How to fail at account-based marketing and how to fix it

How to Fail at Account-Based Marketing

When most people think about account-based marketing (ABM) they picture a hand-picked list of accounts that they’re going to “strategically” target (a.k.a. email them, stalk them, or spam them). Sometimes this list is spot-on accurate and your ABM campaign is a huge success, more often than not, however, it’s a bit of a challenge.

Let’s talk about why ABM can become a failure and how to fix it.


The Problem

To create an ABM list most marketers usually go through a process where they picture their ideal customer. This is known as the “Account Profile.” Within the account profile they add details such as job title, age, gender, location, and any other surface-level details they can think of.

If you stop here, this is the lazy way of doing account-based marketing.

This only provides a surface-level idea of who your target account is and it’s really only one step above traditional mass-marketing. Two people who are the same age, work in the same city, and have identical roles can have completely different outlooks on life and, more importantly, completely different ideas about what products they should to buy.


A Better Solution

What we do and what we are interested in are much better indicators of who we are. Our hobbies, the books we read, the shows we watch, paint a much more vivid picture than any firmographic data that could be extracted from a CRM. While these activities and hobbies may seem unrelated to your customer’s buying needs, they can actually be a goldmine of information, if you know how to use them.

Honing in your sales & marketing efforts to a few targeted accounts can be incredibly successful as long as you take your time to set everything up correctly.

One of the key strategies we use to set up a successful account-based marketing program is the Customer Journey Mapping Canvas. We developed this activity along with Econsultancy after learning about a few of the biggest pain points that ABM marketers faced.

The customer journey mapping canvas keeps you entirely focused on the wants and actions of your target account. It forces you to look beyond the surface-level firmographic data and instead dig deeper into what exactly that person desires. And yes, while it’s impossible to understand your target account completely, you can certainly do a better job than location, age, and job description.

This means that your marketing team needs to dig much deeper to gain a true understanding what each stakeholder wants independently of the others. For example, let’s imagine that your product is a software that helps people present better. If you’re targeting a sales team, your messaging should be about how this will help them win more accounts and close more deals. If, on the other hand, you’re pitching a VP of marketing, you’ll want your messaging to be about how this will help him or her present his ideas more persuasively to the executive board.

Both of these examples sell the same product, but the messaging is informed by the desires of each member within the company.

Let’s take a look at what this looks like for someone who would like to pitch the CEO of a mid-size e-commerce retailer:

By filling out the Customer Journey Mapping Canvas we’ve created a modern, three-dimensional rendering of who this person is, rather than simply “painting a picture.” We’ve not only mapped out what this CEO desires, but also where they hang out, what they like to read, and what they consider before making a decision.

Once we’ve established this, we can create useful content, place ad spends in the appropriate channels, and reach this CEO with custom messaging that speaks directly to them. An example of an action item from this would be running an ad in G2Crowd that highlights the findings from our analyst report about how our product improves conversions.

This method hits the right person at the right time. According to a Demand Gen Report, 97% of practice leaders, marketers, and business development executives said that ABM offered a higher ROI than other marketing methods, with 38% calling it ‘much higher.’

Most marketers agree that account-based marketing is more effective than traditional marketing, but a lot of them find it hard to make it work correctly. Using a simple tool like the Customer Journey Mapping Canvas can help focus your efforts and gain actionable insights much quicker than simply brainstorming without any guidance.


Next Steps

We recommend printing out a large version of the canvas so that your team can fill it in collaboratively. Using Post-its or cards to map your ideas and aiming for quantity over quality at the first stage can help generate a vivid picture of how to structure your ABM campaigns.

This, combined with other account based marketing software and tools like an ABM Goal Calculator, can help bring your account-based marketing strategies to life and drive results forward in a much more focused way.

If you’re serious about doing ABM right, but you’re not sure where to start, you can schedule a free demo with an ABM specialist who can answer your questions.

Not ready to talk to sales? Learn about how to get started with ABM by checking out the ABM Readiness Assessment below.

About the Author

Caroline Van Dyke, Content Lead

Caroline is a B2B marketer with a knack for building start-up content strategies from scratch. With a passion for crafting the right message at the right time (and a good pun), she leads content for real marketers by telling their real stories. In the rare case she's not busy writing, you can find her consuming true crime podcasts, stand-up specials, and copious amounts of cheese.

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