects. Should you have a lower-thanexpected open rate, change the subject line of your second email. If there are no responses to the email, ask whether the email subject connected enough with the copy.


You’ve finished your cadence. If it worked out well, celebrate!

If it didn’t work out well, still celebrate. It’s not that you haven’t won, you just haven’t won YET. Now that you know what needs to be fixed, and how to use S.C.A.L.E. to your advantage, you can start working on your next ABM campaign.

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