“Social distancing” is a term that entered our vocabulary overnight in 2020. As I write this, we're still physically separated from our colleagues.
If you are like me, you're probably longing to get back into meeting rooms to strategize and collaborate with your team on that next campaign or product feature, and the next Sales plays or “whitespace” exercises and various other ways to surpass your annual goals.
If you work at a large enterprise, social distancing might feel like déjà vu. That's because long before the pandemic, the phenomenon of “corporate distancing” had resulted in poor collaboration among teams, divisions, and product lines. Corporate distancing creates chaos, and it ultimately affects your customers' journey and makes them feel distanced as well.
And so it also affects your account-based marketing (ABM).
ABM in the Enterprise
Solving corporate distancing challenges is far easier in smaller companies than larger. That said, in the enterprise, reducing corporate distancing in the process of implementing an ABM strategy proffers much more value.
Too many people think of ABM as a technology rather than a strategy that often uses different types of technology. The “correct” approach, therefore, varies based on environment—and large organizations create an environment of more varied arrays of options.
When an organization has multiple sales and marketing teams based on business units, industry, or geography, it is possible to scale results. If, however, multiple teams are targeting the same accounts, ABM strategies become increasingly difficult to coordinate and have the potential to become counterproductive.
ABM should be an element of what you already do, existing across millions of emails, thousands of BDR calls, and hundreds of thousands of website visits. In such an enterprise environment, the large numbers of accounts, buyer personas, execution channels, data sources, departments, languages, regional differences, and incompatible systems contribute to the complexity of the required ABM approach.
In short, ABM is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Here are some of the most common pitfalls that enterprises face when trying to implement ABM programs, along with actionable solutions on how to avoid them.
1. Inadequate System Administration
When you're a marketer within an enterprise B2B organization, it's easy to be dazzled by the promises of ABM without thinking about the specific challenges and needs of your type of organization.
By definition, enterprise organizations are complex, serving multiple business units and geographies within a connected environment, as well as supporting a common framework of hierarchical reporting. In the enterprise environment, marketers need to operate without constraining each other. They must coordinate their activities to similar target accounts, report jointly or in groups, and share best-practices.
In the absence of such synchronization, enterprise-class marketing and sales organizations struggle to succeed. They can be forced into a “box” that doesn't fit their needs, or they can get stuck operating in disconnected silos of competing platforms. Account-level activities and results can become hidden across the various platforms, or even multiple instances of the same platform. Overlapping target accounts and compounded platform costs all become key issues.
2. Failure to Execute Insights at the Speed of Buyer Engagement
Often, vendors speak about AI and data in the context of informing engagement strategy for their clients, but they fail to mention the time it may take to ingest, normalize, and make sense of the immense amounts of data that modern customer engagement can create.
It frequently takes a platform a month to go from data to insights. When large enterprise IT departments have built massive customer data lakes, I've seen the process take even longer.
Today, buyers transcend your marketing channels from moment to moment. They have no idea that separate teams operate your display advertising, website content, email campaigns, and sales development outreach. When a buyer interacts with you, can you adjust and respond to that success and pull that buyer and their team into the next stage of engagement? Across channels?
Speed and accuracy are required in your effort to connect insights to actions—a new email, a phone call, or an entirely new campaign content flow. If your intent data or predictive analytics vendor updates their data only periodically, and your ABM platform cannot process the data in real-time, you will always miss the “right time.” You'll always be off message.
Your ability to generate response and revenue impact is 100% based upon your ability to learn and adapt to each target account's needs—in real-time, milliseconds between clicks and page views.
3. Multichannel vs. Omnichannel
I often say: Poorly targeted and irrelevant messages delivered over one channel is spam; poorly coordinated messages, however relevant, delivered across multiple channels is harassment.
Although many ABM platforms have multichannel capabilities, the enterprise marketer needs more advanced control to prevent over-marketing or conflicting messages between marketing teams. Without that control, the promises of omnichannel ABM become impossible because audience targeting will sit within platform siloes—or, worse yet, leave important tactics and communication channels untargeted.
This is a particularly important criterion to keep in mind when evaluating account-based advertising vendors, which inevitably tout one form of ad targeting over another, conflating their capability with ABM targeting. It's not: It's a methodology for a single channel. In following that practice, you risk leaving the vast majority of your target account touchpoints out of sequence with your ABM program.
If you find yourself in such a situation, ask the vendor how it plans to help you coordinate all the emails you send from your marketing automation platform.
4. Insufficient Data Management Capabilities
On average, 25% of B2B marketing data is inaccurate and 60% of organizations identify their overall data health as unreliable, according to SiriusDecisions. You can hope to develop truly actionable insights only if you understand your data's essential health and any inherent biases in the numbers.
The issue with data management is that as an organization expands, so does the collection of marketing technologies and the number of people and teams who use them. You face the tremendous task of making sense of the account-structured data and activities across systems.
Employing enterprise-ready master data management (MDM) technologies enables you to organize, cleanse, map, and append data to gather better insights and deliver better, more accurate reporting and attribution. Successful ABM data is the currency that fuels sales and marketing collaboration. Data should provide clear direction for your business, and it should not overwhelm you.
5. Vanity Measurements vs. Real Results
Ask yourself: Can your ABM vendor identify and measure target account activity and response outside of its core platform, including sources from other campaigns and CRM systems?
Many ABM platforms designed for early-stage or mid-tier clients can measure and analyze those activities only within their technology—and that creates a silo. Flashy visuals, graphs, and data points are engaging, but unless there is accurate insight or critical account-level insight to take away, what's the point?
Many ABM platforms for smaller organizations feature only channel-based (i.e., display ad) impressions and clicks (and sometimes website visits because the supporting technology is easy to develop and requires far simpler management). Their pitch is that some combination of media impressions or clicks, along with any source of website traffic from a target account, should allow you to declare an account as a Marketing-qualified account, enabling you to own the opportunity pipeline in your CRM.
Both Sales and your CEO will think that's wrong—because it is. Such non-enterprise solutions are simply avoiding the technical prowess necessary to deliver and report measurable and higher response rates, pipeline conversion, and pipeline value.