Why ABM Campaigns Fail

I don’t know why, but the myth that “ABM will save us!” persists.  I’m sorry to disappoint you, dear reader, but ABM is not a panacea.  If your AEs aren’t hustling, if your marketing is disorganized, or if your lead follow-up is erratic, ABM won’t move the needle.  Here’s why ABM campaigns fail.

>> Related: Why Product Launches Go Wrong <<

What ABM can and can’t do

Often when people talk about “ABM” they really mean “better Sales & Marketing process.”  ABM is not the solution for:

I’m gonna be honest… none of these projects drive new interest from high value accounts.  Which is (finally) what ABM is for:

  1. upselling/cross-selling valuable customers
  2. “getting in the door” with valuable prospects

Where ABM campaigns go sideways

True story:  I once worked for a company that hired a consultant to write an ABM playbook.  $100,000 later, we didn’t see a single dollar in revenue. 😱 Here’s where your ABM strategy will probably go wrong:

Transforming an entire Sales function

Candidly, I’ve never seen an ABM campaign scale and transform an entire Sales function.  Pause for effect.

Thinking you can overhaul an entire team (that doesn’t directly report to you) is magical thinking.  You will be swamped by enablement/resistance/incompetence within the Sales team.  You will waste months arguing over fields, routing, and reporting.  And you will spend a lot of money.

Instead, ABM is the best way to empower motivated reps who already do the work.  They see Marketing as a “supporter” and not a “sourcer.” Honestly, they’re going to succeed anyway, but Marketing can supercharge them with project management, program budget, and content.

Overcomplicating things

ABM campaign plans are often lofty, vague, and overcomplicated.  Instead, think in terms of a “scrappy pilot”.  The org needs to learn fast, hone the strategy, and actually achieve ROI on all this time and money.

So start with a one-page plan.  Once you test the market, you can scale to more people, and (only then!) consider tech solutions to simplify things.

Investing in ABM MarTech

Beware starting your ABM campaign with a shopping spree!  MarTech adds enormous pressure to an ABM campaign:  the data integration headaches, the sheer cost, and the time lost to procurement/implementation.  Avoid “intent data”, direct mail platforms, and anything promising easy automation.

That’s because ABM campaigns are deeply reliant on phone calls.  Y’all, this is free!  Instead of demo-ing shiny new tools, invest your time creating a trusting relationship with your pilot AEs (which is literally priceless).

Not adjusting lead follow-up rules

Don’t underestimate the confusion you may cause with ABM:

  • What happens when a VIP account fills out a form?
  • Will they be earmarked for special treatment?
  • Are we okay with a BDR calling them?

Make sure you define this carefully and do repetitive enablement, especially if you don’t have an ABM sales funnel yet.

Incomplete reporting

ABM campaigns are plagued by messy reporting. Make sure you have a plan for tracking and communicating the KPIs that matter:

  • Do we have target leads coming in?
  • Are we booking meetings?
  • Are we creating opportunities?
  • Are they closing?

ABM-inspired tactics you should try

A legit ABM campaign may not be a good fit.  But I’ve seen many ABM-inspired tactics that work:

  • Go wide for every MQL – When a new MQL comes through, BDRs spend 10 minutes in LinkedIn and manually add three lookalike contacts from the same company to the same sequence.
  • Track job changes – When contacts in your database change jobs, tools like User Gems, Champify, and LiveData Technology can connect the dots.  Voila, you have an existing relationship at a new account!
  • Get funding alerts – Help reps track in-territory accounts that get a huge surge of funding, like from Crunchbase.
  • Invest in customer marketing – I’m not talking webinars.  Partner with renewal managers, customer success, and ProServe.  How could marketing provide air cover?

Header image via giphy


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