This article was written by Sonjoy Ganguly and appeared on Demand Gen Report.

Once upon a time, account-based marketing (ABM) was called account-based sales. Sales teams would decide which big fish they wanted to go after, and they would tap marketing to create personalized letters and collateral pieces to send to those targets as “door openers.”

A few decades on, the tables have turned, and the industry is now obsessed with account-based marketing. This is vastly different from the ABM (or ABS) of the past, in many ways — not the least of which is that marketing now spearheads the effort. That might seem intimidating to some marketers, who may be reticent to tell their sales teams which accounts they should be chasing, but the fact is, this modern approach to ABM is better geared for success than its sales-driven predecessor.

Data-Driven Account-Based Marketing

The power of account-based marketing has truly been unleashed by both the volume and granularity of data that is now available. Whereas past efforts may have involved sales teams selecting their target accounts from their in-house database, or even from thin air, marketing teams can now use a data-driven approach to leverage both CRM and third-party data. By combining data sources, marketers can use both internal and market information to identify their target accounts. Allowing the market to self-identify their interest in your products and services is highly effective, which helps to eliminate a lot of guess work (and even some prayers). These data sources should include first-party data — including any customer data, analytics data and MAP data — but should also include available third-party B2B data, specifically intent and surge data.

This online behavioral and search data not only reveals what companies are searching for online, but also whether they’re exhibiting behavior that indicate they are in the market for particular products or services.Intent data can reveal that a prospect has been consuming content related to a particular topic based on their online activities. For example, if they’ve been reading articles, watching videos, or searching for reviews on products related to “corporate firewall solutions,” this activity can be measured to indicate an organization’s interest in that particular topic.

Surge data uses powerful, predictive algorithms to quantify that activity, looking at factors such as volume, speed and quality of consumption to measure the organizations consumption of content over a certain period of time, indicating their level of interest in your products or services.

Marketing Must Step Up And Recommend Targets

This new era of account-based marketing is all about aligning marketing and sales. The teams need to coalesce around which accounts to target, what content prospects should be shown and what a successful sales strategy will look like. Because marketing teams generally have the access to (and the understanding of) data and data management platforms (DMPs), it’s logical for marketing to work more closely with sales to recommend and identify the right target accounts for the organization. For many marketers this may be an awkward scenario, but it’s a growing pain we all need to endure.

Giving sales information about prospects that are already showing interest in their products is not stepping on the toes of the sales team, it’s helping them. Providing insights on the topics and content that is resonating with those target accounts only makes your nurturing tactics more effective. Actively marketing to a company that’s in-market makes more sense than wasting budget on marketing to a business development manager’s (BDM’s) “dream account” that’s showing no signs of activity or interest. Marketers need to get over the discomfort of advising sales and recognize that using a data-driven approach will enable the sales team to not only close more deals and close them faster, but close larger deals, as well. Everyone’s on the same side, after all. We have the technology; we can make it better than it was before. Better, faster, stronger.

Three Different Segments to Address

Choosing accounts to go after should be a fairly straightforward activity, as targets will generally fall into three categories:

  • “Wish List” accounts from the sales team that are showing digital signals that they’re interested in their products;
  • “Wish List” accounts from the sales team that are not actively researching their products; and
  • New accounts who aren’t yet on the list, but are actively researching topics related to your company’s solutions.

For each type of account, there’s a different strategy. Active accounts should be nurtured a little more aggressively than those not currently active, who may go into a deeper nurture cycle. New target prospects may need to be introduced to your company before being shown more aggressive calls-to-action. Every company will take a different approach, but sales and marketing should work hand-in-hand to determine what that approach is and when leads should be handed back to sales for follow up.

The reason account-based marketing is making so many headlines lately is because it’s so effective. When sales held the reins, it was more about wish lists and status. Today’s account-based marketing is different — it’s rooted in data and can be optimized in real-time to drive measurable results. The key is for marketing to step up and make it happen.

Sonjoy Ganguly is the SVP of Product Management at Madison Logic with over 20 years as a veteran product management executive. With extensive experience in the media, financial and professional services industries, Sonjoy was most recently employed by Deloitte & Touche in their Strategy, Brand & Innovation division, where he managed the definition and execution of new product strategies to identify ways the firm’s clients could adopt new technologies to create innovative, market-leading solutions at scale.