5 Account-Based Marketing Pitfalls to Avoid

March 27, 2019 Matt Hogan

Account-based marketing can be a treasure trove for marketing and sales teams, which explains why 92 percent of B2B marketers claim that it’s crucial to their success and great for ROI.

But account-based marketing isn’t a magic bullet.

Marketing and sales teams can’t reap ABM’s benefits if they aren’t prepared to execute correctly, and nailing account-based marketing isn’t always an easy thing to do. There are lots of ways that account-based marketing can go wrong—and when it does, that means time and money down the drain.

But a solid, practical understanding of your goals and data points, paired with awareness of where people often go wrong with ABM, can go a long way toward steering your marketing initiatives toward success.

But this isn’t yet another blog post about successful ABM. Today, we’re here to dive into the biggest mistakes marketing and sales teams make when executing ABM and how you can avoid them.

1. Not understanding your total addressable market

Do you really know what your total addressable market (TAM) is?

Your total addressable market is the total revenue opportunity for a given product or service. Essentially, it’s how much money you could earn if every prospect on the market decided to transact with you.

This is a key element of business intelligence that any account-based marketing practitioner should keep in mind, but unfortunately many don’t even consider it.

Understanding your real total addressable market involves including the exact number of potential accounts and the best opportunities within your TAM.

Failure to consider this factor means failure to measure, and failure to measure means you’re leaving a critical part of your outreach strategy fully to chance.

Plus, if you don’t take the time to really dive into your total addressable market, you could be missing out on the biggest revenue opportunities because you don’t even know they exist.

Measuring Total Addressable Market

Traditionally speaking, there have been three ways to measure your total addressable market. These are:

  • The Top-Down Approach, which uses industry research and reports to understand the TAM for a given product.

  • The Bottom-Up Approach, which extrapolates possibilities from data gathered during a company’s earliest sales effort.

  • The Value-Theory Approach, which relies on conjecture about a buyer’s willingness to pay for a good or service.

While these approaches have enjoyed considerable popularity over the years, in a modern, data-centric context, they’re a little too qualitative and messy for comfort.

After all, most industry research reports are developed using qualitative surveys that rely on self-reported data–which can be fairly dubious because they so often present a limited sample of opinions as broad, industry-spanning facts.

Measuring TAM the Modern Way

Today, there are better, more reliable ways to measure a product or service’s total addressable market, especially if you’re selling digital products.

Technology and tools can help when it comes to measuring your total addressable market. We’ll toot our own horn a little and highlight that technology leaders use our data to identify the total number of companies using different types of technology, and then drill down deeper to understand budgets and future propensity to spend.

This gives you a highly accurate, factual picture of the players you’re dealing with in a given market, meaning you can gather all of the business intelligence you need to make a smart and realistic determination about what your TAM actually is.

But, technology isn’t the complete answer to measuring TAM. Make sure you put the initial work into understanding who needs your product and why before jumping headfirst into measuring TAM and launching your ABM strategy.

2. Using the wrong data when creating a list of target accounts

Another common pitfall for account-based marketers is using the wrong data, especially when it comes to putting together a list of target accounts.

A part of why this happens is that account-based marketers tend to have a myriad of choices when it comes to data points from which they can gather insights—not to mention a whole lot of advice, only some of which may actually apply to their specific situation.

This can leave the team or individual in charge of creating a list of accounts overwhelmed with data points and noise.

The Problem With General Advice

There’s no shortage of content pertaining to account-based marketing approaches circulating on the internet. I mean, you’re reading one right now.

But the problem is that much of the time, the advice is too general to be applied to the specific challenges faced by your business. This is problematic if you try to take that wholesale advice and use it as a bespoke solution.

Account-based marketing software vendors’ advice is usually framed around creating a list of accounts on basic data points like:

  • Industries they are currently performing best in
  • Average business size of current customers
  • Company location
  • Revenue questions
  • Extremely basic technographic data (typically “yes, they have this software” or “no, they don’t”)

While this data can be valuable, it likely isn’t painting an accurate picture of your best cloud technology customers.

After all, cloud technology is all about how much a company is going to consume. The more they use, the more you make...and none of this data tells that story.

Cutting Through the Noise

So how do you actually identify the accounts that have the most spend potential for your company?

