3 Essential Questions to Answer Before Starting Any ABM Program

Josh Garland

VP of Product Marketing

leverage purchase intent for ABMTechTarget has hundreds of customers who are executing and seeing success with ABM in various stages. In fact, our SaaS-based purchase intent data platform Priority Engine has already supported more than 5,400 unique ABM campaigns from customers. With that in mind, we recently conducted a series of customer interviews to better understand how marketing and sales leaders are leveraging tools and data to run more successful ABM programs.

After interviewing multiple customers from different market segments and company sizes, we learned that technology can help make your ABM program more efficient and effective, but only if it’s built on a solid foundation that includes a well-defined account list and engagement plan.

Below, you’ll find a summary of the most important questions to answer before starting an ABM program, including the most common ways our customers have approached them. It should be noted that the most successful companies we interviewed used multiple approaches to solve these problems, putting them in the best position to identify the best opportunities and act on them.

#1 – Who should be on our target account list?

The foundation of any successful ABM program starts with a defined account list, but many companies struggle with determining which accounts to target and who owns the account selection process (sales or marketing?). Below are three of the most common methods our customers used to build their target account lists:

  • Sales selects the accounts based on fit, history and current relationships
    • Benefit: This is one of the best ways to get early buy-in and support from the sales team.
    • Challenge: Account selection is typically based on rep feedback, which can unfairly weight the list toward accounts where they’ve had recent sales wins. These may not be the account types where you have the best overall opportunity or win rate.
  • Use a predictive solution to generate a list of accounts that look like your previous customers
    • Benefit: This is a good way to understand the total addressable market of known accounts to sell to.
    • Challenge: While these accounts may look similar to your customer list, it doesn’t mean they are in-market or have the same needs. There’s also a risk you will miss growth accounts or unknown startups with technology needs.
  • Leverage purchase intent data to build dynamic account lists based on activity
    • Benefit: Guarantees that you’re always targeting accounts that are in-market for your solutions.
    • Challenge: Requires a more flexible sales structure and approach to territory management. Reps must be given the freedom to quickly shift focus and priorities based on an account’s recent interests and behavior, which can be an issue for more rigid sales environments.

#2 – How do I prioritize the accounts on my list?

With limited resources, you need to make sure sales and marketing are always chasing the best opportunities. Below are a few methods our customers used to prioritize and rank their target account list:

  • Rank accounts based on company size or revenue
    • Benefit: Easiest way to prioritize accounts that may have the potential to spend more.
    • Challenge: Does not factor in account interest or need. It also may not be the best way to determine investment potential. For example, a startup with recent funding could have more money to invest in new technology vs. a larger organization with an established infrastructure.
  • Rank accounts based on direct engagement with your content and brand
    • Benefit: These accounts tend to be more responsive to sales outreach and typically convert at a higher rate.
    • Challenge: You’ll miss opportunities from hot accounts that did not respond to your outbound marketing.
  • Rank accounts based on the relevant purchase activity of the buying team
    • Benefit: You can focus on the accounts that are in-market to buy, reducing the time sales spends establishing a need.
    • Challenge: These accounts may not be familiar with your brand, requiring sales and marketing to provide more education about your solutions.

#3 – How do we engage these accounts across marketing and sales channels?

Without a defined outreach plan and an efficient handoff of account and lead data between marketing and sales, your ABM program will fail. Below we’ve outlined three different approaches discussed during the interviews.

  • Marketing-Led – Sales only engages marketing qualified leads from target accounts
    • Benefit: Leads are qualified and engaged with your brand before they’re sent off to the sales team. This approach is best if you have a very small sales organization that only has the bandwidth to follow-up on top-tier prospects.
    • Challenge: Can be very hard to scale (especially within an ABM framework). This approach also sacrifices deals from the accounts marketing can’t engage.
  • Sales-Led – Marketing provides cold contacts and intelligence on target accounts. Sales is charged with qualifying them.
    • Benefit: Effective way to expand outreach to every account on your list.
    • Challenge: Sales is required to cold-call into target accounts, which historically yields a slower sales cycle and lower close rate.
  • Hybrid Approach – Marketing and sales work in tandem to engage prospects at target accounts
    • Benefit: Best way to increase influence and engagement across all target accounts.
    • Challenge: Tight coordination and alignment between marketing and sales is essential. You must establish clear rules of engagement and define when and how prospects will be contacted to avoid conflict and overlap.

To learn more, here is a 4-step guide that will help you better leverage purchase intent for ABM success.

ABM, Account-Based Marketing, Priority Engine, purchase intent

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