How do you launch an ABM campaign without the A?

Since last year's launch of Nexus - the UK's most powerful suite of ABM services underpinned by the largest fully-opted in database of IT Buyers- we've had some fascinating conversations with B2B marketers working in technology and finance.

We've talked about the state of the tech market and what the future holds. And we've mulled over the advantages of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) as a way of reaching the decision-makers that matter.

While some tech marketers have long experience in ABM and could teach even specialists like us a thing or two, many find it a new and confusing field. ABM is often tacked on to a B2B marketer's day-to-day work and leaves many wondering how to get started.

Common questions about managing account lists for an ABM campaign often come up. How do I start putting together a list of targets? Should I include existing clients as well as prospects? How do I keep the target account list(TAL) accurate and up-to-date?

Let's take a look at the key questions and consider how to build a targeted, flexible account list that will give your technology business the best chances of reaching the decision-makers who sign on the dotted line for your product.

Should I look at two separate ABM approaches for current customers and target ones? What about those companies which sit in the middle - existing clients who could take on more products? 

Who you include on your list depends on the outcomes you are trying to achieve. It's all about your KPIs.

If your objective is to grow the sales pipeline with net new opportunities by 20% then your ABM list will reflect this and be heavily skewed towards new prospects.

If your strategy requires a 20% increase in revenues from the top 50 leading clients, then that will require a list with a higher proportion of existing clients.

Both approaches can benefit from an ABM campaign, but they will require different strategies and lists compiled in different ways. Most lists will probably include a mixture of prospects with a few existing clients who can be upsold.

Tailor your list to match your objectives - whether upselling to existing clients or targeting prospects.

My current customers don't look like the type of customers I want next. How do I define these new prospects?

One of the main goals of ABM is to find customers in new sectors. If your tech products are already widely used in certain categories and you want to extend your business into adjacent areas, ABM is the ideal solution.

It could be that most of your clients are in finance, and you are targeting more accounts in the public sector or retail. Lack of experience can be a barrier. The key to effective account-based marketing is finding common ground between your existing customer base and the customers that you are trying to target.

For instance, consider the common challenges faced in financial services and the public sector. Both are highly sensitive to issues of security - the priority is making sure personal data is not compromised. Data security and privacy are good subjects to discuss with public sector prospects, showing them how your technology has helped protect data for existing financial clients.

Find common trends across two industries. Your targeting will lean more heavily towards those areas of common interest, in this case cybersecurity.

Actually getting the data is our problem. I don't honestly know what my potential customers look like beyond the obvious. And that's too broad to start an ABM campaign.

Research is the first ingredient of any marketing campaign. The starting point for a marketer is to look at the market and get insight into which companies are already demonstrating an interest in your products. Where is the low-hanging fruit? Which companies need more information about what you do? And which ones can be ignored?

This can be a time-consuming and expensive project that stops you being able to move quickly. But research doesn't need to drain resources. Try taking a short cut and partnering with an organisation that already has that industry knowledge and relationships. That will help access the data and insight you need.   

Markets don't stand still so there is a danger with classic research methodology that by the time you have worked out who you should be targeting, that ship has sailed and the market has moved on. It's about balancing the need for insight with the need to be quick and agile.

When it comes to research, speed is of the essence. Work with industry experts to gain market knowledge.

How often should you refresh the account list for an ABM campaign?

In a word - continuously. Marketers should regularly look at their account list and decide who to include. Account lists are often prepared by the sales department and passed over to the ABM marketer. But these lists can be incomplete or include companies which have disappeared, moved on to pastures new or weren't relevant in the first place. it's worth regularly checking to make sure the list is up-to-date and relevant. Again, it is worth working with an industry expert to check all the major players are included as well as any new entrants to the market.

Keep your lists "clean" with accurate data and old contacts removed.

In answering these questions, we see that technology vendors need to do the groundwork to create accurate, relevant lists. Partnering with an industry expert can help speed up and simplify the process. Ultimately, though, marketers and their organisations must take ownership of the process. Creating and managing accurate, up-to-date and well-researched lists is the first step to success in any ABM campaign.

Learn more about Nexus and how it can help with your ABM campaign.

Author: David Benady, journalist, writer and technology analyst