1. SEJ
  2.  ⋅ 
  3. Content

Account-Based Marketing 101: Avoid These First Campaign Mistakes

Starting an account-based marketing (ABM) program for your company? Learn how to avoid common mistakes and succeed in your first campaign.

Looking to level up your digital marketing strategy with account-based marketing (ABM)?

The most important goal in launching your first ABM campaign is to show that alignment between your marketing and sales team is helping to drive revenue.

If you fail to communicate these alignment wins to your team, you’re going to be in an uphill battle for getting budget, stakeholder buy-in, and the trust to run subsequent campaigns.

To give you the best fighting chance of seeing success in your first campaign, here are seven mistakes to avoid when planning your first account-based marketing campaign.

1. Over-Orchestrating Your First Campaign With Too Many Deliverables

The biggest mistake I see marketing and sales organizations make is including too many content assets, tactics, or channels in their first campaign.

Just because you have access to countless ABM ad platforms, best practices, and channels to reach your target accounts on, it doesn’t mean you need to include these in your first try.

Start simple. Start small. You’re going to see more success by deploying one or two tactics versus trying to weave in every outbound marketing and sales tactic or tool you have access to.

Here is an example of a simple campaign you could run:

  • Meet with sales to identify 5-15 accounts or sales opportunities that have gone dark.
  • ABM can be used to help revive these accounts by doing some basic ad targeting on LinkedIn or AdRoll.
  • Complement this with a simple direct mail piece to the prospects on these accounts with a URL to your campaign landing page.

Our success metric for this campaign would be the ability to see engagement from these accounts and if the sales team is able to revive the conversation again with the prospect.

2. Delaying Progress Due to a Lack of Tools

There are dozens of ABM targeting and advertising platforms with lots of bells and whistles on the market. However, you don’t necessarily need a dedicated ABM platform to test out basic ABM tactics in your organization.

At a most basic level, you only need a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that can report on engagement and the progress of accounts advancing in the sales process.

Once you can track these metrics, you can use LinkedIn, Facebook, and AdRoll for account-based ad targeting, or you can test out gifting apps like Postalytics or Rybbon for your first campaign.

None of these tools require six-figure annual investments or contracts to run a simple pilot.

After you’ve successfully shown that an ABM approach will work for your organization, it’s time to start looking into adding more horsepower to your toolset.

3. Picking the Right Playbook

Account-based marketing can be used for dozens of applications including:

  • Identifying new target accounts.
  • Engaging existing accounts and accelerating time to close.
  • Increasing upsells and cross-sells from existing customers.
  • Reviving accounts that have gone cold.
  • Decreasing churn through customer advocacy programs.
  • Increasing new referrals from existing customers.

And the list can go on. These ABM tactics or objectives are sometimes referred to as plays or playbooks.

In most cases, your sales team will buy into ABM if it helps them close more, close faster, or close bigger deals. If this sounds like your sales team, then pick the play that will help get existing opportunities across the finish line.

Don’t try to run every play in your first campaign, or you will battle inertia, create confusion with too much complexity, and spread your team’s focus too thin.

Stay focused on a single goal for your first campaign.

4. Failing to Win Clear Buy-In from Sales and Marketing

ABM shouldn’t be planned with only marketers around the table. Your sales team needs to be there from day one to ensure that account-based marketing efforts are clearly complementary to sales activities.

For your first campaign, you don’t necessarily need to bring every marketing and sales stakeholder into the room for planning. However, you should have leadership buy-in to ensure visibility and alignment with existing marketing and sales programs.

5. Not Scheduling Weekly Meetings to Discuss Wins and Needs

The success of your ABM campaign is dependent on the ability of your sales team to grow revenue. Your team should be holding a weekly ABM meeting to talk through:

  • Which accounts are engaging in the campaign.
  • What tactics marketing is deploying to support sales.
  • What sales needs in terms of additional advertising or support from the marketing team.
  • Which wins you are seeing, in terms of pipeline acceleration or closed-won revenue.

6. Under-Investing in the ABM Program

Getting an early win will be critical to help secure buy-in for future ABM campaigns.

If you only have one shot at running an ABM campaign, you need to ensure you have the budget to create targeted content assets (i.e., ads, mailers, and so forth), you have time to dedicate to additional collaboration with sales, and you have the media spend to run the necessary amount of paid media to reach your ABM goals.

Though you need to show a quick win in your first campaign, ABM shouldn’t be considered a single campaign effort.

The biggest mistake organizations make here is not seeing enough traction on their first campaign and quickly pulling the plug on paid media – or other ABM levers of a campaign – that are critical for subsequent ABM campaigns.

You have to be willing to commit to ABM over a multi-year period of time to see success.

Organizations that want to pursue ABM should plan to initially see marketing and sales operations costs rise in the short term as there is a significant amount of planning, experimentation, and collaboration that needs to occur to develop momentum.

7. Measuring the Wrong KPIs

Pick 1-2 measures of success – or key performance indicators (KPIs) – for your first ABM campaign. As discussed earlier, there are several different ABM plays you can make, depending on your goals, and your KPIs should be based on them.

The biggest analytics mistake organizations make here is trying to measure a KPI that is not influenced by the ABM campaign.

If your goal is to grow account engagement (via ad or email clicks) and your play is to use ads to drive target accounts to your website or landing page, then you shouldn’t be measuring revenue growth as the success metric of that campaign.


In closing, there are a number of landmines you should avoid when launching your first ABM campaign.

You have the best chance of seeing success in your first campaign by avoiding over-orchestration, developing alignment with your marketing and sales teams, and deploying the right tactics to help your campaign succeed.

More Resources:

VIP CONTRIBUTOR Paul Schmidt Director at SmartBug Media

Paul Schmidt is a Director at SmartBug Media. He works with clients on SEO, analytics, lead generation and inbound marketing ...

Account-Based Marketing 101: Avoid These First Campaign Mistakes

Subscribe To Our Newsletter.

Conquer your day with daily search marketing news.