At this point, many of us in B2B space have realized that focusing on leads as individuals and qualifying them one-by-one to hand off to the sales team no longer works.
The B2B lead handoff process is broken. Research shows that upwards of 80 percent of leads generated by marketing are neglected or never acted upon by a sales rep. On one hand, sales teams don’t have enough contextual data to figure out how to effectively follow-up with leads or determine what content or personalized message to send to key contacts. On the other hand, marketers lack visibility into why deals move slowly or lose momentum after the handoff. This leads to trouble in predicting pipeline and lost revenue down the line.
In the face of these problems, many organizations are shifting towards an account-based approach to marketing and sales. These marketing and sales teams have made a commitment to work in tandem to drive engagement with multiple stakeholders within target accounts and create a seamless experience for their target accounts.
To make this vision into a reality, organizations need to revamp their intelligence gathering strategies. Marketers and sellers both need much more contextual information on their target prospects and accounts to ensure that outreach is on-time and relevant to each individual and their account.
To execute a successful ABM program, marketers need on-demand access to data that helps them:
- Define and identify high potential customers and accounts
- Focus outbound efforts on highly targeted prospective customers
- Personalize and contextualize engagement
Meanwhile, sellers need data that helps them increase sales velocity and opportunities. When going after target accounts, sales reps need data that helps them:
- Increase their understanding of the account
- Expand and refine opportunities
- Relate to individual buyers
- Act quickly on news and trends that affect the opportunity
The role of intent data in Account Based Marketing
Intent data is any time-based information that give you clues about individuals’ and organizations’ interests and impending purchases.
Broadly speaking, there are two type of intent data. There’s data generated through people’s engagements with your owned digital content, such as the pages on your website a lead visits, the emails they open, the e-books they download and the links they click on through your social media posts. But most marketers only have this data on a small portion of the contacts in their database. Internally at Socedo, we found that only 7% of our marketing prospects were making it to our website or engaging with our emails.
Then, there’s data generated through people’s engagements with content on the broader web (third-party). These actions include reading articles on industry publications (i.e. CIO.com, Marketingland.com), watching webinars on business or technology topics in B2B-focused online learning communities (i.e. BrightTalk.com), reading software reviews on a site like G2Crowd and discussing key topics with peers on social media or following influencers in your space on social media.
At this point, there are data providers who are providing insights into the “footprints” prospects leave behind throughout their digital buying journeys. Vendors typically use one of three methods to collecting this behavioral data to determine intent: analyzing activity on social networks such as scanning posts; analyzing content consumption across a publishing network and analyzing engagement with display advertising across the public Internet. In all cases, intent is established by matching keywords relevant for the seller’s offering to the content the prospect engaged with.
With intent data, you can turn four common ABM challenges into advantages.
1 – Finding the right time to contact prospects
Under an Account Based Marketing approach, sales reps are given a list of target accounts and key decision-makers within these accounts. Unfortunately, without access to additional data on the prospects’ behavior, reps still have no idea on whether these accounts are in a buying cycle or if they have an immediate need your company can fulfill.
Using third party intent data, you can identify the target accounts and prospects to focus on right now. Here are the signals of intent to look out for:
- When someone reads articles and/or views content on your product category in your space on reputable third party sites/content communities.
- When someone engages with your corporate social media accounts. Social media actions including follows, mentions, replies, shares, and clicks on posts all signify different levels of interest and should be weighed in your lead scoring model.
- When someone creates and/or shares content on social media on key topics in your space
- When someone creates and/or shares content on social media on popular industry conferences or events in your space
- When someone follows, or engages with industry influencers or brands/technologies that are complementary to yours
- When someone follows, mentions, or replies to your competition on social media
In today’s market, intent data providers including Bombora and 6Sense have developed portals / UI where you can go see a list of accounts that have recently been reading content on topics you care about. Salespeople can then focus their outreach on these accounts.
Other intent data providers like Socedo can sync intent signals at the individual contact level into your sales reps’ native habitat. For example, Socedo can push Twitter-based intent signals onto lead records as new fields into marketing automation platforms such as Marketo or Oracle Eloqua. From there, this data can be synced into Salesforce CRM or an Account Based Marketing automation & orchestration platform such as Engagio.
With this level of granularity, a sales rep now has a lot more insights to be able to craft a personalized and relevant message to engage a prospect. This information can also help sales reps re-connect with contacts who have not responded to their recent messages.
2 – Finding the right people to talk to within a target account Is hard
A lot of times in larger organizations, it’s challenging to figure out who are the decision-makers and stakeholders for a potential purchase. As companies grow and evolve and people take on responsibilities outside the original scope of their position, role and job titles change. When you are as likely to run into a “Chief Happiness Officer” as you are a “Head of HR”, job titles can no longer be relied on to help you find the decision-maker within a specific account.
Using intent data, you can find the right target accounts and the right person to speak to at those accounts based on the topics they are interested in, and not just their job titles.
Here are a few ways this data can enrich your target account profiles:
- Keywords in your lead’s own social media posts can give you an indication of what their main priorities are, which will better inform you of their main responsibilities at your target company.
- Certain data providers who require user registration to view content on their sites can give you a list of individuals who recently consumed content that match your keywords.
3 – Figuring out what content will resonate with your targets
Making sure that your content resonates with your target audience is one of the toughest parts of B2B marketing. By tracking the topics and keywords your target prospects care about, you’ll be able to group accounts and leads into the right campaign tracks and figure out what content to create based on people’s interests.
For example, if you knew that some portion of your target prospects are following a certain influencer or brand on Twitter, you may decide to invest in developing joint content with that influencer or brand. If you found out that a number of targets are talking about Topic X on social media but you have no content on that topic, it may be time to invest in new content on how your company is thinking about the topic and helping people solve a problem.
4 – Identify risks and opportunities on your existing customer base
While account managers should always be in tune to a customer’s needs, customers are not always open to sharing until there is a problem or until you’ve missed an opportunity. That’s why 87% of companies using account-based marketing say it provides significant benefits to retaining and expanding existing client relationships.
Rather than focusing just on your point of contact within a target company, you can maintain a view of the entire account. By tracking your client account’s content consumption patterns and social media activities, you can identify cues on when a current account is ready to grow or might be at risk of churn.
For an Account Based Marketing strategy to work, companies need to focus on three initiatives:
- Continually improve communication between marketing and sales
- Create an organization-wide awareness of who their target accounts are and their pain points
- Develop a robust data acquisition and intelligence gathering strategy
Organizations need to support these initiatives with Account Based Marketing software such as DemandBase, Engagio, Terminus and new data sources. By adding third party intent data into their systems of engagement, organizations can greatly improve the effectiveness of their ABM program.