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Stop Trying to Boil the Ocean. Use Inbound Marketing to Identify Account-Based Marketing Targets.

Posted by Dean Moothart

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October 18, 2017


Over the years, I’ve worked with many organizations who had a very well-defined target market. Examples of these markets include: 

  • Educational institutions, foundations or other non-profits with at least $1B endowments.
  • New car dealers in the continental United States.
  • U.S.- based discrete manufacturing firms with at least $100M in annual revenue 

These organizations knew where their solution fit best. They had established a record of success within their universe and built custom solutions for the companies that met those stringent parameters. The target market universe for these companies is finite. It’s possible to know who all their prospects are. In fact, it’s even possible to know who all the potential decision-makers and decision-influencers are. These companies are ideally suited for account-based marketing (ABM).  

Account-based marketing (ABM), “also known as key account marketing, is a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospect or customer accounts as markets of one.”  When deploying an ABM strategy, marketers create highly personalized messaging and content customized for each target account. A deep understanding of the target accounts’ business objectives, challenges and decision-making process is required. Gaining this understanding takes an investment of time and resources, but when you have a relatively small finite target universe this investment makes sense.    

But what if your target market isn’t so easy to define? Many organizations have much broader target market parameters. Examples include:

  • B2B-focused companies with $25M in annual revenue
  • Brick & mortor B2C retail companies with multiple sites and at least 100 employees
  • Companies with at least 25 vehicles in their fleet

Organizations with such broad parameters will have much larger target markets. In these scenarios, it simply doesn’t make economic or operational sense to deploy an ABM strategy. Attempting to research thousands of target companies and create customized messaging and content is like trying to boil the ocean. Instead, marketers throw a wider net by creating messaging and content around common market themes. These themes are often found by examining their most successful customers. 

However, the ABM methodology of personalizing and customizing marketing content to engage prospects is still possible in these broad markets. It’s just a matter of picking your spots and determining where it makes sense. Inbound marketing and the “Where’s There’s Smoke There’s Fire” principal of selecting targets can help establish filters to help shrink and refine the target data into a more manageable universe size.  

Sample Target Market Filters

  • Prospects captured via top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) offers
  • Prospects captured via middle-of-the-funnel (MOFO) offers
  • Prospects who download a particular whitepaper or eBook
  • Prospects with a certain title (i.e., CEO or VP) that subscribe to the blog
  • Prospects who have interacted with you via social media
  • Prospects who have visited your website multiple times
  • Prospects who meet a certain lead score threshold

These and other filters can be deployed as a stand-alone or in combination with others. It really depends on the number of leads that are surviving the filter and the capacity of your team. How many leads can they research, identify decision-makers, and create custom messaging and content? The filters don’t have to be permanent. In fact, they should be monitored and adjusted as needed over time. 

This approach actually gives marketers the best of both worlds. They don’t feel like they are missing out on opportunities in a large market universe. And they can personalize their marketing messaging to engage multiple decision-makers and accelerate the sales process.




Topics: inbound marketing, Sales, acccount based marketing

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