There’s no doubt that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is hot right now. According to the SiriusDecisions 2016 State of ABM, 70% of all B2B companies are focused on driving account-based selling programs. That number is up 350% from the previous year’s study.

Research from the ABM Leadership Alliance found B2B marketers saw a 171% lift in their average annual contract value (ACV) when implementing ABM strategies.

But while many are talking about what ABM is and why you should adopt it, few are teaching the tactics.

At Engagio, we’ve set out to create the most clear and complete guide to ABM. In this post, we’re going to dive into the first and most important part of account-based sales: Selecting the right accounts to target.

How to Choose Target Accounts for Account-Based Marketing 

Building an ABM Engine with Data

Using the right data fuels your ABM rocket. Neglecting to use data, or even worse, using the wrong data, can lead to internal combustion and complete system failure.

A study by SiriusDecisions proves better data results in better account selection, which leads to a 35-40% higher average sales selling price (ASP). How much would 35-40% add to your bottom line? Using the right data points allows you to scientifically identify the accounts with the highest likelihood of doing business with you. This data can also tell you which existing customers are likely to expand.

The two key types of data you’ll need to draw better company-level insights are firmographics and technographics. Firmographics are company characteristics that best predict a good fit including company size, industry, number of employees, estimated revenue, estimated growth, and number of locations. Technographics are the technologies your target accounts currently use or are looking to invest in -- for example, complementary technologies to yours, technology that rules out your solution or makes it less necessary, or competitive solutions where you know you have a highly win rate.

Get Insights on Contacts to Shorten Sales Cycles

Next, identify the contacts you’ll need to reach out to within your target accounts. Take the time upfront to research the customer stakeholders, their place on the organizational chart, personal goals, and the level of influence they each have. Targeted sales prospecting lets you get to the right people in less time.

The specific details you’re looking for include:

  • Job title
  • Tenure
  • Decision-making hierarchy
  • Account affiliation
  • Activity/engagement history
  • Skills and proficiencies
  • Experience with your category

Once you’ve collected these details, you can build an “influence matrix,” which will give you and your team members more clarity into the buying and decision making processes within the account. This step can decrease your sales cycle by as much as 50%.

Getting Access to Decision Makers with Market Insights

According to 75% of executives surveyed by ITSMA, prospects welcome even unsolicited material when the ideas are relevant to their business. After you’ve found the right accounts and the right contacts, deliver relevant business insights.

To organize your account based plays effectively, you need to know:

  1. The target’s industry and market trends
  2. SWOT analysis of the target account
  3. The relationships inside the account
  4. Your connections to the account

This information will lead you to the content and delivery methods you should use with each account. Providing compelling insights generates credibility, trust, and ultimately more business.

From Idea to Execution: How Engagio Selects and Tiers Accounts

Selecting target account is a rigorous process. We use three funnels:

  • Funnel 1: Target accounts
  • Funnel 2: Qualified but non-target accounts
  • Funnel 3: All other accounts

Target accounts are hand-selected by the individual account executives (AEs) with help from Marketing (which provides firmographic data and a definition of the Ideal Customer Profile).

Funnel 2 represents all the non-target accounts that meet our ICP and have become a Marketing Qualified Account (MQA). MQAs are similar to MQLs; however, when you’re taking an account-based approach, you focus on accounts rather than leads.

Funnel 1 accounts are further broken out into three tiers. Each AE selects roughly five Tier 1 accounts, 45 Tier 2 accounts, and 150 Tier 3 accounts. These tiers are important because they decide how we will treat each account:

  • Tier 1: This is ABM in its truest sense. We use deep research, a customized account plan, personalized content, bespoke campaigns, and one-to-one communication. There’s no automation.
  • Tier 2: These accounts also receive individual research, but they’re limited to a few key points of information for each account. We won’t use completely personalized plays and custom content but will still deliver highly relevant touches based on their industry and persona.
  • Tier 3: This bucket includes all the accounts that you want to target but don’t have the resources for personalization and customization. ITSMA calls this Programmatic ABM. It’s traditional marketing with account-level targeting and customization. The key difference from demand gen is that instead of scoring leads, you track account-level engagement and wait until the account hits a sufficient threshold to label them an MQA.

After you select your target accounts, it’s time to map out the players. Use data and predictive analytics to identify the individuals who represent your key personas inside each target account Once we have the accounts and contacts, we use our own platform (ABM Analytics) to understand key engagement metrics inside each account.

Identify the Right Data with Insight Resources

If you want to be successful with ABM, you need to invest in new resources. The proportionately larger deals you’ll be closing will make this investment worth it.

Here are some of our best tips and lessons we’ve learned around implementing ABM:

  • Insight generation has to be somebody’s job, or it’s nobody’s job.
  • Incentivize your people: Compensate your Sales Development Reps on insight collection metrics, or run a SPIF.
  • Utilize third-party vendors that specialize in collecting insights on companies and people.

This is just the beginning of the ABM process, but it’s the most important piece. Get this wrong, and you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Get this right and your business will see growth like it’s never seen before.

HubSpot CRM

Originally published Apr 12, 2017 6:30:00 AM, updated October 29 2019


Account Based Sales