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The road to success in account-based marketing (ABM) can be fraught with challenges and obstacles that each agency has to overcome.
While some of these issues may be specific to the agency and its method of operating, some recurring problems have a tendency to take hold in any organization that practices ABM. Recognizing these issues and acting swiftly to solve them can help your team stay focused on successes instead of allowing failures to fester and weigh on team morale.
Be attentive to the signs of these six common challenges and prepare to make changes to stop them:

Awareness-stage leads not ready for deeper funnel offers, demos, or sales conversations

Nurturing prospects out of the awareness stage requires understanding and responding to business problems and obstacles they currently experience. Creating content that responds to these obstacles and challenges is vital. A prospect must understand the value of solving this problem for their organization or within the context of their job function. It’s important to keep in mind that there may be factors beyond your control that prevent leads and prospects from moving into the decision stage.  Lead nurturing involves educating and inspiring prospects over time, as some of them may become evangelists for your brand (2), and inspiring these prospects to turn the tide within their organization–pushing the sales opportunity down the funnel.
With ABM, all of your communication should highlight how you can bring value to businesses in specific situations (4) and provide context on how this value will be generated. A common mistake organizations make is to drive to demo too early.  Creating more varied content appropriate to each stage of the process is vital. Full demonstrations should be reserved for a moment that a prospect has enough context to 1. Appreciate the value highlighted in the demo, 2. Understand the value of solving their current obstacles, and 3. Have internal buy-in (to eliminate dry runs).
One of the most common mistakes organizations make is trying to drive to demo too early.

Leads interested in your content but not in speaking to sales

Creating a dialogue with prospective buyers that is centered around your content can be a challenging process, particularly if you’re hoping to drive these prospects towards a sales conversation. Many prospective buyers may be wary of speaking with any sales team until they are on the verge of making a decision. Buyers hate to be pushed into a decision where they lack context, a sense of being informed, and insights.
One potential way to encourage prospects to interact with sales is to train your salespeople to become experts on your prospects’ pain points, business opportunities, and market insights. Your sales team cannot enter a conversation expecting to immediately ink a deal. We need to kill the mindset, “if they aren’t ready to sign, then they’re no good.” Sales team members must begin the conversation expecting to act as an educational resource and to help prospects at different stages of the buying process.

Marketing to sales misalignment

A misalignment between marketing and sales is a fundamental growth issue for many companies. These misalignments may result in in-fighting, blame games, and competing agendas that drive little to no value for the enterprise. One of the common issues that we see is sales blaming marketing for “bad leads” and then “walking away” to prospect their own. Sales and marketing teams must commit to each others’ success. Insights, research, learnings, testing data, and knowledge must flow both ways. Sales teams need to be restricted in their prospecting efforts, and they must be focused on nurturing consideration-stage leads. Account-based marketing is a team effort.

A crowded market that is becoming increasingly commoditized and lacking differentiation

Differentiation is critical in a crowded marketplace. Developing interesting and engaging content isn’t enough. Your marketing and messaging must speak to your points of differentiation and your unique brand promise. Your content offers, demo/pitch, sales approach, and messaging strategy must outline a clear value proposition that is framed around the buyer’s perspective. Even your marketing, sales, and customer experience team needs to be capable of verbally explaining your differentiated value proposition without consulting a script.
Differentiation is critical to your organization’s survival. A stellar reputation or cheapest price is not a strong foundation for differentiating your brand.

Ignoring GDPR and what it means for data collection practices

With a global clientele comes the responsibility to keep up with the issues and regulations that affect these people. The General Data Protection Regulation, passed by the EU’s parliament and effective this year, is one such law poised to change the way businesses operate with regards to data protection. Even businesses headquartered outside of the EU need to be concerned about GDPR, for several important reasons:
These regulations serve as an example of the kinds of laws that other nations may soon make mandatory. For example, the United Kingdom has passed its own equivalent law in preparation for its eventual departure from the EU.
The laws apply not only to how data of residents of the EU is used within the countries in the union, it also extends to use of their data beyond their shores. This means businesses must either conform or give up the chance to deal with the prospects living in the fifth-largest consumer spending region in the world.

No response or low response rates to cold outreach — It used to work, and now it doesn’t. So, what to do today?

Ineffective cold outreach is not only a waste of time, it can lead to larger problems like grey mail issues that hurt all of your email marketing and sales efforts. Measuring response rates to each campaign will help you determine which campaigns should go forward as they are and which need to be discontinued.
Some of the tactics that may be more effective than cold outreach might include:
Begin with a strong inbound marketing foundation before moving to outbound efforts. Inbound principles will help to improve your full-funnel strategy.
Once your strong inbound marketing foundation is built, launch paid-accelerator campaigns to drive outcomes faster.
Be prepared to iterate, test, and optimize at a quick pace. Don’t expect the “fire and forget” approach to work–it rarely does. Iteration and using an agile process improves the success rates of marketing–whether they are inbound, outbound, or hybrid.
Create thought-leadership that responds to buyer pain points — or partner with an influencer to strengthen thought-leadership in a category.
Create content that educates buyers at all stages of the buyer’s’ journey. Whether your B2B lead generation process is overtly inbound, outbound, or prospecting-heavy, great content helps inspire, inform, educate, and build trust with prospective buyers.
Creating more of a warm crowd before you send. Yes, you want to cast a wide net when you’re using ABM, but you still want to cast that net into waters full of healthy fish who have a taste for your bait. Here are a few examples:
Dig into the research to see who your best prospects are and refine as much as possible before you target them with your efforts (3).
Use remarketing to share branded thought-leadership.
Sync CRM data-mining efforts with marketing actions.

As your team grows more experienced with the principles of ABM and how to successfully apply them, new ways to overcome these and other obstacles will become more apparent.

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