ABM Account Selection
How to Create an Account Prioritization Matrix
In account-based marketing (ABM), account selection is the first step in the ABM process and, in my view, the most essential activity. And most companies don’t do it well. In this post, we will explain why ABM Account Selection is so critical to get right, and I will help you develop an account prioritization matrix that works for you.
Why ABM Account Selection is So Important
If you have decided to take an account-based approach to marketing, you are intentionally deciding to focus your marketing resources on select accounts. And you are, therefore, deciding not to market to other accounts.
While significant evidence supports why ABM is a better approach than traditional broad-based B2B marketing, you are still taking a risk. If you pick the wrong accounts, your marketing will generate demand with accounts that won’t do business with you. You will have missed out on accounts that would have been bought from you.
When you get account selection right, you will be more likely to get a better marketing ROI, and your salespeople will be more successful in converting bigger deals faster.
Why Companies Get ABM Account Selection Wrong
Me to Chief Revenue Officer: “How did you select this list of target accounts?”
Chief Revenue Officer: “They are the biggest accounts in the market that are not our customers.”
This is a conversation that happens all too often. Many companies segment accounts based on industry and size and call it a day.
If your segment of accounts is too big and ill-defined, you must use a broad-based “Spray and Pray” approach to marketing. Your SDRs will have to cold call a long list of accounts until someone picks up the phone. You advertise to the whole market.
What’s wrong with that?
You are spreading the peanut butter too thin.
It’s highly inefficient. As much as 98% of your marketing and sales outreach may be wasted. Moreover, your competition may be outspending you with ABM campaigns targeted to the right accounts.
Determining Your Best Fit ABM Account Selection Criteria
In prior posts, we have discussed the notion of Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and best-fit accounts. These are accounts that are more likely to become your most profitable customers for life. They underpin any ABM program.
The key word in this sentence is YOUR. What are best-fit customers for you may not be the best fit for your competitors.
We dedicate a whole chapter to our book, Total Customer Growth.
Creating an Account Prioritization Matrix
You will want to create a framework that fits your specific situation. You may be borrowing down a total available market from thousands down to hundreds or you may have a list of a few hundred accounts, and you are trying to determine which 20-50 accounts to prioritize. Regardless, the following provides a disciplined and structured approach.
There are many selection criteria to consider. As you will see, this goes from “macro” basic ABM account selection criteria down to narrower selection criteria.
The first two categories of ABM account selection are typically reviewed annually. The third category is dynamic and uses real-time selection criteria.
First-level Account Prioritization – Market-Fit
Customers with High Revenue Potential
Targets, prospects, or customers with the highest revenue potential are ideal for your business growth.
Shorter Average Sales Cycles
Given how long sales cycles in B2B selling can last, this is an even more important attribute. This is more a wish than anything else, as it is very hard to target based on this. But as you develop your strategy, take the time to consider what might make some organizations buy faster than others. For example, they buy faster when they have just acquired or merged with a new company, and there is an urgent need to integrate the organizations.
Best-Fit Industry Segment
This is harder than it sounds. Typically, there are obvious macro segments of industries in your target market, but which micro-segment should you pursue?
Geographical Location (where applicable)
This attribute is determined by your ability to serve, such as selling a service that depends on having people in specific locations to serve local customers. Geography will be less important for companies not limited by location, such as SaaS businesses whose customers do not need onsite support.
Second Level Prioritization – Nuanced Attributes
Developing your ICP is about draining the swamp—eliminating the wrong targets to reveal the right targets. The trick is to remove prospects that are unlikely to become profitable customers. As you refine your ICP, develop a set of disqualifying criteria.
Here are some examples.
Aligned with Your Company’s Objectives
Is the prospect a fit for you? This may seem obvious, but it is tricky. For example, if one of your objectives is to be the leader in your field, it will be key to have references from the top firms in your market. If you want to be seen as an innovator, seeking out the most innovative customers will be important.
Look like your Best Customers
What are the characteristics of your current customers? Are there attributes about them that can help you identify prospective accounts that look like them? For example, are they more likely to adopt innovative technologies earlier than others? Are company values like diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) especially important to them?
Financial Viability and Stability
If your target customer is not financially stable or is in the process of being acquired, you cannot rely on them for future business.
Ability to Sell to Them
You may aspire to have the market leader as your customer, but they may be incredibly hard to sell to. If you do not have the right people on your team and cannot withstand very long sales cycles, selling to organizations like this is not for you.
Do you have relationships you can leverage? If no one in your organization has a relationship with a potential prospect, maybe you should eliminate that prospect from current consideration.
You need to know if a prospect uses your competitor’s product. In some cases, that might disqualify them. For example, if they recently purchased your competitor’s solution, they will not be ready to switch.
Equally, if they have had your competitor for a while, they may be more open to switching. The key is to eliminate from consideration prospects that are already satisfied customers.
What third-party issues disqualify the prospect from consideration? In some markets, their financial system may be important. Their electronic health record (EHR) system is essential in health care.
Note: With my own software firm, I found that organizations that, while Epic customers are known for their zealous loyalty, those that had been Epic customers for a while were often easier to sell to than recent Epic customers.
Third-level Prioritization – In-market Accounts
Once you have narrowed the list, the next filter to apply is to determine if the accounts are in-market? This is a more dynamic set of filters that you can apply real time. This is where intent data comes in. We have reviewed intent data in detail in prior posts.
In short, intent data are real-time signals that indicate that an account may be in-market for your solution.
There are three types of intent data:
First-party Intent Data
These are buying signals that appear on your own channels. This includes data from your website and social media channels, and email response rates. For example, seeing an account visit your website multiple times, stakeholders from accounts downloading gated content from you, stakeholders engaging with your team on LinkedIn, or email clickthroughs.
Second-party Intent Data
These are organizations and websites that help firms in their buying process. These include websites like G2 and Capterra. In addition, organizations like HIMSS can help companies identify who is in-market. They will sell advertising ad leads from firms that may be in-market.
Third-party Intent Data
Companies like Bombora, Zoominfo and Netline (Intentive) offer third-party intent data. They aggregate buying signals from a wide range of B2B websites and sell these as buying signals about in-market accounts.
Third-party intent data also provides an insurance policy on your account selection process. If you have narrowed down your target account list to 100 best-fit accounts, you can use third-party intent data to both narrow down and supplement this list by identifying accounts you may have eliminated that are in-market.
Account Prioritization Matrix Example
We created an ABM account selection checklist as a resource for our Total Customer Growth book. You can download it here.
If you liked this post and want to learn more…
- Check out more posts like this in the Healthtech MarketingLearning Center. It is chock-full of articles, use cases, how-to’s, and ideas to get you started on your ABM journey.
- Follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn. I publish videos and articles on ABM and healthtech marketing.
- Buy Total Customer Growth: Our book on how to win and grow customers for life with ABM and ABX.
- Work with me directly. Let’s book a growth session and we can explore ways you can improve your marketing using the latest techniques in account-based marketing.