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Editor’s Note: This is Part II of Ogne’s “Let’s Grow This ABM Thing” series here on ABM In Action. Click here to view Part I.

No marketer has ever said that their marketing data rocks, but they should!

A four-letter word too often thought of in a negative way, “data” literally represents the lifeblood of your ABM efforts. The most valuable form, the “digital exhaust” of each touch point, response and meeting, exists across your platforms and teams. When you reassemble this exhaust, only then do you see a full picture of your target accounts: who you know, what you know about them and what you need to do next.

In our recent past, marketing automation systems focused on tracking individuals and data management was a lot easier. Perhaps there were fewer channels, but it only focused on one dimension, the individual, and too often ignored other dimensions like the role of each individual or the collection of these individuals at a company.

Today’s data challenge is far greater, but the upside is much higher!

Beyond individual leads, the ABM data objective is to view specific people at specific accounts. This view exists in multiple platforms and spans multiple channels. In this new world, knowledge is king.

For those who have an ABM program, consider this… can you tell me how many target account buyers you have in your marketing automation system? Bonus points if you can tell me that the content they’re receiving is on the same strategy as your ABM efforts.

Chances are, pretty much any target account you can select already has some remnant of engagement in that automation system, and improper data management will create huge gaps in content consistency and customer experience. This is a critical example of the value proper data management can bring to your ABM program.

Make It Easy For Buyers To Buy

Outside of the qualitative value of fewer headaches, ABM programs with a sound data foundation are far better able to influence target accounts because their marketing becomes focused on audience needs, not just guesses. Here are some critical research data points from familiar organizations:

  • 85% of high performing ABM programs connect target account needs to triggered delivery of relevant and consistent content across multiple channels — ABM Consortium
  • 700% better engagement through display ads that reflect the needs of a buyer — Marketing Sherpa
  • 473% better email CTR and 146% better opens on email triggered based upon buyer needs — MarketingCharts / Epsilon
  • 75% of audiences prefer fewer ads that are aligned to their needs and interests — Ad Lucent

Account-Based Marketing: The Data Management Process

At the ABM Consortium, we’ve come up with a “Data Management Process” you can apply to your ABM program today. Applying this cyclical process, you’ll light up your sales and marketing data, making sense of the “digital exhaust” while you maximize the impact and sustainability of your ABM investments.

1) Aggregate

Interaction happens across channels, but data exists in platforms. To understand your target accounts, you need to see their interaction across platforms. B2B customer data platforms do amazing work around data aggregation and other steps of this process, so if you want to make a purchase look at these CDP companies. For everyone else, there are few simple steps you can do that will vastly improve your data foundation:

  • Flag target accounts in your CRM and marketing automation systems — This could be as simple as a custom field to identify the list and segment.
  • Flag target account contacts in your marketing automation system — Simple logic sequences can identify contacts based upon email domain. More sophisticated marketers may want to use reverse IP in the form fill to identify the user’s company at the point of submission. During this step, it’s preferable to also flag those who share a role and title that reflect typical buying roles for your offering.
  • Convert CRM target account leads to contacts — While this may pose a change to your normal lead processing, the key argument for this approach is it allows marketing to better synchronize their insights and actions with their sales counterparts. This point is addressed in the Manage section as a key to ongoing data management. For marketing organization who can’t “touch” the sales CRM, a lesser option is to tweak this recommendation and synchronize CRM leads back into MAP, making it a single data source of record.
  • Whitespace contacts between systems — Start from a point where you’re 100% certain that the leads in your MAP are synchronized with the contacts in your CRM. Even those with the best hygiene processes will find gaps that will require record creation in one system or another.

2) Analyze

Identify what you know and don’t know at each target account:

  • Contacts — Download target account contacts from your marketing automation system and pivot the data to identify key insights for each account. Rank the order of accounts with the most contacts and the ratio of buying-role contacts at each account. Ultimately, you want to identify accounts where you are missing data and determine if it makes sense for you to acquire more.
  • Accounts — Ultimately, you want to identify account needs or topics of interests based upon prior campaign responsiveness and history. Download CRM data for your flagged target accounts and pivot the data to understand campaign participation (frequency, response rate) and stage of buying cycle (no/limited sales interaction, current opportunity, closed opportunity). Download marketing automation data for your target account contacts and pivot the data to understand campaign participation (number of different current nurturing flows, topics of interests by reviewing recency/frequency/responsiveness).

3) Append

Apply learning from the “analyze” stage to form data-driven decisions about data acquisition and marketing system changes. This is where your work realizes its value, enabling you to buy or change only those things you need, saving money and time:

  • Correct data inconsistencies — Are there automation contact records that need help, or multiple CRM accounts you can consolidate?
  • Fill gaps in field data — Identify contact records missing roles/business contact information and account records missing ownership data. Similar to data inconsistencies, you’ll likely find many more issues to correct.
  • Fill gaps in target account buying roles — For U.S. based contacts you could consider purchase, but don’t forget other CPL options like content syndication or outsourced telemarketing and direct mail, for U.S. and international needs.
  • Enrich data records — Are there account-specific firmographic or technographic data that could help you become better at targeting?
  • External intent and predictive analytic signals — This is a critical source of data as it fills what we call the “blind side” of your sales and marketing efforts. However, don’t make a purchase without solving the ABM data conundrum as the value of the data grows logarithmically when you reflect it off what you see in your existing efforts. You’ll better understand how to deliver a compelling and targeted effort at each opportunity. Consider this, how would your response change if the intent identified target accounts that had an existing opportunity, compared to ones where you had no contact data or engagement history?

4) Action

ABM revenue impact begins when your program reflects the needs of your audience — content that’s defined by them and not you.

  • Adjust marketing automation flow and campaign participation — As you develop a hypothesis for content needs at each target account, you need to adjust your content strategy accordingly. There are two general dimensions that affect the need for change at each target account: topic of interest and stage of buyer’s journey.
  • Triggered programs rather than campaigns — ABM revenue impact thrives when you capitalize on the expressed needs of a target account. This is a huge departure from the campaign-based philosophy of many, which generally serves its primary purpose only in a pre-engagement stage. Here, you scale insights (needs, topics, stages of buyer’s journey) and trigger execution asynchronously, only as the needs of a target account change.

5) Manage

This process is cyclical, that is, it’s intended to be repeated on a regular basis. Between cycles, there are activities that should be updated on a continual basis:

  • Lead-to-account matching — This is a critical step because marketers can generally control how messages are sent, but we have no control over the way that people interact. That is, leads come in from a variety of sources and you need a means to process target account leads in a prioritized manner. There are platforms you can purchase that do a tremendous job at this function if you have the budget. For everyone else, find a resource on your team that can scale or automate your processing of the contact section in the “aggregate” step above.
  • Bounced email — Identify and flag marketing automation contacts who indicate a bounced state. Copy that information over to your CRM instance.
  • Buyer reporting — Develop a report that can isolate the response of target account contacts with the buyer role and flag them. For extra credit, add pipeline stages as columns. This is a critical piece of information for your sales team, so they can see peaks and changes to buyer interaction, across channels and at each target account.

More than a new source of external data, marketers need to start their ABM program from a position of strength and with a solid, integrated view of target accounts and buyers across their sales and marketing systems — not a momentary snapshot from a BI tool or an integration of spreadsheet. First-party data is the single most valuable competitive tool you can ever own.

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