The Dangers of The Common ABM “Shortcut”

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The ABM takeover of B2B Marketing has been going on for some time now and interestingly the “old skool” tactic of building cold marketing lists is a key part of many ABM strategies even after plenty of harsh criticism of cold lists over the years.

The general idea is to:

  1. Select target accounts you think will buy from you

  2. Acquire relevant (often cold) contact data for your target personas within those accounts

  3. Market to that data across your marketing and sales channels

In theory this seems logical. A marketer is now able to prioritize their efforts to target high value, high converting accounts with minimal waste. However, in practice, marketers often get sidetracked by The Cold Cold Shortcut.

The Cold Cold Shortcut: a seemingly quick tactic to turn a cold target account list into a valuable list of engaged prospects through medium-to-high volume email marketing and sales calls.

Unfortunately this is often too good to be true and The Cold Cold Shortcut is littered with dangers. Many that could crush your ABM dreams altogether. So before you consider traveling down The Cold Cold Shortcut make sure you understand the risks. We’ve tried highlighting many of them in this post and PDF for you.

The GDPR Forest

GDPR Forest.jpg

Before you enter, everyone you speak to will describe a unique navigation technique they use to travel through the forest. These navigation techniques are not one-size-fits-all.

Embarking into the GDPR Forest with a cold list in hand carries some inherent risks. Itʼs argued by many that without explicit consent you shouldn't even enter the forest while carrying a cold list. So if you decide to risk it please enter with caution.

In the forest, legal advice is your savior. Mapping your path through the forest with Marketing Operations and Legal hand in hand is critical. Be sure to clearly define your data sources, their legality, retention policies and your management/usage of the data. Then make sure your systems and people are ready. Itʼs very easy to get lost in the forest.

The Annoyed Recipient Protest


Itʼs tempting to be a little too eager with your lists. You may think emailing 10,000 people and getting a 5% CTR is good, but spare a thought for the other 95% who may now be annoyed by you. Thatʼs 9500 people with a negative impression of your brand.

Do you personally enjoy receiving a generic email from a company you have not engaged with first? How much more likely is it that youʼll respond to a hyper-personalized email when you are the recipient? One should always remember the Commandment keeping the traveler safe on The Cold Cold Shortcut:

Thou shalt always market to Thouʼs audience like Thou shall want to be marketed to Thyself.

Remember this next time you are building an audience of thousands of cold leads and preparing to press send. The Annoyed Recipient Protest can turn into riot if you are not careful.

The Spam Trap Black Hole

Spam Trap Black Hole.jpg

The Spam Trap Black Hole strikes randomly and aggressively. If you email cold lists long enough itʼs likely the black hole will suck your time away into darkness to deal with the repercussions. Not only will you lose time while identifying who should be removed from your database, youʼll lose data when you run the delete and your emails to engaged people could be blocked too.

When youʼre in the Spam Trap Black Hole your emails battle against intense gravity and until the situation is resolved all your marketing programs may be negatively impacted. The only protection from the black hole is making sure you follow key email marketing best practices. Cleaning old lists, using email validation tools and closely monitoring your cold data for spam trap signals (e.g. lack of engagement) can help.

That being said, when traveling through The Cold Cold Shortcut these best practices are like wearing factor 5 sunscreen. You may still get burned

The Spam Cop Cop

Spam Cop Cop.jpg

The Spam Cop Cop (SCC) is the guardian of the Spam Trap Black Hole. The SCC isnʼt the only one out there fighting spam but he seems to be the most prevalent. He looks out for emails that may miss the black hole but still meets his definition of spam. 

If you break the rules and get reported to the SCC, you could end up in jail for 24+ hours to learn your lesson (aka: blacklisted). And, like the Spam Trap Black Hole, all the genuine emails to your fans could get blocked too. Unfortunately, there are no crafty tricks to stay out of trouble.

The best way to stay in the SCCʼs good books: Donʼt spam. And if you are not sure if you are spamming or not, you probably are. 

