Navigating ABM: Understanding Match Rates for Successful B2B Marketing

May 18, 2023

In a 2020 survey by Gartner, it was found that only 44% of marketing leaders were fully confident in their team's ability to handle the marketing tasks they were assigned.

So where does this self-doubt come from?

Well, for one thing, account-based marketing is a relatively new marketing technique that a lot of B2B marketers haven’t used extensively. But even then, veteran marketers are pretty smart people. They’ve seen the trends come and go and have usually adapted through the hype cycles.

One reason that account-based marketing is different though is that it involves a whole lot more technology between the marketer and the prospect. In most cases, the marketer is plugging inputs into an incredibly complex data-set and letting an even more complicated AI do a lot of the work.

We’ve spoken about how amazing new B2B technology has become, but where there’s innovation there should also be caution.

Growing up as a kid in California I inevitably learned a lot in school about the California gold rush. At first, we were taught about the fun aspects of the time period, it was all adventure and riches. But as I grew older I learned more about the seedy parts of that history.

Boom times usually attract all types of players into a given field. A lot of them are entrepreneurs who are smart and provide genuine value in the space. But, unfortunately, there are also players who will do anything to squeeze out a profit from a hype cycle.

In a B2B context, we see this happening right now.

To set the record straight, account-based marketing works. After all, SiriusDecisions has reported that 91% of marketers that use ABM have indicated a larger deal size, with 25% stating their deal size being over 50% larger. (Read 17 more ways ABM works here).

But, one place where we’re seeing ABM numbers getting “fuzzy” is with match rates.

Because a lot of B2B marketers don’t fully understand the tech behind how data and AI are matching contacts to accounts, they are exposing themselves to some poor decisions.

In this blog post we’ll go over the 4 types of ABM match rates and explain what you should look for (and what you should avoid) in each. We’ll also try to answer what is a good match rate for account-based marketing.

Match rates for contacts

There are two ways to run ABM, by matching contacts or by matching accounts. Both ways are valid, but there are pitfalls in each you should look out for.

The difference between the two methods is simply what you’re inputting into your Account Based platform. If you have a list of contacts in your CRM system that you know you want to serve ads to then you can input them into the ABM platform as contacts.

If, on the other hand, you don’t have contacts, but you know the types of companies you want to target, you can input those as accounts.

Let’s go over match rates for contacts first.

1. Total Match Rate

Definition: The total number of cookies found for the emails inputted

Your total match rate can best be thought of like your total reach. Once you’ve uploaded your list of emails (contacts) into the ABM platform, the platform will tell you the total number of devices (cookies) it has found that correspond to those emails.

This metric is useful to have a general idea of how many devices you’ll be reaching, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

For example, if you input 10 emails and the ABM platform says it has found 15 cookies, what does that mean?

Intuition would tell you that you’ve found matches for all 10 emails, right?


As is often the case, people nowadays have multiple devices that they log onto with the same email. So, for example, if 3 people have 5 devices each, the ABM platform will tell you that it has found 15 cookies (devices) for the 10 emails, even though 7 of those emails didn’t match at all.

BONUS: Cookies also apply to browsers. So if someone uses both Chrome and Firefox they’ll have two cookies associated with their email even though they’re just one person using the same computer.

When you’re asking your ABM vendor questions, be sure to ask them whether the total match rate gives you a full picture. If they tell you that the total match rate is all that matters, run away.

2. True Match Rate

Definition: The number of contacts that were matched to at least one cookie

True Match Rate is a much more accurate representation of how strong an ABM vendor’s data set is. True Match Rate will tell you the total number of people you can target based on the emails you’ve entered.

True Match Rate doesn’t count if someone has 2 or 3 devices, it only counts people.

For example, if this were game and we gave a point for each time you found a person, it wouldn’t matter if you found a person with 1 device or a person with 5 devices. Both matches would only earn you one point.

This is a very useful metric because, at the end of the day, you want to know how many people you’ll be reaching with your ads.

Combining Total Match Rate and True Match Rate is a great way to understand how strong an ABM vendor is in terms of raw data. If they score high on both, it means they can match your contacts to both a lot of people and a lot of devices.

