Account-based marketing (ABM) is a targeting approach increasingly embraced by B2B marketers to effectively drive growth for their organizations. A B2B ABM strategy involves focusing marketing and sales efforts on the most relevant, in-market accounts.
Identifying and defining these accounts requires an understanding of your existing customer base, so that you can create audiences composed of the best accounts to target.
As of 2018, roughly 60% of businesses had some type of ABM program in place, up from 36% in 2017. But despite its popularity and growing ubiquity, ABM can be difficult to get right on the first try.
There are several challenges inherent in implementing an ABM strategy including company culture, available resources and a reluctance to embrace this new philosophy. These challenges can lead to mistakes in implementing the approach effectively. They are, in a nutshell:
- Poor communication across different teams, primarily sales and marketing
- Poor quality CRM data
- Viewing ABM as a technology rather than a strategy
- A failure to review, refine and optimize your ABM strategy after implementation
In this post, we’ll review and unpack the above mistakes, with the goal of helping you mitigate (or completely avoid) them.
Mistake #1: Poor communication across sales and marketing teams
The biggest mistake companies make when initiating an ABM strategy is failing to align sales and marketing teams. Both teams have fundamentally different priorities, although the goals are the same—to contribute to company growth and generate revenue.
While sales teams tend to focus on the immediacy of results (e.g., closing the deal now), marketing teams look at lead generation as a larger strategy over a longer period. When these teams don’t talk, what tends to happen is that marketing focuses on generating a large quantity of irrelevant leads that sales reps must review and follow-up with.
Salesforce reports that the conversion rate from a lead to a closed deal is about 6% and can take up to 84 days. That means that 94% of leads don’t ever convert, but they do take a ton of time away from the actual business of selling.
Solution: Making sure that sales and marketing teams are talking to each other and sharing information is the best way to limit the time and money wasted on generating poor quality leads. Having the two teams meet on a consistent basis to establish customer personas, realistic growth goals, and other KPIs is an effective way to resolve the problem of poor communication.
Mistake #2: Poor quality CRM data
Sales reps notoriously hate CRM platforms because they take time away from selling. Data from HubSpot, a popular CRM platform, revealed that CRM users spend an average of 3.5 hours per week logging activities and 2.5 hours logging contact information.
Even so, the data is often inaccurate and incomplete, with 88% of CRM users admitting to entering incomplete contact information and 69% of users having out of date CRM data. Other issues with CRM data include duplicate contacts and missing information (e.g., users don’t log all activities).
Good CRM data is the foundation of an effective ABM strategy because it helps to identify the top accounts within your organization. These accounts, in turn, can help you identify similar companies to target, but only if your CRM data is accurate and up-to-date.
Solution: Automate! The best way to solve the problem of inaccurate data is to normalize the data via automation. There are many tools that integrate with the most common CRM platforms that can help clean the data and normalize is so that it can be used for analysis. There are also ABM platforms such as Terminus that have this functionality built into the platform.
Mistake #3: Viewing ABM as a technology rather than a strategy
While there are large-scale ABM platforms on the market that exist to facilitate the implementation of an ABM approach, it’s important to remember that ABM is a strategy, not a technology.
Companies and marketers often make the mistake of assuming they need to change their entire marketing approach and purchase an expensive tool to successfully deploy ABM.
The truth is that while a fundamental shift in how you think about the role of marketing is required to implement ABM, expensive tech tools, while nice, aren’t necessary. You can hobble your ABM strategy before even getting started if you wait to find the perfect tool, or pause all your existing marketing because it doesn’t fit exactly within your ABM vision.
Solution: Start small. The shift from a traditional marketing approach to an ABM approach can seem daunting, so the best way to get started is to begin the process as a smaller experiment or test. Get your sales and marketing teams talking to each other to help define your ideal customer persona and account type, then create a list of 5 to 10 companies to reach out to. Once you have this list, you can create content and ad copy that appeals to specific accounts and audiences. Then, evaluate your results and refine. This brings us to the final mistake.
#4: A failure to review, refine, and optimize your ABM strategy after implementation
Account-based marketing is still marketing, which means it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. As with any other marketing tactic, ABM isn’t necessarily going to help you hit all your goals on the first try, particularly if you’ve never implemented it before.
If done correctly, ABM will provide the right content to B2B buyers as they move through the buying cycle from problem identification, to consideration and to purchase. But each B2B industry has its own unique needs and decision-making process, so the ABM approach you take should be specific and customized to your organization and your audience.
Solution: Understand your audience’s unique needs and pain points. Also, spend some time learning about the modern B2B buyer’s journey because this can help you plan content that resonates with buyers. Then, once you’ve developed an ABM strategy and launched media to support it, make sure your sales and marketing teams continuously evaluate and refine the approach to ensure you’re hitting your growth goals.
Scale ABM for successful growth
Understanding the common mistakes that are inherent with an ABM approach can help reduce pitfalls that may derail your strategy. When done well, ABM has the potential to significantly impact your bottom line. Companies that employ a successful ABM approach generate 200% more revenue than those who don’t.
Once you’ve adopted ABM throughout your organization and it’s embraced across multiple teams including sales, marketing, customer service, and the C-suite, you can begin to scale the approach, investing in tools and resources to make it work even better.
Remember, ABM is a strategy, not a tool, and it can take time to get it right. Companies who are deliberate about ABM and take the time to avoid common mistakes, will enjoy much more success with this strategy than those who don’t.