Is curiosity as important as intelligence when it comes to handling complexity? Some new thinking from HBR suggests that it is — especially when handling ambiguity and change. Apparently people with a high curiosity quotient (CQ) are better at producing simple solutions to complex problems. (Hmm. Sounds like a good characteristic for an analyst to have.)

It’s a bonus that many B2B marketers have a high degree of natural curiosity. Many ask me interesting questions, such as:

What are other marketers doing that works well?

Where do I find the right kind of buyers?

How do I attribute marketing activity to revenue impact?

How do I demonstrate that brand marketing is as important as generating demand?

And one of my more recent favorites:

How are other companies achieving success with ABM (account-based marketing)?

Before I launch into an answer, let me say that this question is just one of 15 that B2B marketers should be asking more often — and getting answers to — before they launch ABM strategies or marketing programs. For too many B2B marketers, ABM may seem like it’s everywhere and the answer to every frustration with lead generation and sales enablement you’ve experienced. Well, it’s not.

When it comes to achieving ABM success, marketers should realize that replicating what your peers are doing does not guarantee equivalent results. ABM use cases are diverse, more so than conventional demand generation practices, and can run the gamut from attracting interest in net-new accounts to building deeper relationships with your biggest fans and advocates. How marketers achieve ABM success depends on specific customer profile, market opportunity, competitive issues, and installed-base conditions that vary greatly and affect how well sales and marketing teams can achieve their goals.

ABM success starts with deciding what are you trying to achieve: In our recent survey, 60% of B2B marketing respondents said that they currently focus their ABM efforts on customer retention, loyalty, and satisfaction, while 59% are zeroing in on enrichment, cross-sell, and upsell. We were surprised to find that these results are very close to the 59% who said that their main goal was to attract marquee accounts. (Which seems to be the default ABM strategy making the rounds.) We have found that honing the working relationship between sales and marketing and measuring results that relate to specific business goals creates the most fertile opportunities for success. Not technology. And not figuring out what other marketing folks are doing.

A more important question for B2B marketers to be asking is this: What new data will I need to make ABM successful?

Yes, data! Data is king and content is queen in the realm of ABM. If you want to make ABM work, get busy cleaning up your customer data and put better data management practices in place.

ABM data challenges include identifying the right contacts inside selected accounts, performing deep research to understand the key issues that specific accounts or segments face, and tracking material changes (e.g., triggers) that could open the door to new prospects and buyers. Start by closing data gaps in your existing customer account data. This will help you understand which factors distinguish your best customers from the rest.

To assess the total market available to your ABM schemes and plans, turn to data enrichers — such as InsideView, RainKing, Zoominfo, and other companies like these — to understand how much business is really available. Predictive marketing analytics providers — such as 6sense, Lattice, Mintigo, and Radius — can help you learn which accounts may be interested or in-the-market for what you have to offer. Regardless, the ABM game is about getting to know your prospects and customers better.

So exercise some of that natural curiosity in the direction of learning about who you want to sell to — and which customers you want to keep — if you REALLY want to be successful at ABM.