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All high-performing account-based marketing tactics in 2023 depend on deep account insight. As more marketers and sales teams turn to ABM strategies, you need to perfect your account intelligence to have a chance of standing out. From targeting accounts that are most likely to convert to aligning sales and marketing with the right content, data needs to be at the center of the program, informing every decision. 

Yet many marketers take a general, surface-level approach to using customer data. In this article, we’ll explore the critical rules of ABM through the lens of data, providing you with advice on those essential data points for each step.

1. Define your ideal ABM target account 

In the bid to win sales’ buy-in for your ABM framework, it can be easy to over-promise and fail to lay ground rules on the disciplined approach you need. Without this clarity, sales are likely to drop too many accounts in your lap, many of which might be the wrong kind. The expectation that ABM can work magic on cold accounts must be squashed; the key to avoiding that is understanding, through data, what signifies that you’ve found the right account.

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So before any real account-based marketing tactics are underway, sales and marketing need to agree on their ideal customer profile (ICP). This means understanding what the perfect customer, or in this case account, looks like in terms of its size, revenue, and needs. Analysis of our biggest, most valuable customers is a great place to start. 

Most companies will already know their ICPs, and the discipline is no different in ABM. “What changes is the fidelity to it, the degree of rigor applied to it. You really cannot get too specific,” Joe Chernov, Chief Marketing Officer of told the Content Marketing Institute.

Chernov cautioned that you “really have to think about it [IPCs] in the plural,” because while you may find that the junior person who is scanning your site for fees doesn’t fit your IPC, they belong to a company that fits your ideal account criteria. 

2. Lead qualification for your ABM framework

Another data point sales and marketing must agree on within their ABM framework is what qualifies as a lead.

“It’s critically important for these two teams to be working in absolute lockstep,” says John Ecke, MD for Informa Engage. “It starts with agreement on the specific accounts to target, and then how to divide and conquer the responsibilities while staying tied at the hip.” 

Emma Moorman, Senior Product Manager at Informa Tech believes that this alignment starts with having shared goals and definitions. “When sales and marketing pivot to ABM, measurements can’t be about MQLs anymore. It’s about an aligned go-to-market strategy on agreed target accounts, of which we know the buying committee is bigger,” she says. 

“By definition, MQLs create separation between sales and marketing. One team fulfills its goal and passes it to the next. In an aligned approach, the focus isn’t the MQL, but high-intent leads that sales and marketing have defined and qualified together,” says Moorman. “This creates the right focus on qualified pipeline and close rates.”

Chernov goes one step further to say that in ABM, even leads qualified by a collaborative approach are just people “untethered” to an account. In ABM those individuals need to be matched to a company, so Chernov’s approach is to focus more on ‘marketing-qualified accounts’ than individual leads. 

3. Pooling the right account data and insight

The ABM data selection process is slightly different depending on whether you’re targeting known or new accounts, with a great reliance on external data providers for the latter. Yet both types of ABM practitioners can typically find base-level demographic and firmographic data within their own CRM systems, as well as audience engagement data from any marketing automation tools they use, such as Eloqua or Marketo. 

You can’t buy ABM success by investing in one particular spoke of this wheel. Companies need to build their own strong data and martech stack while also partnering with external companies to gain insight where they can’t on their own. It takes the combination of data, technology, and skill to unlock success,” says Ecke.

Data to grow existing accounts

For existing accounts, the first focus should be on pulling firmographic account data from across the company and ensuring the data on your CRM is clean, up-to-date, and properly used. It’s likely that you’ll have some intent and engagement data, too, but don’t hold back on using external data providers to plug the gaps.

“External sources can help build out the target audiences within their defined target accounts [but] intent signals derived from behavioral data is the area most companies will need to leverage an external partner for,” says Ecke.

Data to win new accounts

Finding the right insights to help you win new business is harder. There will be limited internal data and you’ll be more reliant on external sources. There’s a wealth of data out there. A quick search can help you gather a general view of who’s in-market, what content and solutions they’re searching for, and who and how many in the company typically look for those solutions. 

But be warned that this should be step one of your insights-gathering process.

“It’s a bit of the wild west when it comes to intent data. Not all intent data is equal. Quite the opposite is true, so marketers need to be mindful of how that data was generated,” Ecke said.

