Just like in sports, your goal as a business leader is to put together an all-star roster. In the age of Moneyball where deep analysis of skills, traits, and talents are assessed, hiring key players and building an unstoppable team has become a science.
But what does it take to build an ABM all-star team? As B2B marketing evolves, we continue to learn more and more about the roles and responsibilities of the players on your team. That’s why I wanted to talk to one of the leading B2B marketing experts.
In writing the Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing, 2nd Edition, I had the pleasure of speaking with Kathy Macchi, VP Consulting Services, Inverta. She’s one of the most experienced B2B marketers in the game and offers a wealth of knowledge. Kathy breaks down how to build teams around an ABM strategy, the key to alignment, the roles and responsibilities of your players, and traits to look for when hiring.
Without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Kathy.
Brandon: You’ve worked with some of the most innovative enterprise organizations helping them implement ABM. How can smaller, mid-market organizations get started with an ABM strategy?
Kathy: My strongest piece of advice is this: ABM less about the marketing technology and tactics, and more about understanding your target audience. Terrific ABM practitioners put time and effort into developing an unparalleled knowledge of the account, and focus all of their efforts on using that knowledge to communicate with the accounts in a resonant way.
When considering ABM, the size of your company is irrelevant. Any company can implement an ABM program if they have a commitment to researching and understanding their target accounts and gaining alignment around those accounts.
You must be willing to source customer insight: heavy research, mapping, and monitoring that is necessary to establish yourself as a trusted advisor and potential solution provider to an account. Once insight is gathered, then messaging should be built on the understanding of the customer’s business, their challenges and the stakeholder’s concerns. You should be able to articulate clearly how your company can help in ways that others cannot.
Brandon: Why is alignment so critical to ABM, and how can organizations go from talking about alignment to becoming aligned?
Kathy: ABM isn’t simply a marketing initiative: it’s a company strategy.
Often times, Marketing will take an, “if we build it, they will come” approach to gaining consensus, but without exclusive, enthusiastic and cooperative buy-in from the sales and lead development functions, marketing should not move forward.
One approach to alignment is to build an ABM leadership team. The ABM leadership team sets the tone for how the company is going to operate and interact in an ABM environment and commits to collaborate openly in service of the ABM charter. The leadership team consists of the Head of Marketing, Sales and Operations. It could also include the Head of Support, Professional Services, or other key customer-facing roles.
This leadership team also agrees on the target account list and the approach to planning and execution. The leadership team gets as specific as to set the cadence of meetings and the content that will be covered. The rigor in which this is established and managed is integral to driving alignment and collaboration.
Shared metrics between the sales and marketing team is the final component that drives alignment. I would encourage the team to expand beyond simply a revenue number and think short, medium and long-term so you can show incremental progress along the way.
Reputation, relationships and revenue are the three legs of the ABM measurement stool. Think about short, medium, and long-term ways of measuring success in each area, and you’ll be well on your way to better functional alignment and measuring the overall success of the ABM initiative.
Brandon: What should your ABM team look like? What roles and responsibilities are essential to making your ABM program successful?
Kathy: In addition to the ABM Leadership team described above, I feel that the two roles that are most critical are the ABM marketer and the account executive (salesperson).
The ABM marketer is the consummate utility infielder. By this, I mean he or she must have knowledge and experience in all marketing specialties, good judgement and credibility, all while having the leadership and relationship skills to promote and manage the ABM programs internally and externally.
This is an individual who can learn the target audience’s imperatives, initiatives and stakeholders through research and through working with the account teams. This individual can both develop an ABM strategy as well as write messaging, tweak copy, or edit a presentation to ensure all interactions and voices are aligned to the ABM strategy. The ABM team is not large, so many responsibilities and tasks fall to the ABM marketer. While some of the job duties may seem like a junior resource could handle them, this job requires a seasoned marketer. The ABM marketer is a marketing professional who must bring a large breadth of experience to the table.
The account executive is the peer to the ABM marketer. Their role is to ensure the account team is fully aware of the new focus and objectives and where collaboration is needed to ensure the program’s success. Occasionally, this will mean a shift in expectations around how they interact with marketing or the client. The account executive sets the tone and ensures compliance.
Brandon: What should marketing leaders look for when hiring someone to lead their ABM efforts?
Kathy: An experienced marketer with the following characteristics:
Business acumen: The ABM marketer is first and foremost a strategic role. It requires a person with a deep understanding of his or her own company and solutions, as well as the ability to understand the business model of the target accounts. They should understand industry-level trends and the challenges and imperatives of the target audience. They should have the skills to engage customers in discussions and offer insights and suggestions internally and externally.
Interpersonal Skills: The ABM marketer is responsible for upholding the ABM strategy with sales and senior executives in a firm but respectful way. Their ability to position ABM as strategic and not sales enablement will help keep ABM a strong contributor to the bottom line. Apart from the sales function, the ABM program requires many other departmental contributors. The ABM marketer needs the skills to maintain good relationships with all supporting groups to ensure the ABM program runs on time and without error.
Communication Skills: ABM can involve a lot of change management. It can be a radical shift in the relationship between sales and marketing. When ABM is a strategic decision, both sales and marketing are equals in the roles they play in driving account growth. Communication needs to be frequent and consistent throughout an ABM program or misconceptions and finger-pointing can occur. When the discussion turns to questions about the quantity of marketing and the impact marketing is having – it can difficult to reverse direction. Constant and consistent communication about the cadence of an ABM play and the success indicators is crucial to furthering collaboration.
Customer Focus. An ABM marketer should be passionate about the customer and understand their needs first. ABM is about research, understanding, being useful and solving problems for the customer: not selling.
Sales Understanding. An ABM marketer is part of the account team, and must demonstrate empathy and understanding of what the sales role entails. Only when he or she understands the challenges and concerns of the sales function, can they build a program that works for both customer and sales representative.
Comfort with the Mundane. An ABM Marketer must be comfortable switching gears between strategic account planning and tactical logistics. An ABM marketer’s breadth of experience will have them working in many capacities, and the best person for the role will understand the importance of each task.
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For an entire ABM blueprint and more expert interviews, don’t forget to check out Engagio’s Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing, 2nd Edition.