10 Obstacles Facing Account-Based Marketing

By Sangram Vajre

Despite all the industry buzz about account-based marketing, you’ll most likely face roadblocks for implementing ABM strategies and goals. Change is hard, even when it means doing what’s best to drive new revenue and find new ways to surprise and delight your internal and external customers.

Here are the ten biggest hurdles for your team running as fast as it can with account-based marketing.

Measuring leads as success

The status quo success metric in the B2B marketing industry has been leads. Success was defined by the number of leads generated, then the percentage of those marketing qualified leads (MQL) handed over to sales. These sales accepted leads (SAL) then were qualified through various activities, such as discovery calls and product demos, to become sales qualified leads (SQL). These turned into revenue opportunities.

Along the way, leads fell out of the pipeline as they failed to move onto the next stage of qualification. The buyer’s journey could be a painful one for the sales team as they waited for leads to become opportunities, but marketing continued to count leads as its key success metric.

Blasting emails too quickly

Marketing automation platforms have made it easy to send thousands of emails in a few seconds. Marketers use open rates and click thru rates to gauge the success of those emails. If 1 percent of 10,000 people open, that’s 100 people who are potential leads, right? Wrong! Those 100 people could be customers, people who already told your sales rep that they weren’t interested, and the message in your email isn’t personalized at all. Email marketing needs to be a well-planned activity.

Expecting to engage every time

Wayne Gretzky famously said “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” True as this is, marketers can’t expect to make 100 percent of their shots. Different marketing tactics will have varying rates of success. The success metric of your individual campaigns will have different outcomes, depending on your content, message, and the targeted audience.

You can’t engage every contact at every account every time you reach out. What’s important with account-based marketing is impressions. Even if the contact you’re targeting doesn’t click on your ad, they’re still seeing your ad. This counts as an impression. You want to measure the number of impressions you get, as this helps for branding and keeping your company top of mind.

Relying on marketing to do it all

It’s called account-based marketing, but a true ABM program includes both account-based selling (ABS) and account-based sales development (ABSD). The ultimate goal of these new B2B marketing and sales tactics is to identify your best-fit companies (accounts) at the start of your marketing initiatives. To identify these companies, you must agree on the ideal customer profile (ICP), which takes input from customer success to tell you which accounts have been the hardest to service.

These criteria include such measurements as company size, industry, and job titles of your end users. This information is in your CRM, but you need customer success to validate your assumptions about which companies are in your ICP.

Sending all leads to sales

Leads come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. The trick is to identify the right kind of leads. That isn’t an easy task. The leads that marketers get can be divided into three categories:

  • Hot Leads: Prospects who are ready to buy.
  • Warm Leads: Prospects who are qualified, but aren’t ready to buy.
  • Cold Leads: Prospects who love your content (they download from your website and always register for your webinars) but will never buy from you.

If your sales team starts calling every lead, they won’t be very productive, because they aren’t focusing on the right kind of leads. The result is misalignment of sales and marketing, leading to lower pipeline and revenue numbers.

Asking for more leads

More leads seldom is the answer to the chronic problem of not enough qualified leads. If you already have 10,000 leads in your CRM and marketing automation system, how much value will more records add? It will make your contact database larger, but are these the right contacts?

If the new revenue numbers need to grow to 20 deals a month, then there are two ways to do it: increase the win rate, or add more leads. But more leads may not mean qualified leads that are ready to close. It’s better to study existing qualified leads, then figure out how to drive more of the same type of leads and behaviors to create velocity for potential sales.

Not paying attention to customer retention

There’s an adage that 80 percent of your revenue comes from 20 percent of your customers. It costs a lot of time, money, and resources to acquire new business. After you’ve landed these customers, you have to keep them happy.

Customer loyalty is a big deal, not only because the cost of customer acquisition is very high, but also because your customers can serve as your marketers. The voice of the customer is one of the most authentic and organic types of marketing. Companies should turn head over heels to keep these customers happy. For marketing to pivot and pay attention to customer success requires a shift in focus and a change in metrics.

Forgetting about your customer advocates

Renowned author Seth Godin proposed flipping the traditional B2B marketing and sales funnel so it becomes a megaphone giving your customers a voice. The best companies focus on turning customers into advocates. This is because advocates are the new customer acquisition engine.

Forgetting about your customer advocates is a huge detriment to succeeding with ABM.

Selling instead of serving

Regardless of how many technological advances there have been in the MarTech industry, human touch will be important (until one robot sells to another robot). Human elements separate a great salesperson from an average one.

Your company’s mission should be helping solve a problem for your customers and helping them to achieve their goals. Account-based marketing is about serving up helpful content and educating your potential customers. This requires a shift in focus and a change in marketing strategies instead of just cold calling and emailing prospects.

Changing the C-suite’s assumptions

Your executive team expects marketing to perform certain functions. The marketing team is responsible for brand, communications, content, product promotion, and a variety of activities and efforts that are supposed to help enable sales to win more deals. Your higher-ups in the C-suite probably assume that everything is going well when the sales team hits its quota every quarter. While that may be true today, companies that don’t innovate ultimately die. This is true for B2B marketing and sales teams.

If your marketing team doesn’t innovate, all those leads you’ve been bringing in will dry up. Try to explain this to your executives in the C-suite. They have to understand why it’s important to implement account-based marketing before there are no more new leads to bring in.