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Let’s talk ABM: 6 reasons to consider an ABM Center of Excellence

In a recent episode of Let's talk ABM, we spoke with Avishek Chakrobarty, Head – Global ABM Centre of Excellence at Kyndryl, about ABM Center of Excellence. Here we summarize the key takeaways.

Strategy   |   ABM

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Declan Mulkeen

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Feb 8 2024 - 13min Read Date published: Date modified: 2024-02-13

Have you heard of an ABM Center of Excellence ?
Do you know what an ABM CoE is (that's how it's often referred to)?
A repository of best practices?  A means to disseminating insights and effective ABM strategies? An aid to streamlining campaigns – and the continuous refinement of your ways of working?
An ABM Center of Excellence (CoE) is all of these things and more. It’s an invaluable accumulation of knowledge and experience.
In this article, we’ll explore the core CoE FAQs, drawing on the wisdom of Avishek Chakrobarty, Head – Global ABM Centre of Excellence at Kyndryl
We'll look at what constitutes an ABM CoE, why – and when – to consider creating one, how to begin, and how to deliver for your business.
In the LTABM interview with Avishek (full episode here), we discussed:
  • What a CoE means for Account-based Marketing
  • How and why they created one at Kyndryl
  • Sharing data and metrics, and selecting accounts
  • And much more...
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6 key questions about ABM CoEs

1. What is an ABM Center of Excellence?

An ABM Center of Excellence is all about improvement. 
Its job is to identify and disseminate best practices within and throughout an organization. So, any company large enough to be able to resource a CoE would be advised to do so. Right?
In Account-based Marketing, a Center of Excellence is tasked specifically with looking at the current ABM processes in place.
Think ways of engaging with customers, and how personalized aspects of ABM are being brought into play. 
It’s there to embed the philosophy of ABM within teams, Sales, Marketing, Customer Success…everyone!
The big picture in ABM is, of course, crystallized by the Three Rs, and the CoE is dedicated to advising about how best to achieve them. 
In the same way those Three Rs – Reputation, Relationships, and Revenue – need to remain front-of-mind for the operation as a whole, so too the ABM CoE has an overarching reach and responsibility to the business.
“A CoE acts as the glue between the different functions, both within and outside Marketing, when it comes to interacting and working with customers… it's a high-level consulting entity inside the larger organization, to deploy the philosophy of working together, aligning together, to achieve business outcomes.” -  Avishek Chakrobarty, Head – Global ABM Centre of Excellence at Kyndry

2. When’s the right time for an ABM CoE?

The point at which an ABM operation should consider setting up a Center of Excellence ties back to the founding principles of Account-based Marketing. 
Avishek Chakrobarty goes on to explain that it’s not something you can do at any point of time. The moment is right when you reach a certain level of ABM maturity. 
For Kyndryl, the point of being ready for ABM itself was when a significant chunk of its customer base was Fortune 500. 
That’s because enterprise accounts, spanning multiple geographies and business units, “have a lot of headroom to grow” – and you want to increase the proportion of the marketing that you’re doing.
Secondly, an organization’s ABM journey reaches a key point when the leadership expresses their belief in it – signaling a readiness to invest time, money, and effort, a preparedness to work to align teams.
Avishek says there is then a philosophical or strategic shift at the top – and “that is when you can look at an ABM Center of Excellence to kind of gel together the whole thing”. The time has come to “imbibe that mindset in their whole organization” as he puts it!
“I think it comes from leadership. Without buy-in and belief, and kind of vision of ABM from the leadership, it's very difficult to just set up a Center of Excellence, and make yourself popular across the board.”  - Avishek Chakrobarty, Head – Global ABM Centre of Excellence at Kyndry

3. How to make an ABM CoE a living function

Once you’ve decided to set up an ABM CoE, you’re committed to its resourcing. Experts within a team may move sideways into it, or at least take on new duties. And we’ve already said a CoE’s remit is organization-wide, so that means everyone needs to know about it – if it’s to prove effective.
The whole point is that everybody in the organization can – and should – call on the ABM Center of Excellence. Because obviously, an ABM team runs on data – information about accounts, the market, campaign metrics, etc. – and the CoE will be a major part of that; ensuring a smooth flow.
ABM Heroes (Terry Osborne)
Spreading the word about what the CoE is for, and how Marketers and ABMers alike can make use of it, is essential. 
This is an internal PR operation – because the CoE needs to be appreciated, to be trusted, and fully utilized.
Its real value is getting best practices – as well as all that data – shared across teams. But more than that, it’s crucial that this communication between the CoE and the business at large, every corner of it, is going in both directions. 
A CoE needs to listen as much as it ‘speaks’, to produce useful guidance!
“It's not just that the Center of Excellence will sit and give directives, like ‘Do it this way! Do it that way!’ What we do [at Kyndryl] is, it's a bidirectional communication.” - Avishek Chakrobarty, Head – Global ABM Centre of Excellence at Kyndry

