How to ABM Like a Boss (Part 3): Get Your Data Ready

If you’re just digging your feet into ABM and looking for pointers on how to build a successful account-based strategy, then How to ABM Like a Boss is the definitive blog series for you. No need to read through a stack of posts from a dozen bloggers. This is it. It’s like reading an eBook but in an easier and more digestible way. The blog series covers how to create a budget, build an ABM team, get your data ready, select your target accounts, personalize your content, and measure and realign. Check out the rest of the articles in the series and own your ABM!

Part 1: Build a Budget

Part 2: Establish an ABM Team

B2B markets are evolving quicker than ever before. With the rise of technology and the democratization of data, we’re able to market and sell more products in less time. This has led to a fundamental shift in the way organizations go to market. Account-Based Marketing (ABM)—a product of this change—is one of the hottest strategies that the fastest-growing companies are leveraging.

However, with these advancements, we face new challenges. Whether you already have an ABM program in place or are planning to start a pilot, you’ll realize that contact data issues are amplified with an account-based approach. With the spotlight on your data, there is nowhere to hide.

Since you have a lot riding on these high-profile accounts, the last thing you need is inaccurate, incomplete, or missing contacts holding you back, or worse, causing you to commit egregious errors in your ABM efforts. Think about the last time someone called you by the wrong name—it’s the same thing. That’s why we’re tackling how to get your data ready for ABM today.

Step #1: Know your data.

There are four main kinds of data out there, and it’s important to understand and utilize all of them. Here’s the run-down:

  1. Firmographic data. This is the basic information you should know about all accounts in your database. How much revenue do they make? How many employees do they have? What’s their industry and their rate of growth? How many offices do they have, and where are they? If you know the answers to these questions, then your firmographic data is sound.
  2. Technographic data. Here, you’re looking to define which technologies your target accounts currently use, or are looking to invest in. Consider what complementary technologies pair well with your solution, and in contrast, which technologies make an investment less likely. For example, knowing that a company uses Marketo, Salesforce, or SAP might just make them a more attractive candidate for your solution.
  3. Intent data. Intent data uses the behavior of contacts at target accounts to indicate a more urgent qualification and fit. Your prospects could be researching keywords related to your business on third-party sites, participating in forums, downloading content, or clicking on ads that you care about. If they are, then intent data will let you know that now is a good time to reach out to them.
  4. Engagement data. This is when accounts start playing on your home turf. If they’re filling out your forms, reading your content, and attending your events, then it should show up in your engagement data. Even more than intent data, engagement data lets you know which accounts are walking up to the door and asking for your solution.

Step #2: Identify and tier your target accounts.

Once you have sources of all four kinds of data, then it’s time to put all that information to use. If you’ve already identified your target accounts, then you can skip this step. However, this is a critical piece of getting your data ABM-ready, so if you haven’t chosen your target accounts yet, then read on.

It’s important to understand that target account selection isn’t just a job for marketing. You must get buy-in and sign-off from your Sales and Customer Success counterparts. One person or department alone will not be able to decide which accounts your organization should target. It takes the collective wisdom of your entire customer-facing team to effectively select the right accounts. You’ll want to start with defining your Ideal Customer Profile, or ICP, and then come up with a list of accounts that match it. How many accounts, you ask? It varies, but you can use our Target Account List Calculator for an answer tailored to your business. For additional guidance on how to build a target account list, check out How to Build and Maintain Your Target Account List.

Once you have your list, you’ll want to split into three parts:

  1. Tier 1 (1:1). These are your high-priority accounts, and you shouldn’t have more than a few dozen accounts in this tier. The idea is that you’ll practice classic one-to-one ABM with these accounts, with deep research into their needs, and custom resources and events created just for them. When the ITSMA says that ABM has a better ROI than any other B2B marketing strategy, this is what they’re talking about. BUT… as you may be able to guess, it’s hard to scale. This is why you should limit the number of accounts you have in Tier 1.
  2. Tier 2 (1:few). These are your mid-priority accounts, with a few hundred accounts in this tier. These accounts may not get completely customized marketing plays and content, but they should still get highly relevant touches based on their industry and persona.
  3. Tier 3 (1:many). These are your low-priority accounts, and you may have thousands of accounts in this category. You may target these accounts with specific outbound tactics, sometimes customized by industry or solution, but the rest of the time you’ll simply use broad demand generation tactics but target specific accounts, including ABM advertising, content syndication, and events.

Step #3: Measure your account coverage.

To take inventory of your contact data, start by thinking about who is typically on the buying committee for your product. Just as an example, let’s say it’s usually the CRO, the CTO, and the Head of Sales Development. You’d then want to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is anyone missing? Maybe you don’t have any information on the CTO, for instance. In that case, it’s important for your SDRs and AEs to know who they should reach out to.
  2. What gaps do you have in your contact data for each person? (For example, you know their email address, but you don’t have a phone number for them.)
  3. For those with contact data, which ones do you have permission to email?
  4. Which people are engaged? If you’re great at getting engagement from CROs, but not so great at getting engagement from Sales Development, then you know where to focus your efforts next.

