By Lora Kratchounova, Scratch Marketing + Media
Account selection is the first and most critical foundational component of any account-based marketing program. Identifying target accounts in the world of account-based marketing (ABM) is the process of prioritizing companies and organizations by their likelihood of converting to a sale. In ABM, the greatest emphasis of the aligned sales and marketing efforts is placed on the highest-value target accounts. It’s by no means the only requirement for a successful marketing and sales strategy, but you won’t get the best results from ABM unless you are targeting the right accounts.
Yet the very prospect of sorting the priority accounts from your entire customer base raises a bevy of questions: How do you choose the right accounts for your ABM program? What kind of internal and external data would you need to build an account list? Who should be involved in the planning process? How big should the target list be — and is it enough to build only one?
Clearly, this is not an effort that can be carried out in a vacuum. Therefore, to successfully select accounts for your ABM program, it is important to create a company-wide vision of the account strategy, utilize the wealth of internal and external data, prioritize and segment accounts accordingly, and target them with messages that resonate with them most.
Achieve a Company-Wide Vision
Bringing in your sales and marketing teams to developing the strategy is a crucial first step in getting your target accounts right. Will your company focus on upselling to existing customers or acquiring net new? Which geographies and industries does your company want to expand to? Are you after enterprise, mid-size or small businesses? Starting with a shared understanding of the goals that your company strives to achieve is the foundational step of each ABM strategy.
Involve The Sales Force
In the ABM world, marketing and sales work hand in hand — involving the sales force in the selection of the priority accounts is not just a good practice, it’s a prerequisite for successful account development later on where the sales reps play a central role. Engagio’s CEO Jon Miller, in a blog post discussing the “maturity model” of account selection, suggested that the first level is allowing the sales reps to pick the accounts that they care about. They know who the prospects with the highest propensity to buy are and have a gut feeling which ones are going to respond positively to an account-based program.
Use Your Own Data to Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile
The selection of the priority accounts starts with identifying who is your ideal customer; knowing what traits such buyers exhibit will help you focus your ABM efforts and target similar accounts. But how do you find out the characteristics that make up your best customer? First, dig into your internal data sources. Look at your company’s history with customers and prospects in your CRM and marketing automation systems. Review the companies that you have had the most success selling to and identify their common characteristics:
- Annual spend
- Length of relationship
- Estimated lifetime value
- Frequency of purchase
- Frequency of engagement
- Products held
- Other credentials
Use Internal and External Data to Segment Your Target Accounts
Once the ideal customer profile is created, start identifying prospects with similar characteristics and prioritizing the best-fits by exploring few different data types:
- Demographic and Firmographic Data: Identifying demographic and firmographic characteristics of the top customers in your database will allow you to predict the probability of a successful outcome of the sales process. Among those dimensions are company size and revenue, number of employees, industry, geographical location, technologies that they use. If your database is not complete, you may need to supplement it with external data from social media, forums and third-party vendors.
- Engagement data: Exploring the history of the engagement of the company with a specific account allows to factor in previous interactions and the level of account penetration achieved. This research will help you expose accounts with higher potential for a sale and prioritize a smaller set of top targets.
If you are dealing with extensive data, manual selection of accounts may become impractical. This is where marketers turn to predictive analytics tools which sort through internal data to identify best-fit accounts and, by combining with external data, uncover new audiences that resemble the existing customers. If you want to learn about the plethora of ABM tools available on the market, see this blog post by Scratch Marketing + Media on how to build the right ABM tech stack.
Regardless if one chooses a manual or predictive approach, the next step will be to score each account in the long list based on the weight that the marketing and sales teams assign to the different data dimensions — demographic, firmographic and engagement. Those scores will help you create tiers of accounts where the top priority tier will receive the highest level of investment in terms of budget, content personalization and account development effort. With this, the account selection process is complete… until marketing and sales leaders come together in few months to review it and re-assess the importance assigned to each account.
Account-based marketing gained momentum in 2016 and will be a major approach for marketers in 2017. By bringing your marketing and sales teams into alignment on the strategy, you can ensure that you select the right accounts, leverage your data resources, and build tiered target lists that will produce the optimal results. If you want more information about how to use ABM to grow your business, contact Scratch Marketing + Media and we’ll be glad to help you.Back to blog