Yet armed with the right insight, from reputable sources, you can improve your ABM conversion rate, reaching prospects while they actively search for content related to your business. Take, for example, SAP North America. When the brand needed to build sustainable growth from net-new accounts, it sought help from NetLine in shifting its focus to personalized messaging. 

Leveraging NetLine’s first-party data, SAP North America filtered its long list of 4,000 accounts to those who were in-market for the solutions they sell. In doing so, it boosted its pipeline by over 50%, with over 60% of engagement from dormant and net-new accounts.

Your initial data pull should include:

Firmographic data

  • Company size
  • Revenue
  • Market Share
  • Industry
  • Geography
  • Financial results
  • Strategic priorities
  • Challenges and opportunities
  • Business culture
Intent data

  • Event attendance
  • Search topics
  • Content downloads
  • Ad clicks
Engagement data

  • CRM and MA data
  • Web analytics
  • LinkedIn
  • Feedback from sales

4. Identifying your ABM buying committee personas

Access to the buyer committee is essential in closing any large sale, regardless of whether you’re practicing account-based marketing tactics. But with so much competition it’s increasingly unlikely you’ll influence them without it. These committees are bigger, harder to reach, and more complex than ever before, and ABM helps cut through the noise and get to the right decision-makers. It’s not the practice of ABM that drives success, it’s the data behind it. 

“The focus falls to intent data to signal where an account — and the people in that account — are in the buying process. And then sales and marketing must work together to nurture the target accounts through the buyer’s journey,” says Informa Tech’s Moorman. 

The American Marketing Association (AMA) has an organizational template that allows you to build a view of the buying committee within your key accounts. Once you have the full data set for your target accounts’ buying committee, it’s time to determine who on the committee to approach, and how to influence each one.

Essential Buyer Unit information

  • Organizational structure
  • Size of the buyer unit 
  • Who is in the buyer’s unit 
  • The key purchasing influencer (on paper and in practice)
  • Where they are in the buyer journey
  • Purchase history with you / your competitors 
Essential Buyer Persona Information

  • Job role, function and tenure 
  • Level of seniority, ability to influence and reporting line
  • Existing relationship with your business/ competitors
  • Business challenges
  • Personal drivers 
  • Preferred sales engagement
    Intent signals

5. Using data to deliver exceptional ABM content

  • Delivering exceptional ABM content works both sides of the brain — the logical and the emotional. This content should address the reader’s troubles in a uniquely creative and personal way. To do that, marketers need a forensic approach to data, understanding not just who to approach and what to say, but in what format and when.
  • Tools like NetLine’s Audience Explorer give access to real-time buyer behavior through first-party data, so you can locate the most active in-market companies, the decision-makers reading that content, and the top trending topics they’re consuming.

You also need to think about what stage in the buying cycle your reader has reached. In the case of targeting those at the point of making a purchase decision, Informa Engage’s Audience survey¹, found in-person industry events (42% listed this as their preferred source) and product demos (41%) work best. It also found that buyers will want to speak to you at this point (38%), as well as experts and analysts (44%) so make sure both are fully informed about what you offer. 

Preferred content formats when making purchasing decisions

  • In-person industry events (42%)
  • Product demos (41%)
  • Product reviews and testing (38%)
  • Datasheets/specifications/technical articles (35%)
  • Case studies and customer testimonials (29%)
  • Analyst intelligence/market outlooks (28%)
  • Industry news (28%)
Most reliable sources for making purchasing decisions

  • Analysts/industry experts (44%)
  • Manufacturers (38%)
  • Peers/word-of-mouth (36%)
  • Industry events and meetings (36%)
  • Online search (33%)
  • Digital industry publications (33%)
  • Industry associations (30%)

The wealth of information you need for your ABM framework can seem overwhelming, particularly if you’re new to it, but as ABM has proven to many practitioners, you get out of it what you put in. Creating a disciplined data strategy to generate deep account insight will help drive stronger success for your ABM strategy in 2023. As it was said when ABM first gained popularity back in 2018, it’s ‘just good marketing.’


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 1. Source: Informa Engage Audience survey: Information needs & preferences.