In a far-gone era, when demand generation was “direct marketing,” it was often said that for any campaign to be successful, the list was paramount. Do everything else right (message, offer, creative, etc.), the experts told us, and, if you’re sending to the wrong people, it’s all for nought.
Fast-forward 20 years to a world of Account-Based Marketing (ABM), and little has changed. The target account list is the foundation for any successful ABM initiative, and yet, too often, selecting accounts can be an aspirational exercise (“these are the accounts sales says they want to go after”) versus one based on hard facts, research, and data-based insights.
Choosing the right target accounts is a blend of art and science: “Art” in the sense of sales goals, wish lists, or personal connections (the “rolodex factor”), “Science” in the sense of intent data, lookalike analysis, and proven engagement. The two are not mutually exclusive, and successful ABM marketers learn how to leverage both in creating an account list with the best chance of success.
Next time you’re looking to create a target account list, here are 10 critical questions to consider:
1. Is the account in my Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) or is it just on my “wish list”?
Going after high-profile accounts can too easily be an exercise in vanity (the logos you want to see on your Website) or wild ambition. Accounts most likely to engage, and convert, are those that meet clear ICP criteria.
2. Who are known contacts in the buying groups and are they engaged?
It’s not a prerequisite that a target account shows some level of engagement to be a candidate for ABM, but accounts that show no engagement demand a different approach. Accounts with established contacts and demonstrated engagement may be the better choice.
3. Are there intent signals that the account is a high-propensity opportunity?
Does third-party intent data suggest that a specific domain is demonstrating interest in your category? Intent data is only ever a signal, and one data point of many, but identifying areas of intent in accounts or industry sectors are valuable data points.
4. Are there market factors that indicate the account is a high-propensity target?
Independent of intent data, are there company or market events or trends that suggest a particular account deserves priority?
5. Do you have competitive insights or case studies for this account?
The more you understand about an account and its competitors, the more compelling your message. Having case studies in place that prove success at other companies in the space is a huge advantage.
6. Are there technological factors that indicate the account is a high-propensity target?
Does an account already use complementary technology? Conversely, does the company use a competitive solution that may prove difficult to replace? A target account’s current tech stack can be a prime factor in deciding whether it merits ABM investment.
7. What content topics have account contacts engaged with recently, and how is that content classified in terms of buying stage (early, mid, late)?
Analyze an account’s recent engagement for signals as to where buying groups may be in the sales cycle. Late-stage content can be a key factor in identifying high-propensity accounts.
8. Can you define the tier that the account should be? (1:1, 1:Few, 1:Many)
Only higher-potential, high-propensity accounts merit the investment required of true, one-to-one marketing. Other accounts might be better relegated to a broader approach until they show engagement or intent.
9. Will I have adequate collaborative team resources and motivation to pursue this account?
Internal factors can play a key role in selecting target account lists. Are your internal teams (sales, marketing, customer success) aligned behind specific accounts?
10. Are there other factors (i.e. a division of this account is an existing customer, a prior customer advocate was recently hired, etc.) that would accelerate this opportunity?
What other factors exist that might mean increased awareness, or a greater likelihood to engage?
For a more in-depth discussion of target account selection and other elements of ABM planning, watch our recorded Webinar, “A Pragmatic Guide to ABM Success.”
A big thank you to Tom Meriam, Spear’s VP Business Development and resident ABM expert, for allowing me to brazenly steal his recent LinkedIn post for this article.