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Got Accounts? Building an ICP for Better Alignment and Growth

Is your Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy falling short of expectations? You're not alone. Many B2B marketers find themselves adrift in a sea of data, struggling to pinpoint their ideal customers and watching their ROI stagnate. It's time to chart a new course. The truth is, without a well-defined Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), your marketing efforts are more akin to casting a wide net than executing a precise strategy. In today's competitive B2B landscape, that approach simply doesn't cut it.

The good news? We've developed a proven methodology to transform your ICP from a vague concept into a powerful revenue-generating tool. This isn't theoretical – it's a data-driven, field-tested approach that delivers tangible results.

Here’s how we helped one client transition from marketing to their total addressable market to a focus on the accounts that will convert into profitable customers. 

Step 1: Redefine Your Customer Understanding

It's time to move beyond surface-level firmographics. Do a deep dive into your data, uncovering patterns that distinguish your most valuable customers from those that drain resources. Analyze:

  • Industries served (total # industries, customer accounts by industry)
  • Revenue by industry and account size
  • Customer profitability and Lifetime Value
  • Partner solutions owned
  • Customer Churn reasons
  • Closed/Lost Opportunities

Our client thought they had their target market clearly defined. Our analysis revealed their ideal customer actually resided in a completely different revenue band, and that there were key partner solutions installed at their most successful customers. This insight was transformative to their Sales and Marketing teams and reshaped their understanding of their ICP!

Then you might get a curveball from leadership stating that they wish to expand reach beyond your existing client base, such as moving “up market” or into a new industry category. You won’t typically have historical data on those new segments, but can extrapolate the rest of the ICP onto these new segments until you have data to prove otherwise.

Based on the analysis for this client, we established a clear, data-backed definition of the client’s ICP with criteria that included:

  • HQ Geography
  • Revenue band
  • Target Industries
  • Martech installed - # and type of tech

Step 2: From ICP to Strategic Target Account List (TAL)

With a refined ICP in hand, we craft a Target Account List that aligned perfectly with their sales and marketing objectives. Our process included:

  1. Precise Sizing: We utilized Inverta’s TAL Calculator to determine the optimal number of accounts needed to achieve the pipeline and revenue goals.
  2. CRM Evaluation: We assessed the strength and composition of the existing database.
  3. Gap Analysis: We identified areas where account coverage may be lacking, ensuring balanced opportunity across territories and industries.
  4. Intent and Engagement Integration: We incorporated signals that indicate genuine interest and engagement potential.
  5. Account Tiering: We created a tiering system that prioritized accounts within their CRM:
    • AE Top 30: High-priority accounts for focused sales outbound efforts
    • Target Accounts: Core focus for marketing initiatives
    • Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): Accounts meeting baseline criteria
    • Total Addressable Market (TAM): Potential future fit, but not a current focus
    • Non-Targets: Accounts outside the strategic focus

Step 3: Securing Organizational Alignment

The effectiveness of your ICP and TAL hinges on organization-wide buy-in. Our approach included:

  • Executive leadership presentations aligning our strategy with corporate objectives
  • Sales team feedback sessions to incorporate front-line insights
  • Data-driven reports that validate our approach and recommendations
  • Clear articulation of how marketing will address these audiences
Marketing treatment for the various account tiers


By the time we were done, the client had a unified team ready to execute their new ABM strategy with confidence.

Step 4: Seamless System Integration (aka Where your MOPs team shines!)

Manual processes are the enemy of efficiency. We automated their account classification system while building in the flexibility needed for real-world application. Our technical integration process involved:

  • Evaluating ICP data across the martech stack (Hubspot, Salesforce, Demandbase, etc.)
  • Implementing data standardization protocols
  • Creating workflows for data normalization and segmentation
  • Establishing enrichment processes to fill critical data gaps

Because it is so crucial to the automation (and is an issue for most every organization) let’s dive a little deeper into an example of the data standardization that was required:

Account HQ Location was a key condition for their ICP definition (e.g., Account HQ = US/Canada). However, only 55% of the database had this field populated, and those that did were filled with non-standardized, random text values.

When we reassessed the ICP conditions from a more detailed MOPs/operations perspective, we identified several important steps:

  1. Systems Integrations: Ensure consistent ICP data transfer from various systems (like your ABM platform, partner database, etc.) into Salesforce. This wasn't a heavy lift but was crucial for automating ICP account identification without needing regular manual intervention.
  2. Data Standardization: Standardize incoming data from various systems into your CRM to address variations in how data was populated across accounts. We created several HubSpot workflows, including one to normalize raw revenue data into defined revenue ranges. This made it easier to use in segmentation and automation, including automated categorization of ICP accounts.
  3. Data Enrichment: A portion of Salesforce accounts were missing key company revenue data, and new leads from HubSpot were often not populated with this information. To fix this, we used Demandbase to enrich the account dataset and implemented Demandbase enrichment on all HubSpot forms. This ensured that any leads converting into contacts at new accounts would have this data already populated.

While we used the tech in our client's stack, these workflows are compatible with any MAS, CRM, ABM platforms, or other data sources.

