Account selection is the single most important step for Account-Based Marketing (ABM) – but 39% of B2B marketers say determining which accounts to target is one of their biggest ABM challenges.
As one of the first steps in the ABM campaign process, how well you build your list lays the foundation for success. Get it wrong, and you risk setting yourself up for failure from the get-go. It’s therefore critical you get it right and apply a structured process to your target account list (TAL).
Any successful B2B campaign needs to deliver commercial results, so the key is to focus only on those that are likely to invest in your product or service. But narrowing these down is where many businesses fail. How do you define your strategic accounts when all of them have the potential to convert?
Here is our step-by-step guide on how to build the perfect TAL for success!
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Step 1: Decide on your strategy first
First and foremost, you need to establish your ABM strategy. There are three different strategies that affect how you go about your campaign. These include the one-to-one strategy, targeting individual key accounts; one-to-few, targeting small groups rather than individuals; and one-to-many, targeting a total addressable market.
The one-to-few strategy is the most common (used by 35% of marketers) as it allows you to put ABM practices into place with a wider range of contacts based on predictive analysis and industry knowledge. However, our data shows that a combined approach (also used by 35% of marketers) is just as popular, likely due to the ability to target a wider array of potential clients.
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Whichever strategy you choose, you shouldn’t allow the list to grow without good reason. Remember that the point of ABM is to focus on your highest-converting accounts only.
Step 2: Create your ICP
Your ideal customer profile (ICP) needs to be a clear, categorical description of a customer that would benefit immensely from your offering and would therefore be most likely to spend money with you. This will in turn represent the type of customer you want to focus on, giving you direction when building your TAL. If you get this bit right, you can focus resources on higher quality leads and get a better return from your campaign.
Remember that your ICP is not the same as your customer persona. An ICP is the type of company you should be targeting, while a customer persona is a detailed analysis of the people who buy from you. Customer personas are extremely useful too, but you can’t develop effective personas without a broader understanding of the types of companies they work for, so your ICP should always come first.
Step 3: Get your data right
Before you we can talk about segmentation, your team first need to make sure that any existing data you have is accurate. With ABM campaigns relying so heavily on data, there’s no room for error.
Segmentation will only work if you have a high quality, precise and concrete list. This is where data accuracy, data formatting and an understanding of data cleansing are important. With 54% of marketers using both first and third-party data, you will need to be able to verify quality. Whether it’s the wrong contact names, out of date stats or undocumented changes in business requirements, these are all the things that can trip you up and have a detrimental effect on your ABM strategy.
Step 4: Segment your accounts
In the segmentation stage, firmographic data such as geographic location, type of organization, industry, number of clients or technologies used can be used to categorize accounts.
Further segmentation can be defined by breaking down your prospects into lists based on the amount of work required in order to nurture them to conversion. For instance, this is the part where you’ll be looking for the highest reward with minimal resources. You can also look at segmenting companies based on how easily they can adopt your product or service, or how quickly they will benefit from them.
Once you have these segments defined, they need to be checked for viability. And as your project moves forward, continually check the validity of segmentation results to make sure your TAL is as accurate as possible.
Step 5: Consider third-party data
Third-party demographic and firmographic data is great for building lookalike strategies. Lookalike marketing can be useful when you want to find new audiences and is a tactic used by 83% of marketers to further build lists and reach new clients.
You can also assess the suitability of accounts in terms of proximity. Depending on your industry, this may or may not be a viable way to build your TAL. If geographic location is an important characteristic, you can map out companies based on their location and consider a local approach when creating your list.
Step 6: Use tiers for prioritization
Using your ICP, you can make a structured list of target accounts. These are typically, Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3, and are based on priority.
- Tier 1 – these are the best-fit accounts according to your ICP, and they must also have demonstrated intent to do business with your company. They may also be the types of companies that you can easily cross and upsell your services to. One-to-one strategies will likely focus solely on Tier 1 accounts.
- Tier 2 – these account meet most of your ICP criteria and have demonstrated intent. For instance, a Tier 2 account may be in the right geographical location and within in the right industry and have shown interest in you, but they may be smaller than your ideal company size in terms of revenue.
- Tier 3 – these are the accounts that only meet some of your ICP markers, but have demonstrated intent by visiting your website, downloading your content or signing up to a newsletter. Generally, these are lower priority targets.
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Every company’s tier list will be defined different, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for in a target account and why. This is what makes the ICP so important. For example, if your main goal is to win over Fortune 500 businesses, Tier 1 could be any company in the Fortune 500 list, Tier 2 could be companies in the Fortune 1000 list, and Tier 3 could be any other company in the same industry but not within the list.
Step 7: Establish list ownership
A vital step that is often overlooked is having a designated list owner. Successful, results-driven Account Based Marketing thrives on organizational alignment and accountability. Having a point of contact for your Target Account List prevents the common pitfall of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Although a round table approach is helpful, one person should have ownership and be responsible for key decisions.
Looking for more advice on how you can effectively run account-based marketing in your business? Check out our comprehensive guide, here.