“Social distancing” is a term that entered our vocabulary overnight in 2020. As I write this, we are still physically separated from our colleagues.
If you’re like me, you probably long to get back to the meeting rooms to strategize and collaborate with your team on the next campaign or product feature, as well as the next sales game or “whitespace” exercise and various other opportunities to surpass your annual level goals.
When you work in a large company, social distancing can feel like déjà vu. That’s because the “corporate distancing” phenomenon had led to poor collaboration between teams, departments, and product lines long before the pandemic. Corporate distance creates chaos and ultimately affects your customers’ journey and also makes them feel aloof.
This also affects your account-based marketing (ABM).
ABM in the company
Solving business distancing challenges is far easier in smaller companies than in larger ones. In the business world, however, reducing corporate distancing means much more value when implementing an ABM strategy.
Too many people view ABM as a technology rather than a strategy that often uses different types of technology. The “right” approach therefore varies by environment – and large organizations create an environment with more options.
When an organization has multiple sales and marketing teams based on business units, industries, or regions, the results can be scaled. However, when multiple teams target the same accounts, it becomes increasingly difficult to coordinate ABM strategies and there is the potential to become counterproductive.
ABM should be part of what you’re already doing. It should be in millions of emails, thousands of BDR calls, and hundreds of thousands of website visits. In such an enterprise environment, the large number of accounts, buyer personalities, execution channels, data sources, departments, languages, regional differences, and incompatible systems all add to the complexity of the ABM approach required.
In short, ABM is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Here are some of the most common pitfalls organizations face when implementing ABM programs, as well as actionable solutions on how to avoid them.
1. Insufficient system administration
If you are a marketer in a B2B company, it is easy to be dazzled by the promises of ABM without thinking about the specific challenges and needs of your type of organization.
By definition, business organizations are complex and serve multiple business units and regions in a connected environment and a common framework for hierarchical reporting. In the corporate environment, marketers need to operate without limiting one another. They need to coordinate their activities with similar target accounts, report together or in groups, and share best practices.
Without such synchronization, enterprise-class marketing and sales organizations struggle to be successful. They can be forced into a “box” that doesn’t suit their needs, or they can get stuck in separate silos of competing platforms. Account-level activities and results can be hidden on the different platforms or even on multiple instances of the same platform. Overlapping target accounts and composite platform costs become central issues.
2. Failure to execute findings at the speed of buyer intervention
Often times, vendors talk about AI and data in the context of informing their customers about the engagement strategy, but they fail to mention the time it may take to ingest, normalize, and understand the vast amounts of data that modern customers are using -Engagement can arise.
It often takes a platform a month to go from data to insight. When large corporate IT departments created huge pools of customer data, the process took even longer.
Today, moment by moment, buyers are crossing your marketing channels. Little did you know that separate teams are running your display advertising, website content, email campaigns, and promotions. When a buyer interacts with you, can you adjust and respond to that success and pull that buyer and their team to the next stage of engagement? Cross-channel?
Speed and accuracy are required to tie insights into action – a new email, a phone call, or an entirely new campaign content flow. If your intent data or predictive analytics providers only update their data regularly and your ABM platform cannot process the data in real time, you are always missing the “right time”. You will always be out of the news.
Your ability to generate response and sales impact is 100% based on your ability to learn and adapt to the needs of each target account – in real time, milliseconds between clicks and page views.
3. Multichannel vs. omnichannel
I often say: poorly targeted and irrelevant messages sent through a channel are spam. Poorly coordinated messages, however relevant they may be, that are sent across multiple channels are harassment.
Although many ABM platforms have multi-channel capabilities, the business marketer needs advanced control to prevent over-marketing or conflicting messages between marketing teams. Without this control, the promises of omnichannel ABM become impossible, as the target group approach takes place in platform silos – or, even worse, key tactics and communication channels remain unclear.
This is a particularly important criterion to consider when evaluating account-based advertisers who inevitably promote one form of ad targeting over another and relate its ability to ABM targeting. It’s not: it’s a single channel method. If you follow this procedure, you run the risk of the vast majority of the touchpoints on your target account not matching your ABM program.
If you find yourself in such a situation, ask the vendor how they should help you coordinate all of the emails you send from your marketing automation platform.
4. Insufficient data management capabilities
According to SiriusDecisions, an average of 25% of B2B marketing data is inaccurate and 60% of companies identify their entire data state as unreliable. You can only hope to gain actionable insights only if you understand the essential health of your data and the inherent biases in the numbers.
The problem with data management is that as a business expands, so does the collection of marketing technologies and the number of people and teams who use them. You are faced with the enormous task of understanding the account-structured data and activities across systems.
Using enterprise-grade master data management (MDM) technologies, you can organize, clean, map, and append data to provide better insights and provide better, more accurate reports and mappings. Successful ABM data is the currency that drives sales and marketing collaboration. Data should provide a clear direction for your company and not overwhelm you.
5. Vanity measurements versus real world results
Ask yourself: Can your ABM provider identify and measure target account activity and response outside of its core platform, including sources from other campaigns and CRM systems?
Many ABM platforms developed for early-stage or mid-range customers can only measure and analyze these activities within their technology – and that creates a silo. Flashy graphs, graphs, and data points are appealing, but what’s the point if there aren’t any accurate or critical takeaway insights at the account level?
Many smaller business ABM platforms only offer channel-based impressions and clicks (i.e., display ads) (and sometimes website visits as the supporting technology is easy to develop and requires far easier management). Their combination is that a combination of media impressions or clicks along with any source of website traffic from a target account should allow you to designate an account as a Marketing Qualified Account so that you can own the opportunity pipeline in your CRM.
Both sales and your CEO will think this is wrong – because it is. Such off-site solutions merely avoid the technical skills required to deliver and report measurable and higher response rates, pipeline conversion, and pipeline value.