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Account-Based Marketing Team Structure - ABM in the House, Episode 7

In Episode 7 of ABM in the House we discuss Account-Based Marketing team structure, what key skills are and whether you should outsource any ABM roles.


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Declan Mulkeen

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Jul 29 2020 - 8min Read Date published: Date modified: 2021-04-08


ABM in the House: a series of conversations between Alex Olley, Co-founder of Reachdesk and Declan Mulkeen, CMO of Strategic IC, as they explore how to build an effective Account-based Marketing (ABM) programme.

Previous episodes have explored How to Redefine Your ICP, How to Build a Target Account List, Building Out the Decision Making Unit (DMU), Focusing in on your Strategy and Goals, Building your Account-based Marketing Playbook at a One-to-many level, and at a One-to-few and One-to-one level. Here, Episode 7 looks at Building your ABM Team.

ABM in the House - Building your ABM Team

Episode 7 - Transcript

Alex Olley, Reachdesk - Morning, Dec, here we are again. This is Episode 7 of "ABM in the House". Covered a lot over the past six episodes but still got a few things to go into I think.

Go on, show us where you are today.

Declan Mulkeen, Strategic IC - Morning, Alex, how you doing? Okay, let me just spin the laptop round.

So -

Alex - Oh my word.

Declan - I'm just enjoying a little bit of sun and a little bit of sand.

Alex - Nice, man, that's awesome. Looks like you're in a special place. Okay, well I'm insanely jealous, I'm in my garden, so not too bad but let's crack on with Episode 7, how's that sound?

Declan - Great, let's do it.

Alex - Cool. So look, a quick recap for everyone watching and listening. Last couple of  episodes, we were looking into building your account-based marketing playbook. Shared a lot of ideas on channel tactics you can deploy for your One-to-few, One-to-many, One-to-one ABM programmes. Dec, what do you want to talk about today?

Declan - Okay, so we've had a lot of questions about ABM team structure that have come in to both of us over the course of the last few weeks. You know, what are the key roles? What skills are required? And whether or not you should outsource part, or all of your ABM programme or whether you should keep it in-house. So I thought it'd be a good idea if we could spend today talking about that. And looking a little bit at what makes a successful ABM team, in your experience and in our experience here at the Agency.

How's that sound to you, Alex?

Alex - Yeah, sounds awesome, it's so important. Perhaps something we should've covered at the beginning but it's good we're addressing it now. Think the first thing to get off our chest, right, is the term ABM, right. Account-Based Marketing, it's not actually helpful. It's the word M, 'Marketing', is quite misleading. And I think, while the term ABM is most commonly used, we're starting to see other terms such as Account-based Experience, Account-based Engagement, or just Account-based, right? It's more reflective of what it really is. When we've been discussing this in the past, ABM is a team game. Okay, that's the game changer, it's cross-functional, spans Marketing and Sales and beyond that within the wider organisation. Where do you think people go wrong, by the way?

Declan - Well, I think we're not talking here about generating leads and throwing them over the fence for Sales. But this is, as you said, it's a team game, it's a joint venture if you'd like. With one purpose and shared goals of developing Revenue, Reputation and Relationships into Target Accounts. So I think that's where, perhaps, that should be the focus for any ABM programme and people who are in the ABM team structure. So I think you might recall, Alex, we were talking about that, just before we started recording that I interviewed Bev Burgess, who's the Vice President of ITSMA recently and she actually is responsible for coining the term ABM way back in 2003. And actually, one of the questions I asked her was what skills did she think an ABM professional would need. And her take was that an ABMer should have commercial acumen, should be able to understand the levers of a business, how the business makes money, how indeed your clients make money. And then, in addition, strong leadership skills. They need to be able to pull together different parts of the business and bring them on that journey. And very much linked to that is gravitas. You've got to be able to stand in front of people, show experience, show that you have the right ideas and that you're going to take these people where the company can go. And ultimately, that relationship between Marketing and Sales is absolutely key to ABM and bringing the Account Team together, bringing the Sales Team together, bringing this knowledge sharing together is absolutely crucial. So, how do you see that, Alex?

