Using an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach and predictive technologies, you can segment all of your customers and target them in an incredibly efficient way. In fact, a recent survey done by Alterra Group shows that 97% of marketers have a higher ROI with ABM over any other marketing activities. The bottom line: ABM works and it’s worth the investment!

To get started with ABM, one of the most crucial steps to launch your campaign is to create targeted account lists with sales and marketing. Having an in-depth understanding of your targeted accounts, their businesses, and their decision-makers is key to finding account-based success. Before starting your ABM efforts, it’s important to have the necessary infrastructure, tools, and processes, along with teams who are willing to closely align and collaborate.

How to create targeted accounts lists

As I take you through the steps and best practices to create a useful and highly effective list, keep in mind that you want to start small (for testing purposes) but that you will, ultimately, want to scale your efforts to maximize not only your reach, but your individual accounts as well.

So, without further ado, here a few tips for creating targeted accounts lists:

1. Define your Ideal Customer Profile

Creating your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is the first step towards selecting the right accounts for your targeted accounts list. Your marketing and sales team must collaborate and share their insight on these efforts, as a successful ABM campaign will see returns for both of these departments. To get started, think about your ICP in two different ways:

Finding a good fit: Many businesses are turning to predictive account scoring to determine whether an account is likely to buy from them. This is important not just for prioritizing which accounts, but also for market planning. For example, Xactly creates sales rep territories based on predictive account scores. This ensures that reps all receive a balanced amount of good accounts, and it also provides structure for sourcing net-new accounts to fill the top-of-the funnel and drive demand for different geographies. In addition to territory planning, companies like Quantcast use predictive analytics to help with expansion and opportunity sizing so they can dig where the ground is softest.

Of note, technographic signals are vital to determining whether an account is a good fit for your business, and can help drive meaningful conversations with target accounts. For example, Mindflash used a combination of predictive analytics and custom technographic signals to build its ICP for the launch of a new Salesforce application. This personalized approach allows them to reach accounts that were not only a good fit, but also had a technology stack that was likely to spur demand for Mindflash’s new product. Mindflash combined these signals into a target account profile and then set in-app notifications in its product to help drive upsell revenue and fuel the ABM strategy for its launch.

Analyzing customer behavior or engagement: When building your ICP, fit is only one part of defining a marketing qualified account. An account might look like a buyer, but do they act like a buyer? Predictive analytics can help businesses determine which people from key accounts are engaged and demonstrating buying propensity. This will not only strengthen your qualification criteria but also provide insight into how well your ABM programs are performing. Then by monitoring the behavior scores of your key accounts, you can determine whether your strategy is accelerating big deals.

2. Create a targeted accounts list with input from both sales and marketing

Collecting team insight: For the most efficient way to outline your targeted accounts list, look to your sales representative(s) and your CRM for leads. Sales reps know their markets well; their instincts will get you pretty close to your desired list out-the-gate. However, using predictive analytics and research from the marketing team will help supplement what you know, refine your initial lists using data, and optimize their value potential.

Using analytics: Predictive analytics are immensely helpful in targeting your ideal accounts based on patterns existing in previously successful sales. Today, predictive scoring tools, like Infer, can crunch thousands of internal and external data points to automatically and instantly predict whether a lead or an account is a good fit for your specific product, and how likely that account is to buy now. These tools make it easy for you to stack-rank your list of potential target accounts based on actual data science as opposed to gut instinct.

3. Look into the data

Whether making your targeted accounts list purely from predictive analytics, manually, or a combination of the two, there are four key data inputs which Engagio points to in their Clear & Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing e-book are most important.

    • Firmographic data includes (but not limited to) company size, number of employees, industry, growth, and number of locations. Your data sources will include annual reports, LinkedIn, and other third-party data vendors.


    • Technographics data includes (but not limited to) complementary technologies and tech which might rule out your solutions. Your data sources will include desk research (forums, job boards, social media, etc.), competitive intelligence firms, and web scraping.


    • Intent data may include topics which potentially targeted company’s’ research on third-party sites, participation in forums, content downloads, and ad clicks. Your data sources include forums, job boards, and intent vendors.


    • Engagement dimensions include past sales into the company, representative activity levels, account engagement by persona, current coverage of key decision-makers and existing relationships. Your data sources should include CRM data, web analytics, marketing automation reports, LinkedIn, Engagio, sales representative activity, and executive input.

4. Take a three-tiered approach

Next, you’re ready to start implementing your ABM strategy.

The common yet effective three-tiered approach can help you to target that maximum number of accounts while keeping them custom to the positioning between your company and the companies in question. Remember, to find the best methods and practices for YOUR company, it’s unwise to attack a vast number of accounts. (Put simply – go for 200 before attempting 2,000.)

When creating your targeted accounts list, you may want to focus on one specific tier before tackling a bigger scale effort, or you may want to combine strategies between the tiers. Here is a common example of how to segment your accounts into three tiers (this will vary greatly depending on the number of accounts you have and the resources to target):

Tier 1 (20-50 accounts):
Tier one accounts involve creating specific account plans, in-depth research, and one-to-one personalization. Best practices include marketing to the accounts’ vertical and targeting specific decision makers within the account. These accounts have the potential for the highest revenue generation and targeted marketing can last between six months to multiple years.

Tier 2 (hundreds of accounts):
Tier two accounts involve segmented plans and industry/solution/persona level personalization. These accounts require multi-touch efforts over the course of a few weeks to a year.

Tier 3 (thousands of accounts):
Tier three accounts should be nurtured using broad solution plans, inbound marketing techniques, and typically receive minimal personalization. Some targeted outbound campaigns may be used as well.

5. Use lead-to-account mapping

Unlike measuring lead generation, it’s important to have an understanding of how each type of persona, within a single account, is engaging with your ABM campaign. Tracking the journey of all accounts is more challenging than tracking a single lead. As each decision-maker within an organization will interact with your campaign differently, it’s important to understand their company’s internal ecosystem to properly market to the correct department or executive.

Not only will this help you have better perspective about your accounts, but it will also show you which calls-to-action are most appealing and accessible to what persona in the business, and ultimately help you refine your campaigns in the future. Since every lead added to your Targeted Account List should already be a qualified lead, there’s no need for a qualification step like in demand generation. Tracking how each individual in an account interacts with your campaign will be key to your success. There are a variety of marketing automation tools like HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot to help with this tracking.

There are a lot of moving parts that come along with having a successful ABM strategy. Understand what you can realistically commit to doing. Now that you have a step-by-step guide, it’s time to put your plan in motion.

Alex S sig

Have you thought about implementing Account-Based Marketing strategies to your business? If so, are there any challenges that you’re seeing? We want to hear from you, share your experience in the comments below.

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