when abm isnt working

Things don’t always go according to plan. Markets change. Things break. People leave. You get the point.

So, what do you do when ABM isn’t working the way you hoped?

I asked this question to some of the top ABM practitioners and leaders out there and compiled their answers for this 2-part blog series. Here’s what they had to say.

What do you do when ABM isn’t working?

kathy macchi

Kathy Macchi,
VP Consulting Services at Inverta

“If you didn’t form an ABM Leadership team, consider doing that. The leadership team ensures that the ABM program remains aligned with the business and focused on long-term goals.

It’s common for programs to get off track because sales is not aligned on the target account list. When that happens, speak to Sales Leadership and find out why they shifted their account focus. Were the wrong accounts chosen? Did marketing not communicate what they were doing to engage those accounts? Are programs not working?

Business is fast-paced and priorities can shift. If regular meetings between sales and marketing aren’t happening – focus can be derailed or misaligned.

Whatever the issue with the ABM program, the right path forward is to roll up your sleeves, find the root cause, and work with sales leadership to address.”

jon miller

Jon MiIller,
CEO & Cofounder of Engagio

“Strategically, the first thing somebody should do if ABM isn’t working is determine if they truly doing ABM. You may be doing ads and calling it ABM. Or you may be doing targeted demand generation and calling it ABM. The way you know that is by asking, “Are you treating all the accounts the same?” ABM is about focusing more energy on your best accounts. That disproportionate amount of energy gets you disproportionate results. Too often when we see ABM disillusionment it’s because they’re not.

From there, there are two ABM quick wins I recommend every company should consider. First, implement an ABM standup. This is the process where Marketing (or the ABM marketer), the Sales Executive, and the SDR get together and review the target accounts in their territory. Weekly, take 5-10 minutes to answer, “What did we get done since the last stand-up?”, “What will we do before the next stand-up?” and “What impediments stand in our way?”

My second recommendation is for people who need to get something going fast and get that quick win. TOPO recommends that the simplest way to get started is with basic SDR prospecting paired with marketing air cover. Start with putting that simple process in place – drop a direct mail package at the account, and then have the SDR follow up.”

peter herbert

Peter Herbert,
CMO of FullStory

“First, there should always be a constant rhythm between all the go-to-market players to make sure the revenue team is optimizing. Ideally, this means things won’t get too far off track. I always say during a transformation “something will go wrong, so we all have to commit to giving feedback and working the problems quickly and iteratively”.

Second, get help from the outside. Not everyone putting an ABM sign out has deep experience in all aspects of ABM, so you must be selective and get some references to figure out if they’re right for your business. I have my shortlist of people I highly respect. Learning is something I deeply value for myself and the people I work with, so exposure to true go-to-market experts, their content, and their events is invaluable. When I first launched ABM, I invited everyone I could to speak or present in person or on con-calls, and it had a huge impact on the success of our ABM program.”

justin gray

Just Gray,
CEO of LeadMD

“If your ABM motion (or really any go to market strategy for that matter) isn’t landing, the best remedy involves getting back to basics. This always starts with the buyer. Do you really understand your target account list, the profiles of accounts you’ll be engaging and the buying committees and personas within them, or did you initially just select large accounts that seemed like no-brainer targets? We see this all the time, and a rushed target account selection process is the primary cause for ABM failure.

To succeed with ABM, focus on bringing real intelligence to your target account research process. The insights you develop while collecting and analyzing your ICP will become the foundation for all other dependencies in an ABM centric process – messaging, content, playbooks, air cover, you name it – it all starts with the buyer. On average we see a 35 – 40% success rate, based on first meeting acceptance in year one, when target account research is conducted properly. If you do not see numbers in this neighborhood, it’s time to revisit the fundamentals.”


Joe Andrews,
VP of Marketing at InsideView

“As B2B companies have high expectations for ABM, marketers are sometimes impatient to be successful right away. Like any good marketing execution, it takes practice and iteration to get it right.

Here’s what we’ve learned at InsideView from our own ABM efforts and from our customers:

  1. Determine what’s really broken (i.e. is it a failed campaign tactic? or the whole strategy?). At InsideView, one of our early ABM tactics was to send nicely packaged wine bottles to accounts we identified in a new market segment we were trying to break into. The response was poor. We could have given up on ABM, but we decided that our strategy was still right. We just needed to adjust the cadence of outreach to warm up these accounts and engage with the right individuals. Which leads to the next point.
  2. Assess your target accounts and people (and reassess often). We know from many B2B companies we speak with that they often skimp on the account selection process, one of the most important parts of ABM planning. It’s ok to start with a named account list from sales based on where they’ve had some history of success. But it’s important to identify accounts that match your ideal customer profile (ICP). It’s also important to fine-tune your targeting based on performance – e.g. demote some tier 1 accounts when you learn they aren’t a good fit. And this leads to the last point.
  3. Get sales and marketing aligned through both the planning and execution. ABM helps to break the old paradigm of marketers chasing lead volume but Sales needs to be engaged early and often throughout the process. And give marketers a pipeline $ target. When both teams have the same goal, there’s more collaboration and accountability for achieving results.”

– – –

Stay tuned for part 2 when we get advice from Jessica Fewless, Craig Rosenberg, Trish Bertuzzi and Matt Heinz.