Using Buying Group Intent to Prioritize Your ABM Targets
With Peter Larkin
Chief Revenue Officer, True Influence
Most B2B sales teams have heard about the advantages of identifying buying groups within your account-based marketing (ABM) target accounts. You’ve also heard about the power of monitoring buyer intent to identify in-market prospects and accounts that are actively researching a purchase.
But there are few insights out there about how intent monitoring, mapped to personas within your defined buying groups, can help drive account prioritization of your ABM targets for marketing engagement or sales outreach.
In this post, I’ll walk through a few scenarios to illustrate how to use intent to prioritize ABM accounts within a buying group framework, and even add new in-market accounts to your ABM lists.
The basics of buying groups
Before we go any further, let’s quickly look at the basics of buying groups and why they’ve become central to B2B marketing and sales methodologies, including ABM. In fact, consultancy Sirius Decisions has made buying groups, which it’s branded “demand units,” a cornerstone of its waterfall B2B revenue model, and warned sellers to avoid “buying group blindness” as they develop and execute their B2B revenue generation models.
In short, a buying group is a collection of people within an organization that researches, recommends and ultimately makes purchase decisions. These groups typically include the C-level executive or procurement officer with budget authority, as well as technical managers (these people often do the bulk of the research) and other line-of-business team members who influence the final decision.
Buying groups are more than just theory – they are the primary purchasing method for most businesses, and have been for quite a while. Sirius Decisions suggests that 60 percent or more of B2B purchases are made by buying groups; other analysts put that number even higher.
Adding buying roles to your customer personas
Buying group member activity tends to vary, based on job role and the account’s overall stage in its purchase decision process. Sirius Decisions has defined several buying roles in its framework to encapsulate these typical behaviors. For example, “champions,” who tend to be technical or operational managers, remain consistently engaged in researching a purchase. “Influencers,” on the other hand, tend to become active in research at key steps in the purchase journey.
Mapping your existing customer personas to buying roles within your ABM target accounts creates an additional layer of insight and intelligence about exactly who you need to engage to make a sale.
If you want more information on how to build an audience framework around buying groups, I strongly recommend reading our full overview here, which includes a complete Sirius Decisions research brief on the concept factors into its Demand Unit Waterfall.
Intent data gives you insights into buying group dynamics
As we’ve already discussed, a primary function of buying group members is research. In fact, analyst firm Gartner suggests that independent research done online is the single biggest time investment of buying group members, at 27 percent.
Intent data monitoring, of course, is essential to identifying this online research activity and mapping to individuals within buying groups at your ABM target accounts. Spikes in purchase intent indicate the best opportunities for connecting with in-market prospects. And intent activity by certain personas and buying roles can provide key insights about the purchase journey stage for an entire account. (Again, I’ll discuss a few scenarios later in this post).
We here at True Influence help define the intent data category, and it fuels every aspect of our market intelligence and demand generation services. We’ve also embraced the concept of buying groups, and merged the two methodologies in our True Influence Marketing Cloud™ integrated platform. With our tools and Triple-Verified™, contact-level intent data, you can model buying groups for each of your solutions and track purchase intent at both the individual and aggregate levels. You can also fill in gaps in your buying group lists by matching personas against our massive B2B contact database.
It’s a comprehensive solution that gives you insights into the current purchase research activity of buying groups in your ABM and named accounts.
How to use intent to prioritize ABM accounts in a buying group framework
As we’ve discussed, a buying group’s purchase intent activity is a powerful indicator of where an account is in its purchase journey, and how you should prioritize it in your ABM campaigns. As always, you should tailor your messaging and outreach to each individual in the buying group, based on job role and other persona criteria.
In general, this is how I suggest interpreting buying group intent scenarios and using that information to prioritize your ABM account lists.
Intent spikes across all your buying group personas
This is always a good thing, and usually indicates a chance for you to get your foot in the door. The account has likely identified a need and the buying group is collectively doing its homework. The most elevated activity will likely come from IT or other departments that operate the solution, but at this point, job title is less compelling than overall buying group engagement. This is an opportunity to offer a variety of content assets, and you might also direct phone prospecting to a particularly active “champion” buying role.
Intent spikes across the buying group, with a lift on decision-maker activity
If you see a spike in individual activity from C-level personas, and the entire buying group remains active, that means the account is likely on the verge of making a decision, or at least entering the next stage of its purchase journey. Gartner suggests that the second-largest commitment of time for buying group members (at 22%) is meeting with other group members to validate their research and decisions, and this likely what you are seeing. It’s a good time to accelerate outreach and focus on integration and other issues that truly differentiate your solution from the competition.
A decision-maker is showing more interest than the rest of the buying group
What if the first purchase intent spike at an ABM target account is from a C-level decision-maker? This tells me that you have an executive who’s privately identified a challenge and is laying the groundwork for serious buying group activity to begin in the next 6 to 12 months. It’s a good idea to get on this key individual’s radar with content about business benefits and even aspirational goals. But you can wait until you see intent activity across the entire buying group before you kick your ABM campaign into full swing.
An operational manager is showing more interest than the rest of the buying group
I take this kind of activity with a grain of salt. This person may be a buying group “champion” who will push a new purchase decision throughout its lifecycle; they might also just be an enthusiastic learner with an interest in your solution. It can’t hurt to fish around with some early engagement content, but mostly you want to look for patterns of intensified interest across the account before deciding to prioritize it in your ABM plans.
If this individual continues to show elevated intent week-over-week-over-week, it’s probably worth an effort to test if you’ve identified a champion. Otherwise, this person can be a great subscriber to your newsletter, but it’s not an indicator for a Sales outreach right now.
Your total active market intelligence shows buying group intent at an account not currently on your ABM list
A key benefit of intent signal monitoring is the ability to find accounts that aren’t currently on your ABM lists that are actively in-market for your solution. Our InsightBase® and other Marketing Cloud solutions let you find intent across the entire market, and map those signals to contacts in our database based on your customer personas, including buying group roles.
However, I advise that you carefully evaluate intent from a new account before adding it to your ABM strategy. There may well be a reason the account isn’t currently on your radar, and selling to an ABM account is a serious commitment of resources.
First, be sure the account meets your firmographic and technographic buying profile. Also be sure it falls into your sales coverage map – there’s no reason to engage and nurture an account if you aren’t prepared to actively sell to it. Is the location where the intent originates a likely purchase site? And, of course, you should apply your buying group framework to the account to ensure the purchase intent is coming from qualified individuals.
I’d also look at the consistency of activity in the domain. A window of a solid month of elevated intent activity indicates that you may want to seriously consider adding the account to your list.
Real-time buying group intent intelligence is the key
All in all, you should review your named ABM accounts about once a week to evaluate buying group intent and how it should impact your ABM prioritization. You also should set up alerts and automatic tactical triggers for acute intent spikes, both at the account and key persona level. As with all purchase intent intelligence, it’s really a matter of gauging what you see and finding connections to determine how to use intent to prioritize ABM strategies.
Contact us at 1-888-301-4758 if you have any questions for our account-based marketing experts.