Account Based Marketing (ABM), perhaps more than any other approach to marketing, is singularly and intensively focused on the perfect buyer, the “target” account. It stands to reason, then, that the highest priority of an ABM campaign is identifying and refining the best possible target-account list. This is where sales and marketing must align their efforts to yield the most promising result.
The revenue rewards of such an effort are so potentially promising that ITSMA reports that almost 85 percent of marketers measuring their return on investment say ABM outperforms other marketing investments. Similar percentages are cited by Marketo and Alterra Group.
In getting started, a useful perspective is the frequently cited FIRE checkpoints: Fit, Intent, Recency, and Engagement. That puts the focus, first, on firmographics (the “demographics” of a firm such as industry, company size, revenue, number of employees, and location) and, second, the highest propensity to buy your product or service and third, recent expression of interest in what you are selling as well as engagement over time.
Beginning the List
Remember that we are targeting here companies with the greatest revenue potential. What we need to hence define is a target “persona” of a firm. The first question, then, will be what type of account is your most promising target? You begin making that judgment by referencing firmographics and technographics. You also review your customer relationship management (CRM) database to nail down criteria pertaining to accounts you’ve won versus those you have lost.
Run this data by your salespeople and other key stakeholders about what constitutes your ideal customer. Also, remember that often the highest level of success in ABM isn’t developing a successful criterion for a good prospect, it’s weeding out the prospects who will never show return. So, don’t be afraid to both focus on a target list AND set a floor to segment out prospects you no longer want to waste budget or resources on. However, keep in mind that to be useful those criteria must be searchable or “buyable”—criteria that can be applied to searching public databases.
The next step is to then build out a master account list based off the criteria identified. Data sources such as LinkedIn, Discover.org, Zoom Info or Dun & Bradstreet, will be useful in building out your initial list. You will have to keep in mind that some potentially good sources of account leads may have dated or inaccurate data. So, expect to invest time in cleaning some of your lists, to build individual contacts manually or to invest in contact discovery to get the names you need. As you start to see success with your initial list, you can add in more accounts and phase in technology to further identify target accounts when you’re ready to scale your efforts.
Continuous Testing and Improvement
As you start to see success with your initial list, expand to more accounts and phase in technology to make it easier to identify target accounts when you’re ready to scale your efforts. As you do develop your list, don’t miss the fact that existing customers may have divisions or subsidiaries that are promising additional target-accounts. And that the customers of your competitors belong on the list, too.
In enlarging your list—a continuous process—two other approaches could be useful. One is to take advantage of “look-alike” search software. This means including vendors and platforms that help identity companies that most resemble your target account list firmographics or the accounts you’ve had success with in the past. This approach reflects the benchmark characteristics of your best customers while extending beyond your CRM database.
The second fruitful approach might be to include “intent data” platforms—vendors enabling you to identify and target high-value accounts signaling interest in your company and products. Their approach involves tracking keywords related to your own company’s firmographics: that is, your industry, products, and competitors. When a surge of interest in these keywords is spotted, you want to know by what account.
Putting the List to Work
Next, put the list to work. To do so, you will want to segment your list by strategic importance into high value accounts, mid-range and low tier accounts. Highest priority targets will get the most personal attention, one-on-one communication, and a highly-customized approach like invitation to private dinners and high-touch direct mail campaigns. Mid-tier accounts might share similar business challenges and needs. Here you may require a one to many approach where you develop a marketing strategy focused on shared pain points among these accounts and personas within those accounts. Low tier accounts will be suppressed entirely.
Throughout ABM, maintenance of the list and enhancement of its quality by means of testing and tracking will remain pivotal. As your selection criteria are proven and iteratively improved, the list continues to gain value.
An advantage of ABM over other marketing will be that you can very specifically attribute certain sales, and revenue, to certain efforts. Your marketing target is so specific that you know where your marketing dollars went and to what it extent they paid off. By the same token, you will know sooner and with more certainty what marketing efforts are failing.
On a final note, in the creation of your vital target-accounts list, all the approaches listed above—and there are many more—are complementary. You may emphasize some more than others at any given point, but they are synergistic in their contribution to the highest-potential list
Diptii Tiiku, Senior Director of Marketing, Ridecell
Jackie Walts, Consultant, Principle, Jackie Walts Consulting