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Measure and improve your account-based marketing progress with this definitive model

The B2B Marketing ABM Competency Model demonstrates everything you'll need to master as you become proficient in ABM. Mary-Anne Baldwin walks you through the five stages of evolution

It’s incredible how quickly ABM has developed from something tucked away in the dark corners of the industry to what it is now – a celebrated part of the mainstream.

Last week was testament to that as 400 B2B marketers joined our second dedicated ABM Conference where we shared a year’s worth of research into hundreds of B2B marketers who are using, or planning to use ABM. For many reasons, it was one of those ‘take stock’ moments. We got to reflect on how far people had come in their ABM journey but also how much it has yet to offer. 

And there is a lot on offer. Aside from the obvious revenue gains, the real beauty of ABM is that there is so much room for creativity and human connection. ABM speaks up for the customer, it champions their goals and challenges, and pushes lazy, ego-led marketing aside. It supports a new era of customer-led marketing and while doing so, calls for the utmost innovative and imaginative ways to show customers that you’ve listened. 

That’s something we’re very much onboard with, and we want to help you get onboard as well. To that end, we’ve channelled a year’s worth of research into our latest ABM report and our ABM Competency Model, which I’d like to share with you now.

Learn how to evaluate your efforts in account-based marketing

Through our extensive industry surveys and interviews, we’ve come to learn what it takes to deliver ABM. We know the hurdles you’re likely to face in advance of you reaching them and we’re here to walk you through them all. Our ABM Competency Model (an update on last year’s ABM Maturity Matrix) demonstrates everything you will master as you become proficient in ABM. It maps that across five stages of evolution, taking into consideration the five core elements of delivery.

Crucially, this model allows you to:

  • Assess your current skills against what you’ll need for the road ahead.
  • Compare your aptitude with the majority of other B2B marketers.
  • Determine the steps that’ll take you to the next stage.
B2B Marketing ABM Competency Model

To view the ABM Competency Model full-size, please click here

The five elements of ABM delivery 

As you’ll see in this model, there are five key elements of delivery – these are the areas you need to master for your ABM programme to run smoothly. 

Element 1: Internal alignment 

Internal alignment starts with key stakeholder buy-in from your marketing team, sales, executives and the board. Once you have secured this (and that is no easy feat in itself), the majority of your efforts will be to maintain your understanding and alliance with sales. Friction between you will have an affect on your performance.

Top tip: This isn’t just about being friendly with sales but having clear, shared objectives and responsibilities. Sales must be aware that ABM is not about what marketing does for them, but what sales and marketing do together. 

Element 2: Account definition

This is the process by which marketing and sales work together to define what the ideal account will look like, and then select them. This includes agreeing on the number, size and type of accounts you will target. That decision must be data-driven and made collaboratively by sales and marketing.

Top tip: The process by which you select your accounts is crucial and often under estimated. Success in ABM is limited to the potential worth of your accounts – that means picking targets that represent value to your business, while having a high likelihood of unlocking that value within the given timeframe.

Element 3: Data & insight

Again sales and marketing must work collaboratively together to pool the information they need to select the right accounts. Once they’ve chosen them, they have to dig deeper into those insights, mapping what they don’t know and plugging that gap. That information must be clean, up-to-date and readily shared. 

Top tip: Pooling account information is currently the biggest challenge for B2B ABMers with 86% saying it’s a challenge or a big challenge. An easy way to resolve this is to go after fewer accounts and choosing those you already know. Of course, don’t forget third-party data providers, who can really help take the pressure off!

Element 4: Technology

Largely speaking, additional technology is not essential to ABM’s delivery – unless you are using one-to-many marketing. As you progress in your journey you will find more use for tech, but at the start your focal point must be getting sales and marketing efficiently and effectively using the CRM system. It’s surprising how many aren’t there yet. 

Top tip: Consider how upgrades, training and incentives can improve your use of the CRM system but more importantly, ensure marketing is using it well too. As customer knowledge is power, the CRM is your portal to it – and to intel that positions you as an equal to sales. 

Element 5: Programme & content execution 

This covers the bespoke marketing assets – be they whitepapers, microsites, direct mail content or company awareness days – that you will use in order to engage and entice your chosen accounts. It describes both those assets the full scope of the campaign under which you deliver them. 

Top tip: ABM content and delivery doesn’t have to wait until you’ve perfected all four elements of delivery, in fact it can be rolled out on any scale and at any stage of your ABM programme. Just don’t fall at the last hurdle by pumping out repurposed content on it’s own – it’s need to be personal, unique and targeted.

Taking your next steps in ABM 

We know 59% of you are yet to deploy ABM, putting you in the first of the five stages, during which you’re understanding and scoping ABM. 

At stage one, ABMers will have recognised the value of targeted, personalised marketing, but while their current practices involve loose experimentation with ABM philosophies, they do not follow its precise disciplines. At stage one, ABMers will be auditing their current capabilities, securing top-level buy-in and budget, setting their overarching objectives and assessing fit, both internally and with prospects.

The next steps will enable them to move to stage two. This will include mapping a targeted approach to your selected accounts, having found the decision-makers, segmented them but also understood them on an individual level. This stage is about preparing all elements and tools – including data, staffing, early stage technology and content execution – ready for implementation.

Our two adjoining reports, Early stage ABM: Plotting your route to success and The 2018 account-based marketing census walk you through how to take these next steps, providing you with specific advice on how to overcome the most common challenges in each of the five key elements of delivery.

The B2B Marketing ABM Conference 2019

Welcome to the #1 event for marketers starting or scaling their ABM.

  • 25 leading industry speakers.
  • 17 inspirational sessions.
  • 5 ABM-expert keynotes.
  • 4 practical, engaging streams.
  • Drinks reception with over 400 of your ABM peers

5 November, London.

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