3 Steps to Building a Better B2B Target Account List

target account list

By Eric Wittlake, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Back when direct mail was a staple of B2B marketing, everyone involved knew your list could make or break your marketing. Yes, your offer, creative and message mattered too, but the list was the biggie.

Today, the right B2B Target Account List is even more important if you are adopting account-based marketing, but it doesn’t spark the same passion that discussions of postal and email list sources did a decade ago. After all, you know what companies to target, right? Sadly, the answer is usually no.

If you are a B2B marketer and you are adopting an account-based approach in any portion of your marketing, it is time to find that passion for “the list” again. Fortunately, the tools and resources are available today to create more effective target account lists than ever before. Here are three categories of accounts you should include, and how to find each one.

1. The elephants you know

ElephantYou already know these accounts by name and the list can be cobbled together between sales and marketing with the help of Excel and Salesforce. These are the big potential opportunities that you are already focused on and are the first (and often the only) companies that are included in a target company list and an account-based marketing program.

But if you sell to manufacturers and you identified 300 target manufacturers, you’ve only just begun. These may be the most important long-term targets, but the list is limited to the people you know and often doesn’t even consider if they have a current need for a solution like yours. Stopping here is the mistake many marketers are making today.

2. The prospects that know you

Looking at YouYou don’t hang up on someone who calls you just because they aren’t from one of your 300 target companies. So don’t ignore people that otherwise show they are interested in you!

Here are two ways to identify companies actively showing an interest in you. While they may not be as big as the elephants, you will find many of your best near-term opportunities in this group.

  • Identify your best site visitors: Using a solution like Demandbase, you can identify companies viewing key pages or content on your site and that fit your target profile. The best potential fits can be added to your full target account list and marketing program. (Disclosure: Demandbase is a client).
  • Find engaged companies in your database: With predictive analytics solutions like Lattice Engines, you can not only score leads but improve your lead scoring with additional data sources and analytics, identifying potential accounts to focus on from within your existing marketing database.

3. Buyers oblivious to you

ObliviousIf you are looking for a new marketing automation solution, do you start by visiting every potential vendor site? No. Chances are you start with Google or by asking someone your know. Ultimately, your journey takes you to a wide range of sites but only a few vendor sites. Many vendors, particularly smaller or lesser-known providers, can’t count on you knowing them.

However, that journey across the web leaves a trail that some of today’s predictive analytics offerings can follow. When analytics firms combine these trails with additional information about the people and companies making them, they are able to identify the companies most likely to be in market for your solution.

While some of the larger B2B trade publishers have developed these offerings using data from their own properties and databases, some of the most interesting offerings are coming from newer firms like 6Sense that focus exclusively on predictive analytics and draw on a much broader data set.

If you haven’t adopted an account-based approach to your B2B marketing yet, I’ll leave you with links to two brief examples that show why it is a fast growing area of focus for many B2B marketers:

Nuance: Engaged 46% of their targets and delivered a 19-1 ROI.
CenturyLink: 26% of targets won and an 8-1 ROI. (I was fortunate to have had a hand in this program)

What has been your experience creating account lists and account-based marketing programs?

Disclosure: I’ve purchased and/or evaluated the offerings listed here but have no personal or financial interest in any business mentioned in the post.

Eric WittlakeEric Wittlake spends his days working with B2B marketers and shares his marketing views on his personal blog, B2B Digital Marketing. You can find him on Twitter (@wittlake) when he isn’t working with B2B marketers.

Image Credits:
First: David Davies via Flickr cc
Second: TheLizardQueen via Flickr cc
Third: karlrobin via Flickr cc
Fourth: Fishyone1 via Flickr cc

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