Building An Effective ABM Prospect-List When Targeting A B2B Niche
When it comes to targeting a B2B niche with an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy, building an effective target prospect list is crucial. There are numerous methods available, including leveraging technology, utilising data sources, and of course, the age-old desk research route. However, it is essential to supplement these approaches by consulting with appropriate stakeholders in the commercial teams. In this article, we explore the different routes to give you a framework to build your own ABM prospect lists and provide a recommendation based on our own experience of the best way forward.
We’ve said before how many MarTech solutions look great on the cover but fall short when being used to target a niche. They are often built with scale in mind, which makes them unusable when targeting small niche audiences. Technology for building ABM account lists is no exception.
Whatever you do, always start with defining your ICP
Of course, the first step is to identify your ideal customer profile (ICP) and this should be done with support from your sales team. A good ICP includes firmographics (sectors, geography, size) combined with intent signalling (the problem you solve, indications of market readiness) and in many cases the best place to start is with your most profitable customers. Remember to ask “WHO” and “WHY” when building this.
Once you have a clear understanding of your ICP, the next step is to find more companies that match those criteria. The size of your target audience will determine the appropriate ABM approach. Large audiences allow one-to-many and smaller audiences prompt one-to-few or even one-to-one for those with potential high profiles.
We’ve tested many methods of building your universe and have concluded there is only one appropriate approach when targeting a niche.
Buying B2B data
As well as contact details, consider leveraging database platforms, such as Zoominfo and Lusha (which provides a plug-in), as these allow you to select on industry profiles and download company lists.
However, be cautious about the level of detail provided by standard SIC codes, as they might not be precise enough to isolate the exact customers you are interested in. This is especially true for niche audiences with various subcategories within a broader industry. There are a lot of different types of manufacturing so one parent category of “engineering” is seldom precise enough.
Harness natural language platforms
Our favourite platform is ocean.io, which uses natural language algorithms to identify lookalike company lists to the ones you have identified (based on their website URLs) and uses Boolean keywords to match companies whose web sites include coverage of your keywords. A benefit is that the output CSVs are ready to be used for company matching on the main paid media sites, which can be very time consuming.
Keep in mind that these tools come with a price tag, so for those targeting a niche with a total addressable market of a few hundred companies that rarely change, these tools are only appropriate for the initial research. They also work best when your target market consists of specialist companies and not specific divisions of larger customers.
Leverage on-platform research
Although potentially time-consuming, there is a little substitute for doing company searches – particularly on LinkedIn. Additionally, IP look-up services such as Lead Forensics, ClearBit and integrated tools in HubSpot can provide valuable insights into potential prospects.
Explore traditional search methods
The traditional methods are the best; Googling association lists and speakers/exhibitors at niche events is hard to beat. However, this can take a long time. You can accelerate it using AI and we’ve had some success with ChatGPT here, but although this saves time in crafting a list, we find that we have to spend the time we would have spent hunting to validate the results, so the time savings are nowhere near as large as they appear.
Our recommendation however, for those targeting a niche, is that there is simply no replacement for:
1. Interviewing your sales team to understand their pipelines and their suspects. They’ll know straight away.
2. Looking in your CRM for past customers and prospects.
3. For some companies, a list of people ‘in the pipeline’ who are in the sales journey.
4. Your present customers, who provide an excellent starting point. Finding similar companies starts with identifying the competitors of your existing customers.
You can supplement this intelligence by using the above MarTech routes but always start with what you know already and don’t be seduced into running to tools. They should append your interactions with your internal team, not replace them.
Targeting a niche is one of the purest forms of B2B marketing, and only those made of strong stuff are up for the challenge. With off-the-shelf MarTech solutions not always meeting the unique requirements of targeting a niche, utilising the appropriate technology, leveraging existing knowledge and strategic internal collaborating will help you to build an effective ABM target prospect list.