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Marketing Automation

Fundamentals of ABM Part 3: Identifying Target Accounts

This is Part 3 in our Fundamentals of ABM series. Access earlier articles here: Part One: Building Your Team and Part Two: Goals and KPIs here.

Identifying Target Accounts

The team is on board. The goals have been defined. The relevant KPI’s are known. It’s now time to find your accounts.
Shifting from lead generation to ABM means a pre-emptive hyper-focus on the accounts we determine to be most valuable. There are two parts to this hyper-focus:

  1. Defining your ideal customer profile (ICP)
  2. Tiering accounts to establish a priority for plays


A crucial step to making the shift from lead generation to ABM requires understanding which accounts are the perfect match for your company. Remember, the goal of all of this is efficiency. We want to target the accounts who are most likely to result in a conversion.
The best source of truth for identifying your ICP is your historical data. Hands down. Why? Often, the attributes we consider a fit for our ICP do not match actual customer attributes. We experienced this first hand – our vision and pursuit of an ICP ultimately failed after we realized the accounts we started to pursue didn’t match our business model or our specialties. After looking at our past customer data it became evident our true ICP was significantly different and required a pivot.
Take the time beforehand to run the numbers and validate your ICP. Having to redo your marketing messaging and content after realizing your audience is wrong isn’t fun for anyone.
Once you have an idea of your ICP you can begin to identify your accounts. There are a variety of ways to do so:

  • Identify existing accounts in your CRM.
  • Purchase a list with the attributes fitting your ICP. Be careful the list is up to par. We’re a big fan of the quality lists DiscoverOrg can provide.
  • Leverage a predictive/AI tool. These tools can be immensely helpful in identifying anonymous accounts hitting your site or engaging with content.

These methods are good starting points for gathering and growing your account list.

Tiering Accounts

Most companies have more than a handful of accounts they want to target. More commonly companies have hundreds if not thousands of target accounts. Clearly it isn’t feasible to devote intensive time and money to thousands of accounts as is the ABM philosophy. So, what do you do? Enter the tiering of accounts.
We will dive into a more intensive examination of the workings of the strategies later, but the most common structure of tiering falls into 3 parts:

Tier 1

Consider your highest priority big dollar accounts. It probably comes down to 10-50 accounts. These accounts are going to receive the white glove treatment: in person meetings, valuable direct mail, and 1:1 personalization. Generally, a sales rep owns two to four of these accounts and devotes all their time to them. This is quintessential ABM, and the devotion to the sale has proven effective.

Tier 2

These accounts are fits to your ICP but are maybe missing an attribute here or there. Tier 2 accounts get what’s called a 1: Few treatment. Expect to have several hundred of these accounts. These accounts are still going to receive personalized content and communication but likely with assets and plays that can be repeated for other accounts. For example, outreach emails may follow a template and feature a handful of company-specific selling points quickly researched but won’t be a handcrafted 1:1 message like Tier 1’s would receive.
While broader and more scalable, remember to still do your due diligence. Understand the key players of the account and learn their needs. The more relevant and useful you can be to an account the better your chances for conversion.

Tier 3

With Tier 3 we’re going to see a lot of conventional demand generation tactics. Considered a 1: Many approach it’s common to see thousands of accounts fall into Tier 3. There are tight constraints on budget and level of personalization taking place. These accounts are going to find themselves in nurtures, receiving display ads and generally living in the demand generation world.
But wait, we’re doing ABM how is this any different from demand generation? With the ABM mindset, reporting will be done from an account level. This shifts the focus from one individual to the whole buying committee of the account. Rather than MQL we’re looking to push them to the MQA (Marketing Qualified Account) threshold. An MQA will require engagement across the account, not just one individual. When the whole team is engaged there’s inherently better odds of remaining top of mind and moving the account down the pipe.
There you have it. Up to this point we’ve established internal buy-in, determined goals and KPI’s, and now can find your ICP/structure accounts. In the next installment of this series, we’ll work through creating ABM plays and establishing expected revenue and budget by tier.

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