Making your ABM strategy work means more than just getting sales and marketing to play well together. It requires you to look across both teams, evaluate the people, their skills, and the tools available in order to create the most effective strategy for your top accounts. But if you’re ready to launch your ABM strategy but unsure how all the pieces fit together, you’re not alone.
To help you prepare for launch, let’s look at how to evaluate your team and the resources at your disposal.
New Skills and Hard Decisions
The skills required for ABM differ from those in traditional revenue roles. Instead of operating in a pure sales or marketing silo, a great ABM team needs to support the entire ABM lifecycle, from strategy to research to deliverables to execution. It’s a safe bet that you don’t have a team in place today with all the skills they need to design, deliver, and manage impactful campaigns, so a skills assessment is in order.
In addition to thinking strategically, there’s also the need to put themselves into their customers’ shoes and think like a buyer. They’ll need to be creative, as well, and come up with ideas for campaigns to elevate awareness. Then there’s the need to write, design, and do web development. Once your campaigns are live, you’re going to need to share via social and measure their performance. That’s going to take social media savvy and some decent AdTech/MarTech skills, as well.
That’s a lot of skills that your current roster probably doesn’t have. To understand where the gaps are, perform a skills gap analysis (here’s a helpful guide) to understand the abilities your team has and the ones they need. Then it’s time to ask yourself whether or not you have the time and budget to invest in upskilling or if it’s time to make some hard decisions—and you’re almost certainly going to make some hard decisions. It’s not ideal, but it’s not possible to have a polished ABM program that delivers new business without the right team and the right skills.
Building an ABM Dream Team
Now that you have a better understanding of the core skills that go into successful ABM teams, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll build—and structure—your own. What should the org chart look like, who needs to be involved, and where does each player fit in the overall process? Here are five essential players on top-performing ABM teams, plus a brief breakdown of each role and its associated responsibilities.
To put it bluntly, your ABM program simply isn’t going to get off the ground without buy-in from senior leadership, and that starts with your CMO or Marketing Director (or both). So try to bring these leaders into the planning process as early as possible, incorporating their input and feedback around the development of strategy and ensuring they ultimately sign-off on your account-grading system. Even though so much of the success of ABM teams comes down to details, all of those day-to-day processes typically fall within the bailiwick of CMOs and Marketing Directors, so it’s essential these folks are on board.
Marketing Ops Managers
Nearly every successful ABM team today works with some kind of MarTech solution: It’s how you map leads and contacts to accounts, integrate that data into your CRM, and develop dashboard views of your efforts and progress with prospects. For these reasons and more, you’ll need a leader from the marketing team—ideally, someone who owns the MarTech solutions at your company and has a high level of sophistication deploying them—on your ABM dream team.
Content Experts/Digital Strategists
These are your content creators, of course, but a lot more goes into the job than just writing copy—it really is a hybrid role. In other words, beyond generating content, these should also be consistently monitoring and reporting on campaign performance to ensure that your ABM messaging is moving the needle with prospects. And that requires a bit of digging: Which email subject line are upping your open rate—and which don’t appear to be generating interest or enthusiasm? Which types of messaging are actually resonating with prospects’ pain points and driving action—and which are only increasing your overall bounce rate? These are some of the ways highly skilled content experts/digital strategists, who focus on optimization and continuous improvement, can deliver great value for ABM teams today.
Paid Media Managers
Today’s ad exchanges offer increasingly robust and niche targeting capabilities—for instance, you can target ads to individual companies, or even upload spreadsheets with key email contacts, for far more precise micro-targeting across destinations on the web. All of this means paid media has a number of exciting and valuable applications for ABM teams, and someone will need to manage the process, design and upload creative to ad networks, and so on. However, if your team doesn’t expect to have medium-to-high annual paid media budget, this role may not be strictly necessary.
ABM allows for far more holistic perspectives on the pipeline—and for this reason, it’s essential to include a senior representative from the sales function on your newly formed ABM team. Plus, greater overlap between sales and marketing operations means that the traditional handoff between the two departments gets significantly streamlined. And by aligning everyone around key metrics like account engagement scores, sales is better prepared to seamlessly transition to—and take responsibility for—MQLs that are ready to go. And sales leaders need to be involved to help orchestrate that overall effort.
If you’d like to know more, Marketo’s bizible unpacks this list in more detail, but hopefully, your ABM dream team is already starting to take shape. And to help you get off to the right start, let’s look at the key role that partners can play.
Let a Partner Help Power Your ABM
Once you’ve identified the right team members and assessed their skills, some key gaps are going to emerge that upskilling alone won’t address. Let’s say you’ve got someone who’s savvy with social and content analytics, but he can’t write his way out of a wet paper bag. No amount of training is going to make him the caliber of writer who can run the content strategy solo. Fortunately, one way to avoid the cost of hiring someone who can is by partnering with a third party.
Any number of agencies can contribute and help cover gaps throughout the ABM ecosystem, from strategy to content creation and automation. Plus, you’re not just saving budget—you’ll also benefit from their experience and expertise. As experts in their field, your partner should be able to guide you on best practices and deliver insider knowledge to help avoid common pitfalls. Some organizations, like ITSMA, can also help with training programs for your team.
Finding the right partner isn’t always easy, however. When evaluating a potential third-party provider, consider asking the following questions to get a better understanding of their capabilities:
- Have they worked with similar companies that sell into similar industries? If so, can they share case studies?
- What’s their delivery process? What SLAs do they adhere to when delivering?
- What methods and tools do they use to measure and optimize? Do those tools integrate with your tech stack?
- What’s their data security policy? Is it compliant with GDPR?
- What insights do they use to inform their messaging and creative? Where do those insights come from?
The right agency will not only have ready and verifiable answers to these questions, they’ll also be more than happy to connect you with current or former clients to discuss what it’s like working with them day-to-day. When done well, ABM is a collaboration between all parties, so your agency needs to be transparent every step of the way.
Transitioning from traditional marketing to ABM is a big step, and it requires a delicate balance of skills, tools, and even partners. Getting that balance right is no easy task, and you’ll likely lose a team member or two as a result. But once all the pieces are in place, you’ll be ready to launch a winning strategy that drives revenue results like never before.