How successful account-based marketing starts with aligned, data-driven strategies — A Q&A

By Anastasia Bogomolov

Account-based marketing (ABM) is time-consuming; getting it right takes hard work, consolidation of resources and alignment on the part of both sales and marketing. It’s also a significant upfront investment — in both resources and strategy. Despite 87% of marketers saying that ABM initiatives outperform other marketing investments, 78% of brands say they struggle with “data debt” or not having enough quick data about their customers to launch relevant personalization tactics (key to ABM success).

One of the biggest challenges organizations continue to face with ABM is not having the right, easily accessible data at their disposal to scale ABM campaigns. That’s why ZoomInfo’s Strategic Accounts team developed a data-driven ABM framework — resulting in a lift of over $7 million in just the past six months.

So, how’d they do it? I Zoom’ed with Hussam AlMukhtar, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing at ZoomInfo, for all the details.


Anastasia: What’s a Strategic Accounts team — and what do they do?

Hussam: Here’s some context: Essentially, my team was created to align Go-To-Market resources (Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Product Management, and Executives). You can say our top goals entail understanding these customers’ challenges, mapping out their buying centers, and crafting customized and highly personalized campaigns against them.

We handle roughly 80 accounts of both existing customers and prospects, with an average of around 15,000 employees in each account. The team is also made up of nine account managers that have a one-to-one pairing with a CSM and an SDR. No other account managers have the same treatment.

Anastasia: What challenges does your team face?

Hussam: Let’s see, I’d say our biggest challenges range from platform and API use to vast differences in company sizes, like smaller business to multi-national or from tech to construction. Each account is a unique organism that requires a tailored approach to grow. Unlike the strategies of most sales teams that span a particular geographic area or sell a specific product, strategic accounts cover a national area, with wide variance in account size, dollar value, and product use case.

Anastasia: Not every account is created equal. Sounds like you’d have to get incredibly targeted in your approach. Where does ABM come into play — and how are you using it to your team’s advantage?

Hussam: Very true. Our team incorporated this adage by treating each account as an entirely separate use case; a smaller company needed a point solution, while the Box and Zoom’s of the world have a robust tech stack.

With access to ZoomInfo’s platform, my team addressed the particulars of every account by leaning on three key features: Intent data, Scoops, and NeverBounce. I can go into each of these features if that’s helpful.

Anastasia: Perfect. Let’s start with intent data, I work here so I know that, broadly speaking, intent data is used to identify and understand the customer. Can you please go into this a bit further. How does your team use intent data?

Hussam We use intent data to monitor surges in interest for specific topics at their target 80 accounts. Monitoring intent data yields two powerful sets of insights for the team: quickly identifying companies that are researching high-value topics at an above average rate within their accounts.

Speed is one of the most important factors in today’s sales cycle. With access to intent data, we get in front of the prospect not just when we’re evaluating vendors but also when we’re researching a problem. We’re able to set up alerts for high-value topics, such as “database maintenance.” We can then quickly drill into which one of our 80 strategic accounts is researching this exact topic and start crafting an outreach strategy.

Our reps can also monitor any surges, whether that’s a company researching “hiring” or something more specific like “how to have a company outing in the pandemic.” Doing so helps my team attain a deeper understanding of everything that’s going on within their accounts to personalize their outreach efforts even further.

While many ABM campaigns utilize advertising to target accounts to grow brand awareness, my team can do it more efficiently because we are creating ads based on intent data.

With intent data, my team moves potential buyers into programmatic ad spend campaigns that are more targeted because they are based on more than just demographics; their data entails what these prospects are researching as well. Researching “data cleanliness,” for instance, will result in strategic accounts being moved into an ABM ad campaign that’s tailored to the subject.

Anastasia: Got it. Next up, Scoops. How does the team rely on this feature?

Hussam: Scoops pretty much serves our team the intelligence we need to understand what platform the prospect is using, the competition we’re up against, their barriers and points to entry, and more. In a nutshell, Scoops arms my team with the information we need to start asking those really specific and strategic questions.

Say, for example, that the Scoops feature uncovers a “database maintenance” initiative at Company X…Well, that’s gold for the strategic accounts team, who can immediately provide Company X with relevant resources on NeverBounce, one of ZoomInfo’s products that can assist with maintenance undertakings.

Instead of trying to force our way into these accountants with the tired and often irrelevant, ‘do you have 15 minutes to talk,’ we’re already ahead in that first minute. We know that these accounts have initiatives that would support the use and expansion of ZoomInfo’s product suite.

Anastasia: Last but not least, let’s talk NeverBounce…

Hussam: Far from least important, NeverBounce is like our little secret weapon. You see, every single day, sales and marketing professionals spend hours crafting emails that accurately portray the value of their products. At the same time, I read that something like 62% of organizations are still relying on marketing and prospect data that’s up to 40% inaccurate — with up to 25% of B2B database contacts containing critical errors. Each fake or out-of-date email is not only a lost customer but a significant risk to the business.

Before any outreach initiative, Marketing Ops cleanses and enriches email addresses using the product, leading to a significant increase in our deliverability rate.

Anastasia: Very cool. Lastly, what’s your plan for the future? When talking about ABM strategies specifically, there is a common refrain: is this scalable?

Hussam: Yes. We’re proof, we’re scaling. We’re moving our strategic account knowledge to the enterprise level,” said AlMukhtar. “On a bi-weekly basis, we’re monitoring surges in intent topics across all enterprise. accounts, then moving these accounts into a bespoke nurture campaign that’s vetted for accuracy and quite literally tied to each respective accounts topic of interest. It’s starting to feel like the sky’s the limit!

Anastasia Bogomolov is a Content, Data and Food Enthusiast; here to serve you (data-driven) stories.

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