As more and more of the global marketplace has moved online, the strategies for getting ahead in business have shifted. In the early days of online selling, the generalized ads and marketing strategies that were put out online would have been good enough. Now, with everything from social media #Explore pages to Google Ads finding increased value in the personalisation of these resources, the move towards specificity is gathering steam.

A lot of that is to do with expectations. As consumers, we found a disconnect between the personal nature of service in bricks-and-mortar stores compared with the clinical nature of online shopping. And, as companies, we saw customer churn rates grow. Furthermore, while some of the examples of at-home advertising have been dismissed as creepy, businesses are on the whole reaping the rewards of investing in this more personal way of reaching their prospective customers.

This is where ABM comes in.


Caption: An infographic highlighting the difference between traditional and account-based marketing (ABM)

What is ABM?

ABM stands for account-based marketing. It plays out in reality much like the aforementioned personalized ads. Marketers who use ABM as a strategy target specific customer accounts with incentives tailored to that account holder.

As with any concept, the first thing to ascertain before judging value is what, exactly, the idea is. Whether you’re wondering: “What is process mapping?” or: “What is cart migration?”, making sure everyone is on the same hymn sheet to begin with is a crucial foundation pre-adoption.

This may sound like an easy way to become very inefficient. But if you’re a company supporting thousands of account holders, narrowing down your focus to a fraction of these with content that is more personally suitable can have a significant effect on your final ROI.

It seems that this theory is actually backed up in reality, too, with 76% of marketers that use ABM finding it returns a higher ROI than more general, less specific tactics.

But where there are upsides, downsides rear their ugly heads. And so it is the case with ABM. Here, we highlight five common drawbacks to using ABM as part of your marketing strategy—more to highlight areas of consideration than to put you off the practice completely, but well worth taking account of.

Drawback #1: conflict between marketing and sales

The balance of power between different departments in an organization is a finely maintained thing. Any disturbance to this, such as one department taking on a new strategy, or another assuming new responsibilities, is in danger of jeopardising it.

Historically, your sales team is charged with selling. Fairly obvious, right? And a lot of discussion around how to be an effective sales agent often centers around your ability to build rapport with a customer. Any glance through your team’s salesperson call report will show how your best sales people achieve their results.

So, how is the sales team supposed to maintain their USP when marketing is getting in on the act? After all, the whole point of ABM is to tailor an experience to a specific account, something that Sales already does.

Being sure about how to distinguish between the roles that marketing and sales deliver for your organization is something that requires thought on behalf of a marketing team and, in some cases, higher management.


Caption: Infographic explaining the difference between marketing and sales funnels. This central tension is something to navigate when adopting ABM.

Drawback #2: unaccountability

This is more about the limitations of technology than the limitations of the theory that surrounds ABM. However, with technology playing such a key part in not only how ABM is delivered, but how it progresses as a strategy, it’s wise to take note of this.

It’s also true that not all technology has this failing. As more teams are starting to use ABM, more automation software is adapting to incorporate ABM into their programs.

But, for the most part, the technology isn’t there yet, in terms of allowing you to view at a glance the impact that ABM is having on your strategy. It’s also the case that certain business practices, like contact center outsourcing, can muddy these waters. And without this information, it can be difficult to decide whether to pull the plug on the whole thing or to proceed.

Drawback #3: poor content

From email marketing campaigns to social media influencer posts, no content is 100% safe from the court of public opinion. But there are definitely things that you can do to avoid this.


Caption: An example of a bad email marketing campaign. It’s dull and impersonal, things you should be looking to avoid in your ABM campaign.

Having content that addresses the account holder by name can seem like a nice way to increase engagement. But it can also come off as invasive if it’s overbearing or too forcefully delivered.

Similarly, if your content is poor, to begin with—maybe the campaign isn’t eye-catching enough, or the offer you’re giving to the customer isn’t that engaging—just slapping some personalized touches on it isn’t a practical long-term solution, and will lead to declining fortunes in regard to things like mailing list numbers and app retention.

Drawback #4: one-way traffic

A lot of ABM is about outbound marketing. Perhaps that’s just where the focus of those who utilize ABM is right now.

But not appreciating that ABM can be used to deliver on inbound as well as outbound strategies can lead to ABM morphing into something that it isn’t.

Being a trailblazer in this area may prove difficult. That said, using the best crowd testing sites might well help with this. So, if you find that you’re having unprecedented success with your outbound ABM operation, try channelling some of that energy into your inbound operation too.

Drawback #5: resources vacuum

Moving from a general marketing strategy to ABM is going to take up some time and investment. And you can end up chasing your tail when this is done without due consideration of which accounts to target and how to target them.

Having committed to a change of tack, you need to map out how it is going to work in practice. Failure to do so can lead to your ABM strategy being too costly.

And with added considerations like telepresence or video conferencing being seen as a necessity in the last year or so, these costs can soon spiral.


Caption: Throwing money and resources at ABM is not a guarantee of success.


As we’ve established, adopting ABM as a solve-all is not a practical thing to do. As with all theories and strategies, there are upsides and downsides to it. A lot of the potential downsides spring from misguided thinking, or a poor plan.

The main advice, then, when considering adopting ABM in relation to these common drawbacks, is to plan every stage of it. Failing to do so can sink your strategy before you’ve even started implementing it, and then you’ll never know how successful it could have been.