The B2B sales and marketing landscape is vast, with an almost limitless range of organizations doing business. Inbound marketing helps bring that landscape down to a workable scale, delivering to marketing and sales teams valuable insights into prospects’ and customers’ needs, challenges, and perspectives.
Account-based marketing (ABM) offers another means to scale, streamline, and maximize marketing and sales efforts, working hand-in-glove with your inbound strategy with a focus on individual target accounts.
While some buyers’ journeys are straightforward, high-value prospects may call for more intense effort, personalized content, and attention from marketing and sales. In turn, they justify the extra resources with higher ROI when you land them as your customer.
So, how can you tell if ABM is the right approach for your team and targets? It may be a fit if your highly collaborative sales and marketing teams sell high-value products or services — and if your targeted prospects show:
Promise for building credibility in a niche,
Potential for larger-than-typical deals,
Possibilities for selling across subsidiaries or divisions, and/or
Long or complex purchasing processes.
HubSpot CRM’s built-in ABM tools enable you to evaluate prospects, add target accounts, view metrics, create collaborative tasks, and much more. And all those capabilities point to just how resource-intensive an account-based marketing strategy can be.
That’s why it’s so important, before you commit those resources, to identify and prioritize your ABM targets. And the first step to doing that is building your Ideal Client Profile (ICP).
How to Conceptualize Your Ideal Client Profile for ABM
ABM and inbound are a natural fit in several ways. If you’re already following an inbound approach, you’ve developed buyer personas — semi-fictional, composite characters that make up your ideal customer(s), using research and data based on your real customers. Your ICP is similar, but scaled to the organizational level.
Just as buyer personas can include demographic details to fill out the picture, ICPs include firmographics — characteristics that help group together organizations like companies, nonprofits, or other business entities, into market segments, providing structure and order to your evaluation.
It’s vital that sales and marketing work collaboratively to develop a data-driven ICP. Otherwise, it can be easy to fall into bias traps and lose sight of important details, like ROI. Attributes that can factor into your ICP can include (but aren’t limited to):
Industry or vertical
Business size (by employee count or annual revenue)
From a list of your most profitable existing customers, you should consider factors that contribute to the best possible customer lifetime value (CLV) — things like annual spend and profitability, customer satisfaction, and longest customer lifespan.
Once you’ve developed your ICP, it serves as your criteria for evaluating prospective ABM accounts.
But where should you source ABM prospects for your best chance of success?
Finding ABM Target Accounts From Known Contacts
What’s a great place to start identifying prospects for your ABM marketing and sales projects? Start with an audit of the contacts you already have:
1. It makes absolute sense to evaluate the accounts that are already in your marketing-to-sales pipeline. Are there deals you want to accelerate? Are the associated contacts good candidates for concentrating your marketing and sales resources?
2. Along similar lines, assess the potential of recent closed deals for up-selling,cross-selling, adding valuable services, and similar deals with other corporate subsidiaries or divisions.
3. Use list segmentation tools to gauge website interaction and email open rates. Among prospects who have already connected and engaged with your content, are there individuals connected to potential high-value accounts?
4. Evaluate your social media followers. Identify big-deal opportunities for connecting, and add the contacts to your ABM tools.
5. Trade shows and industry events are still viable sources for potential high-value contacts. Consider contacts from conversations or interactions (in-person or virtual).
6. Consider the niche or verticals where you do your most valuable business. Are there brands or big players that would increase your credibility within that market? Seek out contacts within those organizations.
External Resources for ABM Account Prospecting
Starting with contacts you already have gives you the advantage of gauging the temperature and receptiveness of those leads. But external tools can also provide value and help build out more robust ABM profiles:
7. LinkedIn’s Company Targeting tools offer ways to identify and target businesses and decision-makers using search criteria. The platform’s Contact Targeting, Retargeting, and Matched Audiences provide paid options that can help break through the noise and reach targets when you want to launch new AMB projects with fresh external leads.
8. Purchase buyer intent data: Marketing consultants that capture buyer intent signals within the B2B landscape make specialized reports available for purchase. You can use these to identify companies in your market that might be ready for your ABM focus.
Again, as with your audit of internal contacts and prospects, each specific account should be critically assessed through the lens of your ICP. This helps your team avoid bias traps and keep your ABM program data-driven.
9. Finally, once you’ve scoured your sources, you’ll probably need to prune your ABM prospect list back to make sure it’s manageable. From there, it’s important to develop priority tiers for resource allocation, and determine which key accounts are high-priority and which accounts might not be there quite yet.
Too big a list can overwhelm teams, making it a challenge for marketing and sales to collaborate as closely as they’ll need to for optimal outcomes and spreading resources too thinly. That defeats the whole purpose of establishing ABM.
Now that you have a workable list of targeted accounts, assign teams and allocate resources accordingly. Set your KPIs and be sure to use your CRM’s account-based marketing tools to streamline collaboration between marketing, sales, service, and other vital internal teams. Establish a cadence for reporting, analysis, and course-correction.
ABM Can Power Up Your Inbound Program
While ABM is resource-intensive, its ROI can extend beyond the deals your team lands with targeted accounts. Using the ABM tools in HubSpot CRM can increase team synergies — reducing friction in your inbound flywheel. The knowledge you build while interacting with market leaders can inform and shape your inbound approaches and content development, growing your thought leadership potential and raising your profile.
The monitoring and reporting required for ABM success can drive improvements all over your operation. Data you collect can improve your ICP criteria over time. Everything your ABM teams learn can help you make data-driven improvements in your inbound strategies and content, to resonate better and better with your evolving ideal customer — and with the associated buyer personas you’ll target with your inbound marketing strategy.
Posted by Reid Trier Reid is an Inbound Marketing Consultant responsible for the strategy and management of client programs. A strong writer with an in-depth knowledge of HubSpot, Reid plays an important role in meeting client needs. A graduate of Lawrence University, Reid majored in English and his career with Weidert Group began as an intern on the business development team.