A specialist generalist: the route to ABM success.

2020-02-25T11:40:53+00:00

“So, what do you do?”, is a question I’m often asked on my trips around the world with the ITSMA. I talk about ABM and begin to explain why I enjoy it so much. They’ll listen intently and then follow up with, ‘so are you a generalist or specialist?’. To which I answer, both.

If you’re an ABM-er, you’re a specialist in a particular type of marketing; account based marketing. But to be that specialist, you need to be a generalist across all the marketing skill sets and disciplines (many of which are evolving at breakneck speed). For an ABM program leader trying to pull a team together – be that corralling a set of internal marketing capabilities or using external support – this can create problems in terms of finding the right talent. Almost every one I speak to cites being able to get the right resource for their teams as one of the greatest challenges that they face.

At ITSMA we believe an ABM-er needs to have end-to-end marketing ability. In many ways, you need to operate like a CMO. After all, you are the CMO for the account or cluster you’re focused on. To be this expert the ABM-er needs – amongst many other things – to be able to do market research, analysis, strategy, positioning, value propositions and then to build ABM campaigns, and of course measure success against business goals. All this on top of the variety of soft skills that make it all possible, like commercial acumen, leadership, facilitation and the ability to collaborate. Let’s be honest, that’s a big ask. But not impossible.

"For an ABM program leader trying to pull a team together - be that corralling a set of internal marketing capabilities or using external support - this can create problems in terms of finding the right talent"

Impossible or not, when someone is hiring or looking within their own organisation to build a team, it can be very difficult to identify the talent needed. 

ABM program leaders often have to pull on internal or external specialists to get the skills they require. To source market insight, PR or AR talent, for example, they may use specialist agencies. Then, there’s the creative side of things, visual identity, proposition hierarchy and messaging, which may also need external support. Internally, they program may be able to resource an analyst or expert in market intelligence from within existing teams. This may even extend to internal facilitators who, for example, are able to run planning workshops.

But, the strain on these internal resources can check the growth of ABM within a company. It’s too difficult to do it properly by eating into everyone’s day job. The additional work that ABM will almost certainly require can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

So, it’s about building an ABM ecosystem of talent to draw on. I was talking to Paul Mackender earlier this week who described an ABMer as the conductor of an orchestra. And in a lot of ways he’s right. They set the tempo, they drive the programme through getting the specialists to fulfil the needs at the right time in the plan and they hold the individual parts together to make the whole run smoothly. However, in other ways, I think it’s like the one-person bands; the all-round musician who can not only play all the instruments at once, but know when they need the specialist to play solos to make the music sing.

Agent3 and ITSMA have a global partnership focused on championing ABM best practice. This blog post is a part of a wider content series addressing key questions facing ABM leaders. You can follow Bev on Twitter @BurgessBev

 

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