B2B marketers in almost every industry are getting their feet wet with account-based marketing. If you recently rolled out a campaign at your company, you’re probably eager to see results (and so are your superiors).

It doesn’t help that the big-box brands are all reporting massive ROI. Last year, SAP generated $27 million in revenue with ABM. Surely, you can manage to convert a few new accounts and impress your CFO.

But what if that isn’t happening? What if your ABM campaign is just spinning around in the digital void like a satellite with no thrusters, failing to prove its value? A skeptic might suggest complete decommission. Cancel your contracts with ABM vendors, and go back to the basics of old-fashioned lead generation. Let your sales team handle account outreach however they see fit.

Don’t do that.

As with many other aspects of outreach and engagement, sales needs your help with ABM. But don’t push harder and spend more if your campaigns, thus far, have been ineffective. Try to figure out where your strategy is weak or incomplete, and make the necessary adjustments.

To get you started, here are five opportunities to improve your ABM campaign, based on common mistakes and omissions:

1. Use the Right Tools

For starters, if you want to run long-term, scalable campaigns (instead of stunted, one-off plays), you need to have the right technology in place. Depending on its capabilities, you may be able to reconfigure your CRM/marketing automation suite to perform some ABM tasks, like tracking account-level metrics and creating new opportunities. But there are a number of other ABM tools that can help you optimize different stages of the process.

For example, did you know that 80 percent of ABM users say predictive analytics is a critical component of the stack? Here are some other functional areas to consider:

  • Lead identification tools (contact data)
  • Predictive intelligence
  • Account-level retargeting (display ads)
  • Website personalization
  • Account-tracking/reporting

2. Map Out Your Accounts

The phrase “account-based marketing” is a little deceptive. You are going after a list of specific accounts, but you shouldn’t be addressing the account as a single, homogenous entity. Marketing messages have the strongest impact when they target specific decision-makers and decision-influencers.

You can’t effectively market to an account you know nothing about. One of the reasons your current campaign might be sputtering is a lack of visibility. The solution here is account mapping: using intelligence tools and probably some manual reconnaissance, define each account’s organizational structure by naming specific stakeholders. Account mapping may also include analysis of financial health and business initiatives.

Who’s in charge? Who makes decisions about procurement? The more you know, the better you can market.

3. Graduate from Single-Channel ABM

A lot of marketers mistakenly think ABM means targeted advertising. Targeted ads are definitely part of the mix, but you’ll probably never generate a new opportunity from an ad. ABM is much bigger than that; it’s a comprehensive strategy that stretches across multiple channels and every stage of the buying journey, from awareness to advocacy. If you want your campaign to succeed, you need to build it accordingly.

How can you engage with target accounts on your website? On LinkedIn? Through email? In person? What kind of content and tools will you need to successfully manage these interactions?

4. Watch Your Metrics Closely

One of the biggest challenges of ABM (or any marketing initiative, for that matter) is proving bottom-line business impact. If you invest in a new campaign, you’ll have an inherent responsibility to demonstrate how it improves revenue, reduces overhead, or shortens the sales cycle. And of course, you can’t prove any of those things unless you’re tracking the right metrics.

Again, your CRM/marketing automation suite should help a lot here, provided you can assign multiple lead profiles to the same opportunity. If you use a more basic suite with limited reporting tools, you may want to look for an ABM platform that can track and analyze account engagement (something like DemandBase or Engagio should do the trick). Some companies create their own dashboards and ABM scorecards in-house, which is feasible if you’re starting out with a small number of accounts.

5. Think Outside the Box

Digital distribution and centralized reporting play an important role in making ABM scalable, but don’t limit yourself to digital. As ABM tools become more prevalent and more accessible, it won’t take long to crowd the hot-tub. To distinguish yourself from competitors, think outside the box.

Direct mail is one example. You could try a postcard series to warm up cold accounts and refer prospects to your website, or a high-end package with goodies to reach a C-level executive. If you make direct mail personal enough, it will stand out among the hundreds of generic, digital messages that bombard decision-makers every week. As Joe Pulizzi commented in 2012, “Print is ‘non-traditional’ marketing. That’s where we are today.”

Micro-events (e.g. exclusive sporting events, executive dinners, seminars) can also be an effective — if unorthodox — way to connect with target accounts and start meaningful conversations. Even if those who register don’t attend, you still gained a valuable list of decision-makers.  

If your young ABM campaign isn’t delivering the results you’d hoped, you might have to endure a few uncomfortable status meeting with executives. But don’t panic, and don’t give up. Pinpoint your weaknesses and decide what tools or techniques offer the best solution. Work with sales to build a strategy that not only targets accounts, but engages them, provides value, and starts meaningful conversations.

Aleksandr Peterson