An effective account-based marketing strategy requires targeting and engaging the right accounts. However, identifying these accounts has been a challenge for many organizations. Demand Gen Report’s 2018 Account-Based Marketing Benchmark Survey revealed that 28% of practitioners struggle with identifying/predicting accounts that are in market and ready to purchase, while 31% are challenged with developing target content for specific accounts or personas.
According to SiriusDecisions’ 2019 State of ABM Study, 41% of organizations said they plan to spend more or significantly more on intent monitoring over the next 12 months. Companies who are in the early stages of their ABM efforts, such as Icertis, the leading provider of enterprise contract management in the cloud, are relying on intent data to create their target account lists and leveraging a number of tools and solutions to get deeper insights on prospective customers.
Taking a data-driven approach has allowed companies to determine ideal customer profiles (ICP) and have a better grasp of which accounts are in market and which ones are still in the early stages of their buying journey.
“Companies are making a more concerted effort to take a data-driven approach to identifying target accounts,” said Matt Senatore, Service Director of Account-Based Marketing at SiriusDecisions, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “They are identifying the target markets where they expect growth to come from and then determining their ideal customer profiles for those target markets.
“Furthermore, we’re seeing companies ascertain which of those best-fit companies appear to be more in market. We see some organizations perform these key activities internally (sometimes using their data scientists) or turn to predictive analytics and intent data vendors to help,” continued Senatore. “Regardless of approach, success requires awareness and input from both marketing and sales, as well as a clear understanding of how these insights will be consumed and activated across sales, marketing, account-development reps, etc.”
Icertis Marketing Team Aligns With Sales To Create Intent-Driven Target Account List
Icertis kicked off its ABM strategy in January 2019. While they are still in the early stages of their program, the company has already made some advancements in re-defining their target account strategy through close alignment with sales and intent data.
“We operate and work with some of the largest enterprises on the planet, so when we first began our target market strategy, we looked at the universe of companies that exist in the world and drew a big line around the enterprises we would want to work with based on company size,” said Hinojosa in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Then, we took this list and worked individually with each of our sales directors — first in North America, then in other regions — and had them choose who they felt comfortable selling to, based on industry knowledge. That started our first major target account list, which was about 1,700 accounts total in January .”
Now, with help from technology partners such as RollWorks and Engagio, Icertis uses intent data to see which accounts are most likely to want to purchase, which ones are still just researching and which ones are cold. Then, the company adjusts its marketing efforts around each of the three groups.
“We use RollWorks for our programmatic advertising portion of ABM,” said Hinojosa. “It gives and allows us to target the buying groups within each of those target accounts. We also work with Engagio — that’s our analytics platform. Based on where target accounts fall in Engagio’s sales funnel, we serve messages that address where they are in the [buying] stage. And RollWorks allows us to define the stages and serve out ad copy for different phases in the funnel.”
Hinojosa said that leveraging intent data helped him and his team to become more sophisticated in their strategies. While the original list of 1,700 accounts stayed the same, intent insights allowed the team to tier the accounts based on where they were in the sales cycle.
“Our tier-one showed some intent in wanting to purchase — they have the right technology, they’re asking the right questions and doing the research,” said Hinojosa. “With those accounts, we’re able to serve a lot of relevant content, so it eliminated a lot of waste. We could concentrate on them and send the right message to the right person at the right time.”
Optymyze Leverages Intent Signals To Target Buying Committees
In an effort to drive greater engagement from 577 target companies to their site content, Optymyze, a provider of enterprise cloud applications and services for improving sales and channel performance, built out a campaign focused around display advertising. The company worked with Demandbase to leverage a combination of IP and cookie targeting to identify the companies and then used intent signals to identify the members of the buying committee within those target companies. This allowed Optymyze to get more granular signals beyond basic firmographic data.
The company created an audience profile with more than 80 keywords that suggested intent for their solutions. “Intent — people doing research — is a much stronger signal that they are part of a buying committee than their supposed title,” said Renny Fidlon, VP of Marketing at Optymyze, in a statement. “The people who are actually doing the research, forming the consideration set — that’s who we want to deliver our message to.”
Using intent data to filter through members of the buying committee within the target accounts, the month-long campaign reached 99.7% of targeted accounts. It also engaged many of the accounts on Optymyze’s list, generating clicks from 66% of target accounts.
“Intent is the next evolution of predictive analytics, but now most vendors have come to the table with AI-driven intent,” said Jessica Fewless, Vice President, ABM Strategy, Field & Channel Marketing for Demandbase, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “What this does is now you can actually take your first-party data and also bring in a third-party data that, without AI, you would never be able to physically gather that data yourself. So, it’s doing all the listening on the internet to say, ‘Here’s the kind of keyword that you or your customers and prospects are searching on’ and after doing all this listening on the internet, come back with a list to say, ‘Here’s all the accounts that are in the market for this type of solution now regardless of your CRM database or if they’ve ever engaged with one of your marketing product programs ever before.’”
ICP, Technology And Segmentation Keys To Identifying Target Accounts
Experts noted that, in order to effectively build a target account list, it is essential to have a firm grasp of your ICP.
“We would recommend that the first step in this journey be to have a solid handle on building a good ICP,” said Mihir Nanavati, SVP of Product for AdRoll Group, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “We’ve seen data that indicates that organizations with a strong, well-defined ICP achieve a 68% higher win rate than the status quo. That helps us take it to the next step, where you’re building a good list of target accounts [and] you have conviction that these are the industries, these are the company sizes and these are the job functions that people target. From there, you build a target account list.”
Technology also comes into play when identifying accounts. According to Senatore and SiriusDecisions research, 19% of a total ABM budget is spent on technology/tools.
“While B2B companies are investing in these tools, there is a big opportunity for organizations to take a more holistic approach when utilizing these types of tools,” said Senatore. “We would like to see companies identify high-fit accounts and then identify who might be in market using both first-and third-party intent data. From there, we want to see more integrated programs and campaigns that leverage those insights — and offer buyers relevant, consistent messaging across display advertising, web experiences, retargeting and through account development reps and sales outreach.”
Once a target account list is identified, experts also said that proper segmentation can really take your strategies to another level.
“It’s great to have a target account list, but you need to be smart about the way you segment it to really make it impactful,” said Demandbase’s Fewless. “Build a good list and then really segment it intelligently with insights from your first- and third-party data to make sure you’re talking to them appropriately.”