As we end 2016, it’s strange to consider how far industry thinking in B2B marketing has come in just a few short years.
Not that long ago we were being told it was all about “Big Data.” Just lots and lots of Big Data. The more the merrier. It’s an approach every savvy marketer today recognizes as woefully simplistic.
In fact, having huge amounts of data can actually be a liability if you don’t have effective systems in place to use it all.
The current explosion of interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and account-based marketing (ABM) illustrates the growing appreciation of the importance of data quality. Even more than that, the interest in such solutions demonstrates marketers’ search for ever more sophisticated and effective ways to use their data.
It’s all about focus and optimization. Quantity isn’t really a problem these days – it’s pretty simple to simply dump tons of data into your CRM or marketing automation system. There’s no shortage of data vendors out there who can provide lead lists of varying levels of accuracy.
In 2017, as in 2016, the real challenge for B2B lead generation professionals will be how to focus their limited time and energy on a near-infinite pool of information – one which will only grow bigger and more diverse.
ABM: A good excuse to clean up your database
That’s where account-based marketing comes in. The ABM hype isn’t coincidental; it comes at a time when marketers (and salespeople) are searching for ways to cut through the noise and channel their efforts strategically. ABM simply satisfies that need.
Of course, account-based marketing isn’t really anything new per sa. In a sense, it’s more a part of the overall evolution of B2B marketing than anything revolutionary.
ABM is a method which places accounts (companies) at the core of any marketing strategy. While this may seem like a novel idea to demand gen professionals used to focusing on leads (or at least, it used to be novel until everyone started talking about it incessantly), it’s simply the product of tried and tested marketing methods honed over many years.
The purpose is to make lead generation more focused. You’re still ultimately marketing and selling to leads (people), but instead of fishing for individuals with a wide net you’re first identifying a defined set of prime accounts (“named accounts”), and then zeroing in on the key influencers and decision makers within those companies to make the pitch.
Such a highly-targeted approach naturally means greater customization, from your content marketing to your CRM. This makes the quality of your data all the more crucial: there’s no way you can tailor content or campaigns so personally without a very high level of insights and intelligence into who you’re talking to.
The problem is that the average CRM is saturated with faulty, missing or just plain incorrect data. What’s worse is that your data is almost certainly deteriorating further every quarter.
Apart from all the other benefits, ABM can actually be a great launchpad for tidying up and optimizing your CRM or marketing automation system.
In a recent webinar, Oracle Marketing Cloud Director of Content Strategy Jeffrey L. Cohen shared some important tips on how to whip your CRM into shape for ABM. The following are a few takeaways from the webinar, which can be watched in full here.
Matching leads to accounts
Lead-to-account matching is a crucial ingredient for ABM. If you’re looking to adopt ABM but can’t match leads to their respective accounts, you won’t even be able to get started.
It’s also a very effective way of achieving a real semblance of order in your databases.
A major technical obstacle to achieving this is the fact that most CRM and marketing automation systems can’t match leads or contacts to accounts. Instead, they catalog each individually, making for a nightmarish web of overlapping data fields for sales and marketing to hack their way through. The result is often duplicated efforts – as reps individually reach out to different leads without realizing they are part of the same accounts – or simply wasted time hopping from lead to lead until you find the right decision maker.
RingCentral, a leading cloud-based business communications and collaboration solutions company, faced this very problem.
Even though they were already running a very efficient lead generation strategy, RingCentral’s implementation of ABM was hampered due to the state of their databases. By way of illustration, 30% of their leads had missing or incomplete data fields, and 20% of their inbound leads couldn’t be contacted at all due to faulty data.
Why “job title” is less relevant than you think
The solution to the above problem is in theory quite simple: data enrichment.
In truth, regular data enrichment should be part of any lead generation strategy. It’s like clicking the “refresh” button on your database. However, to mount a truly effective ABM campaign your enrichment solution needs to be particularly granular.
For example, you can “complete” a lead by adding their job title, but what does that really tell you? We all know B2B professionals are experts at inventing creative job titles, so knowing a lead’s official title may not ultimately be all that useful. In fact, it could even be misleading, if there’s someone else lurking higher up the pecking-order with an unlikely-sounding, even more ostentatious title.
Your data enrichment solution needs to dig much deeper, offering insights on individual job functions, installed technology and other nuggets of information which are far more useful in practice.
The same goes for accounts. Knowing the account name, address and size is obviously crucial, but other more useful insights – such as sub-industry, specific expertise, installed technologies, among other.
Another crucial element in organizing your CRM for ABM is site-level matching – the ability to map all relevant sub-accounts like subsidiaries and local branches. Without it, your sales and marketing reps could waste a lot of time on different parts of the same account without even knowing it.
These basic steps really could be the difference between successful execution of account-based marketing, and the disappointment of realizing too late that ABM is no replacement for the fundamentals – like good data.
A great example of how it’s done:
RingCentral’s experience provides a great illustration of a company which whipped its databases into shape for ABM.
They rescued 200,000 leads hidden within their system using Leadspace Data Enrichment which, in turn, translated into a sixfold increase in their lead-to-account matching rate, and more than tripled their lead conversion rate.
Once all your accounts are in order, you’re ready to actually start with ABM.
With so much information on both accounts and leads, your sales and marketing teams will be perfectly placed to identify target accounts, hone-in on the key influencers and decision makers within them, identify their main pain points, and offer ideal solutions.
For more on how to get your CRM ready for ABM, watch our full webinar: Getting Started with ABM: How to Fix Your Data Before It Kills Your Campaigns.
Picture credit: Pixabay | CC0 Public Domain
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