Account-based Marketing (ABM) continues to revolutionize the B2B marketing landscape, and, yet, if you ask 10 marketers (or even 10 “ABM Experts”) to define ABM and what constitutes an ABM campaign, you’d likely get 10 different answers. What makes ABM both powerful and yet challenging is that there are few universal truths, and different approaches may generate very different results, and success levels, for different companies depending on their audience, sales process, and product category.
The following is a compelling look at some of the more uncomfortable ABM realities that marketers face, penned by our firm’s Business Development Director, Jon Emminizer. Jon wrote the article originally for LinkedIn, and I asked him if I could steal it for these pages. (Hot tip: follow Jon on LinkedIn for consistently great thinking on B2B marketing.)
1. There are many definitions for ABM and many ways of approaching ABM. It isn’t enough to have a clear conception of ABM in your own head. To be successful, you also have to be proficient at “selling” your vision internally to get all parties aligned with a specific way of approaching ABM.
2. Don’t expect ABM to fix short-term pipeline or revenue problems. ABM usually makes most sense in the context of large, high-value target accounts, and solutions with fairly long sales cycles. ABM requires more patience than traditional demand generation.
3. ABM also won’t fix sales and marketing alignment issues. It will magnify them. If the sales and marketing dance for traditional demand gen were an easy Waltz, for ABM it would be a Foxtrot.
4. ABM tech vendors often paint a picture that ABM is straightforward and easy to manage, so long as you have the right technology. Having the technology is actually only the starting point — it’s how you use it that really makes the difference.
5. No matter what you might hear in some quarters, ABM is difficult to scale. Almost all marketing variables get more granular with ABM, and the details multiply. If traditional demand gen is a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle, then ABM is 1,000 pieces.
6. You can’t control the audience disposition of your target accounts. Let’s say you identify a few high value accounts on which you want to “test ABM.” In many cases, you won’t know if those accounts are in the market for your solution or not. You may have first-party or third-party intent signals, but, most of the time, those signals represent potential intent, not definitive intent. What if you launch the most perfectly composed, compelling ABM program, but it doesn’t work simply because the target accounts you selected won’t be serious about buying within the next 18 months?
7. Tracking and success measurement is tougher with ABM. Many companies already struggle with standard funnel tracking in attribution. ABM requires measuring metrics in different ways depending on where accounts and buying groups are in the buyer’s journey.
8. Your ABM results will only be as strong as your messaging and offer strategy. That’s what people actually engage with. If messaging and offer is mediocre, ABM won’t magically fix or improve it.
9. It isn’t enough to set appropriate expectations at the start of the ABM program. You need to consistently manage expectations internally for 12+ months. Remember, ABM is a journey, not a sprint. It takes time to engage and win enterprise deals. Expect executives to ask you why there isn’t ROI after 3 months, and have strong answers ready.
10. The ultimate uncomfortable reality is that ABM is often the strongest strategy for winning enterprise accounts, and companies are being successful at it. It’s possible to conquer all the challenges listed above. Don’t take the route of writing off ABM just because you ran a 3-month pilot campaign in 2019 and it didn’t produce results. ABM can work wonderfully and powerfully if defined and approached and crafted and executed and scaled in a smart way.
For a more detailed look at ABM planning and the key factors in a successful initiative, view our recorded Webinar: “A Pragmatic Guide to ABM Success.”