This blog post is a 6 minute read.

When building out your Account-Based Marketing strategy, one of the most critical components is identifying target key accounts.

Consider this from DMNews:

“According to findings from the CSO Insight study, 42 percent of sales reps feel that they don’t have the right information before making a call; 45 percent report needing help figuring out which accounts to prioritize; and across the board, sales reps are spending 20 percent of their time doing their own research on prospects to try to figure it all out.”

This presents a key opportunity for marketers to drive true internal value on sales metrics that matter. Identifying key accounts is really the point where your research and strategy come together to identify the core group of targets you will actively pursue. If you’re properly doing ABM, you’ll be spending most of your time and efforts with these accounts so it’s key that you identify them accurately.

“But we don’t really know WHO our best accounts are.”

Always, in every conversation I have with sales and marketing teams—someone says this. And frankly, it’s a moment of naked honesty.

Really—how would YOU identify who your best accounts are?

If you said “whoever we sell the most to” you’d be in good company. Most companies point to gross revenue as the measure of the value of an account.

But that’s not the whole picture.

There’s a lot more that goes into what makes a customer your “ideal account” and it’s not just about ringing the register. While it varies from company to company, you might consider some combination of the following attributes:

  • Solution / product fit;
  • Growth potential
  • Cultural fit
  • Revenue potential
  • Solvency
  • Geographic fit
  • Your brand alignment (how does it look for you to show this customer off to prospects)

Identifying your key accounts will make sure that you’re investing your time, resources, and dollars in the right place, with the right targets.

Let’s take a look at a handful of ways you hack identifying keys accounts.

Considerations for Creating Your Targeted Key Account List

Why does knowing how to create a targeted account list matter? Because by being able to identify which accounts have the potential to be most profitable, you can optimize your account-based marketing strategy. By following a few simple steps, you, along with your sales team will be well on its way to generating a list of ideal target accounts in no time.

1. Understand Existing Key Accounts and How Your Solution Specifically Helps Them

The first place to start is to look at existing accounts. What are the attributes that really make them great accounts? Are they located within easy distance so that you can meet face-to-face? Are they large enough to support key personnel that makes implementing your solution feasible? Are they mature and strong enough to financially support your engagement? Do they look at you as a partner—or worse—a vendor?

While revenue is key, it’s not the only aspect of your accounts that determines success—you need to determine your own values—and how important having those values reflected by the companies you do business with is to you.

Using analytics from your sales and marketing team can also be useful, as they can utilize tools (such as predictive scoring tools) to statistically figure out how good of a fit a potential target account is based on how likely the account is to purchase a particular product or service at this specific point in time.

2. Understand the Data Behind Key Accounts

As you delve into the analytics data on your potential target accounts, there are a few other important inputs that you’ll want to take into consideration when building your list. This includes the size of the company (not just its current size but potential for future growth), as well as past sales, marketing automation reports, and any other information you can gather on the account’s engagement. Do your findings here support the notion that adding this account to your ABM strategy would pay off in the long run?

3. Research Competitors In Your Industry

When selecting targeted accounts for your next marketing campaign, you’ll also want to consider what other competitors within your industry may be doing from a marketing standpoint. Specifically, what seems to be working for your competitors and what kind of marketing seems to be least effective? Conduct competitive analyses on industry leaders’ content marketing to find out how they’re positing themselves and gaining traction. Use this to inform your ABM efforts. And of course, take into consideration your specific industry when considering targeted accounts to add to your list.

4. Create Your Ideal Customer Profile

One of the most important steps in creating a target accounts list for your ABM campaign will be formulating your ideal customer profile (ICP); this refers to a process of narrowing your marketing focus to help you better understand the buying habits, tendencies, and preferences of your targeted accounts so that you can tailor your campaign to suit them.

Having an accurate and comprehensive ICP is an important step because your target accounts will respond more favorably to your marketing efforts if they feel they’re tailored specifically to their preferences rather than generic advertisements.

Developing an ideal customer profile is something that should always be done with help from your marketing and/or sales team, and should involve such steps as taking inventory of your existing customers, using predictive analytics, and determining specific pain points of these customers. From there, you can get a better idea of your “typical” customers’ needs, allowing you to formulate a marketing strategy that more effectively addresses them.

5. Define Individual Personas

Finally, it’s important to understand that within each targeted account, there could be multiple buyer personas that differ greatly. Therefore, in addition to creating customer profile examples and ideal customer accounts, you and your marketing/sales team should also set aside some time to develop several buyer persona examples for each targeted account. These personas refer to fictitious representations of your customers and should answer such questions as:

  • what is their key challenge and need?
  • what “job” are they “hiring” your product or service to do?
  • what are their interests and goals?
  • what are key sales barriers?
  • who influences the decision to buy?
  • what motivates their purchases and buying decisions?

Putting Your Targeted Accounts to Work for You

Once you’ve narrowed down the targeted accounts that have the best potential for your ABM efforts, it’s time to put these accounts to work. Based on your ICP and adaptive personas, you and your marketing team can begin developing a marketing strategy and campaign that will best solve their problems, and appeal to their buying habits, preferences, and other unique “quirks.”

Just remember that because so much of the success of an ABM campaign relies not on the number of leads generated but on the quality of leads, you’ll need to have the right analytic tools in place to measure the success of your campaign.

It’s possible that your first ABM efforts may not be as successful as you’d like; over time, you’ll be able to make tweaks and changes (and perhaps even bring new targeted accounts into the mix) until you find what works best for your organization.

Overall, making the switch to account-based marketing can be one of the best decisions you make for your organization—but only if you’re willing and able to put in the time and effort required to research and develop targeted account lists as part of the process.

If you’re in the middle of building out your account-based marketing approach and have some questions on a particular part of the process, contact us today to learn how we’ve solved it for a variety of clients.

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