@Alex_Sessoms, https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-sessoms-mba-57351b9
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Finding the right data to guide marketing processes is a continuous challenge. Understanding that data can prove even more challenging. A survey conducted this year by digital solutions’ provider Millward Brown found that only 14% of marketers feel confident that they leverage their account data effectively. With account based marketing (ABM) campaigns, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of contradicting data when you’re heads down and trying to figure out how to connect with your audience. To stay on track, use this analytic process based on the scientific method.

Step 1. Make Observations

The first step is to make observations and identify your dilemma. For ABM, I suggest categorizing your accounts based on industry and other similarities. This will help group your accounts together with those who have similar needs and pain-points. You can gain further insight into your accounts’ customers, competitors, influencers, decision makers, industry, market and buyers’ journeys. This will help you to remain fluid and agile, so that you can adapt and react in a constantly evolving business climate.

Step 2. Define your Purpose and Ask Specific Questions

A mistake many businesses make when analyzing account data is lack of intention. If there aren’t specific questions, you won’t find specific answers. Additionally, the more targeted the questions, the better answers you’ll receive. Since you’ve categorized your accounts and made general observations about these categories, you can now craft a few questions for each category of account. Avoid looking at each separate account as a different project on its own. That way, you can zero-in on similar needs and pain points, as well as similarities in buying cycles and decision making.
Some examples of specific questions to ask before beginning your research may include:

  • Have these accounts visited my website before?
  • Which other ways have these accounts interacted with my company?
  • How is the account currently addressing the problems my solution solves?
  • What are these accounts’ customers’ specific needs?
  • Which pain-points not obviously solved by my solution can be assisted by my approach?
  • What are the typical actions of an account that is actively engaged in the purchasing process of a similar solution to mine?

Step 3. Form a Hypothesis

Your hypothesis should be based on the sort of content you think would be useful in your campaigns. What resonates with your accounts? What resources do you want to share with them? Your hypothesis will help you to know your targeted audience and meet them where they are.

Step 4. Develop Testable Predictions

Make predictions about your insights (drawing from resources like Marketo and Engagio) based off of your hypothesis. For instance, if my hypothesis is that “The more engaged an account already is with my company, the more detailed insider-information they will want to receive and the more willing they will be to interact with and share my content.” Some predictions I might make include:

  • If I already have personal connections with an account, very detailed information pertaining to previous conversations will get the most engagement.
  • Making CTAs which ask target personas to weigh in on the pain points of their specific roles will nurture a sense of trust and preference with those individuals.

After you’ve created your predictions, decide how you’ll collect the data. Examine a variety of primary and secondary sources, like direct conversations, social media, official company information and content which the account consumes. Your predictions don’t have to be right, but they must be actionable and gain relevant results.

Step 5. Analyze Your Data to Test Predictions

After asking questions, forming a hypothesis, and making predictions, it’s time to collect and analyze your data. Using targeted listening allows you to focus in on specific conversations, interactions, and content so that you can find relevant answers. This skill is going to be very important when gathering your data, supported by software designed to help you track, score, and record your findings.
Here is just some of the data you should be tracking:

  • Your account’s goals and objectives
  • The brand’s specific objectives and KPIs
  • Their strategic business goals, initiatives, commercial considerations, and challenges
  • Relevant market or industry characteristics and trends
  • Their competitors
  • Website analytics and transactional data
  • Market influencers such as key bloggers
  • Unstructured data, such as social media accounts and customer conversations

Now, organize your findings, track them, and compare them to your predictions. Do you have very different outcomes than you had predicted? If so, you need to go back to step 3 and revise your hypothesis and predictions based on your new-found knowledge.
Keep in mind that this is a continual process. Even after you start putting out content, you’ll have to continually be discovering insights to remain relevant and informed.

Step 6. Develop General Theories

Create actionable conclusions about your findings. By this point, you should have a great idea of where to start with the direction of your customized content generation. I would like to stress that this is a continual process. As customers, businesses, our interests, and the economy shifts, we need to be aware of upcoming changes and be flexible in our theories.

As Account-based Marketing gains popularity, it is becoming harder to find concise, actionable resources to help you create your campaigns. With that in mind, I hope that this series on ABM can be a clear guide for you to follow. If you’re just stumbling upon this series now, you can start back at the beginning with my Account-based Marketing overview. I also recommend looking to resources available from Marketo and Engagio, as they both have ABM overviews that will help you gain clarity.

What customer insights have you been able to discover through your use of ABM and similar outreach methods? Share your tips with partners in the comments below.

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