Account-Based Marketing: The proof is in the pilot

01 . 04 . 19

More and more we’re hearing marketers with high-value products and services talking about running Account-Based Marketing “pilots”.

There’s plenty of data to back up an ABM approach. In fact, two-thirds of B2B marketers see it as an important part of their strategy, and there has been a 21% increase in the number of companies with a full Account-Based Marketing programme in just 1 year.

But to confidently make a business case for ABM adoption, many marketers need explicit evidence it will work for their organisation. That’s where a pilot comes in, acting as a test run for wider adoption. The problem is even a pilot for ABM isn’t a quick affair, it requires careful thought and planning. So how do you set up yours for success? Based on our experience running effective ABM, here are our top dos and don’ts.


Do: Hold your nerve


Recognise this situation? Sales feedback that the leads being thrown over the wall are not the right ones. What constitutes a marketing qualified lead is made tougher. Lead volume falls. The marketing team’s effectiveness is called into question without any adjustment for the fact that the criteria has changed.

But what if you chose the right people from the off, rather than funnelling leads down only to realise they’re not the right fit halfway through the sales process? This is what ABM enables: highly strategic, personalised, meaningful outreach to the right people.

So before you even start a pilot, make it clear that this approach is about quality, not quantity. Bring in sales early so they make time for ABM, realising that they’ll be getting the absolute right leads. Challenge entrenched thinking and help people understand that ABM requires a different mindset – they won’t see results overnight. Hold your nerve, confident in the fact that you’re doing all the right things to make this pilot work.


Do: Give yourself time to think


Because of the in-depth strategic thinking and research that ABM entails, pilots require patience.

Understanding how your business will achieve its goals, the product roadmap and customer data trends all take time. So does speaking directly to customers to find those one-of-a-kind insights to fuel everything you do. And don’t forget account identification, audience profiling, messaging strategy, creative concept development, touchpoint mapping and A/B testing…

Sure, you’re testing the waters to see ABM’s potential but the test will fail without this legwork. Marketers need to set expectations from the start.


Do: Be creative (not creepy)


Tap into a more emotive way of communicating, taking a human-to-human approach. Don’t treat this as a corporate B2B campaign but be hyper-personalised and targeted, showing you understand your audience’s business and even them as people.

Equally, sometimes campaigns can be a little too clever and over-familiar. You don’t want to come across as being too Big Brother. Unsurprisingly, people don’t respond well to that. Find the happy medium.  


Don’t: Be overwhelmed by tech


There are alternative ways to run a pilot without spending thousands on an ABM stack. For 1:1 ABM for instance, you can even start with Excel, using it to score accounts, set formulas and agree on priorities. A pilot scheme gives you the chance to test what you will need so you can invest in the crucial bits later on.


Don’t: Put all your eggs in one basket


While you’re carrying out an ABM pilot, you can’t switch off the rest of your marketing overnight – you need to keep leads coming in. But when you’re already so busy, how is that possible?

If you can’t keep everything going, look to your most successful lead generating tactics and leave those on. And consider getting in an extra pair of hands – a specialist ABM expert or agency – who can put in place your ABM blueprint while at the same time prove its value. They can then hand it over and you can start running with it, rolling it out to different regions, products, services.


For more information on how to run a successful ABM campaign or evidence of its commercial impact, check out our recent work for Masternaut.