Build Your List of Target Accounts

By Sangram Vajre

The point of account-based marketing is to target your best-fit accounts. What are the best companies you can do business with? If you’ve created your ideal customer profile (ICP) and drafted personas within that ICP, then you know which types of companies and buyers you want to target. These are your target accounts.

From there, your marketing and sales (“smarketing”) team works together to build your list of target accounts in order of priority. Prioritizing your target accounts is commonly referred to as tiering your targets.

Starting with a tiered list of companies

By having a structured list of target accounts, you will know which companies to focus your time, energy, and resources for account-based marketing. There are typically three tiers of companies: 1, 2, 3, or A, B, C. These are based on priority. The point is to use your energy and resources to focus on your Tier A accounts.

These best-fits must have demonstrated interest (intent) that they want to do business with your company. Intent is shown through activity, such as visiting your website, downloading content, or registering for your events. To be on any of your tier lists, these companies should meet at least some of your ICP criteria. Here is how you should tier your target accounts:

  • Tier A: These accounts are an absolute best-fit. Your Tier A accounts perfectly meet your ICP criteria. In a perfect world, you would have a universe of Tier A accounts that’s never-ending. New prospects continue to find your business on the web, social media, at events, and through other marketing activities. You also have your Tier A list of your best customers that you have potential to cross-sell and upsell with additional products or upgrades.
  • Tier B: Accounts that meet most of your ICP criteria. In an ideal world, your prospects and customers would meet all of the criteria for your perfect account, but that isn’t the case. Your Tier B accounts are companies that fit most of your ICP. Thinking about such ICP criteria as company size and industry, a Tier B account can be in the right industry you’re targeting, but larger or smaller than your ideal company size in revenue or employees.
  • Tier C: Accounts that meet some of your ICP and have demonstrated intent. You will always have people come to your website or download content (this demonstrates intent). You will have to look at those individuals and the companies they work for through the lens of your ICP and personas. They may only meet one of your ICP criteria, such as industry, but they can be considered a low-priority target, or Tier C account, because they have shown intent.

Here’s an example: Your business is targeting financial services companies in North America. Your ideal customer is a company in the Fortune 500 group, but smaller companies have also found success with your product. Here is how you apply a tier structure to your universe of target accounts.

  • Tier A: Fortune 500 financial services companies
  • Tier B: Fortune 501-1000 financial services companies
  • Tier C: Any other company in the financial services industry

Your Tier A, B, and C accounts on your tiered account list should have demonstrated intent . If they haven’t demonstrated intent, these accounts should remain on your email nurturing campaigns or “drip” marketing. Your marketing activities continue using technology in your marketing automation or account-based marketing campaigns to provide “air cover” through such campaigns as emails or display advertising. This keeps your business top-of-mind without investing too much in your resources. If intent hasn’t been shown, don’t waste your sales development team’s time by having them call or directly email these accounts.

Applying your ICP to the company list

You should align your ideal company profile to your list of accounts to determine which tier they fall into. Looking at this from the context of a strategy, your list of target accounts is used as a starting point. These are the accounts you want to do business with. It lends itself to using different strategies for your different tiers. Here is an example of how you can use an ICP to tier accounts:

  • B2B or B2C Company: To be on any of my tiered account list, the company must be a B2B organization. I know B2C companies aren’t a good fit for my product.
  • Industry: You can target B2B companies in the technology industry, selling software-as-a-service (SaaS). If the account isn’t a technology company, they aren’t a good fit.
  • Size: The size is most often the company’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) and number of employees. Depending on your industry, this could change. These are a few examples of other size factors for B2B companies:
    • Healthcare: The number of beds in a hospital.
    • Financial services: The amount of capital, or millions/billions of dollars in assets.
    • Commercial real estate: The number of properties, buildings, or amount of square feet in the portfolio.
  • Using a CRM: The companies who want to use my product need to have a CRM in place. If they don’t have a CRM, they can’t use my product; it ties directly into a CRM.
  • Using a marketing automation tool: My ICP already has a marketing automation platform, such as Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, HubSpot, or Act-On. If they’re using a lesser-known marketing automation system, they may not be a good fit for my product. That could put them on the Tier B or C account list.
  • Using advertising technology: This is a huge consideration, and can move a target account to the Tier A list. Because this account already is familiar with advertising technology, you know the company can be successful with your platform. If they aren’t using advertising technology, you may put them on the Tier B list.

There is no “one size fits all” rule for your ICP. This must be unique for your own organization, based on your products and services, and the types of companies that are most successful partnering with your business.

Laser-focusing on best-fit

The goal of account-based marketing is to engage the right companies, your target accounts, so you’re no longer wasting your resources on lead generation for companies that aren’t a great fit. You need to know your ICP to know whether the account meets all the ideal criteria. Through engagement and marketing activities, you move these accounts from a prospect to opportunity in your pipeline, then turn these accounts into customer revenue. If a company doesn’t meet your ICP, that doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely.

Don’t delete a company from your database if they aren’t a good fit. Instead, create a separate list for marketing to them in a nurturing campaign. You can make them a fan of your marketing, and develop them into a potential reference.

With business-to-business (B2B) marketing, it’s about connecting with other businesses to build a partnership. Account-based marketing adds another layer by defining the ideal customers who you believe will be most successful with your business. However, you don’t market to another business; you target the people in the business who will make the purchase decision. Those people are called prospects.