By Brian Glynn, Chief Revenue Officer, True Influence
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is more than just another fad in B2B sales and marketing.
About 29 percent of this year’s marketing budgets will be devoted to ABM initiatives – up from 21 percent last year – according to a recent study by Business 2 Community. SiriusDecisions, a leading ABM consultancy, reports that 70 percent of organizations expected to increase their ABM budgets this year.
All in all, roughly 40 percent of marketing teams in the B2C survey are involved in some ABM activities. And that’s just in the U.S. Two-thirds of European marketers are predicted to adopt ABM methodologies by 2020.
Clearly, Account-Based Marketing is taking hold. But that’s not to say that ABM has reached the point of true maturity at most B2B selling organizations. At the start of 2018, only about 20 percent of ABM adopters had been employing the methodology for two years or more, according to a report by ABM in Action. And last year Dun & Bradstreet reported that only 38 percent of marketers considered ABM their go-to strategy.
Marketers are optimizing their ABM goals and success metrics through beta programs and good old fashioned trial-and-error. A key part of this learning curve is integration of advanced marketing intelligence technologies (such as third-party intent data) into their ABM programs.
Intent Data is Fundamental to ABM Success
Third-party intent data has emerged as a critical component of successful ABM implementations. Of course, we here at True Influence helped define the intent data martech category back in 2012, so I believe deeply in its value.
And I’m not alone:
- SiriusDecisions incorporated third-party intent data as an essential component of its Demand Unit Waterfall methodology for ABM in 2017.
- Spiceworks reports that nearly half of the B2B marketers it surveyed intend to incorporate intent data into their martech stacks in the next couple years.
- ABM in Action predicts that “Intent will become a standard way to select accounts for organizations adapting demand generation to an account-based approach.”
So, clearly, intent data has established itself as essential to ABM success.
The issue moving forward is how B2B sellers will incorporate third-party intent data into the execution and measurement of their ABM programs.
How Intent Fits
When customers ask me to describe the key benefit of intent data in adopting account-based sales and marketing methodologies, I sum it up like this:
Intent lets you identify the best short-term opportunities as you execute your long-term ABM strategy.
Understanding this core concept is essential to incorporating third-party intent data into your ABM programs for a variety of reasons, but the two key ones are:
ABM is a methodology, not a tactic. A successful ABM rollout will ultimately affect every aspect of how you market and sell to businesses on your ABM target lists. This requires a long-term commitment. It’s true that intent data intelligence can help pinpoint some hot opportunities, but you can’t view it as a shortcut. Rather, it’s an essential tool for optimizing your long-term programs, and that’s where the real payoff will come – in shortened overall sales cycles and higher ROI on sales and marketing spend.
The corollary to this is…
Intent Data is perishable. When a target account is in-market, you need to act quickly – before your competition does, or before the account moves on to another stage in its purchase journey and making headway becomes much harder. This is why intent data intelligence needs to be baked into ABM workflows and processes. (For a detailed look at how a B2B seller has completely integrated intent into its ABM program, check out this case study on our award-winning customer Imprivata).
Our IntentBase® account acceleration platform integrates with your marketing and sales automation platforms to trigger outreach and workflows when accounts and individual contacts are actively researching a purchase. This near real-time intelligence, coupled with buying group models that identify key decision-makers involved in a purchase, jumpstarts your ABM programs by helping you focus on ideal-fit accounts and individuals who are looking to buy now. And we use the same intent intelligence in our PersonaBase® and other demand generation programs to deliver contacts who are ready for outreach.
With intent data as an operational trigger, your ABM programs become more targeted and more successful. It’s a vital ingredient for elevating ABM and translating its promise into real results.
That said, here’s a closer look at four specific areas where intent data can help your team dramatically improve your ABM programs.
Ensure the Accounts You Actively Sell to Are In-Market
This is really page one for ABM, and for that matter any named account B2B sales strategy. Your active targets simply can’t be a random wish list. In addition to the meeting revenue, coverage map, and other firmographic criteria in your ideal customer profile, an account should be actively looking to buy before you aggressively market to them. Otherwise, you are just spinning your wheels and risking reputation damage by sending unwelcome emails.
Remember, B2B buyers don’t mind being marketed to when they are actively in purchase mode. When they aren’t, your outreach may be viewed as noise. Timing is everything.
Find Additional Candidate Accounts for Your ABM List
Again, your ABM programs can’t be limited to only those accounts on Sales’ wishlist. By monitoring the entire market for intent signals that indicate an account or location is actively researching your solution, IntentBase provides active demand intelligence that lets you find new in-market accounts.
Coupled with firmographic information from our B2B database, intent signal monitoring lets you find active, best-fit accounts that you may have otherwise overlooked. As our Craig Weiss has said, intent-driven content syndication and demand generation programs are the best teacher when it comes to accurately sizing your active market. And with intent intensity scores, you can identify opportunities to accelerate highly active accounts to advanced stages of your revenue pipeline.
Find Buying Group Stakeholders Who Are Actively Researching a Purchase
Identifying account-level intent is vital to building ABM target lists. But to move an account from engagement to purchase, you need to understand how key individuals within a buyer organization will ultimately influence the purchase decision.
True Influence’s advanced Identity Graph technology maps intent data signals to specific individuals within an active account or location. This intelligence lets you personalize messaging to that individual to achieve the greatest impact. And InsightBase’s buying group modeling helps you analyze an account’s current purchase stage by evaluating which stakeholders are currently exhibiting interest, which indicates if the account is just beginning to gather background or is ready to set a vendor list.
With contact-level intent monitoring, you know exactly who to engage and exactly what message will have the most impact.
Refine Campaign Goals and Key Performance Metrics
Note that I say “refine,” and not “define.”
Setting and closely tracking success metrics is essential to any B2B sales and marketing methodology, and if you are in even the earliest stages of ABM adoption, you have several KPI in place.
As you integrate intent data into your ABM workflows, test its impact against what was once expected performance. When you see a lift with intent – and you definitely will see a lift in core metrics like email opens and engagement – roll intent out to the entire workflow and adjust your KPI accordingly.
We’ve talked extensively about how intent can impact the performance of your revenue operations. Some key areas where you are likely to see a significant impact are:
- Lead-to-Close Ratio
- Cost per Acquisition
- Sales Cycle
But every B2B sales organization is different, and exactly how intent will improve your performance depends on how you implement ABM for your solution. Test, observe, and refine your metrics based on your success.
ABM + Intent = The Future of B2B Selling
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is the future of B2B sales. And intent data is an essential ingredient to ABM success. Integrating intent into your marketing and sales workflows will improve every aspect of your sales and marketing team’s performance .