Alex - I think that you've got that, I totally agree with that, but I think you've got to address the key skills as well, right, the ABM knowledge, it can get quite nitty-gritty with data interrogations, things like your Ideal Customer Profile ICP, Target Accounts, buyer intent data, you know, we've discussed that in the past. The technology you're going to need to use, harnessing and maximising the use of martech. Those insights, you need to understand sector, the accounts, Decision Making Unit Executives, then you've got to get creative. You've got to create compelling campaigns, both physical and digital, so online and offline and join the two together. Then there's the strategy and orchestration, this is where a lot of ABM fails. It's with the orchestration, and you've mentioned that in the past. And how you activate all this data for your ABM programmes and then think commercially about it all so a lot of key skills that you have to have. Tell you what, why don't we look into the actual team itself then, how's that sound to you?

Declan - Perfect, let's do it.

Alex - So for me, as we mentioned, it's not just about Marketing, right? You have Business Development Reps who are involved in the team. As a BDR, you're one of the first points of engagement so they need to be trained on effective personalisation, communication, they are
the human interaction. Some businesses split it out, they have SDRs, so Sales Development Reps who engage with Target Accounts, stakeholders at the right time with personalised content, messaging around outbound methods across multiple channels. MDRs, so Marketing Development Reps, some businesses call them. I think you did an interview with Alice De Courcy at Cognism, who uses them a lot.

Declan - Yep.

Alex - She kind of splits them out as well, and I thought that was really interesting. And yeah, mustn't forget your closers, your Sales Reps. Ones who manage the actual deals once in opportunity stage. ABM's about revenue at the end of the day. So rather than just that sort of standard deal cycle, they work closely with Marketing to deliver the right content and widen that DMU, Decision Making Unit, strategically to sort of really get that revenue on the board. Who else would you include on top of that?

Declan - Well, you know, data is absolutely vital to any ABM programme and I think some form of Data Administrator I think is a crucial role to have. Having that data in the right place, having it refreshed, being able to access that data in an efficient manner is absolutely crucial. And I think then you move on to your more kind of Marketing Operations. Who's going to be responsible for orchestrating all of the technology that you're using and being able to inform your strategy to engage with those Target Accounts. And then obviously, there's other roles such as Content Marketers, who's going to develop the Value Proposition,
the very important 'but why?' Crafting that messaging and those stories that you'll need to create compelling ABM programmes that are relevant to your Target Accounts. And then obviously creatives. What we find at the Agency is that creating that compelling message, you need to have some really, really good creatives there. So getting innovative with your  ideas, getting very personal with your ideas is really, really important because you need to be able to cut through that noise. How do you reach that Target Account? How do you reach that individual within that Target Account that you're looking to influence? So how does that look for you, Alex? What else are we missing?

Alex - I think the thing that frustrates me the most is when we speak to businesses and haven't really got buy-in from the C-suite. The CEO is such a key player but you have to be aligned across the entire organisation. A lot of businesses are ripping out old systems and this is quite a new method so without that buy in, and particularly without the C-suite, a lot can go wrong. I also believe that Customer Success and Account Management is quite  essential. If you're working on expansion opportunities, you'll need that as well but they can also provide you with the insights at the beginning to help you with targeting and the messaging and everything. 

So I suppose the question is, can you do this all on your own, Dec?

Declan - That's a really, really good question. In our experience, there are a few companies that are able to do it exclusively on their own but generally speaking, it's a relatively new discipline. There are an awful lot of moving parts where orchestration is key. There's a new skill set that we've mentioned earlier, with deep data knowledge that is required that is not necessarily prevalent in existing Marketing Teams. That's what we find, at least in our experience. What else have you seen, Alex?

Alex - Yeah, I think a lot of Marketing Teams are structured around brand, event management, sales support activities, which they do incredibly well at but they're not kind of  set up for the resource-heavy nature of ABM. I think also connecting the dots between sales triggers and your proposed solution or play is key. That's where a lot of campaigns fail. I mean, I suppose those are my only other things I'd like to add.

How would you summarise those choices open to marketing leaders then?

Declan - Yeah. So, I think ultimately what we find is that clients tend to come to us and they either have a knowledge issue, a resource issue, or both. And that's ultimately where we have majorly looked to add value. So what shall we talk about next week, Alex?

Alex - Yeah, gosh, we've covered quite a lot of it. I think the only bits we're really missing is ROI and measurement and I think you coined this, the 3 R's, the Reputation, Relationships and Revenue. So, actually going into the what we're measuring, how we measure ROI, activation, engagement, those kind of things, but those 3 R's as well. How's that sound to you?

Declan - Sounds like a great idea. Looking forward to it.

Alex - Oh, well look. Awesome to speak to you again, Dec. Glad to hear you're well and go and enjoy some of that beach, it looks awesome.

Declan - Thanks, Alex. See you next week.

Alex - See you next week, mate. Bye.