The Marketing Strategist:
Building Your ABM Team: Which Skills Matter Most?
As companies try to grow their Account Based Marketing (ABM) programs, finding the right people internally and externally is a constant challenge.
Designing and executing customized ABM marketing programs successfully, especially for Strategic ABM and ABM Lite, typically requires a rare blend of leadership capability, business acumen, and marketing skills mastery. This includes research and intelligence to build marketing insights, strategic planning, marketing communications, and relationship management. These talented marketers are hard to come by, and the risk for burnout is real.
Faced with this challenge, ITSMA worked with members of our ABM Council to identify the full range of skills required for ABM success and create a competency assessment. The assessment helps marketing leaders evaluate their teams and identify areas for improvement, both with individual marketers and their teams as a whole.
To date, we have had more than 100 currently practicing ABMers from companies including Amdocs, BT, Cognizant, IBM, KPMG, Microsoft, and Oracle participate in ITSMA’s ABM Competency Assessment. The assessment covers eight essential areas of ABM competencies, as shown below.
Based on their backgrounds, it makes sense that most marketers who have taken the assessment scored well in the core areas of marketing communications. Field marketing (73%), event marketing (61%), and marketing communications (60%) are the most common roles that ABM marketers currently hold or have previously held.
However, these skills are just one area of importance.
Marcom Skills Not Sufficient
“Traditional marketing communications skills are good, but not sufficient,” explains Jeff Sands, ITSMA’s vice president and ABM practice co-lead. “ABM marketers also need leadership skills to build alliances across the organization, find the right people and resources, and most importantly, manage strategic relationships.”
In fact, Sands notes, “Marketers with sales experience are most likely to be successful with ABM, given the importance of working with sales and thinking commercially. ABMers have to deliver real business results, not just provide technical skills and institutional knowledge.”
Skills related to Account Relationships and Strategy, however, were self-identified as areas of relative weakness for many ABM marketers. Specific areas of concern include:
- I challenge the account team and the client to see the art of the possible for mutual betterment of the client and our company (3.7 on a 5-point scale)
- I incorporate the client’s ecosystem and our strategic partners into ABM planning and execution, when appropriate (3.7)
- I track every touch point with the customer to ensure that each results in a positive experience and moves the needle on the relationship, beginning with the first point of contact and continuing post service delivery (3.4)
Keep in mind that these are self-assessments from marketers already doing ABM with well-developed programs. While they feel the need to strengthen their own capabilities in these and other areas, the even bigger challenge is expanding the team with equally or more skilled counterparts to make sure the programs continue to grow and thrive.
Skill gaps will certainly differ from company to company, as will the particular needs of each team working in different business environments. But having a skills profile of your own ABM team and how it compares to the industry can be an essential step in identifying and targeting the most important areas for near-term improvement.