“The Dirty 30”
Who? Dym.io – A 500 million dollar financial services SaaS software company – B2B
What? Precision ABM (Target account list in the 100’s)
*These anecdotes are inspired by true events but any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental, or whatever they say in the movies.
Target account selection might seem like an easy part of ABM, but it isn’t. Very often, the different perspectives on what accounts should be included in an ABM approach are like worms exploding from a giant can of good intentions. The sheer accessibility of information is partly to blame for this. It’s not super difficult to acquire (or purchase) the data of a target account or list of accounts you’re looking to pursue. In fact, in addition to company information, you could likely get the information of 1 or 2 solid contacts at that account and be off to the races. The accessibility of account information can create a “the world is our oyster” culture to target account selection that will bloat the selection process.
When Dym.io sent me their list of target accounts, we hopped on the phone shortly after to talk through their decision-making process. My primary point of contact was Kelly R. – Vice President of Marketing and she was joined by Don T. – a regional director of sales who was now enthusiastically bought in to the idea of account-based marketing and sales. I’d had a chance to review the list of 30 accounts prior to the call, but without any context as to how they were selected, the list doesn’t mean much. My goal was to understand the selection process and ensure that they were giving their ABM program a fair shake.
I began the call like I normally do, and starting asking questions about the account selection process.
Kelly quickly piped up, “When I explained what we needed to Don, he turned around this list in under an hour.”
“Yup,” added Don. “We call these the Dirty 30 and they have quite a reputation around here.”
Don and Kelly shared some nervous laughter. I paused for a moment.
Let me start by saying: I love a catchy name for an account list. In my time working on ABM projects, I’ve been introduced to accounts known as Target 100, Orion’s Belt, and the Ruby Reds. A colleague of mine once worked with a target account list named “Big Bets” which she originally misheard as “Big Butts.” Who says consulting can’t be funny? Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the name “Dirty 30” that made me pause, it was the fact that these Dirty 30 had a reputation.
I proceeded with caution. “A reputation … like … a good reputation? Top notch?”
More nervous laughter.
“They hate us!” Don quipped. “Well, maybe not hate per sé, but they’re total dogs. We’ve been trying to break in for years with no success.”
Kelly chimed in, “We thought they’d be a good test environment for the pilot.”
The “Do No Harm” philosophy for the ABM target account selection is popular and I get it. When you’re doing something new for the first time, the inclination is to choose accounts who won’t be harmed or otherwise affected by the newness of the thing or the approach. That said, choosing “Do No Harm” accounts like the Dirty 30 will give you an inaccurate picture of how the ABM program performed. ABM can’t repair a badly strained account relationship, or fix overall company, product, or support issues.
Remember: account selection can be tough!
Getting a list of target accounts together through a collaborative effort is challenging! When selecting accounts, evaluate both medium-term business opportunities and the ability of marketing and sales to work effectively together. Additionally, see if there is room for growth in the share of wallet by seeing if there is documented spend or expansion in areas your company can deliver on.
Considerations for successful target account selection are:
Content and messaging:
Do you have sufficient content and messaging together to execute a play into that target account or target account group? You may deprioritize a particular group of accounts until you’ve had time to create a relevant value proposition and value-add material.
How well do you know this industry or vertical? Can you pinpoint 2-3 external business imperatives that these accounts might be facing? Do you know how they are reacting? You may choose to prioritize or deprioritize accounts according to your internal domain expertise.
3rd Party Expertise:
A business analyst can provide terrific, unbiased feedback on whether or not you’re set up for success with a collection of accounts. Additionally, many predictive vendors can help identify lookalikes for you based on the highly correlated attributes of your successful deals.
Account Executive Sponsorship:
The account team are the custodians of the account relationship, and must be in full collaboration with the ABM approach.
Ensure you have the correct number and strength of relationships within the account to elevate engagement with your plays and tactics.
Biggest Red Flags when Selecting Target Accounts:
Try to steer away from the “Do No Harm” approach, and don’t stick to accounts who are the coldest of the cold when you’re getting started with ABM. Pick accounts you think you have a decent chance with.
Other red flags to look out for:
“It typically takes 18 months to close these accounts, but we’ll need them by the end of the year.” If you’re hearing that the typical deal size or timing for certain accounts isn’t realistic, then it’s going to be hard to be successful with your ABM program.
Target account selection is critically important. If you see that the responsibility fell to the sales intern, you’ll want to revisit that selection process before moving forward.
“Can you send me the list of target accounts?”
Target account selection doesn’t belong to the marketing or the sales function. It’s a cross-functional exercise where coverage, engagement, and overall opportunity are evaluated by each function and consensus is built on how to move forward. If you find yourself asking for a list from someone – then you’re going about it wrong.
If your most valuable relationship at an account leaves, or a major event hits the organization like a merger, acquisition, or major reorganization – you might want to postpone your ABM efforts until the dust has settled.
In our next instalment of ABM “IRL,” we’ll work with Dym.io on pulling together the account insights that will inform their segmentation and messaging strategy.