Step #4: Create a contact acquisition strategy.

Keeping a healthy account-based sales development operation means providing a steady source of new contacts for each account across all account tiers. There are many ways to get quality contacts, but in order to sustain a healthy pipeline, you need a predictable and reliable source. Finding a method that balances quantity, quality, and price may sound impossible, but in this post, we lay out three ways you can strike that balance. 

Manual Lead Generation

This skill is one that all SDRs and ADRs (account development reps) should learn to develop. Reps can manually find contacts by looking through social networks (LinkedIn and Twitter at the very least), a company’s website, meetups or conferences, and blogs, forums, or discussion boards to name a few.

The key is to get scrappy. Some of the hardest working reps get creative and learn to exploit tools and hacks to begin to automate some of this manual work. Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Learn to use Boolean search queries, InMail workarounds, LinkedIn groups, and other advanced prospecting tactics on LinkedIn.
  2. Learn to uncover and verify email conventions. If you know a company uses “first.last@company.com,” then you can figure out email addresses and use a tool like Rapportive to verify.
  3. Brush up on your technical skills and write a script to scrape data from sites. If you’re not technical, there are tools and extensions to help you scrape.
  4. Don’t forget about your existing data. There are leads currently living in your CRM, marketing automation, or ERP systems that can be mined.

List Buys and Technology Plays

There are plenty of data firms that have developed their own methodologies for aggregating contact data. However, this approach comes with a caution: You often get what you pay for. In other words, if a list price is too good to be true, you may be purchasing stale data. If you take this approach, here are four steps to ensure you get data with the most accuracy and integrity:

  1. Set the baseline data you need. This is the absolute minimum criteria the data provider must supply, such as name, email, company, title, social handles, etc.
  2. Investigate the reputation of the provider. Find out what other people are saying about the quality and integrity of their data by talking with peers and reading reviews on sites like G2 Crowd or TrustRadius
  3. Get on the phone with a rep. Since data has a limited shelf life and roughly 10 million people change jobs each year, you need to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth. A good question to start with is if they will work with you to match the criteria you need and replace or refund bad contact records.
  4. Diversify your vendors. You want more than one. Never rely on a single source. But for efficiencies, consider data management firms that serve as a ‘hub’ for contact data, meaning that the data management firm rolls-up and de-dupes multiple vendor files.

Outsourcing

This is a great way to get quality leads at a fraction of the price. It involves working with freelancers (generally overseas). This can take some resources to build and manage,  but the results are worth the cost when you’re up and running.

First, you’ll want to start by carefully documenting your internal process for manual lead generation. Be as detailed as possible, so that freelancers can follow the process easily. Once you’ve created this resource, you can go and hire freelancers off of sites like Upwork, Mechanical Turk, and Outsourcely.

Start off with a 10-hour contract to test the workers for accuracy, volume, and ability to follow directions. It’s often useful to provide a template and a sample of the deliverables you’re expecting. If they pass the test, you can then extend the contract. You’ll likely receive a wide range of quotes for your job listing but stick with people who are in the $5-$8 per hour range. In my experience, for every five to six people I accept for a test contract, one will really stand out worthy of a longer-term contract.

Once you start getting work back, remember to review it. If you’re getting 5%-6% bounce rates, it’s time to hire someone else. Make sure to mark your lead source and lead source detail correctly in your CRM, so you can do proper tracking and give more work to your best performers. This also helps with attribution, visibility, and performance management.

Step #5: Implement a continual data quality and discovery strategy.

In Account-Based Marketing, you need a system in place to ensure your systems are running at full capacity, which means making sure that the fuel that you pour into the engine is good, clean fuel. As we’ve been talking about, data is that fuel. However, the shelf-life of data is only getting shorter and shorter. That’s why it’s imperative that you have a system to monitor and maintain your data. 

You can either put in place systems across your organization to internally check the cleanliness of your data, or you can outsource it. For example, Oceanos offers a service where they’ll go through your contact data and flag contacts whose data is out of date or incorrect.

Cleaning Your Data is Worth It

Optimizing your contact data is a process that requires continual attention. If you want an advantage over your competition, you must spend the time and resources to set your ABM foundation and improve the accuracy and completeness of your data. You must identify your target accounts and key contacts within those accounts with confidence. You must have a data strategy in place.

If you do this, you’ll be able to orchestrate plays that will build brand equity, grow your revenue, and crush the competition.

Director of Demand Generation, Demandbase

Brandon possesses extensive experience helping organizations create and orchestrate strategic programs that help to retain customers and power sales execution. He’s passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. He enjoys reading, playing hockey, and most outdoor sports. Check him out on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/brandonredlinger/.