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Account-Based Marketing & Prospecting With an Inbound Mindset

We’re constantly surrounded by noise. 

Whether online or offline, there’s always a buzzing of people who want a bit of our time. 

How does a B2B company cut through the noise and reach a lead?

Not by using old prospecting strategies. Purchasing lead contact lists, making cold calls, sending mass emails -- these clog up a lead’s inbox and phone line.

You reach a lead by being creative.

Using B2B account-based marketing (ABM) and prospecting with an inbound marketing mindset helps your business stand out from the crowd. 

Account-Based Marketing -- Segment & Personalize

Segmentation and personalization are vital to your ABM strategy. You’ll want to cut down that lead list and build relationships. Pro tip: You need a CRM.

How to Whittle Your Leads Into a ‘Workwithable’ Prospecting List

(Yes. We actually said, “workwithable.” Its entry on Urban Dictionary ranks first on Google, so it may be legit …)

You can’t build an effective ABM strategy by targeting everyone. You need to focus on the prospects who are most likely to provide major ROI

Use B2B buyer personas or ideal buyer profiles to break down your list. 

(Need help building a buyer persona? We have a guide for you.)

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For example -- protocol 80’s ideal buyer persona might be:

  • A manufacturing company
  • Located in the U.S. or Canada 
  • Earn between $50 million and 100 million in annual revenue 
  • Be tier 1, 2, or 3 in the supply chain. 

Our ABM list would only include those who fit these criteria. 

Continue to break down your prospecting list using a variety of other factors. For example -- when we do our research, we may find p80 especially loves companies within 2 hours of us. We’d then research who the point of contact is for our target business, perhaps a director of marketing or a C-suite executive. 

Software and Tools for Building a Stellar Prospecting List

While there are a lot of tools available, we love the old standby Excel (or Google Sheets). This spreadsheet program filters and sorts data so you can efficiently find the information you need. You can then take that data and import it into HubSpot’s intuitive ABM tool. This allows you to organize the targeted companies by a variety of different aspects, like: 

  • Supply chain tier 
  • Owner of the account 
  • Lead stage

When in the discovery phase of building your prospecting list, LinkedIn is your friend. Most businesses are on this social media platform. You can snoop a business’s profile and identify points of contact. 

ZoomInfo is another useful source of information for B2B contact data. It provides a high volume of potential target companies and their contacts. You can export that data to HubSpot.

Can Companies do ABM Without a CRM in 2021?

No. Next question.

Oh, you want to know why?

A CRM (customer relationship management) system holds and tracks important data. You can certainly use an Excel spreadsheet to manually record and sort outreach attempts, who opened or responded to emails, or who the important players are at a company. But it won’t be efficient. 

If serious about prospecting, a CRM is a must. 

Offline Ways to Do Prospecting and ABM With an Inbound Mindset

Do you want to take your ABM and prospecting to the next level? Get a jump on your competition by creatively cutting through the noise

  • Use a direct mail campaign for your highly targeted list 
  • Make it personal 
  • Throw in a gift card to a coffee shop 
  • Send a handwritten note 

Doing this stuff shows you care about making a relationship and that you do your research. 

Some CRMs have third-party services you can use to automate your offline touchpoints. Say you had an introductory call with a lead and they were receptive to hearing

 about your business. Logging that information into your C

RM can trigger the third-party tool to remind you to send out your offline offering.

The Difference Between Modern Prospecting and Legacy Cold Calling  

Computer keyboard with word Lead Generation

Legacy cold calling takes something away from a lead or prospect you want to connect with -- their time, and possibly their voicemail and email inbox space. You take from them, but do you actually provide any value in return? 

Modern prospecting gives leads something for their time. Maybe it’s a resource or trinket, but you’re giving them something they didn’t have before at each touchpoint. It’s more of a give-and-take relationship.

The Learning Curve From Old to New Approaches

Legacy sales reps may be stuck in outdated habits. It can be hard to teach an 

old dog new tricks. The learning curve can be very steep.

However, this can be mitigated by software and training that helps a salesperson see the value of using new tools and strategies. Show how much time can be saved by using templates and easily storing contacts in a CRM.

Which Is More Important in a Prospecting Email -- The Subject Line or the Inside? 

The subject line is what gets a prospect to open the email, but the content gets you the reply, clicks, or conversions.  

However, if your subject line can’t convince the recipient to open the email, the content is moot. 

Want to increase your open rate? Here are a few tips:

  • Make the subject lines interesting
  • Get personal and include their first name and company name
  • Don’t be clickbait-y
  • Tell them the value they’ll get (i.e. a video message or premium offer)

Personalizing Beyond a First Name and Company Name

Personalization tokens are the bare minimum. Almost everyone uses them. They’re nice but expected.

Stand out by getting personal! This begins with your list segmentation. 

