Last week, I attended a Women in Technology networking event, featuring a panel of rockstar women leading in the tech space. One of the first questions asked was, “How did you find your way to a career in technology?” I’ve heard this question before. It comes up at every panel event, and I’m always enthralled with the stories of their journeys.
While each journey is slightly different, I picked up on a theme. The path follows something along the lines of “I fell into this industry,” “it had never been done before,” and “someone took a chance on me.”
But what if people didn’t have to wait for a chance? What if we could identify elements from our past to predict success in a new area of business, even if we haven’t traveled that path before?
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is picking up steam in the B2B world. We’ve made it past the buzz, and companies are getting serious about building out an ABM practice. 87% of companies say ABM delivers higher ROI than other types of marketing, and 72% of companies are planning to increase ABM spending.
With stats like these and growing demand, how can we identify talent in a marketing world where formal ABM experience hasn’t existed? If you are looking to break into an ABM role or searching to hire someone to build your ABM strategy, you most likely won’t find an ABM title in the “past experience.”
For the first time in my career, ABM is in my title, which receives surprised and excited reactions. How did I and many others in ABM roles get here? Samara Donald, VP, Regional Director at Momentum ABM says, “This is a new discipline so we have to look for traits and transferable skills vs. direct experience.”
Look for these key characteristics and past experiences to gain the confidence to take on a career path in ABM or to identify the right people to “take a chance on” and hire to design your ABM strategy.
Ideal ABMer Characteristics
ABMers must have an innate sense of curiosity and a hunger to continuously learn and try new techniques. ABM changes rapidly and every account you work with will be unique, present different challenges, and require a fresh perspective. Identify someone that asks deeper questions to uncover insights before jumping to solutions.
For ABM to be successful, following a design process that begins with customer empathy, defines a problem, and then tests, iterates, and tests again is critical. “You have to have someone that is extremely adaptable and operates with a growth mindset,” says Samara. “You need someone that is ok with failing fast to make forward progress.”
ABM is uncharted territory for many companies. You need someone that has the courage to take on a new challenge and stay strong when the trail gets rough. Your leadership may question your decisions and poke holes in the strategy when there isn’t immediate success. ABM is a long-term strategy. Be prepared to make bold moves and push back when appropriate to keep everyone aligned with the outcomes. Look for someone that will stand up to the pressures.
You can’t fake ABM. If someone says in an interview, “I know exactly what programs I will run for guaranteed success,” this is a huge red flag. While frameworks and processes should be used and repeated for success, the exact campaigns, programs, and tactics are dependent on deep customer insights. Be the person that needs to get closer to the customer to make the right decisions or look for someone who isn’t afraid to admit, “I don’t have the information I need to know exactly what to do yet, but here is an example of the approach I used with a customer in a past scenario.”
Past Experience Indicators of Future ABM Success
History of trailblazing
The most common resume trait I’ve seen across ABMers is taking on new roles that address undefined problems. Danny Nail, Head of Global Account Based Marketing at SAP shares, “During my career at SAP I have had many roles that were ‘new’ or there was no ‘format’, and I just had to figure it out. For me, ABM was a ‘unique problem’ that I felt I could solve.” When a marketing role or challenge pops up that hasn’t existed before, be the first to raise your hand and dive in.
No ABM strategy or program can be designed without putting the customer in the center of the table. “Sometimes, marketing is behind the magic curtain, behind the customer,” Samara explained while waving an imaginary curtain between us. “ABM completely changes that.” A history of designing marketing strategies that are customer insight driven is a strong indicator ABM is a career for you or that you’ve found a solid ABM hire.
Marketing brain, sales personality
Successful ABMers straddle the line between marketing and sales. If you’re a marketer with a sales background, bonus points! You need to be a part of the account team. Get into the details of a customer, understand the sales cycle, know what motivates salespeople. And then you must be able to see the larger picture, identify trends, and scale across multiple customers. These skills will help you earn the trust you need to be a valued partner.
“One other trait that is essential—you must be able to keep a lot of balls in the air,” Danny explains after running through all the pieces of the ABM puzzle he has to keep moving at the same time. Broad experience across multiple B2B marketing functions will prepare you to manage all the moving parts of a well oiled ABM engine. You don’t need to be an expert in every area, but understanding your strengths and knowing when and where to pull in the right resources will increase your opportunities for success.
One final piece of advice…
The ABM community is small but mighty and passionate! Invest in yourself and your team by attending an ABM event to network and learn from people at different stages of the ABM journey. Or get your team together to earn an ABM certification.
Account Based Marketing may be a road less traveled, but it can be the right path for you if you’re willing to take the leap.
This post was originally published on my LinkedIn page.