If you’re targeting a defined number of businesses, ABM may seem an obvious choice of strategy. More resources, dedicated to fewer accounts, leading to greater ROI – what’s not to like? However, as with any new strategy, there are risks associated with implementing ABM. If you’re not aware of these, it can lead to an ineffective or even failed ABM campaign. These are the 10 biggest ABM risks you should watch out for when planning a new campaign.
1. Starting Too Soon
As with any successful marketing strategy, ABM requires planning. You wouldn’t start cooking a recipe without checking whether you had all the ingredients in the cupboard would you? Similarly with ABM, if you’re too keen to get your message out to the market, you risk making basic errors that can derail your campaign before it’s even begun.
Decide what you want the campaign to achieve, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to measure success. You should also set timescales that are achievable to see results.
Give yourself the time to develop value propositions that communicate genuine value to your prospects. Assess your current value props and USPs and if they don’t align with your buyers challenges, develop some that do.
Before beginning any ABM programme, make sure you have any necessary technology in place to help the process. Tech tools shouldn’t replace a winning ABM strategy, but they can help you scale your work more easily.
If you don’t have a CRM system that the sales and marketing team can all access to stay on track, look at putting one in place. It makes it easier for everyone to align their activity and engage with your target accounts in a consistent way.
2. Badly Defined Strategy
Not defining or having a badly defined strategy is one of your biggest ABM risks. I’m not going to explain why, the impact of a bad strategy is pretty obvious, here’s some we’ve come across.
Picking the wrong ABM tactic for the type of accounts you’re reaching out to is one example.
Don’t adopt a highly targeted one-to-one ABM campaign, if your clients have a lifetime value of less than £1 million. The resources required to win the account will mean that the investment in each account won’t be worth it. Choose the ABM tactic that will give you the best return on investment.
If you come up with a tagline for your campaign (which we’d recommend), make sure it’s used throughout the campaign. Don’t go out to market with branding and messaging that’s inconsistent across digital ads, email, direct mail, and landing page.
If you incorporate creative direct mail (which we’d also recommend), make sure the idea behind it ties in with the value of what you’re offering. Don’t pick a gift to send individuals at your target accounts, and then try and crow-bar your value props or the buyer challenges to match it. Plan everything, including direct mail either around your tagline or your proposition.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
Account-based marketing is not a ‘quick-win’ strategy or a funnel-filling tactic. ITSMA describe it as a strategic, mid-to-long term relationship building programme. With that in mind, unrealistic expectations of the campaign can harm perceptions of how well you’re doing.
Of all the ABM risks, this should be the simplest to overcome by setting expectations early. ABM is about creating engagement with your key accounts, and building a relationship that will last longer and be more profitable.
Your sales team will be used to dealing with hundreds of leads, many of whom never have any intention of buying. Despite the fact that many salespeople aren’t happy with the quality of leads that traditional marketing provides, they will have become accustomed to the high number.
You will need to set their expectations that while the number of engaged accounts will be much lower than the number of leads they used to receive, the quality will increase many times over. Literally every engagement will come from a target account that they were involved in selecting. That means no more wasted time, sifting through leads that won’t convert. But they will need to shift their mind-set, and get used to the fact that quality is better than quantity in the long run.
You should make your company aware of the time it will take to see results and set their expectations as to what is achievable. We would suggest a minimum of 6 months to run an ABM campaign as a benchmark. This will involve a strategy and planning process before any activity is carried out, followed by the execution of the programme, and a period of time to measure success and optimise future work.
4. Poor Internal Alignment
A lack of alignment between departments, specifically sales and marketing, is disastrous for ABM. The thinking behind ABM shifts the emphasis from leads to accounts, and from quantity to quality.
If this is poorly understood outside the marketing team, and sales haven’t bought into the concept or understood how they can benefit, you can kiss goodbye to the improvements you would see from your ABM campaign. Research by ITSMA found that positioning ABM as a marketing initiative rather than as a company-wide business initiative, may lead to under-investment and unrealistic expectations of quick returns.
While it may seem a simple task to align sales and marketing, it can be challenging for those teams to change the way that they’ve done things previously. Yet adopting a combined strategy that they can both rely on to generate engagement at target accounts and increase turnover is a key component of ABM success.
Your prospects expect a seamless, integrated experience from the first time they hear about your company to the time they sign the deal. Good alignment will help you achieve this, by making sure sales and marketing are always on the same page.
But don’t take our word for it – HubSpot have found that organisations with good sales and marketing alignment achieve 27% faster three-year profit growth, and close 38% more deals.
5. Selecting the Wrong Accounts
One of the major risks is allowing one department to select all of the target accounts for the campaign.
If sales are selecting all of the accounts, you run the risk of them giving you all of the ‘problem’ accounts that they have yet to get any traction with, but as Jamie Hardin, Senior Marketing Manager of ON24 explains “ABM should be viewed as augmenting the current strategy, not a “Hail Mary” initiative on an inactive account.”
Similarly, it would be foolish for Marketing to select all of the target accounts without using the information that sales have on the accounts that they’ve been selling to or engaging with.
This could be information on which accounts are reaching a contract renewal date, previous positive conversations with individuals at the account, or contacts who would already have used your services in a previous role at another company.
