Show and Prove: How to Overcome ABM Measurement Challenges

Can you prove your team’s impact on revenue—or do you just infer it?

If you’re a marketer in the “educated guess” camp, you’re not alone. Given increasing pressure from leadership to not only drive more opportunities but show how their activities influence revenue creation, marketers across industries face attribution challenges.

To meet them head-on, many b2b marketing and sales teams turn to ABM ( account-based marleting).

The problem? Measuring the impact of account-based activities is hard, mostly because the existing frameworks force marketers to infer revenue impact—which puts us right back where we started.

The good news: These problems are avoidable. And if you’ve already got them, they’re solvable. 

Why ABM measurement matters

Linking marketing activities to revenue may not rank high on the priority list when your sales organization is consistently hitting quota, but without that link, it’s near impossible to parse marketing impact from sales impact. 

It’s also more difficult to set and meet goals, maintain or increase marketing spend, and create the sort of reports the C-suite needs.

Here are four key areas where marketing can improve when their measurement framework links to revenue:

1. Revenue generation goals

How many of us know what to do when leadership wants to 4x revenue in the coming year? Do we know how to get there—and can we prove we need $X more budget to do so?

Meeting leadership’s ever-increasing revenue goals means understanding what your revenue impact actually is so you can goal set with confidence.

2. Budget justification

Budgets will always undergo a degree of scrutiny. Whether you need to justify the ROI on your current budget or make a good case for a new one, proving what marketing influenced or generated based on $X (in no uncertain terms) will always provide the most compelling defense.

3. Validating increased investment

As marketers, we love investing in new tools and frameworks, but the C-suite needs more than enthusiasm to increase marketing spend. Not only should marketers prove the budget they currently have is working, they also need to be able to project into the future.

When you know the revenue impact of your programs, you can demonstrate how these investments will help move the needle in terms leadership understands (i.e. “If we spend this much money, we’ll at least break even or get more out of it”).

4. Reporting

Working closely with sales is ideal, but when it comes to reporting, leadership sees marketing and sales as two different things—and they want to see the impact of each of those departments separately.

When marketers differentiate between marketing-driven revenue impact vs. sales-driven revenue impact, they can show leadership exactly what they’re looking for: how much each respective team contributed to revenue. Bonus: Each team gets the credit they deserve.

Where ABM measurement goes wrong

It’s clear ABM measurement matters, but what cultural issues stand in the way of getting it right? For many organizations, it comes down to these closely-related factors:

Lack of alignment

For some companies, ABM means one thing to sales, another to marketing, and something else entirely to executives.

This scenario creates a foundational barrier to effective measurement. With competing ideas about what ABM means inevitably comes different ideas about what success looks like.

To get everyone on the same page, ditch the siloes and forget what works for other organizations. Take the time to align around what ABM means for your organization’s unique needs, then execute together. 

The silver bullet myth

One common misconception about ABM is that it’s a new, surefire tactic that a marketing team can quickly deploy to get leads, opportunities, and revenue when other tactics aren’t working.

In reality, an ABM strategy isn’t new or a silver bullet. ABM is a uniting factor that wraps around all of your marketing and sales investments to improve the quality of your returns.

ABM is all about pursuing quality over quantity. Marketers who approach it the right way put value over volume by targeting the accounts most likely to close or bring in 2 or 3x the revenue.

Marketers who don’t usually wind up disappointed when their spray-and-pray approach fails to yield high volumes of conversion and MQLs. They also contend with:

Why measuring ABM is different (and difficult)

Practical execution issues can also impede ABM measurement. It’s hard enough to understand how ad activity affects revenue generation. Adding ABM campaigns makes the picture that much more complex (and that much more important).

Here are three of the most common obstacles to proving the impact of ABM.

Problem 1: Cross-channel measurement

Whether or not they practice ABM, many marketers struggle to make sense of all the cross-channel activities they enable.

In practice, this typically means they monitor how each channel performs (and how much they spend), but they don’t combine the data to understand which channels moved target accounts through the buyer’s journey.

The value of these insights isn’t lost on marketers—but understanding the impact of cross-channel activity is a heavily manual, time-consuming process that can easily eat into higher priority initiatives.

Problem 2: Parsing marketing and sales impact

Aligning sales and marketing activities usually has a big impact on ROI, but it can also make it difficult to determine what each team actually does vs. who gets the credit.

It’s not a competition, but marketers need a way to showcase how their efforts impact revenue independent of sales.

It’s a tricky problem to solve, but tightening your focus on cross-channel measurement is one way to approach attribution and spot correlations since each department tends to drive different channels.

By measuring each channel activity separately and looking at them in aggregate, marketers gain a better sense of what’s happening, which means they can reduce inference (and increase confidence).

Problem 3: Leadership wants more concrete metrics

“Influenced” revenue won’t cut it forever. We may have been able to cobble together reporting that leadership accepts in the past, but today’s leadership teams want to see the output of our efforts in terms of revenue generated.

Instead, the average marketer has a ton of hard data on how much budget they use, how many ads they serve, and how many impressions they get. When it comes to understanding how that and other activities affect revenue generation and closed-won deals, they’re just assuming.

We assume that opened emails, downloaded content, and ad engagement ultimately help get accounts to closed-won, but we can’t produce a roadmap showing how each activity moves the account forward.

The fix: Defining (and unifying) account progression

Overcoming these challenges isn’t hard to do, but building a unified system that enables marketers to track account progression is a lot of work.

Breaking things down into actionable steps will make the journey easier to optimize.

Here’s what we recommend:

Establish your baseline: What are we trying to accomplish?

Consider your use case to establish a framework based on what’s unique to your organization and what you’re trying to accomplish:

  • Is this a brand awareness use case (i.e. targeting accounts that don’t know you exist?)

  • Is this an account progression use case (i.e. getting accounts who know you closer to close)?

Use well-defined objectives that align with strategic priorities

Marketing’s chosen metrics should align with specific objectives.

You wouldn't measure brand awareness programs the same way you’d measure account progression plays, so keep the end goal in mind to set proper expectations against the objectives of the program.

Think about data points (and how to put them together)

This will vary somewhat based on your organization’s unique needs, but what we’ve seen work is advertising data, website data, and account data layered on top (i.e. company size, opportunity stage, etc).

The ultimate goal is to combine all of this data so you can begin to understand 1) which accounts are moving forward and 2) which marketing strategy and sales activities are helping them to move forward.

Putting it together

You might feel overwhelmed when you start a 1000-piece puzzle and throw all those pieces on the table. But when you start flipping them over and putting them together, it begins to create a picture much more meaningful than the sum of its parts.

Part of a small team and still overwhelmed by ABM? Not to worry! Check out real examples of how resource-strapped teams mastered ABM. 


About the Author

Caroline Van Dyke, Head of Content

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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