Confessions of an Account Executive (Top 5 ABM Mistakes)


RollWorksPrioritize and economize with ABM.

Monday, September 14, 2020

This article highlights some of the most common ABM mistakes that can stop you from driving leads from your key account list. Here’s how to address these 5 pitfalls.

Article 9 Minutes
Confessions of an Account Executive (Top 5 ABM Mistakes)

As a B2B Account Executive at RollWorks (and previously AdRoll), over the last 3 years I’ve spoken with more than 250 companies. I’ve logged 400+ hours learning about their strategic initiatives and the challenges they face in their market segments. I’ve seen many wins, but unfortunately also some missteps (and ABM mistakes).

We dedicate time workshopping and discussing ultimately what would help them make an impact within their business and how to measure it across disparate tools. Being so close to clients I feel privileged to get a preview of the types of battles they face as marketers, such as:

  • How to measure ABM campaigns
  • What are the best strategies for scaling display
  • How to drive 20% incremental MQLs by leveraging retargeting and lookalike modeling

These are not easy problems to solve, but by partnering together we often figure out solutions to these issues, which is one of my favorite parts of the job.

With all this exposure and data that I’ve had I thought it would be helpful to bubble up some insights and offer it to others in hopes of them avoiding issues that are more common than they may realize.

Why write about ABM mistakes?

It’s not hard to find blog posts, articles, webinars, or even full conferences dedicated to helping marketers master various aspects of ABM. From how to develop personas, to how to measure your campaigns, you don’t have to travel far to find the resources you need. Demand Gen Report’s website is full of content from marketing experts that include tips, best practices, and the newest breakthroughs about account-based strategies.

But even with all these resources, marketers still seem to make the same ABM mistakes over and over again. They feel lost about the do’s and don’ts. Perhaps it’s information overload? Or perhaps everyone is writing about the do’s and not a lot about the don’ts?

Having a guide to lead us through the ‘ABM jungle’ is super helpful, but we also need to know where the scary animals sleep and where the quick sand is.

In this post we’ll highlight some of the more common ABM mistakes that can prevent you from driving leads from your key account list. We’ll provide resources to help you address some of these common pitfalls and ultimately you’ll know where the quicksand is so you can take right path to ABM success.

ABM mistake #1 | not planning for a dip in lead volume but a rise in quality 

A key promise of a successful ABM campaign is that the leads you drive will be the ones that really matter. This makes sense because one of the essential exercises you must complete on your ABM journey is figuring out which accounts you should engage with and your ideal customer profile (ICP). As you widdle down the list of companies that you want to target and transition from a spray-and-pray approach to a hyper-focused one —  inevitably two things will happen:

Quality of the lead will go ↑ and lead volume will go ↓

For most advertisers this mathematical equation makes sense. The leads that come in are more valuable, but the amount of those leads decrease because you’re targeting less accounts and usually those accounts are little bit more difficult to crack.

The best way to avoid having a shock to the system is to plan for this by keeping executive leadership, sales, and marketing in the loop on the strategy shift and its impact of lead volume/quality. It also helps to explain why the changes are being made, strengths, weaknesses, and expectations moving forward.

It’s a simple step, but you’d be surprised how many first-time ABM marketers fail to communicate this and then get backlash as a result.

ABM mistake #2 | underestimating the importance of sales and marketing alignment

Closing deals from key accounts is hard; it’s an initiative that should be company wide. Everyone needs to be bought in from BDRs, Sales, Marketing, Finance and even upper management. If sales and marketing aren’t on the same page in terms of the accounts that matter, you may end up wasting a lot of money and time on the wrong accounts.

Some tips for aligning the teams include:

  • Get a pulse on the current state of lead quality and volume from sales and see what they care about above all else. Whether its volume or quality, or both, this can help inform the ABM strategy down the road.
  • Have sales identify a select group of accounts that marketing will ultimately support. Neither sales or marketing should shoulder the entire burden of identifying and choosing which accounts matter most to the business.
  • Get sales’ input on who the important buying committee stakeholders are within their target accounts. What’s recommended is that you have the sales rep identify 2-5 people within their target accounts that can influence the purchasing decision. This is a crucial step in ensuring that efforts are aligned with the right people and the appropriate accounts.

Both teams should feel as though their voices are heard and that they are part of the process. I’ve noticed that when there is a shared responsibility between both teams to participate in the ABM process, it dramatically increases the probability of a successful campaign.

