The first and most foundational thing you can do for an effective ABM campaign is to know who you need to target. Many companies enjoy having massive outreach lists because of the potential that they have on their go-to-market strategy, and the revenue that can be unlocked if they can be properly outreached to. However, in marketing, especially with B2B SaaS companies, when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one because you produce generic messaging that does not really speak to any group of people.
This does not mean that you cannot keep your inbound “net” open to customers that fit a wider range of criteria, but because Account-based marketing is more like spear fishing, you need to be conscientious about who you target. Because this type of marketing revolves entirely around who you reach out to, it is imperative that you pick companies that would be the top tier customers if they converted to purchase your service.
The better your data, the more accurate your obtainable market. You need to have truly reliable data, so gather information and do the analysis. Granted, sometimes it is not easy to get data that is actionable. Still, it is relatively easy to get viable lists and reports to serve as starting points. Map your ICP to your best existing clients.
Spend a couple of days with it. Out of your 10, 100 or 1,000 clients, how do they map to your Total Addressable Market (TAM)? What can you learn from that? How can that help you find your marketing beachheads? Determine those easy-to-reach parts of the market where you can not only play but also win. Which parts of the market offer you the path of least resistance and the highest win-rate?
Break your TAM into sub-segments using filters. Define those parts of the market that you can reasonably service, your Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM). Then, further focus on those where you can nail a niche, your Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM). Where you can win. Where you can become number one in a year.
Plot your sub-segments on the two-by-two matrix that is your SOM map. Focus on those markets that reside in the upper right, most ideal quadrant: those that give you the most market penetration and that offer the path of least resistance to growth.
Say no often. Realize that pursuing markets other than in your ideal quadrant takes time and energy away from your most lucrative prospects. Having defined your ideal obtainable markets, consider an account-based marketing approach to reaching prospects within those markets.
It does not do you any good to have a list of the best companies to go after if you do not know which people you need to address in those companies. With this in mind, it is important to use the knowledge that you have gained from creating your ICP - and take it a step further by creating a handful of personas that will give you the most success within those companies.
If you do this right, your personas will give you a tremendous amount of insight into which people will be advocates or blockers within an organization, what each care about, and how to communicate with the different types of stakeholders that are involved in the purchasing decision of your service. A great list of personas will give you a basis for who to contact first, and how to communicate with each type of stakeholder in the customer journey.
Building your ABM list
There are many ways to build a list of ABM contacts and the method can vary drastically depending on your price point, the tools at your disposal, and the time you have to put the list together.
One method that is often used is purchasing a list. Doing this will generate a list of thousands of contacts for you to go after at the push of a button. However, while this method is fast, it can also be very expensive, costing tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. List data can also often be incomplete or out of date. Some list building companies only refresh their data intermittently, which can lead to out-of-date contacts and, as a result, embarrassing outreach mistakes. Be cautious when signing up for annual commitments to list providers. Make sure you can use the data for a couple of months first and see if it works for you. Most data providers are either good at contact data (look for reachable contacts, with emails and phone numbers that are up to date) or company data. For the latter there are a lot of AI-tools now, and I have used many providers. If you are new to this, I can recommend grata.com.
Another option is to use event attendees to slowly build a list of potential contacts. This can be done by attending events that generally fit your ICP and paying for a list of attendees on its own or through a sponsorship. This method will take time to put together and will need to be filtered to ensure that the companies in it fit your company’s ICP and that the contacts within the companies fit your personas. However, it would produce an accurate (at the time) list of contacts for you to reach out to.
A third method is utilizing services like LinkedIn or LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool to manually create a list. This method can generate a similar or even better outcome than purchasing a list, if you have the time and bandwidth to dedicate to ensure that the list quality remains high. LinkedIn also arguably has the best B2B outreach contact database available. LinkedIn Sales Navigator gives you access to a more advanced lead search, allowing you to filter contacts by company attributes such as employee size and industry. However, on its own, LinkedIn has limited company information, making it difficult to ensure that companies have a good fit with the ICP. Even with Sales Navigator, which unlocks those attributes, it is a difficult process to combine the personal information of LinkedIn with the company information of Sales Navigator.
In my experience, it takes a combination of all three (a purchased list or multiple event lists with LinkedIn and Sales Navigator) to build a truly comprehensive list. The existing list quickly gives us a general view of the market, while the LinkedIn information gives us up-to-date, granular data to match each company to our ICP and each contact with our personas. Once your team combines this information into one cohesive dataset, it can be refined to show how big your Serviceable Obtainable Market (or “SOM”) really is, stress test your go-to-market strategy, and create relevant content for your outreach campaigns.