The main goal of an account-based marketing strategy is to eliminate marketing to uninterested buyers and in turn, increasing your attention and resources toward marketing to the specific group that is likely to be in the market for your solution. The first step in this process is gathering a list of companies that will become your target audience.

The companies in your target account list will be at the center of all marketing efforts, including emails, ads, website messaging, and more – making it all the more important to get it right. Putting in the time and energy up front to create a well-researched and thought-out list of accounts to target will give you a solid foundation for all future marketing efforts. 

But Where Does this List Come From? 

Unfortunately, there is no magical list filled with all your in-market target accounts. However, the good news is that creating your own list is relatively straightforward once you know what you’re looking for. 

Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a collection of traits that describe a company that derives the most value out of your product or service. We call these traits firmographics and they describe your best customer, the one every salesperson dreams about selling to – they are receptive to your messages, see the value in your company, and want/need to buy. 

Discussing your ideal customers with your executive and sales teams about the direction the company is currently going, or which direction the company wants to go will give you an idea of who you should be targeting. First-party intent data can also play an important role in your research. As we discussed in our post about Account Scoring, looking at the companies that are viewing a high number of pages on your site or downloading a lot of your content can indicate companies that might be in the market for a solution like yours. Finally, looking at historic win/loss sales data will give you direct insight into what accounts have turned into your best customers in the past. From this data, you can ask yourselves, who are our best-fit customers? What are some common attributes of these customers – industry, company size, revenue, etc.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can find companies that fit within your ICPs – giving you a clearer idea of who you should be marketing and selling to.

Here are some key traits to consider when determining your target accounts: 

Revenue: Revenue is one of the major criteria of any target account list as it is often a direct indicator of the budget, need, and ability of the company to implement your solution. Understanding revenue numbers for your target accounts will help you narrow down your search and target the right-sized company based on the solution or service you provide. 

Industry: Another major factor in creating your target account list is industry. While some B2B solutions will be industry agnostic (i.e. can work across many different industries), others may focus their solutions on specific verticals, such as cybersecurity or healthcare. Marketing to companies outside of your target industry is a waste of time and resources, however, don’t automatically rule out certain industries entirely. There could be plenty of companies across many industries that would find value in your products by using them in ways you never even imagined. By marketing to your target group, while keeping an open mind to potential new market segments, you hedge your bets and set yourself up for the best possible outcome. 

Employee count: AKA company size. Once again looking at historical sales data might give you insight into what size of company tends to get the most out of your solutions. If there is no sales pattern in company size you also might consider that while larger companies might tend to spend more per deal, they also have larger buying committees and thus could have longer buying cycles. Furthermore, your software itself can have an impact on your target company size. Are there limits on your delivery capacity that might make some extremely large or small volume deals difficult?

Tech Stack: This is a relatively new criterion, but important nonetheless. A company’s existing tech stack will influence which technologies it will be receptive to adopting. A company will likely be more receptive to hearing about a solution that fills a gap in their stack and/or one that integrates with their existing platforms. Looking at a company’s tech stack will also give you insight into one very important piece of information – your competitors. If a company that falls into your target audience is already using a competing solution, this does not mean they should be ignored, in fact, this can be a good thing. This indicates that the company has already defined a use case for your technology, which will allow you to focus your marketing efforts even more and speak directly to their needs. 

Geolocation: Looking at the physical location of your best customers, or the markets you want to break into, or even where your website traffic is coming from will give you a good idea of where you should be aiming your messaging. For example, if your company sells snow blowers, it doesn’t make much sense to market to customers in Florida no matter how well they might fit the other categories of your ICP. Let's look at an example: 

company-a-company-b-firmographicsLooking at these two company profiles, it’s pretty clear that while they might share some similar needs in their business, in general, they would likely have completely different business needs and pain points from one another. Company A will face unique problems for its size and industry, likely have a larger budget, and require a different set of solutions than Company B. On the other hand, Company B will likely have a smaller buying committee, and fewer stakeholders to win over, which might mean a faster buying process. Countless more differences could potentially exist between these two companies, but the main idea is that the marketing and sales strategy needed to reach and influence the key decision-makers at each company will also be different.

Knowing your ideal customer is the cornerstone of building an effective ABM target account list. By gathering as much information about your ideal customers as possible you will be empowered to make smart data-based decisions and take your account targeting to the next level. Armed with intricate knowledge of your target audience, you'll be able to create more effective messaging that will lead to more engagement and, ultimately, the holy grail of all marketing efforts — increased conversion rates.

To learn more about how this data is collected and how you can use it to build your target account list, check out our IP Address Intelligence guide!

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