Few marketing strategies have seen the same surge in popularity as account-based marketing (ABM).

ABM began as a fresh and exploratory idea, and quickly caught fire as an industry trend. Now it stands as one of the most widely-adopted and celebrated strategies in the world of B2B marketing.

ABM’s rise from relative obscurity to widespread adoption is no accident. Sales and marketing professionals love ABM for the simple fact that it’s an effective way to generate revenue.

These statistics speak for themselves:

  • 97% of marketers say ABM had a higher ROI than other marketing activities (source)
  • Companies using ABM generate 200% more revenue for their marketing efforts than companies who haven’t adopted an ABM approach (source).
  • 84% of marketers believe ABM provides significant benefits for retaining and expanding current client relationships (source).

Despite the popularity of ABM, it’s not a tactic that businesses can employ on a whim and achieve success. Without a well-executed strategy and a significant amount of preparation, companies often sabotage their ABM campaigns before they get off the ground.

What is account-based marketing?

Before we tackle the most pressing account-based marketing nightmares, let’s review the core principles of an ABM strategy.

ABM is a strategy in which a business identifies and goes after a specific set of target accounts, treating each account as a market of one. This tactic differs from the traditional marketing approach of casting a wide net with more general offers.

Through strategic account targeting, marketers are able to provide each customer with the information and content they need, at the precise moment they need it. Not only does this approach achieve better results, but it’s also more efficient. The hyper-targeted nature of ABM means marketers only spend time and resources on the prospects who are most likely to convert to paying customers.

5 Account-Based Marketing Nightmares and How to Avoid Them

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork explaining the effectiveness of ABM, let’s get into the problems marketers must avoid when adopting an ABM approach.

Keep in mind— these common failures are not indicative of inherent flaws with ABM, but rather flaws in your business strategy that will become more pronounced if you attempt to implement a successful ABM strategy.

ABM Nightmare #1: The Misaligned Departments

If you put too much stock in the ‘M’ in ‘ABM’, you might mistakenly assume the entire ABM strategy lives and dies with the marketing department. But, despite the ‘M’, ABM requires input from your entire organization, not just your marketing team. Inter-department alignment doesn’t simply help your ABM strategy; it’s an essential component of every ABM campaign.

Throughout an ABM campaign, marketers must work hand in hand with their sales department. Together, they determine the attributes that define an ideal target account. Then, both teams must agree upon proper messaging. Once messaging is determined, marketing must deliver account-specific sales enablement content. And finally, the sales department must communicate its successes and failures as they interact with each target account so back in marketing, content can be tweaked and optimized.

Because each of these steps is so integral to an ABM campaign, ABM requires sales and marketing alignment. But, if your sales and marketing teams have had an adversarial (or borderline nonexistent) relationship for years, you can’t expect things to simply click into place when you launch an ABM campaign. Once your campaign’s underway, the figurative train has left the station— and that train will quickly be derailed by disputes or miscommunications between departments.

Avoid this ABM nightmare by working through your strategy with ongoing feedback and input from your sales department. We recommend planning strategic meetings to decide on account targeting criteria, preferred messaging, campaign goals, success metrics, and responsibilities.

ABM Nightmare #2: Aiming at the Wrong Target

Successful account targeting hinges primarily on two key considerations: account quality and account coverage. Keep account coverage in mind, as it’ll play a role in our next ABM nightmare. For now, let’s take a hard look at what happens when you miss the mark with account targeting.

Let’s say you’ve dedicated a significant amount of time and energy into campaign planning. Your sales and marketing departments are on the same page. Your data’s squeaky clean. Every step of the sales funnel is accounted for. You identify your target accounts…and then somehow, you still fail to generate results.

This ABM nightmare usually occurs as a result of an error in preparation. In order to really nail the account targeting process, you must create an ideal customer profile— or ICP.

An ICP is made up of demographic and firmographic attributes shared by your most valuable customers— identified through careful analysis of customer data. Once you’ve created an ICP, you can identify target accounts that match those attributes. Although this process is time intensive, creating an ICP to guide your account targeting strategy will prevent you from putting time and energy into a dead-end campaign.

ABM Nightmare #3: Right Target, Wrong Contact

Say you’ve identified a set of target accounts that match your ideal customer profile perfectly. And yet, you still fail to achieve the results you were hoping for. The problem might not stem from your account quality, but rather your account coverage.

Account coverage refers to your ability to identify and penetrate a large number of target accounts. Good account coverage looks like this: you identify a high quantity of target accounts, and engage a high number of key personnel within each of those accounts.

For the sake of this example, let’s assume quantity isn’t an issue. Focus instead on the second point: key personnel. By this, we mean the stakeholders, the decision-makers, the people who have the power to buy or pass on your product. To put it bluntly, perfect account targeting won’t matter if you aren’t talking to the people qualified to sign off on purchase decisions.

If you find your initial attempts at ABM fall flat, spend more time researching and gathering data on your target accounts before you attempt to engage them. Don’t try to win an account without a firm understanding of who their key decision-makers are. It’s all but guaranteed you’ll be living out an ABM nightmare.

ABM Nightmare #4: The Curse of Generic Content

So, you’ve prepared well enough to sidestep the aforementioned account targeting and account coverage nightmares. Then, when it comes time to deliver content that fits a company’s specific needs you offer up the same generic content you sent to every other target account. In doing so, you’ve not only failed to help your prospect through the buying journey; you’ve defeated the purpose of ABM altogether. Remember, treat each account as if they are a market of one.

Don’t let your ABM campaign collapse because your content isn’t up to par. Ask yourself: what is each target account’s major pain point? What are their interests? What information will they be looking for at the start, middle, and end of their buyer’s journey?

Answer these questions for each account, and you’ll be able to develop and deliver the right content to the right people to help win over your target accounts faster.

ABM Nightmare #5: Good Strategy, Bad Data

Take another look at the four ABM nightmares we listed above this one. You’d like to avoid them all, right? Well, consider this: if your data is outdated and inaccurate, you’ll likely fall victim to every single one of the aforementioned pitfalls — which makes bad data the scariest ABM nightmare of all.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, ask yourself this: how can you target the right accounts if you build your ICPs based on incorrect attributes? How can you reach key personnel within those target accounts if their contact information is outdated? How can you maintain a healthy relationship between sales and marketing if the two departments are working with siloed or inaccurate data?

As you might have guessed, the answer to each of those questions is “You can’t.” A successful ABM strategy requires you to prioritize ongoing data hygiene to ensure that each campaign is fueled by only the most accurate and up-to-date information. We recommend partnering with a data provider to automate the data maintenance process. Then you can focus on winning target accounts.

Final Thoughts on Account-Based Marketing

ABM has proven time and time again to facilitate efficient lead generation, improved customer experience, higher ROI, and many more benefits. We hope today’s blog post encouraged you to embrace ABM, without rushing into it recklessly. Avoid the nightmares we discussed above, and you’ll be one of the many companies to reap the rewards of account-based marketing.

For more information about improving your ABM campaigns, contact our sales team today. ZoomInfo, a DiscoverOrg company, is a leading contact database solution and we’ll provide you with the tools you need to engage your target accounts and grow your business faster!

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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