Penetrating Hard-to-Crack Target Accounts

Every marketer or marketing organization has a list of target accounts they’d like to penetrate.  You’re likely to have heard these Holy Grail accounts described, often by the head of your marketing organization.  “Our system would be perfect for an e-Commerce company with over 1,000 accounts, or a company that processes a lot of credit cards.”  What do you do from there?  Rent a list?  Run a content syndication campaign and pray that a target company comes to you?  Here are four (4) things that really help:

  1. Define the accounts you want in as granular detail as possible.  If you can’t get the list of specific accounts, define them in terms of industry (ie, retail, manufacturing) or SIC code.  Layer on company size, annual revenue or number of employees or both.  Keep adding information.
  2. Define who it is within those accounts would make the best “entry point”.  Sure, it would be great to get to the CEO and use the trickle down theory, but so would it be great to begin your career as a mountain climber by tackling Mt. Everest.  Get real.  Start with a functionally relevant contact.
  3. Interrogate your own database and see which of these accounts you already have, and which contacts within them you possess.
  4. Come up with a high-response offer.  Let’s face it.  The list represents your bull’s eye.  They’re whom you ultimately want.  Now you need a campaign that yields the highest possible number of “hand raisers” for this exclusive list.


Let’s assume you’ve been tasked with penetrating a hot list of target accounts.  Your sales team, perhaps light on resources (callers, sales reps) has tasked you with getting in the door of several important, must-have, marquee accounts.   How do you do it?

  1. The Direct Assault.  The Marines would call this approach “Grab your gun and take the hill.”  Not very nuanced, just an escalation of direct efforts: email, write, call, stop by unannounced, stalk the individual at their health club, etc.  Not every salesperson is up to this task.
  2. The VITO variation.  Occasionally successful, this involves researching the company, going through annual reports, and then writing a letter (remember postal mail?) and addressing some salient points, culminating with a statement (threat?) that you will call at a specific time and hope to have a conversation.  This approach takes a lot of work, custom research, careful schedule coordination, etc.
  3. Bribery-well, at least a strong offer/incentive!  We actually like this one at SimplyDIRECT.  Once you’ve built a list of exactly whom you want, ask them to take a survey (which, itself, asks the tough qualifying questions) but offer to compensate them for their time.  If handled properly, with a mix of politeness, professionalism, seeming “insider information” (such as listing competitors) and an unambiguous request for a meeting, this approach can be surprisingly successful.


There are as many different ways to penetrate target accounts, as there are target accounts.  You’ve got the list, now you have to move this static list of names into your sales funnel.  You have to generate leads from this exclusive, very finite list.  You can’t afford to “burn” anyone with an off-putting approach.  You have to be exemplary in your politeness, fearful that – God forbid – the marketing department harms the relationship before it even begins.  Say there are 137 accounts on the list.  One overly aggressive message or pitch and you’re down to 136.

There’s a reason your sales team identified these guys as their hoped-for top prospects:  they are incredibly valuable if closed.  Remember the line, “There’s a rose in a fisted glove”?   You have to walk that fine line between trying to penetrate a given account too forcefully and being too shy to even get in to make the pitch.


To learn more, download our summary report on “How Poor Data Quality Impacts Marketing Effectiveness.”