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  • ABM
  • B2B
  • Europe

The 4 steps to Account Selection for ABM and Intelligent Demand Generation

Feroze Engineer

In our post on ABM stats we talked about how 87% of B2B marketers reported ABM outperforms all other business strategies in terms of ROI. It’s therefore hardly a surprise that ITSMA’s 2021 State of the Profession Address found that the number 1 priority for B2B marketers is now ABM. But what decides whether or not your ABM strategy will succeed? The answer to that lies in its name (account-based marketing). In this post, we talk about everything you need to know to ensure you select the ‘best’ accounts for your ABM strategy.

Selecting the right accounts or companies to target is vital to any ABM strategy because it impacts every step that follows. Put simply, all the resources you pour into ABM – and these can be considerable depending on the strategy you opt for – will only secure a worthwhile return on investment if they lead to closed deals. That’s why it’s important to target those key accounts that are a good fit for you.

While it may sound counter-intuitive to many, ABM (especially one to one and one to few) is less about generating a higher quantity of leads and more about meaningfully engaging with higher quality leads. To do so, you need to:

  • Understand your campaign goals and consider the stages of buying cycle involved.
  • Narrow your total addressable market down to your ideal customer profiles or ICP accounts based on firmographics and technology matches.
  • Discover which of your ICP accounts are in-market, or in the stage of the buying cycle you want to target. 
  • Don’t forget to layer your own first-party data over selected accounts.

1. Understanding your campaign goals

This is important because there are a number of campaign goals that help form the basis of account selection, with some more obvious than others:

  • Profits. The most immediate and simple reason – maximise revenue and lifetime value.
  • Strategic importance. For example, you’re about to enter a new market, and logo acquisition is what’s needed for success.
  • Secure renewals: ABM is the ideal method to re-engage prospects who might be coming to the end of the renewing cycle and up-sell or cross-sell another solution they are likely to need.
  • ‘Land and expand’: The goal here is to turn a ‘small’ deal into a ‘big’ one by closing with a subsidiary, developing a good relationship with them, and using them as a touchpoint for more business.
  • Quick wins: Often a quick win is needed to meet targets and clear the way for more complex accounts. Quick win accounts will be selected based on the length and complexity of the buying cycle.
  • Brand credibility: Will winning this account change the way you’re perceived, creating additional long-term value?
  • Preventing churn: The cost of customer acquisition is between 3 to 30 times as high as customer retention. ABM campaigns not only focus on improving lead quality, but nurturing existing clients.

Each of the above will span a number of stages of the buying cycle – are you trying to bring about awareness, consideration, purchase decisions, somewhere in between, or all of the above for a full account-based experience (ABX)?

Establishing your campaign goals early on guarantees a less difficult selection process, as it provides you with parameters against which you can identify accounts that will help you meet your goals. It enables you to make informed decisions throughout your ABM programme and ensures alignment between sales teams and marketing teams by keeping everyone in the loop so resources are focused on common goals.

2. Narrow your total addressable market down to your ideal customer profiles

Once you’ve established your campaign goals, it’s time to narrow your total addressable market down to those ICP accounts that will help you fulfil your goals. While each business will have its own way by which it determines its ICPs, this process typically involves looking at ‘top’ accounts based on:

  • Firmographics: These are a set of characteristics pertaining to a company including but not limited to account size (number of employees and offices), sector, geography and revenue. If you do not have an intent-data or ABM platform, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is an excellent (and very accessible) way in which to do this.
  • Technographics or technology matches: Technology matches refer to the technology and software used by a company internally to do business (such as Salesforce, SAP, Xero, etc). This is often an excellent way to determine a good fit for your products or services or to gauge their state of digital maturity.

3. Discover which of your ICP accounts are in-market

Organisations research online throughout their buying journeys to solve problems and select the right solutions. Intent Data captures signals from their online behaviour (such as searches, downloads, shares, views of content across various publishers) and using advanced data science, gives you an indication of which companies may be interested in products or services like yours based on sets of keywords and topics specific to your business.

If setup correctly, and your platform of choice shows accurate signals, intent data can even help pinpoint their stage in the buyer journey, as well as issues or challenges, their pain points, their priorities, and opportunities they’re interested in targeting.

Don’t forget, even if you don’t have an intent data platform, you can still get a rough steer on what may be important to certain accounts by using a more manual approach combined with some intuition – use platforms like google news to make note of companies that are in the media for reasons that may match your buying triggers, or check their social media platforms. Mergers, acquisitions, awards, new hires, profits, losses or new premises could all be buying triggers for certain products or services.

4. Remember to layer your own first-party data

Don’t forget to layer your own first-party data over your selected accounts. This could include data from your own website and previous campaigns.

Conventional marketing wisdom states seven touchpoints are needed before you convert a prospect – why not make it easier by targeting those who have interacted with you previously?

If you’re targeting a small number of accounts, you can try and overlay exports from your marketing automation and CRM platforms with your selected accounts so far. Have they clicked on a similar campaign in the past – be it on paid social, display or email? Do they already know what your company does?

Alternatively, you could use an intent data platform that combines your 1st party data with 3rd party intent data, firmographics, technographics, and more to provide you with comprehensive account information in a single space. 

FIT score dashboard cyance

Above: A good intent data platform will combine various insights and metrics to give you a highly-customised score of how likely any given account is to purchase your products or services.

As such, a good intent data platform can play an immense role in account selection and success – for ABM or any form of intelligent demand generation. However, its efficacy depends on the intent data provider, and whether they allow you to track online topics and keywords that you have created and deem relevant to your business (as opposed to making you choose from a list of fixed intent topics). 

This level of customisation enables you to locate and better understand accounts that are researching your topics and keywords – and by extension actively looking for your solutions. Such insights can, among a host of use cases, inform your ICPs as well as your content and digital advertising strategies. 

Combining your 1st party data with 3rd party data can help you to not only establish your ICPs, but qualify accounts to find those that are a good fit for you. However, accuracy is vital to this process – the last thing you want to do is hinge your business decisions on poor or outdated data.

Combining your 1st party data with 3rd party data can help you to not only establish your ICPs, but qualify accounts to find those that are a good fit for you. However, accuracy is vital to this process – the last thing you want to do is hinge your business decisions on poor or outdated data.

Driving ABM and demand generation successfully 

As mentioned before, ABM is about quality over quantity. This means that once you have your list of target accounts, you need to engage with them meaningfully. Just as you used your ICPs to have accounts show they are a good fit for you, now you have to draw on your understanding of the accounts to show you are a good fit for them including timing, relevance and context. And this is where intent data platforms excel. 

They can pinpoint where accounts are in their buying journey, and what topics they are most interested in, so you can deliver highly personalised content which is relevant to them at the right time to drive conversions. What’s more, certain platforms integrate with your existing techstack to enable you to easily segment and analyse audiences, and load them into their own relevant campaigns. 

These features all combine significantly when it comes to ABM to help drive down costs, prioritise resources, and accelerate your revenue growth.

To learn more about how Cyance makes ABM account selection easier than ever before, book a demo today.


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