ABM (account based marketing) has been a defining strategy in B2B over the past few years. Whilst some of the principles have always existed (anyone selling to businesses that didn’t attempt to target particular organisations, likely didn’t do very well), ABM has focussed companies to run multi-touch and multi-channel campaigns to individuals/job titles and particular organisations. The adtech suppliers in this space have embraced the concept of ABM wholeheartedly, with organisations including: Bombora, Demand Base, Madison Logic, ON24, Marketo and Hubspot all making this a key focus. In a reasonably non sexy industry (please visit some specialist B2B award shows for further details) ABM has captured the imagination of marketers and acted as an extremely effective marketing term to sell software. The concept can be a great one – however there are some major pitfalls that are worth considering:
- When using third party software for surge/intent data do you know how they’ve developed the score you’ve been provided? When you use third party intent data to impact your own automation journeys you are in effect mapping internal to external nurture. You wouldn’t run an internal nurture campaign without understanding how the scoring is compiled, so why would you when using a third party system with third party data. Make sure you understand the customer journey before the customer reaches your database.
- There are a couple of diagrams showing an upside down funnel. I’ve even seen the analogy ‘ABM is like hunting with a spear rather than a net’. Anyone peddling this type of nonsense probably doesn’t understand ABM or even why the neanderthals died out. You cannot get more out of a funnel that follows a logical customer journey than what you put into it. It’s nice to be open to new ideas but don’t forget the basic rules of marketing.
- When using demand generation providers for named account activity, consider how small the pool you are creating is. If you have a list of 200 companies and only three job titles you want to target, how much data do you really think the publisher has that matches that list? Even for a corporate assuming you get a 50% match you’re unlikely to end up with more than 1000 potential people to contact. Using an industry average CTR of 2% and an engagement rate of 40%, if an email were sent to those 1000 people by a third party demand generation provider, 8 people would consent to download your content. But suppliers are offering hundreds of leads on this type of campaign. Some might be using telemarketing but even then the maths doesn’t make sense.
- Internally, when you market to your own audience, you will use frequency control. When using email as a channel, this is usually to control unsubscribes, however, it is also a general best practice for brand safety. When you use a third party, what controls do you put in place? How do you ensure their targeting isn’t competing with your own social or PPC campaigns (internally and externally you’re targeting a very small group of companies and individuals) pushing up your own costs as all parties bid on the same keywords?
- If ABM makes up 80% of spend, how are you ensuring you reach lookalike accounts? How do you ensure net new companies are being reached? Remember an attribution report will always show better ROI on ABM campaigns. The fallacy of ABM is that you’re marketing to the exact same people that your sales people are targeting day in day out. Any test of an ABM campaign should be based on uplift – not vs. standard marketing – these are two very different campaign types both with their own purposes.
In short, ABM is a critical part of the modern B2B marketing mix. If done well and in combination with other tactics, it is extremely effective. However, it can be easy to get caught in the buzz and be sold into an idea by agencies, publishers and software companies who are all pushing the same thing.