How to Research Target Accounts in ABM

By Brandon Redlinger

Insight drives Account Based Marketing. And valuable, relevant commercial insight comes from research. The depth of research will reflect which tier a given account is in. Whether it’s done by your Marketers, Account/Sales Development Reps or Sales Executives, it’s hard to do ABM without it at any tier.

Tier 1: Deep research

Each account is treated as a “market of one”, with intensive research and account plans and full buying center mapping. These insights ensure that each interaction is completely customized and personalized for that account (and ideally the person).

Tier 2: Medium-depth research

A lighter level of research but the goal is still that each interaction is personalized or customized (remove these accounts from generic marketing emails to ensure each touch is personalized, reviewed, and approved by a human).

Tier 3: Light research

Teach reps to discover ‘3 things in 3 minutes’: a fact or insight on the Industry; on the Company; and on the Persona or individual contact. Very light customization on some channels (e.g. sales email); other channels get segment- and/or persona-specific messages (e.g. in online advertising).

What you need to research for Tier 1 accounts

The account insight profile must be a living document, regularly updated with new information. The entire team should be alerted to important updates to any of the above categories. Again, the research intensity will depend on the account tier. Research is time-intensive, so instill a discipline about getting a return on that investment.

For a Tier 1 account (with the most intensive research), research will almost always include:

  • Market dynamics
    Size, growth, maturity, disruption, competitors.
  • Company
    Revenue, profitability, growth, market share, stock performance, outlook, acquisitions, history.
  • People
    Leadership, buying teams, stability, culture, values, tenures in key roles, attitudes, preferences, biases.
  • Relationships
    Organizational structure, reporting, power centers, buying teams.
  • Strategy
    Business model, priorities, strategic initiatives, successes, failures, whitespaces.
  • Connections
    Any links from your company into theirs: past employment, association memberships.
  • History
    Complete view of your prior interactions with the account (emails, meetings, deals).
  • Technology
    Competitive solutions, complementary solutions, collaborative solutions, etc.
  • Door openers
    University ties, home towns, sports teams, interests, conference attendance.

Who has responsibility for account research?

The SDR? The Account Exec? Marketing? The answer varies by company – and may also vary by account tier. Whichever approach you choose, someone has to own the research function and be accountable for it. So much depends on this insight.

We like this simple structure (but we’ve seen many others work too):

Tier 1 – AEs are responsible for creating and maintaining the account plan (with quarterly updates), but Marketing plays a BIG role in helping and supporting.

Tier 2 – SDRs and Marketing coordinate on the profile. This will often by led by the SDR team, unless company has a dedicated Account Based Marketing function.

Tier 3 – SDRs are the primary owners of the research, with help from Marketing and various tools. Possibly with a specialized research role that does nothing but account profile building (an example of even grater specialization in the SDR function.)

Where to find this information?

Where do your researchers get their information? In general, researchers are resourceful people who quickly become black-belts in Google.

A few sources to consider: