Account-based marketing is hot in B2B sales because it works.

ABM can be a worthwhile strategy to pursue if your organization is interested in reducing costs and increasing leads. Companies have reduced marketing campaign costs by 40% using ABM, according to a Forrester Consulting analysis of ABM software company Terminus. Sales close rates increased from 10% to 12%, the same analysis also found; that's a meaningful lift for a medium-sized or large organization.

However, ABM requires some departures from traditional marketing wisdom. The right content marketing can make or break the success of an ABM campaign.

To give your ABM campaigns the best chance of success, avoid these five content marketing mistakes.

ABM Content Marketing Mistake #1: Marketing is disconnected from Sales

Sales and marketing professionals often struggle to work together effectively, which is an expected issue because of the difference in specialized skills that each brings to the job.

However, marketers have a responsibility to overcome the Sales-Marketing gap by reaching out first.

"Not involving Sales in the content ideation process early on is a mistake," Andrew Mahr, chief customer officer at Triblio, told me. "The idea isn't just to get their ideas—it's to get their buy-in that sharing your content is important and helpful. Sales is a critical channel in ABM, and if they don't have confidence in your content, it's a nonstarter."

Solve the disconnect by inviting a salesperson to the marketing content development process right at the planning stage. After all, Sales can validate your ideas by referencing customer questions. If you want your sales team to use marketing content in their account-based marketing campaigns, invite them to join the discussion early.

ABM Content Marketing Mistake #2: You hide or gate all your best content

What if one of the marketing industry's most common practices—putting valuable content behind an opt-in form—isn't the right idea?

It's shocking to contemplate. After all, without lead generation forms, how will marketing demonstrate that they produce leads and hit their marketing qualified lead (MQL) goal?

"We work so hard to produce personalized content to educate our buyers and then hide it behind a form," says Latané Conant, chief market officer of 6sense. "I know ungating content can seem scary when you're used to relying on leads and MQLs. Still, if you want to deliver a true value-add, account-based buyer experience, you have set that content free."

Putting your best content into the open means that more people can discover it, and that ease of use is why ungating content can be helpful. For example, an analyst at a target account can quickly review your new survey results and then forward a link to their manager.

Ungating content might be what you've been searching for to boost your results.

If the idea feels scary, test it for a quarter. Put half of your gated content into the public Web for buyers, salespeople, and search engines to see, and keep the other half behind opt-in forms. Talk to Sales about which approach leads to better results in follow-up, conversations, and deals.

ABM Content Marketing Mistake #3: You are missing third-party credibility

Your ABM content may be forgettable because it repeats what people have seen a thousand times elsewhere. Companies that rely solely on internal resources and ideas to create compelling content for ABM are missing out on the opportunity to boost their credibility.

Specifically, invite your customers to become part of the story.

"Intel created a pretty phenomenal partner marketing campaign earlier this year," explained Mahr. "On the front end, the content was presented through a cobranded experience with different partners, each specializing in a different theme, but on the back end they used Triblio to dynamically personalize thousands of account-specific sales assets that reps could use to nurture the most engaged accounts."

Meet with Sales to create a shortlist of your Top 5-10 customers from the past year. Then review the list to discover whether you can develop new customer-centric content campaigns.

As a bonus, that kind of campaign can also play a role in deepening customer relationships.

ABM Content Marketing Mistake #4: You fail to measure content metrics

You've put time, money, and effort into creating content for your account-based campaigns. How do you know which content is hitting the mark?

Traditional marketing analytics, such as pageviews, comments, and time on site, might not provide a meaningful picture.

Assume that you have put a larger proportion of your best content on the Web and social platforms. How do you know which content is resonating with your target accounts?

The first option is to find a qualitative solution. Pick up the phone and ask Sales (and new customers!) which content they've consumed. It will help to surface some of the best content. You can take that approach further by using survey tools periodically.

The second option is to do IP-based measurement. Unfortunately, large-scale remote work means that many people visiting your website will be using their home Internet connection or a virtual private network (VPN). Still, it's worth taking the time to gather IP data so that you know what types of content to produce in your next campaign.

ABM Content Marketing Mistake #5: You play it too safe

If your ABM content lacks original insight, it will be tough for Sales to use it to start and sustain conversations. Safe marketing messages have some advantages; such messaging is easy to create because there is no need to seek buy-in for new ideas.

There's a downside to being safe, however. Your prospects are more likely to ignore you because your content offers no novelty.

The solution is to invest in creating unique, high-quality content. You can look at a firm such as PwC for inspiration. Take the PwC CEO survey, which the global consulting firm has run for more than 20 years.

* * *

If your ABM strategy is underperforming, improving your content marketing campaign might be your best bet.

Take risks, feature results, and share primary data in your content. Your sales team will look smart, and they will have a good reason to stay in touch with prospects that adds value instead of focusing on a question like "Are you ready to buy now?"

More Resources on Content Marketing Mistakes

Eight Ways Your Content Marketing Might Be Sabotaging Your SEO

Three Reasons Most Content Marketing Fails, and What to Do About Them

Five Common SEO Mistakes That Content Marketers Make

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image of Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham helps technology companies to grow with content marketing. He is the author of The Marketing Blueprint: Scale Your Startup Business to 1000 Customers.

LinkedIn: Bruce Harpham