ABM mistake #3 | not employing a data-based methodology for choosing target accounts

There are three options when it comes to creating a target account list. You can use a software, you can do it manually, or you can use a combination of both.

Not every company needs to use software for their predictive scoring, although it’s quite helpful. You can still create your target account list manually, but it’s important to score it with a data-based approach.

According to Econsultancy, some of the most important characteristics to consider include: 

Using data to choose the accounts and then working with sales, marketing, and finance will help reinforce that these criteria really make sense. I’ve found that the companies with the most success usually attach numbers to these criteria to prove that their choices are based on data, not just hunches.

ABM mistake #4 | not having content that is aligned to the customer journey

Remember that scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise is walking in the mall and all the ads pop up with customized messaging and recommendations for him? Well, we’re not there yet, but what we can do is make emails, content, and banner ads are personal enough to resonate with your audience.

If you don’t have content that speaks to the people you’re engaging with and where they are in the buyer’s journey, then you’re going to miss out on the biggest strength of running account-based marketing.

In my experience with clients and setting up their strategy I typically recommend they start out with the following structure:

  • Stage 1: Educational whitepaper, datasheet or infographic

This can be gated or ungated, but I recommend ungated because you’re trying to engage with these folks for the first time and want to remove as many barriers to your message as possible. Here as an example of a good top-of-funnel whitepaper we use.

  • Stage 2: Webinar, whitepaper, or ebook

At this stage the person should have already been to your site and hopefully knows who your brand is. This is a good time to show your value with more thought leadership material that is slightly more targeted. Use emails with targeted subject lines or use display ads that pull in roll or company name of the prospect for maximum impact.

  • Stage 3: Case Studies or Customer Testimonials

Case studies and customer testimonials are most effective when a prospect has engaged with your site beyond visiting a few product pages: they’ve downloaded an asset or two, signed up for a webinar or perhaps attended an event you sponsored. The purpose of using case study/testimonial is to reinforce your value as a partner via a 3rd party validation. Sometimes sales cycles are long and it’s difficult to keep a prospect engaged during that journey; a new case study or testimonial from a current customer in your prospect’s vertical can keep them engaged until your sales steam closes them.

ABM mistake #5 | not keeping your creative hat on

Getting the attention of a VP of Marketing or CFO isn’t easy. Speak to any exec and they’ll tell you they are absolutely inundated with solicited and unsolicited emails every day. There is tons of noise in their inbox.

That means it’s going to take a concentrated effort that may go beyond emails, display banners, content creation and cold calls to engage a key account and ultimately close them.

You can try sending out direct mail, running display, creating custom creative, or (best of all) all of the above. When we ran our first ABM campaign we kept things relatively simple, but we still made sure to use a combination of channels to reach our prospect.

In our case study, Project Goal Line, you can see how even simple personalization made a big impression and helped us cut through the noise.

Here are some examples of items that can be personalized and can catch a prospect’s attention:

  • College swag
  • A book written by the prospect’s favorite author
  • Local sports team swag
  • Baked goods or candy with a handwritten note
  • A gift certificate from Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or Pete’s Coffee with a follow up note
  • Champaign celebrating a promotion or new job

Many of these can be purchased and customized through services such as Sendoso, and teaming them up with your display and email campaigns sets you apart from all the other companies who are trying just one tactic at a time.


If you want to break through all the noise and ensure your message connects with your ideal customer make sure it’s personal, different and memorable. Creativity is your friend.

And remember before entering the ABM jungle define what you’re trying to accomplish, collaborate with other team members so you’re aligned in terms of who you should target, what the definition of success looks like, choose accounts wisely (and with data), and have content your personas will care about.

If you’d like to see how some other companies ran their ABM campaigns, I highly encourage you to browse through The Big Book of ABM Campaigns, which was co-written with Bizible, Datanyze, LiveRamp, and Radius. It includes 4 more ABM campaigns that each company actually ran, along with pictures and lessons learned.


Prioritize and economize with ABM.

RollWorks, a division of NextRoll, offers ambitious B2B companies an account-based platform to align their marketing and sales teams and confidently grow revenue. Powered by proprietary data and machine learning, RollWorks’ solutions address the needs of organizations large and small —from those with best-in-class ABM programs to those just beginning their exploration. By empowering teams to identify their target accounts and key buyers, reach those accounts across multiple channels, and measure program effectiveness in their system-of-record, RollWorks is an indispensable platform for marketers and sellers who believe that an account-based approach is just good business.


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