4 Target Account List Tips (We Learned the Hard Way)

Target Account List Tips Blog

I’ve given 20+ presentations on how to implement ABM and have shown a version of the slide below every single time. In the most overly simplified approach there are 7 steps to building and running account-based marketing.

And when I say overly simplified, I really mean it. The first step is to identify your account list. This step in implementing ABM can take months, even the better part of a year.

Even here at RollWorks, where ABM is at the core of our business, this process has taken over 4 months. In the course of those months I learned some things that I honestly wish someone had told me earlier. So here are my four learnings from picking our target account list at RollWorks.


Lesson #1 Decide as a team why you are picking a target accounts list

I initially started having meetings with our Head of North American Sales in September of 2017 to discuss building a target account list for our B2B sales team.

That first meeting quickly snowballed to a larger session with our Head of Revenue Operations. Then we added a Business Intelligence Analyst, Sales Compensation Analyst, two sales leaders, and my boss, the Director of Marketing.

I quickly realized that my desire for a target account list spanned across our organization, which was fantastic in theory, but soon I found out that everyone had a different notion of what the account list would be and the purpose it would serve.

The Sales Compensation Analyst wanted the list for building a forecast.

The sales leaders wanted the list to fill up their reps “book of business.”

I wanted a target account list and a scoring model to rank inbound inquiries so I could serve up the best leads to sales.

So my first tip to picking a target account list is to establish a clear objective and end goal for the project. That way all members of the project will have a clear understanding and expectation for account selection and how the list will be used as well as the outcomes of the list.

Will it just be a list? Or will there be a scoring model that helps to identify net new accounts that match your ideal accounts over time?


Lesson # 2 Define your ABM Terms

We held weekly sales and marketing alignment meetings to pick our target account list and build our account targeting strategy.d In the course of those weekly meetings the team discovered that we all used different nomenclature to describe what we were talking about.

Often times in meetings we found ourselves spending 5-10 minutes just explaining the differences in terms like “total addressable market,” “owned accounts,” and even “named accounts.”

To an outsider, things like “priority, tier, and rank” may seem interchangeable, but for our team we wanted to get clear on the terms so we could all understand what each other meant. Coming up with our common definitions was honestly integral to keeping our sales and marketing meetings moving forward, so we devised some definitions and even created graphics to pass around the team to keep everyone on the same page.

TAM = Total Addressable Market

This represents the size of potential customers of your ABM solution. This can include companies that use your competitor, use a certain technology, companies of a certain size, etc.

ICP = Ideal customer profile

This should be the firmographic, technographic, and business signals that make up the best customers for your product.

NAL = Named account list

The top accounts that match your ICP, that are in your TAM, and have a high likelihood to close.

Tier = Ranking of the company

This can be based on a number of internal factors such as employee size and media spend potential.


We assigned 5 tiers to our accounts to differentiate between enterprise, mid-market, emerging, and SMB sized accounts.

As with defining the goals of why you are building a target account list, I recommend making your own dictionary of frequently used terms so that everyone on the team knows the difference with all the acronyms.


Lesson #3 The past, the present, and the future of a target account list

Another interesting development of building our target account list was that by the time we got it into our reps hands, things had already shifted. For example, we hired four additional reps and didn’t have enough accounts to fill up their territory. Another issue was that as we were building the list, some target accounts had already turned into customers.

What I realized is that we had failed to think about the future state of our list. Some useful questions to ask as you go through this process:

1. What is our process for adding new accounts to this list?

2. How do we remove accounts from this list?

3. If we close one account, do we add more or just keep going with the same list?


Answering these questions will help set up the broader team with an ABM strategy that works for the full year, not just one quarter. In our case, our team decided to refresh the list quarterly with additional accounts as our sales team worked through their lists.


Lesson #4 Don’t forget about the people

The last stumbling block we encountered was that we frankly forgot about the people.  Yes, the strategy is called account-based marketing, but we still communicate and work with people within the account.

Since a good portion of our time was spent figuring out the signals and data points of our target accounts, we honestly ran out of time to make sure we were finding the right people to target as well.

Luckily the RollWorks platform is cookie-based so it can find and target the people within the accounts after we’ve chosen them. If you’re using other (IP-based) ABM providers this might be something you need to consider. We ended up using our own domain targeting product to target key contacts at the companies on our target account list. 

My recommendation is to figure out your key personas within your target accounts and identify at least three key personas that have an influence on who buys your product. You’ll want to work through what are the key needs, pains, conflicts, goals, and desires of each persona.  This is honestly some good old fashioned marketing work and it really helps to outline the content needed to educate and move those key personas through the buying decision.


Next Steps

Check out our webinar with TOPO, Building a Target Account List for Account-Based Success, by clicking below.

About the Author

Jesse Miller, Head of Digital

Leading Digital Marketing @ RollWorks

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