• Take the guesswork out of your account-based marketing (ABM) by following SiriusDecisions’ best practice frameworks
  • Discover the most common challenges in implementing ABM and how to overcome them
  • Key challenges include keeping stakeholders engaged, expanding into new markets and hiring talent

When you’re trying to solve a difficult problem, the best thing you can do is ask for help from someone who’s solved it before. As former president Bill Clinton once said, “Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere.”

The same is true of account-based marketing (ABM), and while every organization has its nuances, common challenges come up frequently. Often, others have had to solve your problem or a similar one already, and this experience can at least help guide you in the right direction. Here are seven of the most common challenges reported in ABM programs, with guidance on how to solve them.

  1. Keeping sponsors on board. Successful ABM programs require executive sponsorship, but while we often see close engagement between the ABM leader and sales leadership at the early stages of defining a program, sometimes this collaboration tails off in the ensuing months. Remember to keep that dialogue from the early pilot stages with your sponsors alive, working with them to integrate lessons from the pilot and reporting successes to them, so that if you need additional resources to scale the program, sponsors’ support is assured.
  2. Targeting the wrong accounts. Far too frequently in ABM programs, sellers hand off to marketing their list of priority accounts, which are usually based on where they see potential opportunity. But it’s important to analyze this data to have the best chance of success. For example, look at achievability and cooperation scoring, too, as well as the data credibility and why sellers believe there is opportunity.
  3. Getting blindsided by data. Information is the lifeblood of an ABM program, informing everything from preparation to prioritization, planning and measurement, and successful execution requires minimum insights. But there is also such a thing as analysis paralysis, where overemphasis on insight gathering hinders execution. Learn when you need to stop and gather more data, and when to stop the data gathering and start executing!
  4. Winning and maintaining trust. ABM requires trust between marketing and sales, as well as other functions (e.g. product teams), but this is hard to gain, easy to lose and almost impossible to restore once lost. Earn trust by delivering what you promise to sales, aligning to their goals, talking their language, asking insightful questions, challenging them when necessary, and delivering and sharing early wins.
  5. Learning and expanding from a pilot. Successful organizations start with a pilot to allow them to test assumptions and fit without committing too much of their precious resources. We often see organizations letting pilots gradually drift into wider adoption, without taking the time to pause, review lessons and make improvements. Pilots should always be treated as a time-bound exercise with clear goals against which success can be reviewed. In particular, when expansion is into new geographies, don’t assume that a simple “lift-and-drop” will work – working in a new region throws up a whole range of new challenges such as different languages, ways of doing business, skills, personalities, and sometimes sales incentives that may affect you. Take the time to learn about each new market to shape and adjust your pilot approach to make it fit.
  6. Surfing the skills shortage. Because ABM is such a hot topic right now, there’s a lot of demand for skills that are in short supply. Shorten your time to value by carefully considering the skills profile you need for the type of ABM program you have; then consider which skills are innate vs. learnable and whether it’s better to hire someone internally who knows your business and upskill them as necessary or bring in outside expertise.
  7. Measuring success and managing expectations. The path to business impact can take time, especially for organizations with a long deal cycle, and some may be tempted to quit early if they don’t see instant success. Protect and nurture your program in its infancy by identifying readiness, activity and output measures, as well as measures of business impact. These can be shared in dashboards that effectively demonstrate the contributions of the ABM program to help internal promotion of ABM progress.

The SiriusDecisions Account-Based Marketing Framework offers further guidance in all of these areas. For a quick tour of some of these important foundational elements, listen on demand to the SiriusFoundations: Account-Based Marketing Webcast.