ABM has become synonymous with the technology that enables it….6sense, Demandbase, Terminus, Madison Logic and others found in the Forrester New Wave for ABM Platforms. In the video below, you will see how technology is only 1 piece of the ABM puzzle and that ABM should not be synonymous with your ABM tech stack:
But, companies are still treating ABM as a thing to do with shiny new tools. It’s “marketing as usual” just more targeted.
In fact, Gaetano Nino DiNardi (Head of Growth and Demand Gen for Nextiva) mentioned on LinkedIn: “ABM is code for marketers doing sales + a lot of ads. The concept of narrowly targeting a focused set of accounts has been around forever, but vendors needed a clever way to brand their software. They influenced the industry to buy their expensive tools – and the official category of ABM was born to fuel this purpose.”
During her “Less is More” interview on the ABM Done Right Podcast, Corrina Owens (Former Senior ABM Manager for Gong) mentioned that ABM platforms have diluted the market on what ABM is about. Their big selling point is the targeted advertising approach — and it has become the norm, where many have forgotten the principles of ABM and how it needs to be hyper-personal to the account, the individual buying committees, and to the human buyers themselves.
We’ve forgotten that ABM should not be about campaigns.
It should not be a bunch of tactics (retargeted ads, emails, Outreach campaigns etc.) It’s not about getting accounts into the pipeline. The ABM organizations that focus on pipeline KPIs and marketing sourced revenue are only doing account-based lead gen, account-based advertising, account-based awareness, and account-based demand gen. ABM is about how leadership, sales, marketing, revenue, sales enablement, customer success and product teams together will hit the numbers the business needs to get to the next level. It’s a strategy on how the teams will fix business challenges that are tied to the fundamentals of revenue: win rates, deal sizes, sales velocity, stage progression, sales cycle time, retention, ARR, margin growth, and expansion.
Because ABM tech has made ABM nothing more than targeted demand gen, below are the challenges we’re hearing from GTM teams using Demandbase, Terminus, 6sense and others in the Forrester New Wave for ABM platforms.
Channel Sales Technology Firm That Defined Its ABM Program By Their Tech Continually Lost to Salesforce & Major Players
I recently asked a CMO of a channel sales technology company about her ABM program. She rattled off the technologies they were using….6sense, Terminus, Xant, Outreach, and others. She mentioned how they were a case study for 6sense. But, they were just running targeted demand gen programs with in-market accounts.
While they were getting traction, they were challenged to win multi-year contracts with accounts that would need a deal size of more than $75K per year. Accounts that large would consistently move forward with what they “saw” as a safe bet which was Salesforce or another large player in the market. They were obviously not teaching for differentiation with content and messaging that shows the impact that competitor-specific gaps would have on the target accounts. They weren’t changing the sales and marketing conversation. They weren’t changing the interactions that sales and marketing were having with larger accounts that will provide the strongest revenue growth. They treated all accounts the same.
Listen to the podcast below to see how ABM should impact more than your pipeline.
Cybersecurity Tech & MDR Service Firm Only Engaged Low-Value Deals with their ABM Campaigns
In talking to the CMO of a cybersecurity and managed detection response firm targeting organizations using Microsoft Defender 365, we learned that they were only engaging low-value deals with their ABM campaigns. The team was only getting $65K accounts into the pipeline vs. $125K to $250K. The problem is… they were simply doing targeted demand gen as they were only engaging in a personalized 1:few and 1:many approach. ITSMA reports that 66% of ABM programs underperform. The 1/3 of ABM programs that are outperforming are balanced between 1:1, 1:few and 1:many.
Their campaigns spoke at targeted accounts and “personas” and focused on general assumptions and pain points. They made their ABM program campaign-based vs. focusing on the interactions that sales and marketing teams needed to have with accounts that can deliver the greatest revenue growth. Sales and marketing teams were pushing out content and messaging and hoping that something sticks. They were still telling “everybody’s” story. As Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson mention in their book, “The Challenger Sale,” in most cases, buyer unresponsiveness is not because you failed to make a logical argument. It’s because you failed to make an emotional connection. It’s not that buyers didn’t believe your story. It’s because they didn’t see it as “their” story.
