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Account-Based Marketing Success: Building the Perfect Profile

July 23, 2012 | By Megan Heuer

That’s the problem with most high-level account profiles: They’re not actionable at the “why should I call” and “what can they buy” levels. They’re also not helpful to marketers who want to determine the most relevant messaging and offers. They’re a start, but not enough.

Quick quiz: You’re a sales professional with a large, global account to manage. You’ve been managing it for a year. Your marketing team gives you an account profile with the company’s total revenue, employee count, senior leaders and most recent public market filing. What do you do with it?

The answer: Not much.

That’s the problem with most high-level account profiles: They’re not actionable at the “why should I call” and “what can they buy” levels. They’re also not helpful to marketers who want to determine the most relevant messaging and offers. They’re a start, but not enough. The more focused you are on an account-based business model, the bigger this problem becomes. There’s a way to fix it, however: If you sell into a defined universe of companies and want a sure-fire way to be more successful, there’s no better investment than building actionable account insight.

How do you get started? Collect data on the elements that help most for sales, marketing or other executives who communicate with clients. This is action-oriented profile information. Action elements are insights into buying centers (not just the parent company) and the contacts in them, as well as signals that indicate opportunity (or not). This knowledge helps focus sales efforts on near-term winnable deals, and positions marketing to support accounts with long-term nurturing plans if no deal is imminent.

Sample components of an action-oriented profile include:

  • Contact map. Beyond senior-level management is the gold mine of contacts within buying centers who have responsibility for initiating and supporting decisions.
  • Decisionmaking process and participants. Once the players are known, the next step for account profiling is outlining how the group makes decisions, and how each person is involved in them.
  • Current state for supplier or installed solutions. Find out how the company is addressing its needs today, including when investments were made and how they’re working.
  • Competitive landscape. Who else is competing for the prospect account and buying center’s attention? Who’s already working with them.
  • Buying plans and projects. Different than BANT (budget-authority-need-timeframe) criteria for lead scoring, a buying plan or new project can be uncovered long before traditional demand signals are in play.
  • Internal and external key issues. Individuals within an account may have very different needs and drivers. While persona development captures some of these at a macro level, account profiling can capture actual personal interests. For example, knowing that a contact is looking for ways to be positioned for promotion, or that another contact is planning to retire in a few months, may alter the strategy for sales and marketing to address an opportunity. Never discount the power of intangibles in delivering competitive advantage.

Where do you find the information to build these profiles? Secondary sources that offer repositories of account and contact data are a first step, and working with internal knowledge sources is also a must. In addition to these sources, primary data collection is often needed. Companies can use third-party firms or internal tele-based resources to do this work. Yes, it costs more to get custom data. While it’s tempting to save money on data collection, in the end this savings may cause sales and marketing to waste resources on accounts that won’t help meet goals. The cost of information is very low compared to the cost of missing deals that you could have won.

Megan Heuer

Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.