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Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy that’s become increasingly popular with companies looking for new ways to improve their marketing. By focusing their efforts on the best accounts, companies can offer better experiences and close more deals. 

However, despite what many think, ABM isn’t a magic wand that will solve all your marketing problems overnight. Companies may rush to implement ABM, but not see the results the experts promise. Could it be that account-based marketing is just another buzzword, a fad that will soon pass?

No. ABM is an incredibly powerful strategy with the potential to bring in significant results for your business. However, to get those results, it has to be implemented properly. 

From our experience, we’ve identified the top mistakes that companies regularly make with ABM, accomplishing nothing but wasting their resources. By identifying those mistakes, you can put an effective ABM strategy in place and unlock the full benefits.

1. Not prioritizing your account list

The whole point of account-based marketing is to focus your efforts on high-value accounts. As a result, running an ABM will involve more upfront costs—both in time and money—compared to a more scattered approach. When you look through your account list, you need to ask if they’re worth that cost. 

If the cost of running ABM is greater than the average contract value for that account, you’re throwing money away.

This isn’t just a matter of budget. Even if the accounts on your ABM list are a better fit than the average prospect in your CRM, there still needs to be a hierarchy. The amount of attention you dedicate to an account, the time you spend on content and other messaging, should vary in relation to the value of the targeted account. If you’re dedicating the same resources to every account, you’re going to hurt your chances of securing the big accounts while losing money on smaller opportunities. 

The solution is to use data to prioritize the accounts that are the best fit. For example, intent data empowers marketers and sales teams with insights into which of their target accounts are already searching for a solution. They can then prioritize them, focusing on the warmest accounts for higher conversions.

“We wanted to see more leads coming in that would convert. LeadSift’s intent-based lead identification process was the perfect pairing with our ABM approach.”

Jeff Wharton, Director of Demand Generation & Regional Marketing at CloudHealth Technologies.

2. Limiting the use of account-based marketing

ABM has the potential to bring in incredible results, but too many companies are only using it to a limited degree. Rather than using it to its full extent, they focus exclusively on sales or ads. Instead, they should be using it for both

There’s no doubt that ABM can completely transform your sales process, tailoring it to the individual account, but it can also be used to deliver highly personalized and relevant ads across multiple channels.

Usually, this is a result of an ABM strategy being designed in a silo, without the input of other teams. However, by taking the time to educate yourself on what can be achieved with ABM, you can use it across a variety of sales and marketing activities, without a significant increase in cost. With the right approach, ABM can be used strategically for sales and adverts. When LiveRamp used ABM for a multi-channel approach, they saw a 10x increase in year-on-year revenue.

3. Lack of customer research

Before you can prioritize your list, you need to know what kind of companies you’re targeting. If you don’t already have an ideal customer profile (ICP), then putting one together should be your priority. You should know in detail who they are, their attributes, and their pain-points. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at your current top customers. What do they have in common? 

Of course, you might not want more of the same kind of customer. Instead, you might be using ABM to break into new markets. If that’s the case, what do you know about this market?

Whether you’re looking at existing customers or are trying to define a new profile, your ICP should be based on data, not guesswork. You need a solid foundation to get the laser-like focus on the accounts you’re targeting and get the best result; according to research by TOPO, companies with a strong ICP had 68% higher account win rates.

It’s also essential if you’re going to avoid the next mistake on our list… 

4. Lack of personalization

ABM isn’t a switch. You can’t just buy a new ABM platform and expect it to work by itself. Rather, you need to come up with content and overall strategies that are personalized and highly relevant to your targeted accounts. 

The whole point of ABM is to talk to your chosen accounts directly about them and their situation. Think of it as a one-to-one conversation. You should never find yourself vaguely referring to general industry challenges or, even worse, spending the whole engagement talking about yourself.

Every interaction—whether that’s an email, social media, ads, or on-page content—should be tailored to the account, to their challenges and their point in the buyer’s journey

The good news is that if you’ve avoided the mistakes we’ve already discussed, you’ll be in a much better position to deliver this personalization. 

For example, significant personalization that goes beyond “Hi {FirstName},” such as account-specific pages and content takes considerable investment. If you’ve prioritized your list, you can be sure that investment is worthwhile. Personalization also requires extensive research to be meaningful. 

Intent data can help you create marketing content based on what your accounts are already researching, personalized to their current priorities and interests. By using the exact terms they’re searching for, talking about their most pressing pain points, your content will be truly relevant and personal. 

5. Thinking of ABM as a short-term strategy

It isn’t easy to get people’s attention. Every day, people are having to deal with more noise. Cutting through that takes effort, even with a multi-channel ABM strategy in place. 

Sure, you might be creating that personalized relevant content, but it still takes time (along with multiple touchpoints) to implement. Especially if you’re selling complex solutions to enterprises (which is where ABM shines most), you’re not going to see impulse purchases. Even when you successfully get a company’s attention, that doesn’t reduce the sales cycle.   

ABM is a long-term investment. It requires planning, research, and hard work. You will need to consider how exactly you’ll identify and target your chosen accounts. You will have to confirm what channels you’ll use, and how you’ll ensure the right account sees the right content. You will likely need to implement and familiarize yourself with new technology. 

The leads will be more valuable, but there’ll be fewer of them, especially when you’re just starting. If you’re not prepared for this, you (or your boss) might look at the immediate results and conclude that ABM isn’t for you. Get everyone on board for the long haul, with clear expectations. At the same time, don’t rely on ABM to bring in all your leads. Rather, run it alongside your demand gen strategies. 

6. Misalignment between sales and marketing

It’s a tale as old as time: sales and marketing teams, working at cross-purposes. This can be a problem for any company, but it can spell disaster for an ABM strategy. To succeed, you’ll need everyone in the company to be on the same page. 

For example, if your account list is up to the sales team, don’t be surprised if it’s full of difficult targets. At the same time, their knowledge of the companies you deal with is a major asset. From the very outset, both marketing and sales need to work together to come up with the right list. For a focused ABM approach to work, everyone needs to know who to talk to, what to say, and when to say it. 

Many companies who’ve succeeded with their ABM strategy have found it best to start with a pilot program, a test run using a small number of accounts recommended by sales. This helps get the necessary buy-in from the different teams, while also giving you a chance to iron out any bugs. 

Once the strategy is up and running, it’s important to keep the collaboration going. Keep sales involved, with regular meetings between the teams to check progress and address any challenges as they come up. 

7. Tracking the wrong metrics

If you’re judging your ABM campaigns using the same metrics as your traditional marketing campaigns, you’re likely to be disappointed. 

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 

Remember, we’re not looking for a short-term solution with ABM. The campaign’s success shouldn’t be measured by clicks and conversions. Still, we need to measure performance, so how can we tell if the strategy is working? 

The KPIs you track will depend on the stage of the campaign. For example, early stages should be producing account engagement, both in terms of amount and quality. As the campaign progresses, you should then be looking at how many of the targeted accounts are being successfully closed.

You can then compare this with your other marketing initiatives, while also testing new approaches to ensure ongoing improvement. Of course, this all depends on you being able to record and access the data you need, across all of your departments.

Conclusion

Account-based marketing can be challenging, but it also has the potential to bring in high-value accounts that would be near-impossible to reach otherwise. 

By avoiding the common mistakes that others are making, by prioritizing accounts already showing high intent and personalizing your approach across all departments, you can take advantage of highly targeted campaigns.

Want to run a truly successful ABM campaign? Intent data can help you prioritize your ABM list and create personalized content. Learn more in our free webinar on highly effective ABM strategies utilizing behavioral intent data.