6 common ABM mistakes to avoid

Investing in an account-based marketing strategy for your business is a must, but can be costly and take significant resources, so it pays to understand some of the common pitfalls B2B companies experience before you begin.

Here are 6 of the best (or worst)

ABM isn’t easy or quick to set up. It involves planning, research, creativity and – above all – patience and persistence. However, there are some basics that need to be in place for every ABM approach, and also some important traps to avoid. We recommend taking the following common mistakes into account to ensure a solid foundation to your ABM efforts:

  1. Unclear goals – fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Why do you want to do ABM? Are you building a pipeline and looking for meetings with account executives? Have you identified specific high-value accounts that you believe would benefit from a personalized approach? Are you looking to improve customer acquisition, increase revenue from existing accounts, or both? Have you conducted any market research or gathered insights that indicate ABM would be a viable strategy for your business?

When starting an ABM strategy, not setting clear goals at the start is a common mistake. Without setting ROI or objectives, measuring success becomes murky and marketing and sales won’t know the tactics to focus on next. Also make sure that your ABM is a shared organization-wide vision and isn’t built by marketing in isolation.

  1. Not changing internal culture to align sales and marketing

Many of our clients say that sales and marketing alignment is one of the most challenging elements in any ABM campaign. This is because it requires a fundamental shift away from how it has always been done. Instead of marketing handing over to sales at a specified time in the customer journey, both teams need to collaborate at every touchpoint. For example, sales could be on the front line, having high-value conversations with prospects and using their expertise to decide who to target. Meanwhile, marketing understands the kind of content that will engage them. Sales can use this information to give answers to the questions the prospect is seeking.

Successful ABM requires that the sales team is involved and has buy-in from the beginning to mutually set objectives, metrics and focus together with marketing on winning and growing key accounts as one team.

ABM’s flaw is that it has ‘marketing’ in the name when sales is an equal partner in its success.  This is why more mature B2B companies typically talk about ABX rather than ABM, in order to cover the different silos involved.

  1. Lack of dedicated resources

ABM requires dedicated resources to get highly targeted campaigns into market. Yet many organizations tack ABM responsibilities onto existing resources so that marketing and sales teams find that they are expected to run these new campaigns in addition to continuing with their day jobs. In fact, 37% of marketers say a lack of budget and resources is their top challenge in account-based initiatives [Ascend 2 Account-based marketing approach report].

A scoping workshop where marketing and sales get together to define your level of ABM maturity is a good starting point. This will determine your ABM approach and show the scale of the challenge. Once you have these defined, your business can build an argument to recruit more resources – either by investing and recruiting into existing sales and marketing teams, or by outsourcing to an agency with experience in ABM whose involvement can be scaled up or down as required.

  1. No leadership buy-in

When the C-suite of your organization isn’t fully informed or on board with your ABM program, this can hamper its success. Also a recipe for disaster is ‘trying out’ ABM – it requires dedication and resources over a longer duration than most marketing campaigns. To win at ABM, Bombora suggests the CEO should drive the collective vision and set expectations; the CFO’s (Chief Financial Officer) responsibility involves educating the organization about the current sources of revenue and the future growth prospects of the company; the CRO’s (Chief Revenue Officer) role is to implement compensation plans that incentivize the sales team to perform; while the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) plays a crucial role in promoting alignment and fostering cross-team buy-in.

For ABM to work, the entire C-suite should recognize that transitioning to ABM is a significant endeavor, requiring both experimentation and patience to achieve favorable long-term outcomes. It is imperative for all leaders to ensure that their teams receive the necessary support with budget, tech and resources.

  1. OKRs and KPIs not set up for ABM

Business KPIs are generally measured quarterly but ABM is a long-term strategy meaning engagement levels are unlikely to hit their usual targets and may change permanently. ABM requires a radical shift in the way you’re being held accountable for core KPIs, and you need executive buy-in to allow this to happen.

How do you change marketing KPIs for an ABM campaign? In our experience, ABM is 18 to 24 months of continuous activation over all channels. You’ll need to make sure that you touch each channel at the right time and have enough content to reach and engage your customer. Instead of relying on ‘vanity metrics’ such as email metrics, social media metrics and offline engagement, core KPIs should focus on reputation (brand perception, NPS scores, loyalty), relationships (account coverage and engagement), and revenue (opportunities, win rate, average deal size, customer lifetime value).

Target account coverage is also important, such as the number of contacts in each account, the percentage of contacts that have engaged, the number of contacts that you hold complete data on and your contact list growth rate in each account.

These KPIs take time to gauge as you slowly get into each account, understand them and build account intelligence. It’s important to stand your ground and think long-term when it comes to implementing ABM in your organization. Your leadership team will appreciate your efforts – it may just take a little longer to see results than usual.

  1. Tech and data limitations

Many marketing departments within large enterprise organizations are structured and designed to focus on MQLs, pipeline and lead generation and have tools and teams set up to maximize these. But ABM is account-based and many tech stacks that typically include a CRM and MAP (Marketing Automation Platform) are simply not set up to execute, collect data and report at this level. It can be extremely challenging to use these tools for target account building, and for managing and reprioritizing account lists. In addition, data is often siloed, with a different tech tool assigned to each stage of the ABM process. Manually exporting and moving data from one platform to another makes business intelligence difficult and scaling even more so.

62% of marketers rely on prospect data that is 40% incorrect [LeadGnome] 

When it comes to data accuracy, you should use a mix of quantitative data – perhaps scoring models with input from sources around intent engagement – and qualitative data derived from sales account insights, to form a solid foundation of your ABM campaign.


Summing up
No one organization is the same and it’s important to remember that ABM is not a one-size-fits-all solution. However, while unique, your ABM strategy will benefit from planning and defined processes before you rush to implement it. By assessing your current ABM maturity, setting up the right metrics and measurement, working to align sales and marketing teams and recognizing tech limitations, you can build a solid foundation to launch a successful ABM program.

How ready are you for ABM? Why not check out our ABM readiness quiz, which includes useful templates and downloads:

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