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The seven sins of ABM (and what to do to avoid them)

In a challenging economic environment, the promise of ABM is market-beating growth. Despite the potential, few marketing teams are seeing significant improvements, according to the latest ITSMA research*. Only one in five reports significant revenue growth and just one in seven sees a significant improvement in win rate.

We’re on a mission to unlock the business growth potential of ABM and make it work harder for B2B tech brands.

So what’s getting in the way? We’ve been doing ABM for some time now, and see the same challenges come up time and time again. Here’s our big seven and what you can do about them.

1. ABM used in all the wrong places

The promises have been made, but the results don’t add up. ABM sounds attractive but doing it properly requires focus, patience and courage in conviction. Often, marketing teams aspire to do ‘proper ABM,’ but end up diluting their efforts across too many accounts–so much so that the result is a lead generation campaign that’s just slightly more targeted or personalised. ABM that’s focused and purposeful will always outperform blanket campaigns that just resemble ABM.

2. Wrong accounts, wrong reasons

Account owners too can get excited about the potential of ABM. In their excitement and haste, the accounts selected for ABM can range from the sublime to the ridiculous. For example, simply choosing the biggest businesses in a certain market or industry is a recipe for disappointment. 

For ABM to meet its potential, care and time should be taken to choose the right accounts: those that are the right fit. That means zeroing in on those where there’s insight, those which have potential, or those where there’s a clear use-, and value-case for engaging with your brand.

3. Unrealistic expectations for results

ABM has been over-hyped over the last decade, and expectations are sky-high. But as you might have heard before; ABM is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about establishing and demonstrating value–and that doesn’t happen overnight. For example: meaningful ABM programmes are unlikely to deliver results within a quarter, so account owners who are looking for quick wins need to adjust their expectations accordingly. 

Starting with a clear role for marketing in the engagement is critical, as is setting realistic, time-bound objectives and KPIs. ‘Indicators’ of performance are useful when meeting objectives is a longer-term prospect.

4. Account plans that lack a plan

We see it all the time. Account owners joyfully bring their account plans to marketing, like the cat who got the cream. But sometimes they simply lack an action plan. 

A good account plan should identify the opportunity, and set out clear milestones for turning aspiration into achievement. An account plan that looks more like an account fact sheet won’t spur action or show how marketing and ABM can help achieve desired outcomes.

5. Hide and seek insights

Account insights are critical to that all-important personalisation or messaging and value props. But often, time and energy are spent on the wrong kind of insights. Or, the gold is buried in a mountain of facts and stats, so it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. 

Actionable insights are the key here: things like understanding the business, and the buying group, how they behave and specifically how they solve problems and find solutions. That kind of insight helps craft messaging and tailor value propositions way more effectively than a dusty old ‘IT decision-maker’ persona.

6. Creative that doesn’t pack a punch

In a sea of sameness, your messaging needs to cut through. Personalising the cover of existing content and adding it to a custom web page simply won’t cut it. An injection of creativity has the potential to forge memorable brand connections and a deeper connection with targets. 

That means content that’s more likely to be read, events more likely attended and conversations that actually start. Insights that are, well, insightful are the key. The right creative starting point can set you up for a deeper resonance with the audience and that all-important ignition point for engagement.

7. Looking for a white knight

ABM isn’t a panacea for accounts on life support. ABM is at its best when there’s a specific role for marketing. Often, account owners are keen to find a new home or a new hope for accounts that are effectively dead (or dying). ABM can be effective when used properly, but it’s not a miracle worker. 

Our approach is to work with account owners to identify the ‘burning platform’–that goal, or job-to-be-done that can set the direction for an ABM engagement. Without it, programmes spin their wheels and go nowhere. Time and resources are wasted and ABM’s value is diminished, all for the want of something actionable, or achievable.

Most businesses may not be guilty of all seven sins, but there could be elements of truth in these observations that you recognise. When these sins compound themselves, the outcome is that you – the ABM marketer, your value is reduced and diminished. You’re left in endless ABM planning meetings that don’t deliver value. And in the meantime, all that the account teams can expect is for you to tart up old sales decks, edit existing content or organise merch for events. 

If you’re ready to raise the bar and show the business what purposeful ABM is all about, then we should talk.

Photo by Shalone Cason on Unsplash
*2023 Global State of Account-Based Marketing, Momentum ITSMA

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