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The Path To Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Success

Account-based marketing (ABM) has shown positive results with a return on marketing investment (ROMI). However, some organizations have regressed to traditional sales support tactics due to a lack of strategic thinking and planning. To avoid these traps, marketers should avoid vanity metrics, position ABM as more than sales support, and focus on targeted, well-orchestrated ABM plays. By doing so, they can maintain a successful ABM strategy that delivers financial results.

Introduction

Over the last few years, I’ve been keeping a close eye on account-based marketing (ABM) — waiting for the hype to become reality. And while keeping a watchful eye on things, I’ve made a couple of observations – one good…one not so good…
The good news is that ABM is FINALLY producing results! We’re now seeing a ‘return on marketing investment’ (ROMI) for our ABM efforts.
However – and this is the bad news — it seems that over time some firms have reverted back to traditional sales support tactics and habits.
I get it – the pendulum constantly swings both ways. But in some organizations, it has swung all the way back to the Stone Ages of Marketing (aka pre-2008).

Why Have Some Reverted Back To Traditional Tactics?

There are a couple of forces at play.
The first is early ABM tech vendors who built-up and introduced new ABM concepts that lacked strategic thinking.
The second is an organizational force resulting from a lack of planning and strategy development. Because of this, ABM initiatives haven’t yielded their promised financial returns.
These negative outcomes make it easier for human nature to kick in and cause marketing teams to default back to their comfort zone, where they rely on the safety net of sales support. This often results in random marketing tactics which deliver little to no economic value in return.

Avoiding The ABM Traps

Marketers have worked hard over the last ten years to move away from random acts of marketing to become accountable for revenue goals, earning them a seat at the executive table. If you’re looking to embrace ABM, you should be aware of some common traps to avoid to help keep your ABM efforts healthy, and your marketing efforts focused.

Trap 1: Vanity Metrics

Vanity metrics have their place in the operational layer of your marketing team, and are a valuable indicator for diagnostics and optimization. They do not have a place at the executive table. I’ve seen marketers try to train their executive committee on new reports, such as engagement minutes, that have become available to them via ABM tools. This leads marketers to abandon their revenue metrics (i.e. pipeline contribution and influence), which results in confusion and loss of confidence at the executive table.
TIP: If you need to show the executive team your ABM performance, focus on the financial results the program has driven. Try and use the same metrics and language they are familiar with from your lead-based demand generation programs.

Trap 2: Don’t Become A Sales Caddy

ABM programs that are not positioned correctly, or are focused around tight, clearly defined marketing and sales plays, run the risk of being positioned as sales support. They could be seen as glorified sales requests that mine public information to generate account insights, and this produces sales enablement collateral that most likely sits idle (i.e. sales decks and one-pagers). This is common in organizations that struggle to demonstrate the value of the technology, are deep into one-to-one ABM initiatives, or have no clearly defined ABM strategy.
TIP: Follow a clear step-by-step process to build your ABM plays. The process should clearly define sales and marketing touches, budget, and responsibilities. Ensure plays are well-orchestrated across marketing and sales, and have clear financial goals.

Trap 3: Random Acts of Marketing

Many companies have organized marketing and sales plays around tactics, which has resulted in the launch of disjointed marketing campaigns. ABM campaigns should be focused on a conversation with a target buyer through relevant communications that align with buyer stages. If not, the messaging will not resonate with the buyer, resulting in no engagement, and ultimately no sale.
TIP: Organize ABM plays around accounts and their buying groups. Resist the temptation to do one-off promotions to targeted accounts.
Being aware of these traps will help you stay on the path to ABM success. It will ensure you build a thoughtful, well-integrated ABM strategy that will focus on driving financial results. Don’t be afraid to stray a bit outside of your comfort zone…who really likes the comfort zone anyway?
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Gaurav Roy

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