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Account-based marketing (ABM) was supposed to be every B2B marketers dream; it offered so many opportunities for targeting so powerfully. Unfortunately, actualizing this in an enterprise sales and marketing organization is vastly different and more challenging than it is for smaller companies. So where did it all go wrong?

Enterprise go-to-market strategies create an opportunity for organizations to scale. However, they also develop complexity and elevate functionality requirements beyond those typically found in ABM platforms, usually designed for SMB or mid-market companies.

The Drum has recently joined forces with MRP, bringing together a panel of experts to address much of current ABM “best practice”, shedding light on the enterprise operating environment and providing requirements that marketers should prioritize in their enterprise-class account-based marketing strategies.

Insufficient data management capabilities, an over-reliance on loose performance indicators, like media impressions and website visits, and a failure to respond to customer engagement fast enough are among some of the biggest ABM pitfalls. Only when enterprise sales and marketing organizations can execute their ABM strategy in the light of their reality can the magic of high performance happen. Here, the ABM strategy delivers global adoption, integration with existing multichannel programs, shared learning, optimized target account experience, standard measurement, and global optimization. 

“Sometimes the name ABM actually does it harm - it cannot be another marketing program, this has to be cross-functional,” said Jada Balster, VP marketing at Workfront. 

“Having that commitment upfront and aligning sales/marketing in the goals of each organization is a foundational element that ABM helps facilitate when you really understand what parts of the target market are going to drive growth,” said Kevin Cunningham, chief executive officer, MRP. 

Don’t let FOMO force you into ABM

Matt Garisch, head of customer engagement at The Crocodile said that it requires more than just sales collaboration but buy-in from an executive level, noting that many just don’t really understand the strategic nature of ABM: “It’s not a tactic, it’s a business initiative.”

Before embarking on an ABM program, you have to question if it is right for your business. “Don’t let fear of missing out (FOMO) push you into something that isn’t right for your business,” said Anamika Gupta, director, head of customer marketing, Fujitsu America Inc. “The goal for ABM should be absolutely aligned with your business goals.”

If they are not matching properly, businesses are setting themselves up for failure. “Make sure you define what it means to you and your organization because setting the right expectation defines success, and make sure everybody understands that,” said Gupta.

Customer experiences make customer relationships

Customer expectations are higher than they’ve ever been and a vital part of ABM success is shifting the balance of business interactions from transactions to relationships. While platform capabilities may be the most foundational element to enterprise ABM success, the panelists agreed, you need real-time triggered connections between the identification of needs within a target account, and the resulting delivery of high-value sales and marketing actions.

“The most important thing is getting a single view of the customer - especially when trying to scale ABM,” said Cunningham. “The speed of engagement is so critical. Having one system of record where you understand past interactions with that customer enables you to ingest multiple forms of intent data and really understand where they are in the buying process, what they’re interested in and tailor the information to get them in the buyer journey in the most appropriate way and on the right platform.”

“We often get caught in the trap of straight-line customer journeys and get drawn back to talk about product messaging, forgetting about the cultural and industry context,” added Garisch. “We need to engage them in a much more meaningful way, creating satellites around them when they actually need influencing at the point of making that considered purchase.”

Gupta noted three things that successful ABM needs: relationship, reputation and revenue, but that all depends on business goals, resources, budgets, technology and measurement: “The true heart of what ABM does, and where technology can really help, is understanding customers better by looking at the data and tracking what is happening to them. When you’re doing ABM in a true omnichannel fashion, you’re able to coordinate all these different touchpoints so that you’re providing the right experience and building the right relationships.”

How to turn the ABM dream into reality?

“Define your North Star, make sure that’s where your focus is and then keep going back to it, but without rigidity,” said Balster. “Marketers are on this quest for perfection and have this idea on what the perfect ABM program should look like but that doesn’t always pan out. Have a plan, a path, just pay attention to signs along the way and don’t be scared to adjust.”

Watch the ‘Five key tips to avoid in Enterprise-Class ABM’ panel on demand.