Account-based strategies are all the rage right now — account-based marketing (ABM), account-based sales development, even “account-based everything.” With so many people talking about going account-based, who can blame marketers for not knowing where to start?
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In this post, we are going to explore the very first (and arguably most important) step to launching an account-based strategy: account selection.
Understanding the ABM Trend
First, how did we get here?
For much of the early part of the 21st century, traditional lead gen was the golden ticket to build a sales pipeline, collect email addresses, and effectively market to prospects. But times have changed.
Today’s B2B buyers are self-educating and part of a buying group that makes purchase decisions together. These “decision-makers” and “decision-influencers” are still leads, but they don’t make unilateral decisions, and they’re tired of the generic generic marketing messages that flood their inboxes every morning.
We, as marketers, have to adapt. Account-based marketing is a highly personalized, targeted way to create and execute a marketing campaign.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to pull the plug on all of the demand gen initiatives you already have planned. Having an ABM strategy just means that you and your team have identified a set of companies that are uniquely positioned to make a major impact on revenue and on your business. Those accounts (and the decision-makers they contain) deserve special treatment.
How do you decide which accounts deserve this extra investment? Through careful account selection.
Two Ways to Run Account Selection
There are a few ways you can go about selecting accounts for your ABM strategy. In this post, we’ll cover manual selection and predictive selection.
Manual selection happens when your sales and marketing executives get into a room and essentially “duke it out” to determine what accounts to pursue. This selection process might be based on data you have in your CRM or marketing automation platform, or it may be entirely subjective.
We recommend starting the exercise by understanding your total addressable market. In other words, you need to understand who you can sell to in the universe of available accounts. From there, determine how many accounts fit your ideal account persona (IAP).
IAPs are developed based on demographic, firmographic (company size, industry, revenue), technographic (what products and technologies are they using), and in some cases, predictive data that shows similarity to a company’s top customers. In other words, an IAP reflects the account type(s) with which you are most likely to succeed, and succeed in a big way.
The manual selection process can be tedious and subjective. And yet, this is all some companies do. Team members are much more likely to depend on existing lists as a guide or choose companies they are familiar with based on past relationships. The hard part is determining where your company wants to go. What does your next-generation customers look like?
Predictive Account Selection
In contrast to the manual approach, using predictive marketing technology gives you a data-driven approach to account selection. By using advanced machine learning and proprietary algorithms, predictive marketing gives you the ability to process millions of data signals and select target accounts based on much more than a best guess. As Jon Miller of Engagio once said, “In the real world, many factors contribute to a successful sale, and many of them will be invisible to your teams.”
With predictive marketing, you can map similarities in order to determine what makes customers a good fit for your business. There are likely many hidden data points that illustrate what makes one account look like another (for example: a shared technographic trait, or a tendency to have a large sales team). Let predictive marketing map those similarities and provide you with the target accounts that look like your most successful customers and prospects.
Because it saves so much effort and increases accuracy at the beginning of the process, predictive marketing makes you more likely to succeed with an account-based approach in the long run. Think of it this way: if your azimuth is off by 5 degrees when you start on a cross country trip, you will end up in a very different spot than you intended. Similarly, if you start with the wrong accounts for your ABM strategy, you will fail.
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According to this year’s State of Account-Based Marketing Study from SiriusDecisions, over 90 percent of marketers recognize the value of ABM, but only 52 percent have an ABM pilot program in place. Don’t let that be you. Get out there and select the right accounts for your business. Then pursue them with a highly targeted, personalized strategy.
Rachel Lefkowitz is the content marketing manager at EverString, where she writes and manages distribution. Prior to EverString, she worked on project management and content creation at multiple startups in the Bay Area.