Start With One: How Prioritize Your Hottest Accounts

Imagine a world where your business could only sell to one company.

What would you do? What would you ask your team to do? What are the tasks you would take on by yourself? What would you ask them to do on your behalf?

Get ready, because this is quickly becoming the new reality for modern sales and marketing teams. The concept of ABM has gone from buzzword, to annoyance, to an integrated part of thousands of marketing organizations.  More and more businesses are focusing on accounts, their buying groups and the individual needs and tastes of the people that make up these groups.

As new tactics roll out, it’s important to recognize that while the strategy and execution might be new, the thought process and spirit of ABM has always been there, it just didn’t have a name.  Businesses have always had target accounts, or priority accounts, or must-wins, we’ve just never had the ability to zero in at the level of precision we’re capable of today. The pacing item we’ve been waiting to catch up with us is data.

There are 4 primary data points required for narrowing down that one great account.  They are Fit, Intent, Relationships & Engagement. Yes, it’s an acronym that spells out FIRE, and yes that’s by design.  But all marketing bullcrap aside, stick with me for a minute as I break down these four data points.


As self-serving as this might sound coming from an employee of a company that sells fit data, hear me out.  

If I wasn’t trying to sell you anything, if we were just chatting over a coffee – I’m pretty sure we would both agree that it’s important for a business to understand if an account is a good fit for their product or service, right?

Imagine you can only sell to companies that run Salesforce as their CRM.  Marketing, prospecting or selling to a company running SugarCRM makes no sense. So identifying that a company is a good fit across the firmographic, technographic, departmental and other factors is critical to a business. But in order to determine this level fit, you need a vendor that not only nails the data science side of things – the ability to ingest thousands of signals and synthesize them down to a score that says either “yes this is a good account” or “don’t waste your time” – but also nails the raw data side. 


This is the hottest new data available in B2B marketing.  

This charge is being led by Bombora and it’s partners (including EverString!). Bombora has created a co-op of publishers and tracks the behavior of businesses based on their engagement with widely available content. They track normal behavior and look for spikes in research around specific topics and alert you to the changes.  

Companies that do not have this data will get smoked by their competitors. Intent data allows you to see the businesses that are surging on specific topics related to various products and services, and can (in certain cases) provide you data as to when businesses are beginning to look into specific brands.  

Think of intent as your Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot or SalesLoft pixel but spread across the entire internet. On a weekly basis, you can see all the companies looking into topics that relate to your business. Want to know who’s looking into “Avaya alternatives”? How about people looking for a “small business CRM”?

When we operationalized intent data into our sales and marketing process we saw 68% of our opportunities were with businesses that were exhibiting intent.


When thinking about starting with one, it makes sense to start with the companies where you have relationships.  

What’s amazing is the number of times I’ve heard of a deal lost where my company’s CEO knew the prospect company’s CEO or where we had mutual board connections.  If you work at a company where dozens (or more) of new opportunities are generated monthly, it’s just hard to get eyes on every single new sales cycle. What’s worse is not all sales reps will do their diligence in obvious places like LinkedIn. Even as products like LinkedIn Sales Navigator get more sophisticated and have deeper integrations with CRM, relationships are still being overlooked.

I have yet to see someone completely conquer this space to understand and operationalize the relationships between companies I’m optimistic about some up and coming players like Relationship Science.  In my opinion, one of the biggest opportunities in Sales and Martech will be companies that can create a relationship score based on the number of connects, VC connections and other factors.

It’s not science if you have someone at your company that can pick up their cell phone and start a dialogue with a decision maker or a member of the decision team.


Well, it’s 2018, if you’re not leveraging engagement in your sales and marketing process then you’ve probably been living under a rock.  

Companies like Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot have spent millions of marketing dollars getting everyone up to speed. Engagement or behavioral scoring has become a critical component of lead qualification and the handoff between marketing and sales. But the promise of engagement from big marketing automation brands has come up short.

Engagement on its own is too empty of a qualification. As more and more brands have gotten hip to laying the trap of great content, their sales team have felt the pain of high engagement from companies outside of their ideal customer profile as well as high engagement from outside of their buyer personas. Being able to see engagement broadly across an entire account while also understanding engagement specifically from the entire buying group provides an entirely new dataset for marketing and sales professionals to utilize.

Okay, now that you have all the data which do you use to decide your one account? Well, all of them! The one account you would want to sell to would be the account that’s: a good fit for your product, is looking for a product like the one you sell, has a large number of employees connected to employees at your business (bonus points if they are members of the buying group) and have engaged with your brand’s marketing.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for the sake of this exercise) there will not be a ton of companies that meet these criteria. So far our sales team gets 3-5 each week per rep. We call these FIRE accounts because they meet all four data criteria. So if the number of FIRE accounts is going to be low, what do you do with all that data? Well, there’s a lot to be done based on the various combinations of FIRE accounts.

Personally, I start with Fit as the primary driver for taking action on this data.  If a company is not a good fit for your product, nothing else matters and as a marketer, I refuse to spend money or resources hunting businesses that can’t buy.

Fit + Engagement

This should be business as usual.  If there are companies that are a good fit for your product and have engaged with your marketing, send your SDR team after them, or if you don’t have an SDR team, send your Sales team after them.  If the folks that are engaged are outside of your buyer personas this is the right time to activate a direct mail campaign to engage your ideal persona.

Fit + Relationship

You should be alerting your employees of their connections with team members of your high fit accounts and asking for their personal outreach. Additionally, this is a great time to kick in some marketing effort with either a direct mail campaign or start canvassing their business with company-specific ads from a provider like Terminus.

Fit + Intent

This is your opportunity to pull out all the stops and start running some great ABM plays.  Get your Terminus ads firing! Get a direct mail campaign going! And what I really like to do here is start an executive outreach campaign.  Internally at EverString, we start sending a peer to peer email nurture that contains CEO to CEO emails, VP of Marketing to VP of Marketing emails and VP of Sales to VP of Sales emails.  The response rates have been phenomenal so far.

It’s an exciting time to be a marketer because we have more data than ever before.  But that new data needs to be leveraged in new and exciting ways.

What’s clear to me is that 2018 will be the year of Human to Human engagement, but knowing which accounts and ultimately which humans will not be simple.  My hope is that by narrowing it down to the right set of accounts, that meet the right set of criteria this type of marketing will be easier to operationalize and execute.