The most critical component of a successful account-based marketing program is focusing your marketing and sales efforts on the right target accounts. Working with the right accounts isn’t the only thing you need for success, but it will be impossible to build a successful ABM program if you target the wrong accounts.
Selecting target accounts is obviously an essential step when you are initially implementing ABM, but managing your list of target accounts is an ongoing task. Over time, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to add companies to, and remove companies from, your target account list. To make these decisions wisely, it’s important to remember what makes a company an attractive target for ABM in the first place.
Most ABM practitioners select their target accounts by identifying businesses that resemble their best existing customers, an approach that’s commonly called look-alike modeling. Look-alike modeling is usually effective because it will identify companies with the attributes that make them good targets for ABM.
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The following diagram depicts the factors that make a prospect organization attractive for account-based marketing. At the most basic level, attractiveness is a function of high value potential and high buying potential. In other words, does the prospect have the potential to become a large and profitable customer for your company, and is there a strong likelihood that the prospect will purchase your product or service?
As the diagram illustrates, high buying potential is a function of two factors – fit and buying interest. The underlying idea of fit is suitability. Does your product or service effectively address a need or a challenge that the prospect is likely to have, and can your company effectively market to, sell to, and serve the prospect?
The second component of high buying potential is buying interest, which refers to whether a prospect has engaged in behaviors that show an inclination to evaluate or purchase the kind of product or service that your company offers. Indicators of buying interest include direct interactions between a prospect and your company, and other behaviors – usually online – that indicate the prospect may be interested in the kind of product or service your company provides.
Fit and buying interest are both important “markers” of high buying potential, but fit is far more important for ABM purposes, and here’s why.
At any given moment in time, a large majority of your most attractive prospects – those with high potential value and good fit – will not be involved in an active buying process for the kind of product or service that you offer, and won’t score well on buying interest. Therefore, if you put too much emphasis on buying interest when initially selecting your ABM target accounts, you will omit prospects that you should be targeting.
The same principle applies when you’re managing your list of target accounts. At any given point in time, many of the companies on your list may not show significant indications of buying interest. That may mean they’re not likely to buy in the near-term future, but it doesn’t mean that they are unlikely to buy in the longer term. If you remove such companies from your target account list, you’ll be abandoning the opportunity to influence the perceptions and preferences of future buyers.
Successful account-based marketing requires long-term thinking and consistency. The objective is to focus your marketing and sales efforts on those prospects that are likely to become large and profitable customers. Identifying prospects with a high level of buying interest can be valuable because it enables you to use a more appropriate mix of marketing and sales tactics. But when high potential value and good fit exist, an apparent lack of immediate buying interest doesn’t justify removing an account from your ABM program.
Top illustration courtesy of Jason Taellious via Flickr CC.