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How to Build a Target Account List - ABM in the House - Episode 2

While Episode 1 explored How to Redefine Your ICP, Episode 2 of ABM in the House looks at the next step; How to Build a Target Account List.


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Declan Mulkeen

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Jul 2 2020 - 10min Read Date published: Date modified: 2021-04-07


ABM in the House: a series of conversations between Alex Olley, Co-Founder of Reachdesk and Declan Mulkeen, CMO of Strategic IC, as they explore how to build an effective Account-based Marketing (ABM) programme.

While Episode 1 explored How to Redefine Your ICP, Episode 2 looks at the next step; How to Build a Target Account List

ABM in the House - How to Build a Target Account List

Episode 2 - Transcript

Alex Olley (Reachdesk) - Hey Declan, great to see you again mate. ABM in the House, Episode Two!

This is awesome, I think we got a lot of really good feedback, lot of great comments, lot of people asking us to focus on couple of things over the next couple of weeks, so, it's nice to be gaining a bit of momentum here. So, everyone who's watching, keep your questions coming in. Please do keep asking us about what you want us to focus on and we'll continue to address those issues. Now last week we focused on building your Ideal Customer profile (ICP). Obviously it's not something that's set in stone. It's something that's always evolving. So refresh it, we do it quarterly. But what we're going to look into this week is, Target Account selection and Tiering. So, that's going to be the focus for us this week, you ready to go?

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Absolutely.

Alex - Nice one, okay.Well look, over to you. How do you sort of approach this, this structure in tiering?

Declan - Yeah, well, before we jump into that. I just thought it'd be interesting 'cause obviously you mentioned tiering just then and sometimes when I mention tiering, you know, I get a bit of a funny look because it's not necessarily a term that people are always familiar with. So I think just, it's quite important for us to define our terms. And so tiering is just simply the ability to organise something into a systematic and logical way.

So obviously, when we're going to talk in this episode about Target Accounts. We'll talk about how we look at each account and which bucket we put it into. So we'll delve into that a little bit later. But I thought it was quite important to mention that now. So, obviously the first thing, Alex, when we're looking at target account list building, is we've obviously got our ICP and we talked last week, in Episode One, of how you actually build your ICP.

So the next step obviously is what we call, to Formalise your ICP. And by that, what we mean is, all that data that you used to, to design your ICP, you need to now put it into an Excel, create custom fields in your CRM in order to be able to then map back those accounts to that ICP. In the case of our Agency, in HubSpot, which is obviously our CRM, we have a whole host of custom fields for our ICP and then each account then can be obviously, can be modified and upgraded and customised in order to actually match that ICP. So if you can actually formalise your ICP, whether it's an Excel spreadsheet or whether it's a step further with custom fields, that's a great start. And once you've obviously formalised, you can then actually then move to actually finding accounts that can potentially become target accounts. Because at the end of the day, there's going to be a very large list of accounts out there for the kind of products and services that you obviously sell. And you need to then work out which accounts could be potential target accounts.

So what we say to our, you know, our customers is, let's look at your first party data first, okay. Let's look at your CRM, your HubSpot, your Marketo, your Salesforce. Let's look at the accounts that are in there, let's grab those accounts first. The next step is we say to people, well let's look at your competitors' customers. Who do they work with? You can scrape that data from their website, you can talk to your sales teams, you can talk to your partners et cetera. You can find that information from a number of public sources. And then the next thing we say is, well let's look at your competitors, or rather, let's look at your customers' competitors, okay. So, we mentioned your competitors' customers and then you invert it by saying your customers' competitors.

Alex - Right.

Declan - And then you can keep going from there and build out. And you can look at the Account-Based Marketing tech stack, for example. You can look at what companies are operating in that area, which companies are kind of a good fit for you around those sources. You know, which companies are using Engagio, which companies are using Marketo, which companies are using Cognism et cetera. Those are great sources for working out other accounts that may well enter into your target account list. And then, there's a whole plethora of other sources. And we'll, I mean yourself Alex, and I, we're both very familiar with these in terms of industry and funding tools, such as G2, such as Crunchbase, such as Cognism, such as ZoomInfo et cetera. Who obviously you know, had a huge IPO the other day.

And then you go further, and we've all got LinkedIn, we've all got LinkedIn Sales Navigator, they are great sources to look for accounts that would meet your ICP. And then finally, and obviously, we're both really huge fans of this, third party data. Sources such as you know, intent data platforms such as Cyance Nexus, such as Bombora, such as 6sense. By taking all of these sources, this is how you can bring together what is going to be a very large list of accounts. Now at this stage they're not Target Accounts, they're just accounts that could potentially become Target Accounts. So those really for me are the first two steps.

Alex - Nice, okay, I think that's really detailed. So you've got all that, that gold I suppose. For me it's about, sort of applying that ICP. So you've got all these accounts collated, you've basically got to take the "wheat from the chaff", right, as we say in English. Sort the valuable from the worthless, and the not so valuable. I suppose if you, if you've imported all the above accounts into your CRM, you can apply those. You can sort of filter it. You'd be very surprised to see how many accounts are removed and how many you're also left with. Have that focused Target Account list. Invariable, there'll be kind of two many really. So, that's where tiering comes in, the kind of two ways of building that segmented account list. You have dynamic and static. Like the dynamic ones are the ones that are going to move, maybe weekly, right? Some are going to be just static list, you might work on a quarterly basis. And regardless which method you use, you're looking for those attributes your best customers have in common, so that you can create the right list. Use the same criteria as building your ICP and create those accounts to start working, right? So that's how we kind of apply it.