So, in other words, there were doing marketing as usual, but now they were using intent data and ABM technologies to take a more targeted “spray and pray” approach. They weren’t speaking to and with the human buyers on every channel within target accounts that they wanted to win, protect and expand. They didn’t go directly to key decision-makers and influencers with insights that are specific to their gaps, their impacts, and content that speaks to them specifically. They didn’t focus on each and every single interaction and touchpoint that GTM teams should have with the human buyers and how they are relevant at the industry, company, rank, division, operational, financial, personal, and customer levels. This is why the cybersecurity firm was challenged to engage and win with key strategic accounts. They weren’t using ABM for the 20% of accounts that can deliver 80% of their revenue growth and they weren’t using ABM to change sales and marketing motions and conversations.
Fintech Firm Focused on Scaling with ABM Tech Like Demandbase and Terminus, But They Were Not Driving Closes
A fintech firm serving mid-market banks, as well as, national institutions like Wells Fargo was focused on scaling ABM to build a stronger pipeline. Their focus was on increasing the number of appointments that sales were having. But..their stage 1 to close rate was 5%. And, after losing most of their opportunities right from the beginning, they lost more than half the deals that did progress. The issue was that they were doing targeted demand gen — not ABM which should be about getting key accounts to revenue. They relied on technology to put out content and messaging to targeted accounts but they didn’t change sales motions, sales processes and conversations so they can improve their win rates. They didn’t think about how they should be changing the prospect experience.
Sangram Vajre, Founder of Terminus, once mentioned on LinkedIn that words have the power of life and death. If this is true (especially when it comes to a deal) and if every touchpoint we create either builds or kills your brand then instead of thinking about creating “campaigns” and “touches”, we should be thinking about “creating moments” with our future customers by having the right interactions and delivering the right experiences. The more we focus on scaling ABM, the further away we get from having the right interactions and delivering the right experiences. The more we try to scale ABM, the more ABM becomes account-based advertising, account-based lead gen, targeted demand gen and marketing as usual.
What good is building the pipeline with opportunities that aren’t going to close or are taking too long to close like an AI tech firm that I also spoke to? The firm created engagement with Mastercard and Walmart but after 14 months of conversations, they were still not close to a signed deal. The CMO mentioned that they need closers but the fact is that the CMO was not using ABM to accelerate accounts to revenue. They were focused at the top of the funnel vs. using ABM to influence both selling conversations and the internal conversations that sales was not privy too. There needs to be a strategy for those accounts that do not engage in your ABM campaigns, for those accounts that go dark, and for those accounts that are stuck in their buying journey.
Conversational AI Company & The World’s #1 Identity Platform Are Challenged with Accounts Going Dark
While there are companies like AI company Spark Cognition that understand they need to sell and market use cases that are different for each industry and each company within the industry, most are just selling technology. There is no alignment with the strategic priorities of the organization and this is a major reason why prospects are going dark after initial engagement with the world’s #1 identity platform. The company’s sales and marketing team are forgetting that it’s the personal connection that wins with the 60% of the market that’s stuck in status quo. As Joanne Black from No More Cold Calling says, “customers don’t buy your technology, your service, or your products in a B2B environment. They buy because of the impact your team can have on their business.” In most cases, you cannot build that connection you need with the status quo C-suite and become a priority with 1:few and 1:many ABM campaigns that are nothing more than targeted demand gen. These campaigns do not work with the 60% of the market that sees solutions like yours as “nice to have” vs. must-have.
In addition to missing “personal relevance”, a large conversation AI company with deal sizes of $500K+ was challenged with stage progression after sales engagement. Their Demandbase campaigns created demand and built a pipeline. But there was no follow-through. There was no account-based enablement and strategy to ensure wins. Instead of a handshake, there was a hand-off, which meant that ABM again was being treated as a targeted demand gen function.
When your revenue is on the line, sales and GTM teams need account insights so an alignment can be created with the company, with different teams and with the different human buyers and influencers. They need relevant messages, content, stories, insights and skills to enable sellers in the flow of work for specific accounts—when they need it. We need to build situational fluency by providing contextual messages, relevant conversation skills, and content for the selling conversation and internal conversations that need to happen. We need to become a team of 1.
Now, don’t think I am against Demandbase, Terminus, and 6sense. I’m not in any way. In fact, we integrate our clients’ ABM campaigns with our personal account-based programs. What I’m against is how these companies are positioning ABM and how sales and marketing teams are not thinking beyond the tech. We need to have a more balanced ABM program and go beyond the pipeline if we are going to drive greater revenue growth.