The Art of Building Target Account Lists

Jennifer Mancusi 4 minute read

Imagine you’re hosting a party. You’ve carefully curated the guest list, ensuring each invitee shares your interests and aligns with the vibe you’re going for. This approach not only makes for a more enjoyable event but also increases the chances of meaningful connections and positive outcomes. The same principle applies when it comes to building target account lists for your business. By strategically selecting the companies you want to engage, you can maximize your marketing efforts and achieve better results.

Here are the steps to deciding on your top target accounts:

  1. Define your ideal customer 
  2. Narrow your target account focus
  3. Leverage your past success to drive expansion
  4. Look out and ahead
  5. Align your target account lists across teams

Define Your Ideal Customer

Before diving into the process of creating a target account list, it’s crucial to understand your ideal customer profile. This goes beyond merely looking at firmographic data like industry and company size. Dig deeper and consider the qualitative traits that make a customer truly ideal for your business. Ask yourself:

  • What makes your best customers stand out?
  • Are they tech-savvy and open to innovation, or do they prefer tried-and-true methods?
  • Do they value efficiency and prioritize time-saving solutions?

By identifying these key characteristics, you’ll be better equipped to replicate the success you’ve had with your existing top-tier clients.

Narrow Your Target Account Focus

With a clear understanding of your ideal customer profile, it’s time to start compiling a list of potential target accounts for new business. However, don’t cast too wide a net. When making at start at an Account-Based Strategy, building a target account list comprised of an entire industry like consumer packaged goods (CPG) or restaurants will dilute your efforts and make it challenging to create a compelling, tailored message.

Instead, focus on a specific sub-segment within your area of expertise. For example, if you have a strong track record in the CPG space, concentrate on narrower segments like alcoholic beverage businesses or pet food companies. This targeted approach allows you to leverage your existing knowledge, case studies, and success stories, demonstrating your unique qualifications to prospective clients.

This is an easy step to overlook, and one I’ve made mistakes with over and over again.  Don’t try to scale your account-based strategy too quickly!  The first time I ever ran an ABM campaign effort, I had almost 100 target accounts.  I had no idea what was working and what wasn’t, and I didn’t even realize at the time it wasn’t even personalized enough to be considered ABM!  Later in my career, I started with a small list but tried to scale too quickly.  The result was too much content, and none of it was personalized enough to be effective.  I had much more success targeting less than 10 accounts at a time vs. hundreds.

The exact number will vary based on the size of your team, but trust me on this one – narrow your target list down as much as you can!

Leverage Your Past Success to Drive Expansion

One of the most compelling ways to drive growth is to demonstrate your track record with current clients and leverage that work for expansion.  Especially if you’re targeting large, Fortune 1000 companies, the chances are good that there are multiple buying centers beyond where you currently get revenue. This is a great opportunity to showcase case studies, testimonials, and specific examples of how you’ve solved similar challenges for other departments within those target expansion accounts.

This approach is great because it provides reassurance that you understand the unique needs of their business and already have a proven track record of delivering results. Not to mention, you’re an approved vendor!  Making this information known immediately helps you move past some big hurdles to people looking to bring on new vendors.

Tangible examples of your work and the outcomes you’ve achieved carry so much weight, so be sure to use them not just for new business, but also for growth.

This is another area where I found a ton of success focusing on just a couple major opportunities, vs. trying to target everyone who fit our ideal customer criteria.  Imagine what one or two big expansion opportunities or wins would mean for your business, and focus your efforts on those.

Look Out and Ahead

As you build your target account list, consider upcoming industry events, conferences, or any other relevant milestones on the horizon. These can serve as valuable opportunities to align your digital and offline marketing efforts, creating a cohesive, multi-channel strategy.

Additionally, you can leverage tools like LinkedIn Audience Manager to estimate the potential reach and cost of targeting specific audience segments, even before running any ads. This data can further inform your decision-making process and help you refine your list.

Read next: Identifying customers and connecting with them quickly

Align Your Target Account Lists Across Teams

Collaboration is key when building a target account list. If you’re a marketer, ensure that your list aligns with the accounts your sales team is pursuing. Conversely, if you’re in sales, coordinate with your marketing counterparts to ensure consistency across departments.

When everyone is rowing in the same direction, leveraging shared content, expertise, and insights, you create a powerful synergy that amplifies your efforts and increases your chances of success. Misalignment, on the other hand, will almost always lead to wasted resources and missed opportunities.

In Summary

Building an effective target account list is both an art and a science. By following these simple steps, you can create an aligned and effective target account list that maximizes your go-to-market efforts and increases your chances of success. Remember, quality trumps quantity when it comes to this sort of personalized targeting – a small, well-curated list is far more valuable than a large, haphazard one.


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