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3 Steps to Create and Operationalize a Target Account List

In the wake of COVID-19, most organizations were forced to revisit their target accounts. Even without a Pandemic, this exercise is something organizations should do at least annually.

Know Your Audience

Fundamentally, account-based marketing (ABM) is about understanding the traits of your best customers for the purpose of finding more like them. At the most basic level, for B2B marketers and sellers that means thinking about your audience in two distinct ways:

  1. The Company (Target Accounts)
  2. The Person (Personas)

Step 1: Define Your Total Addressable Market (TAM)

Before you define the specific firmographics of your target accounts, narrow down the universe of companies to your Total Addressable Market (TAM). Your TAM is defined as ANY company who CAN purchase your product or service. Start with a simple description – don’t get yourself all worked up on specifics.

For example, for LeadMD, our TAM is any non-sole proprietor company selling a considered purchase product or service and investing in marketing in the United States of America or Canada. If you’re thinking, “That’s a lot of companies!” You’re right. But we’ll continue to refine it down to something more manageable, so hang tight.

Defining Data Points for your TAM

With this simple description in mind, we can start to refine the data points that help us actually put company names to our concept.

  1. Let’s start with “non-sole proprietor.” This weeds out folks like doctors or dentist’s offices. To do this from a data perspective, it’s as simple as saying “Number of Employees > 1.”
  2. Then, we need to refine what type of sales model the company works on. We know all B2B or B2B2C companies will be good for us, but many straight consumer brands or retailers don’t have marketers working the types of considered purchase motions where we specialize. The best data we have for this is a combination of “Business Model = B2B” AND “Industry NOT = Retail.”
  3. Next let’s tackle “investing in marketing.” From data, we’d look for “Marketing Budget > $0.”
  4. Finally, note that we don’t require that companies are headquartered or doing business in the US or Canada, but that they are marketing in the countries. I haven’t found a source for this information and so, we do end up using head quarters. This is important to illustrate the old adage “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.” We could let this data access ruin our momentum, but HQ still gives us thousands of companies to pull from and that’s okay with us.

From here, we can plug these data points into our data vendor of choice, DiscoverOrg. When we do this, we find 92,264 companies land in our TAM. Looking at a visual example below, you’ll see we’ve only covered the violet circle. 

Defining Target Accounts: TAM, ICP and Different Types of Buying Committees

Defining Target Accounts: TAM, ICP and Different Types of Buying Committees

Step 2: Refine Your TAM with Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

As previously mentioned, 92k accounts is far too many accounts for us manage and, frankly, not all of them are truly in the market for our services anyway. So, from here, we refine the firmographics of the organizations that are ideal for us. The easiest way to uncover this is by analyzing previous customers.

Again, for an example, let’s start with a simple statement about LeadMD’s ICP. Our ideal customer is an organization investing at least 15% of overall revenues back in marketing in an industry where competition requires forward-thinking individuals and scale through technology.

And let’s again dig into the data this requires:

  1. 15% of revenue invested in marketing is a data point available via DiscoverOrg.
  2. “In an industry where” is a little more challenging. Because DiscoverOrg does not make such judgements of industries, what we did was take our historic data of industries where our best customers are.
  3. Likewise, when we did a regression analysis against all data points on our best customers, we found company revenue in general was also a key indicator of success.
  4. Finally, “scale through technology” means companies must invest in certain technologies, which is information available through DiscoverOrg as well as Builtwith.

Take a look at the results for items 2 and 3 above:

ICP Scoring

ICP Scoring

Green is good. Red is bad.

If we take a look at the “Manufacturing – Durables” industry value for example, you can see that these organizations under $100MM are not only not a great fit for us, they’re actually more likely to be a bad fit. If these organizations are between $100MM-$1B, they are likely alright, but hardly organizations we’d actively target. And if they’re over $1B in annual revenue, then they’re a great fit.

There are plenty of anecdotal examples to validate these findings, but you can imagine how much more targeted we can become with these details.

After we paired these qualitative findings with our quantitative ones, we again went back to DiscoverOrg to pull the companies that fit our criteria. We went from over 92,000 companies in our TAM to just over 32,000 companies in our ICP.

Step 3: Refine Your ICP with Tiers

32,000 companies is still way too many for us to manage. So, from here, we took the tiered the accounts (based on the scoring you see in the spreadsheet above). For us, that means those with scores above 96 become our “A” accounts. For our example, with three Account Executives (AE) and two Account Development Reps (inside sales) we estimated we could only manage around 50 accounts for each AE. Below you’ll see the approach for “A” accounts vs. “B” and “C.”

Tier Your ICP

Tier Your ICP

For our business, we do a lot of partner marketing, which means that some but not all of our “A” accounts fit strategically with our partners’ visions for their go-to-market motions. Our joint targets (which honestly, is heavily driven by our partners) fall into the “B” slot.

The other tactic we use to identify the lowest hanging fruit in the extremely large “C” bucket is 6sense data. We keep an eye out for companies exhibiting intent to buy signals in this group and if we see something we like, we’ll graduate them to a “B” account.

Everyone else, yes, essentially the other 31,000 accounts receive good ole demand generation tactics.

Map Messaging to your ABM Targets

Once you have your arms around what companies you want to focus efforts on, it’s time to differentiate messaging that will make sense and move them through their buying journey with you. Depending on the complexity of your targets, these messages may be very similar or starkly different.

ABM Message Mapping

ABM Message Mapping

From Companies to Buyers

Once you’ve identified the companies who should buy from you and a way to message your solution to their pain, it’s time to get that message into the hands of folks who will move it forward and actually make it happen. Enter your buying committee. For tips on how to identify these folks, check out this article, “How to Identify Your Buying Committee.”

Download Monsters of Funnel II: Back to Stack. You’ll get the ultimate tech stack (and tactics) to achieve face-melting success with account-based marketing!

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