The most powerful attribute of account-based marketing is the personalised approach taken to directly target specific high-value accounts. These accounts are considered high-value because they reflect your absolute ideal customer, and as such are highly likely to convert into sales.
Targeting specific customers is at the core of account-based marketing (ABM) and one of the main reasons it is a successful marketing strategy.
Unsurprisingly, building this list of targetted accounts is one of the most important steps in account-based marketing. The right list will convert into sales, whereas the wrong list will result in few sales and a lot of wasted time and resources.
So if you are curious about how to build an effective marketing account list, this is the article for you. First, we are going to cover what a target account list is, why it’s important and some of the challenges you might face before breaking down the strategy on how to build an effective account list.
How do you build an effective marketing account list?
To build an effective marketing account list you need to first identify your ideal customer profile. This is your absolute ideal customer who needs your product or service to solve their pain points.
You then need to identify and locate these ideal customers. These are your accounts and will form the body of your marketing account list. These accounts all reflect your ideal customer profile and are considered high-value because they are likely to convert. Once you have identified them, you then list them in priority order before you start targeting them with your content.
We will explore this exact strategy below, but first, let’s look at what a target account list is and why they are so effective for account-based marketing.
What is a target account?
The target account is the ideal customer that you aim to identify, attract, nurture, and delight to convert into sales. With account-based marketing, you have a set list of target accounts that reflect your ideal customer profile. We dive further into your ideal customer profile later.
Once you have identified your target account, you then need to identify the key players in the company. You will then create strategic, personalised content targetting them directly.
What is a target account list?
Your Target Account List (TAL) is the full list of all the accounts that you intend to target with your account-based marketing strategy. As we identified above, this list is carefully curated and will reflect your ideal customer.
When it comes to account-based marketing, it’s all about quality over quantity. Your target account list may not be long in length, but every account on there should be likely to convert into sales.
The sales and marketing teams work in alignment to organise the chosen accounts and often use tier systems (1 2 3 or A B C) to determine their level of priority. Accounts with the most revenue potential are listed at the top and so on.
Once you have curated this target account list then you can begin creating the perfect strategy and content that will speak directly to them and their pain points. It is important to spend time and effort building this target account list to clearly identify who you need to be directing your marketing efforts towards.
Why do target accounts matter?
Targeting specific high-value accounts is what makes account-based marketing so special. By carefully selecting accounts that are in need of your product or service, and then targeting them directly with bespoke content, you can guarantee higher conversion rates.
With account-based marketing, both the sales and marketing teams work closely together to curate a solid target account list. This alignment between the marketing and sales teams encourages faster conversion as you are only targetting those accounts that are likely to buy.
Having a target accounts list encourages efficiency. Your team will work with intention and focus solely on these target accounts in their marketing efforts. Not only will the content you create be specifically targeted, but also the manner in which you communicate this content. All in all, your workflow will be conducted with intention and reason.
Target accounts also improve ROI. Impressively 87% of B2B marketers surveyed by ITSMA reported that their account-based marketing efforts outperform their other marketing investments in terms of ROI. By having clearly defined goals and focus, you can spend money and time exactly where it is needed.
Challenges identifying target accounts
When it comes to account-based marketing, one of the most challenging tasks is actually identifying your target accounts. We know that there is an abundance of benefits of targeting specific accounts, but it does come with its own challenges.
Firstly, it is a very time-consuming task. This is especially the case for those that are new to account-based marketing and don’t already have a historical list of data to fall back on.
Between the research, locating those that fit the criteria, sourcing the contact information, and creating and communicating relevant and personalised content, it is easy to see why this is a daunting prospect.
Secondly, it is easy to overly rely on the historical data set. Whilst this means that you don’t spend quite so much time locating potential accounts, it does come with its own risks. Not only is it risky to rely on data that might be outdated but it also doesn’t allow for new companies to enter your target account list. New businesses are starting every single day, you want to make the most of this.
How to build an effective marketing account list
So we have outlined the benefits of building target account lists and how they supercharge your account-based marketing efforts, as well as some of the challenges that you will need to be prepared for. Now we are going to explore how to create your own target account list.
Create your ideal customer profile (ICP)
First things first, it is important to get really clear on your ideal customer profile (ICP). Your ideal customer profile is not the same as your buyer’s persona. Your ideal customer profile is the description of the company that is the perfect fit for your solution and not the individual within it.
If you already have customers then build this profile around them and identify any repeat characteristics or trends. If you don’t, then this is your chance to get creative and to build your ideal customer from scratch.
To help build this profile, speak with different departments within your company to have a well-rounded understanding of who that ideal customer should be. The finance team, customer service, and of course, the sales team will all have characteristics in mind, but there might be other departments within your company that also offer valuable input.
This well-rounded understanding of your ideal customer will only help support your mission to build a solid target account list. The more you know about this profile the better. The more that you know, the more personal you can make the content you target them with, and thus the more likely they are to convert.
