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#ABM: 5 common mistakes made by marketers and how to fix them

Account-based marketing (ABM) in #b2b might not be that new, but it’s risen in the consciousness of sales and marketing practitioners over the last 10 years or so.

Account-based marketing (ABM)

There are some firms doing it really well, with effective account selection, focus and rigour, and there are some that may feel that it’s difficult to get started. Done well, there’s no doubt that ABM as part of your go-to-market strategy can help sales and marketing find common ground, align around a common purpose and work better together. The outcome is a better client experience and commercial results such as increased pipeline and revenue.

But, however simple the theory might seem, in practice it’s not quite so easy. Here’s a few common mistakes, and how you can rectify, or even better, avoid them.


Mistake: Not knowing who your customers really are. This can be identifying and focusing on the wrong accounts, or failing to invest time in identifying and targeting the different departments and influencers involved in the b2b buying decision such as procurement, IT and finance.

Remedy: Don’t be afraid to put in the hard yards and do your homework up-front. Take time to identify what makes a good account – use everything your systems, data and predictive analysis can tell you (not just what the account teams tell you) such as which accounts have better profit margins, which accounts deliver best value, what do you already sell into them well. Immerse yourself with the account teams, read every piece of feedback, understand what buyers and influencers engage with (and what they don’t), get under the skin of your customers, do customer personas, meet your customers!


Mistake: Making ABM an ‘all-or-nothing’ thing – in other words, forsaking everything else to instead put everything behind ABM. Understandable perhaps, because it is hard to resource and scale ABM at the start, and so tempting to divert your ££ and people onto it. But this ignores and undoes many other things that your target buyers and influencers might value from what you’re already doing.

Remedy: Look at how your chosen accounts and individuals are engaging with your current activity. There maybe industry marketing that engages them and their peers across a large population, niche activity that appeals to a smaller group of buyers (e.g. BD-led #ThoughtLeadership such as insightful spin-offs of bigger pieces) as well as one-to-one marketing that’s unique to that account or person. Plot your activity, see the gaps, be smart about what you can repurpose to be relevant to different departments across accounts. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.


Mistake: Trying to do too much, too soon (or as a former boss, who was also an amazing marketeer, once put it, ‘trying to boil the ocean’). In efforts to prove the worth of ABM to sales, account teams, partners etc, it’s tempting to try and be everything to everybody. But by spreading efforts too thinly across too many accounts, or throwing everything at an account without research or prioritisation (deploying the whole arsenal of ABM at once), there will be little, if any, impact at all.

Remedy: It’s not easy scaling and resourcing ABM, in fact it’s a real challenge, but try to start small with a pilot, find people that ‘get it’. Test, learn, show, prove and build your case bottom-up; get results and then move forward, along with support from your new sponsors and advocates. Make your approach to ABM strategic, not tactical, otherwise it will falter. Learn from others – consult with third-parties such as Linkedin to find out how they work with others on ABM, and what tools they have that will help gather insight and target the right people across the buyer journey.


Mistake: Chasing the KPIs and metrics, and forgetting the goals. What do I mean by this? Too often (driven by the right motivation) what to do and when to do it is driven by a desire to demonstrate impact, rather than actually have one – KPIs and metrics (or vanity and volume stats) such as engagement and the number of meetings become the goal, and not the intra-activity indicators that they should be. Focus and energy gets stuck top-of-funnel.

Remedy: Co-create and agree on goals with sales and the practice. Agree what the interim indicators will be, and how these relatively short-term measures will influence and change how you achieve your overall goals. Review whether these are the right metrics that correlate to the desired outcomes. How can predictive analysis and data help you? Have the courage to focus on quality, not quantity, from the start.


Mistake: Different objectives and performance metrics for sales and for marketing. ABM can be a very effective approach in breaking down the silos (and dare I say it the mistrust) that can exist between these two groups. But this can be undermined if the way people are measured and rewarded encourages the wrong (selfish) behaviours.

Remedy: There’s no doubt that when marketers work with their colleagues in sales on ABM, they become more aligned and in tune with what the sales team is doing. ABM can create common purpose and a real sense of ‘in it together’. Make sure this also extends to the personal performance review metrics for all people involved to encourage working together, so they don’t become counter-productive and ultimately undermine everything you’re trying to achieve.

Recommended further reading: Linkedin’s Crash Course in Account-Based Marketing

I am the founder of #b2b #marketing and #communications consultancy, Meteoric and have more than 20 years’ #international experience working in professional and financial services. 

I spent more than 5 years leading PwC’s business recovery marketing team where ABM was a central pillar of the go-to-market strategy. I can help you establish and develop your ABM strategy and activity, or support you to implement what you have planned already.

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