Configuration

Whether or not you elect to populate Account classifications using automation or with a calculated (formula) field ultimately comes down to how your organization plans to use that data. More specifically you’ll want to assess whether your systems and use cases necessitate having a registered field update in order to trigger the desired follow-on actions, or if a formula field is adequate. In this case, a calculated (formula) field sufficed.

Planning for Exceptions

While automation is key, always assume there will be exceptions and a need for a manual override. While it's easy to agree on an ICP definition conceptually, expect edge cases and exceptions to arise during implementation. Planning for a manual override can save significant time and frustration. In this instance, it was critical to give the Sales team the ability to select their own AE Top 30. While our automation gave them a suggested list, the data cannot account for their knowledge of the territory. So we needed to give them the ability to tweak the list based on additional factors not captured in the data.

How we Operationalized it all

Because we had previously used the Account Classification picklist field for Sales users to identify AE Top 30 and Target Accounts manually and through quarterly data upserts, we decided to repurpose that picklist field to accommodate the new override configuration in order to minimize the technical debt of the solution.

This repurposed picklist field, along with an additional checkbox field named ‘Override Subcategory’ (for users to indicate when they desire to override the calculated value with the manually selected value in the picklist), along with an individual checkbox field identifying which ICP category/categories an Account qualifies for, were all incorporated into the final conditional formula.

This final formula (copied below) evaluates the top-most ICP category an Account qualifies for and considers any set overrides to surface the final ICP Category value.

Automating account scoring, accommodating overrides

Within the Salesforce UI, the fields appear and function for users as depicted in the screenshots below:

Before Saving an Account Record:

After Saving an Account Record:

NOTE:

  • If you are repurposing old fields for your solution similar to how we did in this instance, make sure to replace the old field(s) with the new field(s) in all relevant Salesforce reports, dashboards, and list views as well as any automation programs, segmentation lists, or segments that you might have set up in your Marketing Automation, ABM platform(s) and other integrated technologies.
  • Make sure all relevant fields have been added to the corresponding page layouts to allow users to commit manual overrides and ensure all pertinent field(s) are visible and/or editable for the desired users.

Step 5: Empowering Your Team

Next, in order for all this work to have the intended impact, we provided the team with the tools they need to stay aligned and hit their pipeline targets:

  • Training on the new ICP and Target account list, including how it was arrived at, where to find it and how to action on it. Expect to reinforce this with the team on a regular basis.
  • Custom dashboards & reports for each Sales rep offering actionable insights on their target accounts
    • Which accounts are showing increased activity
    • Who are the newly engaged contacts
    • Which accounts are trending on branded keywords? Competitive keywords?
    • Which accounts and contacts are engaging with your campaigns?
  • Accessible account lists across all relevant systems for Marketing to seamlessly build programs to reach these audiences.

Step 6: Continuous Refinement

In the dynamic world of B2B marketing, stagnation is not an option. So we built a monitoring process to ensure the list’s continued effectiveness:

  • Annually
    • ICP - revisit your ICP to ensure that it still reflects the needs and goals of your organization. If your company is simply looking to grow, and not change substantial direction, this should largely stay the same.
    • TAL size - But if your company IS in fact looking to grow, then you will want to recalculate the size of your TAL to ensure you have enough accounts to build the pipeline that is required
  • Semi-Annually
    • TAL - Is your TAL performing as planned? Are enough accounts engaging and converting into pipeline? Do those pipeline opps have a high enough close rate? Are there gaps in coveraging leaving some members of your sales team light on pipeline? 
  • Quarterly
    • AE Top 30 - each quarter, your sales team should look at these accounts to decide if they are still worth all the extra effort. If an account has remained on this list for 2 quarters with little to no engagement, is it time to demote it back to the TAL and replace it with a new account they can start working?

The Key Takeaways

Refining your ICP isn't just about better targeting; it's about creating a seamless, efficient system that aligns marketing and sales to drive sustainable growth. Remember:

  • Data-Driven ICP Refinement: The importance of basing your Ideal Customer Profile on real customer data and trends, going beyond surface-level firmographics to analyze factors like industry distribution, revenue patterns, profitability, partner solutions, and churn reasons.
  • Strategic Target Account List (TAL) Creation: Developing a well-structured TAL that aligns with sales and marketing objectives, including precise sizing, CRM evaluation, gap analysis, and strategic tiering of accounts.
  • Cross-Functional Alignment: Securing buy-in across the organization, particularly from executive leadership and sales teams, to ensure effective implementation of the new ICP and ABM strategy.
  • System Integration and Automation: The crucial role of Marketing Operations in automating account classification, standardizing data, and integrating ICP data across various martech platforms to improve efficiency and accuracy.
  • Team Enablement: Providing teams with necessary tools, training, and resources to effectively use the new ICP and TAL in their daily operations.
  • Continuous Refinement: Implementing a regular monitoring and adjustment process, including annual ICP reviews, semi-annual TAL assessments, and quarterly evaluations of top-tier accounts.

Ready to elevate your ABM strategy? Let's start a conversation. We're here to help you navigate the complexities of modern B2B marketing and emerge as a leader in your field. Inverta's team of experts bring a global perspective to local challenges, ensuring your ABM strategy is both world-class and perfectly tailored to your unique needs.

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