What makes a great ABMer?
Liam Jacklin, Partner, Agent3
5th December 2018
I recently attended the Sirius Decisions ABM Forum in London and although the presentations from Nicky Briggs and Julian Archer were as thorough and informative as ever, what really caught my attention were some of the questions from the audience. As an Agent3 attendee I was a bit of an anomaly; we spend our days delivering ABM programmes for our customers, whereas the majority of the audience were in-house enterprise marketers. Many were either considering an ABM approach or looking to improve their existing strategy.
One of the first questions was something we often get asked. Accepting that ABM is still in its infancy, it means there’s a lack of experienced practitioners available to recruit. With that in mind, what are the skills and attributes to look for when appointing someone to an ABM role? Particularly if you’re transferring them from a more generalist marketing background.
In her response Nicky referenced the example of Karen Devin, VP marketing, operations and strategic account marketing at Commscope. Karen dealt with that exact challenge and sought key skills when building her ABM team. Commscope is an Agent3 customer so we’ve seen up close how some of the early decisions Karen made have enabled her team to deliver award winning work.
With our experiences across a range of different organisations and key account programmes, what do we think separates a great ABMer from a competent marketing generalist?
Data-led decision maker
Insight not instinct. Great ABM happens when the data, insight and analytics flowing into an organisation about its interaction with target accounts are used to inform next steps. ABMers should understand the behaviour of target accounts through datasets such as intent or marketing automation platforms to determine which sales play or content and messaging is driving the greatest engagement. Better decisions, shaped by data will ultimately deliver bigger commercial outcomes.
Focus on commercial outcomes
The purpose of taking an ABM approach is to accelerate and increase the commercial opportunities available in your key accounts. The best ABMers will constantly ask, what is this activity delivering to the bottom line? How can I quantify the impact this is having on sales? Just because something has always been done (golf days, event attendance, email blasts etc.) is not a reason for it to continue.
ABM isn’t easy and those who succeed are true agents of change. In fact, in our experience often the biggest challenge of a successful ABM strategy is securing buy-in and instigating change management to bring sales and marketing stakeholders on the journey. Moving from theory to practical ABM application can be hard, so being persuasive and setting realistic expectations of what an ABM programme can achieve is essential from the outset.
The most successful ABM programmes are the ones where sales and marketing teams work together. Great ABMers bring different disciplines and teams together to build and execute joined up experiences for audiences within target accounts.
The biggest difference between ABM and more general B2B marketing is that everything starts with the insight around an account’s pain point(s). ABMers who can keep the customer front of mind will be the ones who succeed. Whether it’s the content, the channel or the tone of the engagement, the insight on what the customer cares about is essential in delivering a programme that drives results.
There are constant innovations, approaches and technologies coming to the market to support account engagement. Top ABMers are open to trying these out. They go in to each project knowing that not everything will work perfectly straight away, but because of their focus on using data to inform decisions, they’ll feel confident they have the analytics to optimise and improve their strategy as the programme is in flight. Often the first mover advantage and trialling of new ways of doing things is the difference between a solid programme and an amazing one.
As I’ve stated, the unique skillset required to become a great ABMer means that recruiting can be difficult. Industry organisations such as the ITSMA offer comprehensive training programmes, but if you’re looking for something a little lighter initially, feel free to find out more about our popular ABM boot camps.