As we have identified, the ideal customer is the company that you are targetting. So when you are creating your ideal customer profile, consider:
- Employee numbers (both as a whole and also within departments)
- Customer base (size & purpose)
- Business maturity
- Technologies used
- New investments
- Expansion potential
Bear in mind that there will also be more industry-specific questions to consider, however, these can get you started.
In order to have an effective target accounts list, then you absolutely must have a clear ideal customer profile.
Build your target list of accounts
Now that you have identified your ideal customer profile, the next step is to locate them. This is often the trickiest part when it comes to account-based marketing, especially when you are creating a list from nothing.
However, there are tactics that you can use to help identify and locate these accounts. Remember to always reflect back to your ideal customer profile as your account list should reflect this.
If you currently have no customer base whatsoever and you’re starting from scratch then here are some ways that you can start identifying companies to add to your list.
Communicate with the sales team
Once again, working with the sales team serves as a huge advantage. They might already have companies in mind that would serve as ideal customers. Being involved in these early stages will also support marketing and sales efforts and alignment.
When you are starting from scratch then one of the best ways to start researching about potential accounts to add to your list is to use Google. A simple search can find the top 10 companies in your niche, or list the businesses within a specific geographic location. Once you have this wider sweep, you can start diving in a little deeper to see if they are the right fit. We will look into how to do this further below.
LinkedIn is another good platform to help identify potential businesses that need your services or products. Utilise the filter options such as location, company size, industry, and so on to start forming a list. Then use their LinkedIn Sales Navigator tool to locate more specific, advanced, and targetted leads.
If you already have a customer base there are some other simple ways to add potential accounts to your target accounts list.
If you already have a customer base then you can reach out to existing customers. Retention is the new acquisition, so consider how you could upsell your products or services to your current loyal customers.
Hopefully, your current customer base enjoys your products and services and would want to share how great they are with others. Offer referral incentives to them to help nudge them along with their referrals. This can have double the impact as companies are more likely to trust the experience of others rather than your own advertising efforts.
Once you have located some companies that seem to embody your ideal customer profile, you then need to dig even deeper and dive into the data. Firmographic data, technographic data, and behavioural data are all things that need to be considered.
Once you have a basic list, you can analyse the accounts’ attributes and group them into categories, such as:
- Revenue and budget
- Locations (where and how many)
- Number of employees (as a whole and by department)
- Company structure
- Maturity of company
- Industry position
Firmographic data is not enough. Technographic data goes even deeper and considers a company’s technology stack. For example,
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Domain Name System (DNS) providers
- Video platform providers
Technographic data is particularly helpful for software companies and consumption-based technology companies.
Behavioural data is some of the most important and fascinating information to collect. It can include any interactions that you have had with the potential target accounts and can help provide clarity on their intent and their needs.
Interactions might include downloading a case study or engaging with information on your website, following you on social media, visiting your pricing page, and so on.
It can also identify how this account would like to be communicated with. By observing their behaviour you can identify which channels of communication they leverage, what kind of content they consume, and what they need.
Bear in mind that behavioural data is only applicable once the account is already in the sales funnel. This data is best used as additional data to help tier your accounts when finalising your ultimate target accounts list.
Building your target account list is time-consuming and labour-intensive. At this stage, it is worth considering using specialist software to help support this process.
Platforms such as N.Rich can identify target accounts and target them directly with your specially curated content. It can also segment your target account list and deliver personalised advertising to support your marketing teams. You can also leverage software such as Buzzsumo to help follow industry influencers and keep you up to date with new companies.
Creating target account lists is a long process, leveraging ABM software can support your mission to create a high-value target account list.
Organising these accounts
If after you have completed the above steps you think your list is too short, then consider broadening and prioritising your selection criteria a little more. If you think it is too long then be more specific with your criteria and include non-negotiable elements that your accounts must include.
Now that you have compiled your initial list, it is time to explore these candidates even further.
When it comes to understanding your list of accounts, you are looking for contextual elements that might help you identify whether or not each account is a good fit for you.
Consider what kinds of products/services are they already using? do you offer something better? Have they had any recent shifts in their business structure or customer base? Are they hiring? Do they have new executives and decision-makers in the company?
Using ABM software such as N.Rich you can sort, filter, and segment your list using an advanced algorithm to understand your account’s intent to purchase.
You will also want to consider the individual key players within the company. Where do they fit in the organisation structure? What are their responsibilities? How could your product answer their pain points? Could they be internal advocates for you? Are they the decisions maker? Who are the decision-makers? Who is the main point of contact?
This is the final stage of creating your target account list before placing them in the priority order hierarchy. This hierarchy will have the most valuable accounts, those with the highest revenue potential and most reflective of your ideal customer profile, at the top and the others will follow.
When it comes to creating a successful account-based marketing campaign, it is important to have a comprehensive, solid list of target accounts that your marketing and sales team can directly approach and convert into sales.
Hopefully, you are now ready to get started in creating your own target lists of high-value accounts. Following these steps will ensure that your accounts are a good fit for your service or product and are likely to convert into sales.