4. What does a CoE look like in operation?

Imagine a person in the middle of an ABM operation; they may have access to some of the third-party data that’s coming in. 
However, they might not be seeing intelligence from Field Marketers on the ground. This is where an ABM Center of Excellence can excel.
What the CoE does is take in all feedback, not simply to share, but to make sure everyone understands it, i.e. the client pain points people are seeing from their unique perspective. 
A CoE can also collate insights into how things are going within different markets, and at every account. In short, it’s a central hub. 
The CoE applies accumulated experience to data from the full range of stakeholders, adding extra insight, then shares everything relevant back across the business to support its ABM activity.
All of which is not to say a CoE is omniscient.
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As Avishek says: “Obviously, there are supporting functions all across [your CoE]. 
Your brand team is there, your PR team, Business Intelligence… they're all stakeholders.” In ABM, data should form the core of all decision-making. So, it’s helpful to have the CoE there to provide insight across data, metrics – and account insights arising – for sharing wherever it’s needed.
So in this way, an ABM Center of Excellence operates within a hub-and-spokes model, with that two-way communication radiating out – and back in.  
“Guidance from the Content team etc. – it all comes together to be able to create a package. Which we can then give to the Field Marketers, saying: ‘Hey, this is something which has the highest probability of working, given the market feedback that you’ve given’.” - Avishek Chakrobarty, Head – Global ABM Centre of Excellence at Kyndry

5. Data is at the core of an ABM CoE

As Avishek explains, one major challenge for an ABM Center of Excellence is that being Account-based means cutting across so many functions – and each has its own metrics. 
It’s the job of the ABM CoE to mesh things together, which means ensuring that sharing data isn’t a meaningless exercise. It’s no good passing it between different spokes of the wheel if the understanding isn’t there.
This is where having a Data and Analytics team, attached to or within the CoE, is crucial. 
Its job is to marry metrics of all kinds – leading and lagging, etc. – into the Three Rs. 
As Avishek points out, revenue is the easy one; once a deal is signed, the money is there. But what do ABMers need to be tracking, and how can they identify success, in terms of reputation and relationships?
The secret is to have a dashboard to break down different aspects into a customer relationship score. 
Avishek praises the “phenomenal job” being done by his Data and Analytics team, and the dashboard they have created for translating internal metrics into something everyone can understand: “So they know that when I say a customer's relationship score is three, is that good, is that bad? 
Do we need to improve it? Do we need to hold it?” – it’s all about cross-team education.
“We have, I would say, about 80% solved the metrics [at Kyndryl], and we are kind of running with it. I am sleeping better! But there are times when I would wake up thinking: ‘Okay, maybe THIS number would've helped!’" - Avishek Chakrobarty, Head – Global ABM Centre of Excellence at Kyndry

6. What is the CoE’s role in account targeting?

ABM account scoring – designed to narrow down and choose which to target – is tricky where alignment is lacking internally. Sales will be influenced by certain factors, Marketing will likely have different priorities, while ABM strategists will seek to apply their thinking to determine which prospects should go into a program…
On achieving alignment, Avishek explains how Kyndryl uses a complex proprietary engine, built by the Data and Analytics team there, to look at all the different aspects.
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So, account-level data, the industry, the market, firmographics, and technographic, intent data – all of that is brought in “to maybe create two or three unique metrics, which has its own indicators telling that if it's above a certain band, it's potential for an ABM”. 
Here, account targeting is all about lifetime value (LTV), with the varied data for each customer account boiled down to one number that, crucially, everyone can both understand and agree upon; a rich mix of mathematical and manual intelligence all factored in.
So, it’s the ABM Center of Excellence to the rescue again.
That internal alignment which is essential for successful Account-based Marketing, as we’ve discussed a lot on the Let’s talk ABM podcast, falls within the sharing-is-caring CoE remit… just in case you were still wondering whether you ought to set one up or not!
“In my experience, one of the most robust efforts that I've seen being made towards identifying clients… it's the right approach to look at not only the quantitative aspects of the account, [but also] qualitative aspects, married together to come to a kind of a band – telling us this looks as a potential for ABM.” - Avishek Chakrobarty, Head – Global ABM Centre of Excellence at Kyndry
Want to learn more about everything ABM? Check out our Let’s talk ABM podcast series to hear tips and tricks from industry-leading ABMers.

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