ABM and predictive lead scoring – a primer for success
By Megan Lueders
Account-based marketing (ABM) – and the related technology of predictive lead scoring – is dramatically changing the face of sales and marketing. The difference is like spearfishing when all you’ve known before is dragging a net. It’s much more precise and uses analytical processes to ensure that your efforts are focused on the results your organization needs and your leads are more efficiently converted to sales.
For enterprise sales, ABM is critical because B2B sales are much more tightly focused than B2C sales. In Zenoss’ case, we provide open source IT network monitoring solutions to corporations; consequently, our enterprise market is narrow. Because small or even medium-sized businesses may not be appropriate, we may only be looking in the range of a few thousand targets.
Having a more fine-tuned approach to go after targeted accounts – as opposed to casting a wide net – allows a company to streamline its traditional marketing efforts.
You’re going after fewer fish, but they’re the ones you want. You’re enabling your sales team (and a segment of your marketing team) to pursue the very most targeted prospects with the very best tools at your disposal.
Having recently implemented ABM and predictive lead scoring, I now understand the benefits of this new approach to marketing analytics. I’d like to share what you need to do to make the right decision on vendors if you’re just getting started yourselves.
Five Components of Predictive Lead Scoring
According to the research firm SiriusDecisions, there are five minimum requirements any predictive lead scoring service must offer:
Statistical methodology. An appropriate solution must have an analytics engine that uses statistical techniques to correlate between data and such variables as offer responses, lead conversion and closes deals.
Scoring. The solution must be able to look at behaviors and statistically understand how a prospect will behave under those behavioral parameters.
Integration with marketing automation platforms and/or sales force automation. For access to lead, contact and account information, the solution must be able to integrate with at least one MAP or SFA system. Integration must be bidirectional, with data and lead scores being received from and returning to the SFA or MAP system.
Continuous learning. The solution must allow for adding new lead attributes and can improve scoring of leads based on previous scored lead results.
Reporting. The solution must be capable of generating standard reports such as conversion rates, lead quality and trend analysis.
I don’t intend to lead you to any single provider. Rather, I’d like to tell you a bit more about what you need to do beforehand to ensure success once you’ve settled on your own provider.
How Clean is Your Data?
Whenever I speak with my peers about what we’re doing with ABM and predictive lead scoring, their No. 1 question is: “How good is the data that you’re getting back from your vendors?”
The right groundwork for an ABM structure means having a solid database of people to go after. You can compile this database through multiple tools and vendors (which is what we have done) and by making sure you have more sophistication and segmentation in the database.
With the tools we are using, we have the capability of adding a great deal of intelligence to our data – not just content information, but other layers as well. Typically, these layers of data can be broken down as follows:
- Firmographic layer: How firms are aggregated into meaningful market segments (basically like demographics for businesses).
- Technographic layer: How consumers are categorized by ownership, use and attitudes toward information.
- Demographic layer: How the target market is divided along lines of age, ethnicity, education, etc.
- Intent layer: How social signals indicate a prospect is interested in purchasing a particular technology.
Of course, because of changes in any given business, the data that comes from ABM vendors is never completely clean. People move from division to division, from one region to another, and so on.
Keep in mind, though, that these companies make their livelihood on having the most accurate data possible. While you can never say with 100 percent certainty that data is perfect, it is certainly as sound as can reasonably be expected. Ultimately, it is up to your internal team to keep your database 100 percent accurate. At some point, you need to rely on the human touch, which means routinely reaching out to companies in your databases to ensure you have the most accurate information.
At a minimum, though, ABM as a tool enables marketers to take advantage of data that’s presented.
Top Business Considerations Before Starting
As you decide on a vendor, keep in mind there are some aspects of your business that can influence which ABM and predictive lead scoring company will be the best fit for your company. Here are a few things to consider:
Choose the right vendor for your size of business. Some vendors may be too big for you. You may not have enough records in your database for them to consider. You would be paying for a premium product when you may only need a mid-level solution.
Know what kind of information you want or need. Are you looking for account-level information (just the company information) or specific contacts within accounts? Most companies’ databases haven’t been tended very well. Names and contacts may have been added to over the years, but the database itself may not have been cleaned since it was first developed. In that case, you know you need contact-level information first, to verify the basic information related to specific contacts within the organization.
The accuracy of your database to start with may push you in the direction of a particular vendor.
Have a solid partnership between sales and marketing within your organization. Buy-in to ABM can’t just be lip service. The VP of sales must agree that he or she is ready to shift how sales is done. This goes all the way down to the tactical level of which salespeople are calling, how they are calling and what they are saying in the sales call. Most importantly, they all must be comfortable with the marketing department influencing some part of that tactical process.
Be sure your sales and marketing structures are set up for success. As you develop your ABM strategy, you may need to rethink your sales force and the type of people you hire. You may also need to ensure that while you have real buy-in across the board, you still have a manageable group of decision-makers, so that you can move quickly once you’re ready to do so.
Which takes us to our next point.
Don’t rush for results. It will take some time for marketing to get its ducks in a row – understanding the database, the tools and how to implement the tools. You need to establish and follow a joint timeline. Marketing is responsible for a lot of the prep work, and sales has a real burden to deal with to make sure that ABM can take off once the prep work is done.
It can take months of cooperative effort to start to understand the fruits of these efforts. It’s a journey, not a race.
Megan Lueders (firstname.lastname@example.org) is vice president of marketing at Zenoss, a provider of hybrid IT monitoring, infrastructure monitoring and analytics software for physical, virtual and cloud-based IT infrastructures.
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