Account-based marketing (ABM) is now table stakes for B2B marketers and salespeople looking to hit — and exceed — their goals. In fact, some research has found that account-based deals have a 33% higher average annual contract value.

The catch? Without a strong data foundation, even the most well-thought-out ABM playbook will fail. This data-driven guide to ABM will help ensure your program gets off on the right foot.

Account-Based Marketing: What it Means, Why it Works

Account-based marketing is the process of identifying good-fit, high-value accounts and targeting those accounts with personalized messages that speak to their specific needs. It’s a scalable yet customized approach that places emphasis on the buyer experience. Benefits include:

More efficient campaigns: ABM is a hyper-targeted strategy, which means you won’t waste money on unqualified leads. By targeting good-fit accounts, marketers can be sure that only the best and most sales-ready buyers enter their pipeline. While ABM can be cost-intensive to kickstart, the return on investment pays off. 

Stronger sales and marketing alignment: ABM is not just a marketing initiative. It’s a business-wide strategy where both teams collaborate to identify and target agreed-upon accounts. This minimizes the age-old conflict over poor quality leads, because both teams are defining and working toward the same goals.

Improved customer experience: Personalization is the biggest selling point of ABM. When you offer highly targeted content to an account, customers and prospects feel understood and catered to, which expedites the sales process and increases the likelihood of contract renewal.

How Data Makes Account-Based Marketing Possible

Strong data is the heart of any successful ABM strategy. Here are four ways to use data to build your ABM program:

1. Create your list of target accounts

Account selection is the first and most critical step of an effective ABM strategy.

To target your key accounts, you must develop an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). An ICP is a profile detailing critical characteristics of your most valuable accounts and customers, created using a combination of firmographic and behavioral data points.

“Without strong data driving your ICP, you’ll miss the mark,” says Hussam AlMukhtar, senior director of strategic growth and partnerships at ZoomInfo. “You won’t be able to identify the right accounts and you’ll be back to spraying and praying.”

Analyze your contact and customer database to identify the characteristics of your best customers. These might include:

  • Industry
  • Company size
  • Revenue
  • Location
  • Average purchase size
  • Tech stack

Once you’ve developed your ICP, you can target accounts with similar parameters. Ultimately, your ICP will serve as the blueprint for your account-targeting process. If you get this step wrong, it could derail your entire strategy.

2. Identify who’s in-market

Timing is a huge factor for customers looking to make a major purchase. A company can fit your ICP perfectly, but if it’s not the right time — maybe they just bought a competitor’s solution, or they’re in financial trouble — they’re not going to buy.

Intent data can tell you who is in the market for a solution like yours right now. This data allows marketers to prioritize accounts with high intent that are looking to buy soon and send them straight to sales for proactive outreach, or to get in front of accounts with low intent before their competitor does.

You can also use first-party data to glean key information about anonymous visitors to your website. People who poke around on your website are excellent prospects for account-based marketing, since they’re already familiar with your product and potentially interested in purchasing.

3. Ensure optimal coverage

Account coverage refers to your ability to penetrate a large number of key accounts. If you’ve identified your target accounts, but can’t actually reach any key contacts within them, you won’t be able to convert those targets into customers. Remember: accounts buy, but people decide.

There are two primary types of data you will need for optimal account coverage: 

Business structure data: This refers to information regarding a company’s hierarchy and decision-making process. Use organizational charts to identify an account’s key stakeholders and ensure that you’re taking every decision-maker, buying committee member, and company champion into account.

Contact data: You can’t reach key stakeholders if you don’t have their accurate contact information. Direct dials are particularly important, especially when targeting upper-level stakeholders. In fact, you’re 147% more likely to reach a prospect at the VP level if you use their direct phone number.

4. Use intent data (again) to inform your content strategy 

Once you know which accounts and titles to target, you can use intent data to inform what your content offer should be. For example, if a prospect has little intent to purchase, you could provide them with thought leadership materials that teach them about a relevant problem and how they can solve it.

However, if they have strong intent to purchase, you could deliver solution-focused content and direct response offers, like “get a demo” or “start your free trial.” The more relevant and personalized your message is to their current situation, the more likely they are to convert.

How to Measure and Analyze ABM Performance

Planning and executing an ABM strategy — even with the best possible data — won’t matter much if you can’t measure what’s working and what missed the mark.

Start by comparing key performance indicators from your regular sales and marketing activities to results from your ABM efforts. Metrics might include:

  • Number of opportunities 
  • Number of target accounts engaged
  • Number of MQLs
  • Average deal size
  • Win rate
  • Deal-to-close time

Data alone is not the key to account-based marketing success. You need high-quality data paired with automation and sophisticated B2B marketing intelligence to truly beat your competitors and sell more than ever before. Request a MarketingOS demo today to see how it’s done.