Before we talk about Account Based Marketing (ABM) pitfalls, let’s talk about what a great ABM strategy should be. There are lots of definitions for ABM that involve nebulous terms, but here is one that identifies the tactical aspects of ABM.
- Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a go-to-market strategy that includes identifying the attributes of ideal target accounts, the buying personas within those companies, the channels and messaging that will reach those personas, and using this information to generate interest in a product or service.
Each aspect of the ABM strategy included in the ABM definition requires data. And not “data” from Sales or executives saying who they think you should target, but rather real-life data to prove who you should target.
Using data to fuel your ABM strategy is the primary factor for success in execution. And ABM can be very successful. Companies that have switched to ABM strategies have reported benefits like:
- Better alignment between Sales and Marketing
- Lowered cost per qualified lead/account
- Lowered cost per closed won deal
- Streamlined sales cycle with higher conversions throughout
- Meeting or exceeding revenue goals
It’s because of this success that ABM has become a standard practice for business-to-business marketing. That said, there are some challenges to ABM that require a clear, data-driven strategy. When building an ABM strategy, it is important to understand where teams commonly make mistakes so you can confidently avoid them.
Mistake #1: Building Your ABM Strategy in Isolation
Marketing is awesome and we totally know what’s best for demand generation, but when it comes to ABM, you need alignment and buy-in from multiple teams. If you don’t get it, you may be targeting the wrong accounts or personas and/or you may get pushback from Sales when you start sending the “wrong” leads into the funnel.
To avoid: Bring Sales and Customer Success into the process early to get input on target companies and personas. Make Sales leadership a partner in the strategy as the business development team (which might be under Sales or Marketing) will play an important role in qualification and execution. Additionally, sales people will need to know how to handle qualified accounts coming from ABM campaigns.
Mistake #2: Trusting Internal Opinions Versus Real Data
While you need to engage with Sales and Customer Success in understanding the attributes of your target accounts and personas, trusting their opinions on what is ideal is a big mistake. Sales teams are often heavily influenced by the big deals they are currently working on, but in the big picture maybe a customer that has a long sales cycle, is difficult to implement, or churns quickly. Similarly, Customer Success teams tend to think about who they spend the most time with, even though a more ideal customer is one that doesn’t need much help at all.
To avoid: Play the devil’s advocate and ask lots of questions about what is truly “ideal”. More importantly, use real data from your CRM system, and from the market, to determine who needs your service the most and who will be easiest to engage.
Mistake #3: Not Understanding the Motivation of Target Personas
It’s a common point of failure in B2B marketing where we believe we understand the pain of the target persona, so therefore they will want our product/service to solve it. The reality is much more complex. Every B2B sale is to an individual or individuals who work for a company. Those individuals only engage and purchase from you if your product or solution will make their life easier or better in some way. They might be fine with the pain of the status quo, because the alternative is too much work or will make their job insecure. If you miss these nuances, your ABM strategy can fail hard.
To avoid: Invest in market and behavioral data that can help you better understand what is important to your target personas. Also consider interviewing some customers or prospects to hear from them directly why they selected your company and how it made their day-to-day life better.
Mistake #4: Using the Wrong Channels to Try to Engage Target Personas
There are so many channels out there with the potential to reach your target audience. Chances are they use many, but where will you have the greatest chance of success? Your team only knows what they have tried and it is difficult to experiment with every channel as it takes a big investment in content and money. Because of this, many marketers resort to what they know. This results in lackluster campaign results or missing the target audience altogether.
To avoid: Invest in behavioral data that can tell you exactly where your target audience spends their time and the type of content they engage in. This will provide clear direction such as whether you need to invest in short video ads for YouTube or a research study shared on LinkedIn.
Investing in Data Helps You Avoid ABM Pitfalls
Spending the effort to gather and analyze data is critical to the success of your ABM strategy. And the data from your internal systems often isn’t enough. Investing in third party data that looks across a much larger sample size to show you trends, new markets, and personas that you might not have considered is a game-changer.
Of course, even the most data-driven ABM strategies aren’t perfect to start. Be sure to monitor the performance of your ABM campaign and continue to iterate messaging and channels as needed based on the performance data. Continuing to optimize the campaign will yield the highest outcomes possible. Avoiding these common mistakes altogether will help ensure you are spending your time and money on the targets that will yield the best results for your company.