Four steps to selecting the right companies to target with ABM

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With 87% of B2B marketers reporting that ABM outperforms all other business strategies in terms of ROI, it comes as no surprise that ITSMA’s 2021 State of the Profession Address report found that ABM is now the number one priority for B2B marketers. 

Needless to say, ABM has many moving parts. But one initial step that predicts the success (or failure) of your entire strategy is choosing the right accounts to target. So, to ensure a worthwhile return on investment and close deals, it’s important to target those key accounts that are the best fit for your company and marketing objectives. 

This blog outlines the steps you can take to choose the right companies to target with ABM but holds true regardless of the strategies, tactics or channels you employ. This will improve your conversion ratios for new business but will also help to decrease your churn rate as the organisations you sign up will be a better fit and get more from your products and services – thus improving your overall CAC: LTV ratio (cost of acquiring customer to lifetime value).

1. Understanding your ABM objectives

First things first: you need to get to grips with what you want to get out of your ABM programme. 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, for example: 

  • Profit: Probably the most immediate and simple reason – maximise revenue and lifetime value
  • 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
  • Organic growth: 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?
  • Client retention: The cost of customer acquisition is between 3-30 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.Focus in on your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs)

The next step is to narrow your total addressable market down to those ICP accounts that will help you fulfil your goals. This process typically involves looking at ‘top’ accounts based on:

  • Firmographics: A set of characteristics about a company including (but not limited to) account size, sector, geography and revenue. I could write a book on how to choose your ICP, but some simple questions you could ask yourself include: What’s the revenue or average deal size of my ideal customer likely to be in order for them to not only afford, but realise an ROI from my products and services? How digitally mature do they need to be? Which industries have more of a need for my products, and which can I prove success in? If you do not have an intent-data or ABM platform, LinkedIn is an excellent (and very accessible) way in which to do this.
  • Technographics: Technology matches refer to the technology and software used by a company internally to do business (such as Salesforce, SAP, Xero, etc). If ideal customer profiles or ICP accounts have technology installed that your product connects with, is dependent upon, or you have a sales battlecard against, then such insights can help you to segment them and accordingly deliver to target users highly relevant content.

3. Are your ICPs actively looking?

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 set up correctly and if 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. For example, you can use platforms like Google news to make note of companies that are in the media for reasons that may match your buying trigger 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. Layer data upon data

You can provide additional insights by layering external insights with your own first-party data on key 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. So, 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? 

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 first-party data with third-party data can help you to not only establish your ICPs, but also 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.

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 precisely 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 tech stack to enable you to easily segment and analyse audiences and load them into their own relevant campaigns.

Making ABM a bit easier

There’s a lot to consider when selecting the right accounts for your sales and marketing efforts.. Make no mistake – this is a process that’s worth going through for any kind of B2B marketing and sales activity, regardless of what your marketing tech stack looks like. When looking at intent data platforms, make sure it can pinpoint the right accounts to target and focus on accuracy. Make sure it can be fully customised to suit your specific needs all underpinned by a strong customer success team that can help you get the most out of the product you’re using as well as guide you on your ABM or ABX journey.

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