Account-based Marketing (ABM) has become an integral strategy for most B2B marketing teams.

In fact, when you think about it, ABM really is just a structured way to view the basics of marketing to businesses.

  • You identify companies that you think are the perfect fit for your product or solution.
  • You identify the key individuals within those companies who will influence and make the purchase decision.
  • You personalize your messaging to speak directly to these individuals’ needs, at the precise stages of the purchase journey where they are most engaged.

By addressing the entire organization, ABM promises to build greater customer loyalty and land bigger deals in the long run.

What could go wrong?

ABM Meets the Real World

As any real-world marketer knows, even the most elegantly designed demand generation strategies are going to hit some bumps when faced with the daily grind of hitting quarterly revenue numbers. And more than a decade into its adoption cycle, ABM is definitely coming to terms with these harsh realities.

In its benchmark survey of last year, the ABM Leadership Alliance (ABMLA) said that only about 10 percent of ABM practitioners are seeing consistent wins across their most important metrics. In fact, ABMLA positions 2024 as a challenging year for ABM, when the methodology has to overcome issues that have lingered for the past two decades.

A few years ago, analyst firm Gartner reported that 80 percent of B2B marketing teams that adopted ABM saw a “significant lift” over standard demand generation. But in its most recent report, for 2023, Gartner adds the caveat that “when implemented with expertise,” ABM can lift revenue pipeline by 14% or more.

And in a recent survey of our own customers here at Bython, poor ABM lead quality was cited as a leading concern.

Obviously, none of these stats should be seen as a death kneel for ABM. The approach is definitely here to stay. Hubspot says that as many as 70 percent of marketing teams incorporate ABM, and it now accounts for about 30 percent of marketing budgets, according to ABMLA. Several sources indicate that spending on ABM is expected to continue to rise.

But at least one survey of UK executives put it as the top area for cost-cutting, cited by 35%of respondents.

Clearly, ABMLA is spot-on when it says there are lingering issues that need to be addressed before ABM can meet its full potential.

How a Demand Gen Partner Takes ABM to the Next Level

So, what are the key challenges facing ABM marketers, and how can a B2B demand generation partner help overcome these obstacles and keep both your short- and long-term revenue strategies on track?

You Need Revenue, Now

As we noted earlier, ABM is a long-term play.

Advocates point to deal size, not volume or turn-around, as the leading benefit of the methodology. Another key upside is long-term customer loyalty, as reflected in this Forrester survey.

But as the global economic picture remains uncertain, many B2B companies are pushing for revenue, most often in the next two quarters. There’s still some lip service to “profitability” over simple revenue – this piece at MarTech clearly lays out the common sense of this mindset – but in the real world, Sales has to make its numbers, and Marketing is on the line to keep the pipeline flowing.

This often results in either:

  • Resources being shifted away for long-range ABM programs. (This is a major issue cited in the ABMLA report), or;
  • ABM prospects being rushed into nurturing series or even Sales, squandering the opportunity and giving the impression of a “bad lead.”

Neither of these is a winning proposition, either for your ABM program or hitting those near-term goals.

This is an area where working with a quality demand generation partner is absolutely vital.

Your partner should be able to generate additive revenue opportunities, both from your targeted ABM list and at businesses you just don’t know about. Having a scalable source of opportunities that can fit seamlessly into your revenue pipeline – from mid-funnel to Inside Sales – allows you to stay committed to your long-term ABM strategy and meet quarterly goals.

Sales and Marketing Are (Surprise) Misaligned

It’s always the same story. You lay out a comprehensive strategy that spans the entire revenue cycle, but at the handoff between Marketing and Sales, something goes wrong.

Sales/Marketing misalignment can derail ABM in myriad ways, but a key breakpoint is assigning the wrong priority to Buying Group roles on the move to Inside Sales. Gartner and other analysts suggest creating a standard scoring system – based on ICP, job role and intent signals – to trigger initial Sales outreach.

In short, the best way to ensure alignment here is to quantify what makes for a good ABM opportunity, and then stick to those guidelines. This, of course, makes it even more critical to have a trusted second source of qualified opportunities, in the form of a trusted demand gen partner, that you can ramp up as needed.

Intent, Intent, Intent

As we just noted, scoring for hot ABM opportunities should include intent data intelligence, to identify the people within your target accounts who are ready to talk.

B2B marketing always boils down to talking with individuals, no matter what methodology you use to define your strategy. Talking to the CMO at a “hot” account who is not personally researching a purchase decision is almost always going to be a dead end.

Likewise, isolated job roles showing a ton of intent within an otherwise inactive account are not ready to be bumped to Sales. You may just be looking at an enthusiastic learner. Say hi, send them some additional content, and wait for other ICPs in your Buying Committee model to warm up before you escalate the entire account.

Intent needs to inform every aspect of ABM, which can devolve into little more than a “wish list” if it’s not defined and fueled by data – a lot of data.

Lean on your demand generation partner as a key source of third-party intent to create a clear picture of your customers’ research behavior across the entire Internet, not just your own websites and email. This intent should be clearly mapped to topics that you most want to discuss with purchase decision makers. This breadth of intent intelligence can also help you find new accounts to target, or job roles that may not be currently represented in your Buying Group model.

Your Buying Group Model and Data Has Gaps

One reason you’re seeing “bad” ABM leads is that you are talking to the wrong people – or trying to talk to people who just aren’t there.

Your demand generation partner should be able use intent and other business intelligence to help you refine your Buying Group model by finding new job roles who are researching that next big contract. A refined intent data taxonomy can also help you identify the exact topics your key ICPs want to talk about, driving the content personalization that’s critical in all B2B marketing, particularly ABM.

Additionally, your demand gen partner should be able to help you flesh out your Buying Group lineups with clean, accurate and current contact records across all relevant job titles. Again, you need to understand how an individual’s behavior within the overall group reflects the account’s readiness to talk.

And with the massive turnover in the tech sector, you need to be sure that the CMO, Inside Sales is about to call still works at the company. These days, that can be tough. Your demand generation partner should be updating and scrubbing its data constantly to ensure your target lists are actionable.

Not All Accounts Are Created Equal

Not every business that’s interested in your solution does business exactly the same way. A CFO at a financial services company may be eager to learn every detail about your inventory solution; at a manufacturer, they may only want to know about uptime and ROI.

Categorize and segment your accounts, particularly the ones you discover in new verticals via intent and working with your demand gen partner. They may even have slightly different Buying Group structures. And be sure to personalize content accordingly, with relevant in-sector terminology and use cases.

Adopt a Comprehensive Omnichannel Approach

ABM can’t just be email. To drive engagement with a wide range of ICPs, you need to communicate effectively across every channel: social for younger influencers, outbound for busy mid-level managers, and phone and even traditional postal for executives who sign on the bottom line.

Here at Bython we design omnichannel campaigns that reach your best ABM prospects where they want to talk. We are particularly proud of our voice marketing programs, which include audio recording validation for high-value opportunities that we deliver to keep your ABM and other programs driving toward revenue.

When you immerse your ABM prospects in compelling content, where they want to consume it, you’ll see a major lift in response to the opportunities you are spending so much energy to cultivate.

Subhead

ABM is an important part of most B2B Marketing team’s long-term growth strategy. But the real-world challenges of immediate revenue demands, poor data and incomplete campaign design can present major obstacles to the methodology’s effectiveness. Working with a quality demand generation partner can keep your pipeline healthy and give you the tools to fuel your long-term ABM plans.

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