By combining the information marketing has on how closely an account matches your ICP (Ideal Client Profile) with anecdotal information from sales, your account selection can lay the foundation for a successful campaign.
6. Selecting Too Many Accounts
One surefire way to ruin your chances of a successful ABM campaign is by selecting too many target accounts.
You should always start an ABM campaign with a budget in mind. The budget allocated to each account in the campaign should be based on the type of ABM tactic you’re looking to adopt, whether one-to-one, one-to-few, or one to many.
Once you’ve decided on how much budget should be allocated to each account, you can plan your ABM outreach strategy. However, the problems start when you begin to add additional accounts to the campaign. For every additional account that you select, that’s a bit less budget allocated to all of the other accounts.
As an example, £25,000 spent on 50 accounts gives you £500 per account to use for your ABM outreach. However, colleagues from other business units have suggested additional accounts taking the total to 100 accounts, and you now have 250 target accounts to approach with a budget of £100 per account.
All of sudden the amazing creative direct mail pieces, the bespoke landing pages, and the account-specific content customisations you were planning aren’t feasible.
As a result you’re reaching out to your original accounts with a drastically ‘watered-down’ campaign that is far less impactful for the sake of including more target accounts, who are less likely to buy than the 50 accounts you started with.
To ensure ABM success, pick your target accounts based on the need for your services, and the type of ABM you’re doing. Allocate budget to each and stick to that number!
7. Lack of Insight
Although it’s coming in at number 7, lack of insight is arguably one of the greatest ABM risks. That’s because the insight you have on your prospects feeds into so many areas of account based marketing.
It can help you understand which accounts to target, segment your target accounts more intelligently, map the decision making unit at those target accounts, or assess how appropriate your current content is for each of the accounts.
At its core, ABM balances three elements. The potential value of a target account to your business, the cost of acquiring them as a customer, and how likely they are to buy from you. If an account is more likely to buy, you can safely invest more resources into acquring them as a customer, safe in the knowledge they are more likely to provide an ROI. Without insights such as these, you’re effectively navigating part of the ABM process blind.
The entire ABM approach is based on personalisation and treating target accounts or groups of accounts as their own markets. The quality of insights you have determines the quality of the personalisation, how can you create bespoke content without knowing about the specific challenges of the account or sector?
Bear in mind, no account-based marketer ever said “I know too much about this account”.
8. Relying on Generic Content
Whichever type of ABM tactic you’re using, one thing’s for sure. Using generic content will risk the success of an ABM campaign.
The entire purpose of ABM is to reach out to your key target accounts with an approach that’s highly personalised and relevant, and this also applies to the content that you’re using.
The insight that you’re gathering on your target accounts should help you understand the content that will resonate with each account. It will also help you create content appropriate for each member of the decision-making unit at each stage of the buying journey.
In an ideal ABM scenario, your sales team should leverage content throughout the sales funnel with every key stakeholder. Not only that, you should be able to make customisations to your content for each account you’re reaching out to. Even if this is simply referencing the target account within the content, and placing their logo at the top of the page, it will be impactful for the audience.
If you don’t create content that’s aligned with your target account’s goals and challenges, isn’t mapped to each stage of the sales funnel, or is simply seller-centric – focused on your own products and services, your ABM programmes are likely to fail.
9. Using the Wrong KPIs
When it comes to ABM risks, using the wrong KPIs to measure success is definitely up there. By using the same metrics you would use to score individuals, you’re gauging an account-based strategy with sales lead metrics.
ABM is an account-based approach and so the KPIs and metrics you should be using to measure success should all be based around the account as a whole.
Of course it’s still important to track engagement from the key stakeholders you’re reaching out to. What’s more important however, is aggregating all the information from those individuals. This will give each account a score that indicates the level of engagement with your campaign.
Whilst you need these account specific metrics to measure engagement with the individual target accounts, you will also need a way to measure the success of your ABM campaigns, when compared to their non-ABM counterparts.
Use KPIs such as the time from initial touchpoint to opportunity, or close date. Compare the CAC (customer acquisition cost) of your ABM and non-ABM campaigns. Examine the average contract value, win rate and retention rate of the clients you’ve won from ABM as opposed to your non-ABM campaigns.
If you don’t adjust your measurement of success to KPIs such as these, you risk jeopardising your campaigns.
10. Erosion of Trust
If you’ve avoided all of the previous ABM risks, then hopefully erosion of trust shouldn’t be an issue for you. But if you have fallen foul of any points mentioned, then these will have consequences for your future ABM work.
The strategy itself is proven to work, with 80% of marketers saying that ABM outperforms other marketing initiatives. So, if you have completed an ABM campaign but your different internal teams don’t feel they can rely on the process to deliver the results or ROI that they’re looking for, it’s more than likely that something has gone wrong in the implementation of ABM.
To avoid the scenario where your organisation starts to doubt whether ABM can be effective, you need to-
- Plan the process properly
- Get buy-in from your whole company
- Get agreement on strategy
- Select accounts carefully
- Gather detailed insights and research
- Ensure content is fully aligned with buyers
- Measure the right KPIs
Thanks to Andy Bacon, Senior Advisor at B2B Marketing!