Common Pitfalls of ABM Pilots & How to Avoid Them (Part II)

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jared Dodson, Senior B2B Marketing Strategist at Lenati. Jared has significant experience in helping organizations plan, pilot, and scale their Account-Based Marketing (ABM) programs. His passion is helping companies leverage technology to create personalized and relevant customer engagements at scale. Jared has led strategic marketing initiatives with Fortune 500 companies in Tech, Telecommunications, Financial Services, Healthcare, and Energy industries.

A recent study revealed that for every five companies that have attempted an account-based marketing pilot, only two have gone beyond that initial pilot. Given the promise of higher ROI with an ABM approach, why are organizations struggling to find success on their first attempt?

We reached out to Lenati, a marketing consulting firm specializing in ABM, to get their experience-based perspective.

This is Part 2 of Lenati’s two-part series on the most common pitfalls of ABM pilots they come across. In their first post, Lenati talked about the first three pitfalls. In this post, they walk through three additional missteps they often see — and how to avoid them.

Missed the first part of this blog series? Read pitfalls 1-3 here.

Pitfall #4: Poorly Defined/Incorrect Success Metrics

Suppose your goal is to drive awareness within target prospect accounts. What does that mean? We are often surprised to find that marketers can’t answer this question even after they’ve started their ABM pilot.  This is why it’s important to have clear, well-defined success metrics.

Other times, we see marketing create success metrics without sales buy-in. Take, for example, the objective of increasing engagement in target accounts. What’s the best way to measure that? Marketing might use incremental website visits and time on site in target accounts as a measure of that account’s engagement. But that might not mean much to sales if they only care about a certain role level. In this case, a key success metric would be one that they’re both aligned to, like website activity and conversions of a specific persona within the account.

When it comes to selecting metrics, we see significant risk in measuring a short-term ABM pilot with longer-term revenue metrics. For instance, some companies use success metrics like uplift in pipeline or revenue in accounts to measure their pilot’s success. While in the long-term this is exactly what an organization should be measuring, most pilots aren’t in market long enough to show pipeline or revenue impact. As a result, measuring a pilot based on long-term revenue goals can set up your initial pilot to fail.

More indicative success measurements are the leading indicators of those long-term revenue business metrics. Want to know some common examples of ABM pilot KPIs? Check out Lenati’s Pilot Guide for a list.

Pitfall #5: No Control Group

At the end of the day, you need to be able to defend your results. Too often we see marketers tout how their ABM pilots increased marketing ROI versus other marketing activities. But when you go one layer deeper, you realize that comparison is completely irrelevant. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Their pilot account group might have only one profile (industry/products/lifecycle stage), yet they are comparing results of another marketing tactic with different objectives to a different account profile. Or equally concerning, they just compare that one profile to the all-up aggregated MROI of all marketing programs.

Savvy executives won’t let this fly, and we’ve seen some marketers’ smiles turn upside down when they get called out on this. Don’t forget that a key piece of any pilot is to have a test group and a control group. The accounts in those groups should be similar in terms of size, pain points, lifecycle stage, and any other key segmentation criteria that’s available.

It is a powerful story when you can show a variance in uplift between two very similar accounts with the only difference being your ABM approach.

Editor’s Note: WP Engine’s ABM pilot success story Check out to see an example of using a control group to prove account-based marketing results.

Pitfall #6: Only One Swing

When was the last time you tried something for the first time and nailed it perfectly? You always learn something after the first play. Always. Maybe it’s the messaging, the timing, the order of touchpoints, or the channel. Or maybe you need tighter execution between the sales and marketing teams. Whatever it is, having a second chance to do it right will give you the chance to show the potential.

Otherwise, it is typically a one-and-done because the results in the first approach aren’t clear enough to justify an increased investment. But we’ve seen results consistently and dramatically improve on the second go-round. So, if the first try doesn’t work, don’t be quick to cut ties. Instead, tweak your approach and try again.

Want to learn more about how to do an ABM pilot right? Download Lenati’s 5 Steps to ABM Pilot Success.