So, obviously after you've applied your ICP, the next step I suppose is how you like tier your Target Accounts. How do you actually put that bit into practise. So, tell me how you guys do that, be awesome to know.

Declan - Yeah, okay, so, let's just remind ourselves why tiering is so important. The reality is that you're going to have a very large list of accounts.Even when you apply your ICP, you're still going to have a very long list of accounts. That's going to be very difficult for you as a business to deal with, so that's when the tiering comes in. So, the tiering comes in and it's important because, you know, where are you as a business? Where are you, you know, in your evolution? At what stage are you and what are the resources available to you as a business? And that will obviously dictate the number of accounts that you can target. What kind of campaigns are you looking to run? That will equally dictate the tiering and what really, you know, which accounts your really want to go after.

I mentioned earlier about resources. So, very typically, you know, a lot of companies, you know, their eyes are always bigger than their stomachs, right? They always want to go after more accounts than they can actually handle. So it's always good, if you had the tiering in place, it allows you to have a sense of prioritisation and you can actually push back potentially to your Sales Director or even to your C-suite and say, look, we need to focus on these accounts. So once you have that. And I think one thing that we find when we're talking to our customers is, when you can introduce that kind of language into your business and say hey, this is a tier one account, this is a tier two account, this is a tier three account. That gets everyone thinking, well, actually, well why am I spending so much time on these accounts or these accounts when actually the business really needs to be winning more tier ones, for example, or indeed tier twos, whatever your criteria is.

So I think those are some of the really key reasons why tiering is so important.So once you've obviously, you've gone back to your ICP, you grab all that information, your geo information, your industry, your size, your revenue. You look at the geography, that we've mentioned before, you know, US, UK, SaaS companies, funding et cetera. So you've got all that information now, so now you're ready to actually decide on the tiering criteria, right? So, in your case Alex, how would you, how would you approach that?

Alex - Yeah, for me, it's like how do you know, kind of the perfect ICP is, you know,
you sort of share your attributes with your best customers. High customer lifetime value, velocity of deals, sometimes actually we say, you know, those strategic accounts that are going to help you win new business, should be the Tier 1 as well, so it's not just the high value ones. Sometimes there might be slightly lower value but it's going to unlock new industries, for example.

Then you kind of Tier 2, is accounts that have like a strong ICP fit, slightly lower customer lifetime value, but still like, most of this, this is kind of your "bread and butter". So you kind of, not going to spend as much in terms of resources on it, but still really good customers. And then tier three, accounts like really good fit, maybe not so much intent, but worth pursuing typically. Don't invest too much resources, kind of the One-to-many approach. And then you kind of apply those tiers and you have really nice approach in terms of how you focus resource. The messaging, how much you're going to put into it and then you can put it into practise really.

Declan - That sounds like a plan. So I think, I think based on that we can kind of summarise that I think, one of the key things about you know, choosing your target accounts, working out the tiering et cetera, is, you've got your ICP. Now that's a lot of work to get to that stage.
And obviously it's applying that to the accounts is critical. But also, take a step back and look at the kind of the value of those accounts as well. And so, if you're looking to build revenue and to grow the business, always look at the potential prize as one of the key criteria. And it may well be that the ICP shows an account as being a tier two or tier three, but actually when you look at the revenue potential for you as a business, it could well be that that smaller account, or that account which isn't necessarily matching all of your criteria, is actually an account you should go after.

So there is, there is a degree of common sense, there is a degree of manual sifting as well. Not everything can be done through filters and not everything can be done through custom searches. So you've got to apply a level of intelligence to this as well. I think a key thing that we both always talk about as well, is don't over-complicate things, right. When you're going to do this, it's quite a large venture. So perhaps start small, look at a group first, maybe think about a, one of the tiers for example at first. And that's really one of about the best pieces of advice I can give you. And I think the last piece there really that we find is what we call promote and demote, right?

A little bit like, you know, football or any other sport really. There are, there are going to be accounts that you're going to be promoting into your tiers, tier one, tier two, tier three. But there are also going to be accounts that you want to demote.

That you need to kind of, for whatever reason, they changed, the criteria changed, you go from tier one, tier two, tier three, and even out. So bear that in mind really.

So, with that said, Alex, what are we going to talk about next week?

Alex - Well, I think from what I can see, we've nailed the ICP, we've got our Target Account list, it's tiered, we've found out how to prioritise it. That's kind of like the, that's usually the real heavy lifting bit. What we need to get into next is like the contact identification, how do you build out what some people call the Decision Making Unit, the DMU or Buyer Personae. Like who do we need to bring in to the buying process?

And then really target them and, so that, so that we can get the right people in at the right stages, ideally as early on as possible. And make sure that deal velocity is nice and high. So, I think that's what I'd like to cover next week, how's that sound for you?

Declan - Sounds like a plan. Looking forward to it already.