The Marketing Strategist:

ABM as the Key to Career Advancement

November 21, 2013

The concept behind Account Based Marketing (ABM) is well-known. Less widely appreciated is the potential impact of an ABM assignment on a marketer’s career. Neil Blakesly, CMO at CSC and former VP of Marketing at BT Global Services, calls a marketer overseeing an ABM account a “mini-CMO.” The ABM lead needs to do everything a CMO does for one extremely prominent account. The gap between a mini-CMO and a CMO isn’t a very big one. Consider the definition of ABM: the practice of treating individual accounts as markets in their own right. It’s a structured approach to developing and implementing highly customized campaigns to markets of one: accounts, partners, or prospects, typically a company’s largest, most strategic accounts or partners. But this definition obscures a higher truth: a large organization isn’t like a market in its own right; it is a market in its own right. The bigger the account, the bigger the universe of decision-makers and influencers within the account. Depending on the industry, a company with $10 billion in revenue will have at least 10,000 employees and as many as 100,000. Big companies are like houses with many doors: there may be one main entrance, just as there is one main decision-maker, but there are many other ways to get inside. And that requires segmentation. It requires the development of personas. It requires personalization. It requires budgeting, data expertise, and predictive analytics. On the soft skills side, the ABM lead needs to influence in the absence of true authority, build alliances across the organization, manage strategic relationships with sales, and deal with lots of internal politics. In short, the ABM lead needs the same skills and processes used to attack a broad, conventionally defined market, but focused on a single large account. It shows you have the ability to bring results, not just technical skills and institutional knowledge. The talent crunch in marketing is real—and it’s here to stay. Once you’ve become comfortable in a niche, you become hard to replace, and your superiors have an incentive to keep you there. That loving embrace can feel good. But it can also become a death grip that stunts career development. The way out—and up—is to launch yourself out of the nest and fly. Becoming a mini-CMO is the best kind of practice. ABM is your launch pad. The next ABM program kicks off December 12 and 13 in Cambridge, MA. Learn more about ITSMA’s ABM Certification Program.

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