Let’s say you segment by industry. You sort out your automotive leads and target those who produce a specific type of part. You may have only 15 contacts on this list, but they all share similar pain points. You can talk directly to their needs in a way that you couldn’t to a larger group.  

Consider asking them questions where you have common ground. Spend some time on their LinkedIn profile. You may find some nuggets that would make great talking points. 

Marketing Research Is a Must When Creating Sales Prospecting Activities

Rely on as much data as can when you’re prospecting. Data can tell you about lead behavior: 

  • Pages they visit  
  • How they travel through your site
  • How they find your site
  • What links they click on 

The more data you have about lead behavior, the more information sales can use in prospecting and ABM projects. 

But Does This Research
Really Help?

We can affirm this. 

Holly McCully, an inbound marketing consultant and niche inbound strategy expert) uses From You Flowers to surprise her loved ones on special occasions. Let’s say she ordered flowers for someone’s birthday last Dec. 10. She’ll get an email this Dec. 8 that reminds her that she should order flowers for that person’s birthday again. From You Flowers logged Holly’s information and used it for new sales. The email triggers some guilt, and Holly orders the flowers. 

That’s the importance of a CRM. The more information you have, the more you can target and personalize every touchpoint.

Defining Modern Prospecting

“Brute-force” selling is a thing of the past. Modern prospecting involves building relationships. If somebody is not ready to have relationships, there is no use pushing it. Modern prospecting is:

  • Focusing on providing an actual, tangible thing that makes a difference in the lead’s life.
  • Seeing a problem you can help solve and saying “I have an idea; can we talk?” If the answer is no, we don’t hard sell them. Instead, we say, “OK, and good luck.”
  • Not the old way of, “Here’s a phonebook and a telephone. Good luck!”
  • Not contacting everybody -- not everybody needs your service.

You have to approach prospecting with a genuine sense of wanting to solve your lead’s problem. 

Prospecting Doesn’t Have to Be Painful

Who doesn’t fear rejection? It’s a part of prospecting that no one likes. You are part of the buzzing noise that is demanding someone’s time. 

Find ways to make prospecting less painful:

  • Mix up your pitch. Don’t say the same thing every call. You’ll sound uninteresting.
  • Be genuine! Leads can sense when you’re putting on an act.
  • Prospect with a partner. Tough tasks can be made easier with another person helping to carry the load. Plus, your partner can provide you with feedback on your approach. 
  • Play a game. You and your partner can have some fun by challenging each other, i.e. to sneak a word like “kerfuffle” or “hootenanny” into the conversation with your lead. It’s harmless fun that keeps things interesting.

Prospecting With a Partner Sounds Good. Any Downsides?

You have to understand that even in the best scenario, you’re probably not going to get through as many calls as you would on your own. Call volume is a typical sales KPI, so be aware of this. You can make up for the quantity with quality. Make sure you do the work to get the results you want. Send that personalized video or handwritten letter. 

Also, be sure to partner with someone you can jive with. It’s no fun to work with someone who is hypercritical and not helpful.

Overcoming Fear

Prospecting is like being a baseball pitcher -- you can win or lose the game all by yourself. You need to learn to overcome that fear. Own the fear, own that you don’t like it, and take care of yourself when rejection comes. If someone hangs up on you, put the phone down and take time to process what happened. 

Working Through Sales Lulls, Like 2020

While some businesses had a tough 2020, others thrived. They did this by adapting to the new situation and pushing through. Agility and adapting are necessary. 

Evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Be as objective as you can. This is not the time for emotions. If something doesn’t work, either adapt your approach or do something different. 

We’re New to Inbound With Limited Data to Inform Our Content Strategy. Help!

We get this a lot from new clients, so you’re not alone. Data is important, but you may not have a lot to go on when you’re starting out. 

The next best resource? Your sales team! 

Ask them what type of content they think would help the sales process. When they’re on the first call with a lead, they may get the same five questions they’ve heard 1,000 times before. These questions can become topics for helpful content!

Focus On Your Leads!

To succeed at B2B ABM, you need a CRM! Alphabet soup aside, try small, targeted lists of real prospects that could be a good fit for you. Focus on them. Be diligent about using approaches that break through the noise. Personalize your touchpoints with leads. 

Finally, make sure to have open and honest conversations with your sales team about what’s realistic before launching into prospecting or an ABM strategy. 

Need Help With Strategy?

Still have questions about your online marketing strategy? Perhaps it’s time to audit what’s going well and what isn’t. We have a resource for you:

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Looking For a Deeper Dive?

For a deeper dive into the topic, watch the video version of this article above. Josh Curcio, COO and partner at protocol 80 (and self-proclaimed HubSpot expert), and Holly McCully, inbound marketing consultant at p80 (and niche inbound strategy expert), explore the difference between the old way of prospecting and the inbound way. 

Special guest Trygve Olsen, director of business development at Bizzyweb -- and one of the best prospectors Josh has ever met -- gives some prospecting advice.