In recent Account Based Marketing (ABM) articles we’ve covered off what ABM is, the different types of ABM, how to get started, how to set your strategy and how to select your target accounts. This article will go through the steps for gathering data and insights on your target audience.
The reason you want to collect data and insights on your audience is so you can personalise the content you produce to suit your targets’ preferences - whether this is by vertical for a 1:many ABM approach or down to the individuals in the decision making unit (DMU) for a 1:1 approach. Because the content is personalised and relevant to your target, you have more chance of getting their attention and piquing their interest.
This is often the part of the ABM process where people don’t know where to start, so below you’ll find guidance on how you can gather the data you need and some nifty tools that will help.
The type of research
How you approach your research will depend on the type of ABM your company is undertaking. As a reminder, there are three types:
A good way to think about it is - the fewer accounts you’re targeting, the more granular desk research you’re going to need to undertake on the individuals that make up the decision making units within those target accounts. If you’re using 1:Many ABM, however, you’re going to focus your research more on the unique challenges and needs of the verticals or industries that make up your target list.
The reason for this is because in 1:1 ABM you’re relying on your content having an impact because it is closely personalised to the individuals within the DMU. However, with 1:Few and 1:Many you’re relying more on the target accounts having similar needs and challenges, so content personalised by vertical, for example, will generate the engagement you’re seeking.
Conducting your research
Mapping out the decision making unit
As mentioned above, for 1:1 ABM you need really granular research on the individuals that you’re targeting.
A good first step is to map out the decision making unit for your target account. This is often made up of 6-8 people (although this number is growing all the time) and might look something like this:
Each of the individuals above has a role to play in making a decision whether to use your services or not, so creating content which appeals to them individually will give you a better chance of success.
In my experience, the two most effective ways to gather this information are:
- Talk to sales
- Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator
One thing ABM is great for is aligning sales and marketing departments and getting them to share information. Chances are, the account you’ve selected to target is an existing customer, an existing prospect, or has similarities to some of your current best customers. Therefore, sales will likely have a good sense of which personnel are involved in making buying decisions for this target account.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is also a great way to map out this DMU. The great thing about LinkedIn, unlike Facebook, is that people tend to keep their profile and occupation details up-to-date. Therefore, you can search for your target account on Sales Navigator and match the personnel to the job roles that you know make up the DMU.
Researching the individuals in the DMU
Again, talk to sales. They will often already have insight, understanding and communication trails with the target account. At this stage, we want to gather as much information as we can on the individuals so it’s good to get into the habit of information sharing now.
Once you’ve spoken with sales, you’ll mainly then be doing your own desk research. Look at their social media profiles, look at any news stories or press releases from the individual. There’s also a nice tool that we like to use at this point that helps you to understand the personality of the target called Crystal Knows. This tool uses personality AI to analyse millions of online data points to accurately identify personality. Run it on yourself or a colleague and you might be a bit scared by its accuracy.
For each ABM type you want to be doing industry-level research and this will be your main form of research for 1:Many ABM.
"It’s important to understand how your service really helps them, so you can use this messaging in your campaigns."
Here you’ll predominantly be relying on secondary research: researching online for studies that discuss the needs, challenges and trends of a particular industry, as well as reading articles from influencers within the industry and studying relevant publications. But primary research is also important. Again, talk to sales or accounts teams. They will often have their finger on the pulse of your target industries and will provide invaluable insight that you won’t find online. If you can, speak with existing customers or contacts within a target industry. Ask them what their priorities are at the moment, what changes they’ve noticed in the industry recently and what they’re most excited about. It’s also important to understand how your service really helps them, so you can use this messaging in your campaigns.
For 1:1 and 1:Few ABM you want to get a good sense of what’s important to the individual companies that you are targeting. Read their blogs, press releases, any studies that they’ve done, customer reviews, and again, you guessed it, talk to sales and account management. I can’t stress enough how helpful their anecdotal feedback can be.
" The more you know, the better, as then the more tailored and relevant the content will be. "
Again, LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be helpful for this level of research. Look at what they’re posting and the conversations they’re having on their company pages or individual profiles. The more you know, the better, as then the more tailored and relevant the content will be.
Sharing your findings with the rest of the team
When working with a client on an ABM strategy we will host a workshop once our research has been done. The workshop will be with the selected ABM team (read: the one role missing from your marketing team), usually including representatives from marketing, sales, leadership and operations.
We’ll start the workshop with a presentation of our findings. It’s important to impress sales and accounts teams with the data and insights they’ve gathered. With all the right intentions they’ll likely feel that there's nothing new that you can tell them about their customers or prospects. Of course, there is, and you need to demonstrate this with your presentation.
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Next, you want to facilitate a discussion around your findings. Get everyone’s thoughts and ask them if they think there’s something that surprises them or any insights that are missing. You’ll find that each department will have different insights to offer from their own perspectives, and that’s why it’s important to get everyone in the same room. At the end of the workshop you want every member of the ABM team to be aligned on your understanding of who you’re targeting.
During these workshops, I also like to stick up a flipchart for an ‘ideas garage’. Naturally, during this meeting attendees will be inspired to share content ideas. Although it’s not the time to decide on these ideas now, it’s important to collect them and an ideas garage can be useful for this.
The above recommendations for gathering data and insights are by no means exhaustive. If resources allow you may also want to instruct a research company to gather information for you on a target industry or company. There are many ways to do it, but what’s important is that you have a good understanding of your target accounts and knowledge is shared between departments - most importantly, marketing and sales.