Match rates for accounts

Above we covered the match rates you would use if you want to serve ads to your existing CRM database, but what if you wanted to target new accounts entirely?

Whether you have a target account list of specific companies you want to target, or you just have a general idea of the firmographics you want to target (company size, employee count, etc), you’ll want to pay close attention to the metrics below.

1. Account Match Rate

Definition: How many accounts can be targeted

At first glance, Account Match Rate may seem the simplest of all, but in truth, it is the most common way ABM vendors will over-promise what their product can do.

Account Match Rate tells you how many accounts on your target account list have been matched to at least one contact. So for example, if you gave 100 target accounts to your ABM vendor they would input them into the ABM platform and tell you that they’ve found matches to 95 of them.

Great! Right?

This is the most misleading metric if you don’t know what you’re looking at, here’s why:

If an ABM vendor is IP-based it means they’re targeting based on the actual physical address of where a company is located. So if you wanted to target “ACME corporation” and the ABM platform finds anyone at ACME’s address that it has in its database it will tell you it has matched to ACME corp.

But is the person it found a match to a lawyer, a marketing analyst, or an intern at ACME? The IP-based platform has no idea.

The quality of that match can vary hugely in terms of whether they’re your target buyer or not.

BONUS: This gets especially hard for an IP-based platform if there are multiple businesses within that same building because they can often share the same IP address.

Cookie-based ABM platforms, on the other hand, can have a lot more information about the devices they’re targeting. This means that with a cookie-based provider, you can eliminate certain roles that aren’t your target buyer and get much more granular with your targeting.

That’s why it’s important to ask your ABM provider the right questions about what their tech actually does.

2. Account Coverage

Definition: How many cookies you’re reaching at each account

Perhaps one of the most important overall metrics for account-based marketing is account coverage. This isn’t a match rate per se, but it’s very closely tied to all of the above.

Essentially account coverage tells you how much penetration you have into a given account. As we explained with the match rates above, it doesn’t matter if you match to a company on your target account list if the cookies (ie people) you’ve matched with aren’t your target buyer.

You can serve ads all day, every day, to the secretary at a company, but unless they are part of the buying committee, you’re not going to be making any sales (and you’ll waste a lot of marketing dollars).

Account-based advertising becomes more important as the size of the deal you’re trying to close increases.

According to Gartner, the average B2B deal now requires 6.8 people to sign off before a purchase is made.

That means that even if you match 2 or 3 cookies to a given account, you still might not be able to target enough people within that company to influence a deal.

This is where your ABM provider’s data set becomes even more important. A lot of ABM vendors who are rushing into the ABM hype will simply buy their data from 3rd party providers.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it does mean their data set might not be as strong.

Because RollWorks is part of the Adroll Group, which has been pioneering MarTech for over 10+ years, we have a huge amount of proprietary data that we’ve collected and enriched over that time. Using our own data with other 3rd party vendors, we are able to provide some of the most accurate and thorough targeting in the ABM landscape.

When you’re evaluating account coverage you’ll also want to make sure that your ABM provider has strong AI to sort through all that data and evaluate the highest fit accounts with the most account coverage. A good ABM platform will be able to make bidding decisions based on several factors, not just account coverage, to improve your costs overall.

Next Steps

Account-based marketing is an incredibly powerful marketing strategy (which is why so many B2B companies are adopting it). According to a recent survey by Forrester, 61% of respondents today claim to have amassed at least a year of experience or put a couple of account-specific campaigns under their belts.

The sustained adoption of ABM is a telltale sign that those running account-based marketing programs are seeing strong results. The issue now isn’t whether ABM is worth it or not, but rather how to do ABM well.

As you look into different ABM vendors, be sure to keep the four metrics below in mind:

  • Total Match Rate
  • True Match Rate
  • Account Match Rate
  • Account Coverage

We recommend asking specific questions about where the ABM vendor gets their data, whether they do IP-based or cookie-based targeting, and what metrics they can provide you on your campaigns.

Account-based marketing is maturing, so don’t settle for shallow answers to these important questions.

If you’re curious about other common ABM terms and strategies, be sure to check out our guide, How to Become Fluent in ABM, and learn how to speak in account-based terms today.

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