HomeBlog Account-Based Marketers: Five Make-or-Break Skills

Account-Based Marketers: Five Make-or-Break Skills

November 06, 2012 | By Megan Heuer

Delivering impact in account-based marketing (ABM) takes a different set of skills compared with traditional, broad-based marketing. Sadly, marketers are often placed in ABM roles without tools or training to help them adapt to what is a very different model.

Delivering impact in account-based marketing (ABM) takes a different set of skills compared with traditional, broad-based marketing. Sadly, marketers are often placed in ABM roles without tools or training to help them adapt to what is a very different model.

ABM effectiveness depends largely on a change in expectation. SiriusDecisions benchmark data shows that marketers who focus on large enterprise accounts can expect to source, on average, less than 10 percent of the sales pipeline. The same data shows that they’ll influence more than 75 percent of it. Marketers must understand that ABM success comes from influencing the right contacts, in the right accounts, at the right time, to support specific objectives, not all of which will be about selling. It’s easy to end up on a less productive path that pleases sales and generates activity, but ultimately won’t deliver growth.

The following are five critical capabilities that define the ABM marketer’s potential:

  • Sales collaboration. The ABM model requires a shift from being marketing-led and focused on broad-based demand creation outreach to being sales-led and focused on a smaller, known universe. Since so much execution is sales-led in this scenario, account-based marketers must be comfortable and effective in working with sellers. This requires an understanding of the sales process and sellers’ needs. In some companies, account-based marketers have past selling experience. This is invaluable in overcoming the bias that marketing doesn’t understand what sales needs.
  • Buyer- and customer-focused execution. It’s not enough to focus on the needs of sales. In ABM, successful execution requires knowledge of the buying process and the customer lifecycle and, in specific accounts, actual contacts. ABM marketers must understand the broader role of messaging not always connected to a specific deal, but connected to an account relationship objective. The ability to deliver integrated campaigns targeted at customer needs is a minimum requirement for ABM success.
  • Delivery and use of data and insight. ABM demands a data-driven approach to strategy, planning, execution and measurement. Marketers need to know their own, and their sellers’, information needs, and be able to source from in-house and outside resources. They need to be comfortable working with sales and marketing operations to ensure that data collected can be stored and managed in a way that make it accessible and useful.
  • Goal-focused planning and prioritization. ABM depends on defining the specific goals within an account and the context within which execution will occur. Account-based marketers have to be strategic thinkers who focus on larger goals while defining detailed tactical execution. They must be capable of sticking to priorities based on those goals, which means having to say “no.” This is especially true of marketers who sit close to a team of salespeople who ask for help on non-mission-critical activities. The only defense is a well-defined, agreed-upon plan for marketing’s contribution. Tact is helpful as well.
  • Cross-functional integration. While, historically, ABM has depended on event execution, newer modes require a broader set of skills. ABM involves all marketing areas, brought to bear as required to meet account goals. This may involve custom message development, content strategy and creation, reference and advocacy support, community management, social participation, and nurturing and pipeline acceleration. The ability to identify and coordinate internal and external resources is essential, since ABM teams are often small and need help with delivery.

Megan Heuer

Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.

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