Building Your Target Account List Using Data

May 6, 2020

Scaling is hard. You can have the best sales team in the world, but if they’re not focusing on the right accounts, their work likely won’t amount to new clients for your business. When you focus your efforts on ideal target companies, you maximize the campaign’s efficacy and conversion.

abm targeting

“Don’t try to boil the ocean.” Tossed around often in the marketing world, this phrase suggests that you should focus on smaller niches at a time rather than killing yourself trying to attack the whole. This advice can directly be applied to driving Account Based Marketing (ABM) success in the digital era.

Scaling is hard. You can have the best sales team in the world, but if they’re not focusing on the right accounts, their work likely won’t amount to new clients for your business. When you focus your efforts on ideal target companies, you maximize the campaign’s efficacy and conversion. When you launched your platform, your leads initially originated from your network, your investors’ network, your sales reps’ rolodex, or from a few customer referrals. But now it’s time to scale, and to do that you must define your ideal customer profile (ICP).

Defining Your ICP

When defining your ICP, you can’t just look at companies from a specific industry with over X employees and X revenue. While that is a great starting point, you have to narrow your focus and make the pond smaller. How well do you know your ideal customer? You already know their size and revenue range, but what other requirements do they need to meet to be considered a qualified account? 

What technologies do they use? 

Are they hiring for a role your product could supplement? 

Fit vs. Intent

Once you have established the requirements that a company must have in order to be included in your target list, you should start looking at what accounts have been demonstrating intent in purchasing your solution. You should check if any of those companies:

  • Have visited your site in the past 90 days
  • Have downloaded your content or read your blog
  • Have engaged with your marketing or sales emails
  • Have visited your booth at a tradeshow

These actions are all classified as 1st party intent. You just need to analyze the data on your CRM or marketing automation system and score the accounts accordingly.

The next step is to look at the 3rd party intent data. You can monitor what your target accounts are researching on and analyze if:

  • They have checked your page or a competitor’s page on a review website (G2, Capterra)
  • They have acquired or removed a specific platform (Datanyze or BuiltWith)
  • They have been doing research on topics related to your business (Bombora)

When you combine 1st party and 3rd party data,  it helps you define your ICP, and also narrow down your target account list to only those accounts that are most likely to benefit from your product. This allows you to personalize your messaging, using data-driven insights and buying signals to develop segments and messages for ads/outreach.

Building and Segmenting Your Target Accounts List

sales marketing funnel

Building Your List

Now that you’ve answered the questions necessary to define your ICP, you’re ready to build your ABM target account list. Having a target list of accounts to focus on is beneficial because it’s easier for your team to focus on a small market and have intimate conversations, rather than broad ones with more people -- quality over quantity. Also, having one target list to focus on allows you to track engagement against that list, seeing where your accounts are in the funnel.

Starting from the ICP, you want to build a well-defined, manageable list of, ideally, between 500-2000 accounts (but it depends on your business model). Some data sources to pull these accounts from include:

  • Inbound leads
  • Previously generated leads
  • Open Opportunities
  • Customers
  • Users (if you have any freemium products)
  • Intent data - identify accounts ready to buy
  • CRM Automation

                 > Example: Marketo can build smart lists based on account filters and track engagement

                > Example: Engagio can do account scoring based on minutes of engagement

*A note on behavioral intent data - find accounts that show buying intent from your ICP, but don’t add accounts JUST because they show intent -- a bad fit is a bad fit. Leverage artificial intelligence to filter through the noise.

Segmenting Your List

Once you’ve pulled your list of target accounts, segment them by cold, aware, Closed-Lost, etc. If you have multiple product lines, you can also build sub-segments based on these to make sure you send the right messages to the right people. Finally, divide them into more manageable sublists - Tier 1, 2, and 3. Tier 1 will be your top, ideal accounts. Your target account list is now ready, and it’s time to drive engagement from those companies! The last thing you need to do before launching is set your goals and budget.

Building Your ABM Budget

What are your goals? If you have 500 accounts, how many MQLs do you want to generate? Think of your KPIs: Number of Opportunities, Qualified pipeline, Closed/Won deals, Overall engagement, and CAC. Be realistic, it’s hard to track against impossible targets. Next, what is your budget for this campaign? You should plan to target your account list on multiple platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Display Ads, Direct Mail, Google AdWords, etc. How will you divide this budget across platforms and Tiers? 

As the campaign continues to run, make sure to track your engagement progress and optimize sponsored content and spend to drive responses from the right prospects. Automate data imports using a tool like Zapier that saves time with sophisticated flows, such as: LinkedIn/Facebook leads to CRM campaigns, automated notifications, Calendly responses in CRM, tasks in Trello/Asana, and more.

abm targeting


To summarize, a successful ABM campaign starts with a well-defined target list and defined KPIs. Start from your CRM data and your current customers to build your ICP, and be as detailed as possible with your requirements. Then leverage 1st party data and 3rd party intent to prioritize your list on a weekly basis.

Make sure to always track campaign progress in your CRM, and revisit your target list every one or two quarters. Perhaps most importantly, focus all marketing channels against the same account list -- don’t dilute your efforts! The beauty of targeting one set of accounts is you can target the same list everywhere, your prospects will eventually engage if they keep seeing your brand everywhere. 

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