Is ABM your next career move?

ABM offers varied work and great career development opportunities. So why, asks Paul Snell, are senior practitioners struggling to find marketers to fill vacancies?

Andrea Clatworthy has a problem.

The head of account-based marketing at Fujitsu just can’t find the recruits she needs to support her organisation’s ABM efforts, she told delegates at the B2B Marketing Account-Based Everything conference in November.

She’s not the only one finding it tricky to hire the right people. At a roundtable we held ahead of the conference (you can read the findings here), senior ABM practitioners bemoaned the fact they couldn’t get enough of the right people, who understood the strategic side of ABM rather than simply running a process.

I find this a little perplexing. Not that senior marketers are having difficulty identifying the right recruits, but that more B2B marketers aren’t leaping toward the available opportunities. Especially when Bev Burgess, senior VP at ITSMA and the conference’s closing presenter, describes ABM as “the most exciting place to be in B2B marketing” at the moment.

Much of our conference focused on the benefits ABM can bring to your business, but it strikes me practising ABM can also bring enormous advantages for your career too. One of the roundtable participants cited how his current ABM role had been sold to him as a “mini-CMO” position (knowing he had ambitions in that area), as ABM requires the same strategic, leadership and business competencies you need at the highest level.

Burgess cited Charles Doyle, who practised ABM at Accenture and one of her ‘magnificent seven’ ABM practitioners, and went on to be global CMO at both magic circle law firm Clifford Chance and real estate business JLL.

“He used his [ABM] experience to power his career and so can you,” she adds. “It could take you up the leadership ladder in ABM itself. It could take you into regional or functional marketing leadership. Or it could take you to CMO level. And it could also take you to business leadership.”

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Turns your first steps into strides

ABM takes a certain type of marketer

Of course an ABM role isn’t going to be right for everyone. You need to have skills that go beyond traditional marketing competencies. Burgess cites the need for business acumen, to know how the business operates and makes its money, how to lead an account team, and how to lead cultural change, because that’s what ABM does to your company.

Those at the roundtable felt “salesmanship is sadly lacking in many up-and-coming marketers”, meaning many lacked the credibility to deal with the sales or commercial director to deliver strategy. It was notable that all the senior ABM practitioners round the table had some frontline sales experience in their career.

The more cynical among you may feel you’ve been here before, in the digital skills boom of the noughties. Skills that today are now either irrelevant, out-of-date, or have been left pigeonholed as a ‘digital specialist’ unable to advance your career. But the great thing about ABM is it’s a strategy, not a tactic (or at least it should be). It’s about being a generalist, not a specialist.

To me, it’s a no-brainer. Practising ABM is hugely varied, full of opportunities to advance your career and develop your skills – and there’s a huge demand for talented individuals. And if organisations can’t find them in the marketing community, they’ll start looking elsewhere.

As Burgess says: “The sky’s the limit, with ABM you’re in the right place.”

ABM: Which approach is right for you?

B2B Marketing gathered some of the top client-side ABM practitioners for a roundtable to discuss how they got started, what’s been successful and what they’d do differently if they had the chance.

Find out what they told us

ABM: Which approach is right for you?