Spam: irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent to a large number of recipients [often without consent]

The Canyon of Heightened Expectations


While increasing your database size by thousands of people you've inadvertently walked right up to a cliffʼs edge in the Canyon of Heightened Expectations. Product marketing now expects thousands of downloads for their new eBook, your CEO wants everyone in the database sent a product announcement and sales wants to add all their target personas to aggressive email cadences. You struggle to deliver a consistent and clear message to your audience.

And, what happens when you give in to the pressure? Low deliverability, low engagement, high unsubscribes, complaints and poor results. In the eyes of the wider team whoʼs fault is this?

Yours. To increase your chances of traveling through successfully, make sure you have a clear and documented plan before you import any data. And have NO exceptions. A cold lead should only be available to other groups when it is ready (i.e. engaged and responsive).

The Personalization Mirage


Remember earlier on The Cold Cold Shortcut struggling past the Annoyed Recipient Protest? It's likely you encountered the protest due to falling for the Personalization Mirage. It may technically be personalization if you add in {company name}, {first name} or {industry} but you are not fooling anyone.

The best response rates come from emails that are the most personalized (i.e., based on their specific persona, or actions they have taken in the past). Make sure you really take the time to learn about the individual, enrich their profile (both demographically and behaviorally) then "craft" an email just for them.

It may take longer but your chances of success will be much higher and you wonʼt waste time searching blindly for the Personalization Mirage.

The SDR Hopes and Dreams Desert


While you were on the top of the Canyon of Expectations, in the distance you may have noticed the SDR Hopes and Dreams Desert. Typically the first stop for cold data on itʼs tour around the office is the SDR team. Where they will frantically call and email the list chasing targets for connections and meetings booked.

They may get a little traction but often youʼll find yourself in the desert heat surrounded by the crushed dreams of SDRs. The SDRs are on the front lines battling against the limitations of your acquired data. Ignored calls, angry responses, and incorrect data.

Before long they may lose faith and claim the data is “junk” and then soon they may even claim marketing as a whole is “junk.” Then they give up on everything marketing is involved in, including quality MQLs. Not good for sales and marketing alignment.

Make sure you are conscious of this before letting them loose. If sprints and call days are part of your strategy, make sure you manage their expectations, keep the sprints short, offer prizes and give them clear direction/training on what to do if they have a successful connection.

Donʼt just set them on fire in the desert and expect anything else but thirsty reps with lost hope.

The Spam Filter Click Trolls


As marketers, we donʼt give enough credit to spam filtering services. They're actually pretty smart and protect our audience (and us!) from malicious emails. They sometimes even go so far as to send out an army of click trolls to review emails as they come in and check out what happens if they click the links.

This is key to fighting dangerous links but it also means your click metrics can seem higher than reality and you may accidentally send leads to SDRs with inauthentic activity. The finer details behind the algorithm that deploys the click trolls is difficult for us to know, however, itʼs safe to assume itʼs related to your reputation, your appearance on spam lists, the volume of emails you are sending (especially the volume to each company) and the email's content.

So to protect your metrics from click trolls you should follow email marketing best practices to improve your reputation and ultimately treat your audience like the real people they are. Start earning the trust of the trolls so they leave your links alone.

The Bus to Better Marketing


Overall, building cold datasets is not always a bad thing. Itʼs the shortcut you take after acquiring the data that can get you in trouble. Like everything, itʼs how you use it that will determine your results. The Bus To Better Marketing has many alternative options to add to your ABM mix.

Cold Lists are permitted on the bus but only if you have a detailed plan to overt the danger. Otherwise, the whole Marketing bus could be veered off the road and you'll never arrive at your final destination. As always, the biggest question to ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”

In the end, be honest with yourself. Review your metrics. Are your cold list producing results? Or does it just feel nice to have a lot of leads in your database? Are you spending more time dodging danger than producing great marketing? Maybe you'll find out the payoff is worth the risk or maybe the shortcut is not really a shortcut after all.

We hope you enjoyed the first part of our three-part cartoon series! Make sure you stay subscribed to to the Logic Lab for more exclusive access to greatness.


Charlie Saunders