Look at identifying the following:

  • Companies spending on a specific product
  • Companies spending on cloud technologies
  • Companies using your competitors
  • Competitor accounts that are about to expire

This kind of information can give you a more accurate understanding of your real potential customers.

Knowing about spend can not only help you feel confident when creating your ultimate list of target accounts, but help you uncover new patterns and opportunities within accounts.

3. Not mapping individuals within each account

It’s generally a good idea to be aware of the individual roles of decision-makers at a company as well as the identities of the people occupying those roles. If you don’t have this information and make no provisions to acquire it, you’re essentially dooming your account-based marketing initiative from the start.

Sadly, that’s exactly what a lot of ABM beginners do—they build strategies solely around accounts without any consideration for the people within each account. It’s a problematic way to go about doing things, especially when you need to be developing valuable content for specific individuals in target accounts.

Remember, it’s real people who ultimately decide whether or not they’ll transact with you.

Perhaps the reason so many people overlook this individualized approach to account-based marketing is that they’re used to the broader and more general practice of working with buyer personas—personified marketing segments based loosely on data and heavily on conjecture rather than real people and their real motivating factors.

Don’t make this mistake, or your account-based marketing efforts will probably fail more often than you’d like.

4. Leaning too much on ABM software

While the phrase “account-based marketing” has exploded in popularity over the last few years, it isn’t new.

In fact, the version of account-based marketing we all know today was crafted by savvy marketers (just like you) in order to sell more software. Of course, that software has had a profoundly positive impact on marketers around the world, so that revelation is hardly a sinister one.

That said, while you do need software to execute your account-based marketing program effectively, it’s not really the cornerstone of your marketing efforts, or at least it shouldn’t be. In reality, MarTech should be a part of your strategy—a tool or suite of tools used to boost the foundational principles of your outreach strategy.

Rather than adopting every form of marketing technology on the internet and relying on it to guide your every decision, we recommend choosing a few good tools to help steer you toward success without courting too much noise.

So, what software might that consist of? We’re glad you asked.

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Content management system (CMS), or better yet, a content experience platform (CEP)
  • Marketing automation platform (MAP)
  • Targeted promotion tools
  • ABM software (maybe)

With these tools, you should have just about everything you need to plan, execute, and measure your account-based marketing outreach strategy. Anything more is just a bonus and should be considered very carefully in terms of cost (both financial and temporal) versus benefit.

5. Not setting clear goals for ABM programs

By this point, we all understand that good marketing starts with smart goal setting. But what does that mean in relation to account-based marketing?

We recommend starting with the key performance indicators. What are the most important outcomes you need to track when executing an account-based marketing campaign? We’d argue that you need to focus most on the following:

  • Account engagement: How often are you making contact with your clientele and what is the quality level of those engagements?
  • Account penetration: How much do you know about the accounts you’re touching? What kind of relationship are you building with the key decision-makers and other figures on the account?
  • Pipeline velocity: How many accounts are you closing in relation to your periodic business goals? How quickly are they closing versus traditional outbound or inbound initiatives?
  • Campaign engagement: How many people are engaging with your campaign, and in what ways? What patterns are you observing among your audience members? Are these rates higher than traditional marketing and sales efforts?

Don’t make these account-based marketing mistakes

While there are many moving parts to account-based marketing, it doesn’t have to be the behemoth that it can often feel like.

Just as with everything else in life, keeping things simple and thinking your way through a step-by-step approach is the best way for you to get started.

Think about how you can incorporate account-based marketing into your existing sales and marketing efforts. Remember that success starts with great planning, careful execution, and sticking to best practices where they make sense. If you can do that and keep aware of potential pitfalls, you’ll be well on your way to ABM success.

Bonus Pitfall: Trying to write hundreds of pieces of content for all your target accounts. Instead, download our No-Fear Guide to Scaling Personalized Content for ABM

About the Author

Matt Hogan

Matt Hogan is the Head of Customer Success at Intricately, where the folks there give teams an inside look into the spend, usage, and adoption of cloud technologies. He has years of experience in sales, marketing, and customer success management with the responsibility of designing and implementing my vision for customer success and customer experience. Outside of business, he enjoys sailing and surfing as much as possible, and if he can't do that—golf.

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