Account-Based Marketing is an incredibly efficient and effective strategy that is driving substantially greater return on investment for B2B marketers – if it’s done right. In fact, according to a 2018 ABM Benchmark Study by the ABM Leadership Alliance and ITSMA, 99 percent of marketers report greater ROI from their ABM programs than all other types of marketing programs. However, it’s still the early days for ABM. Most companies are just getting started with their ABM programs, with over 80 percent of survey respondents reporting that they are less than two years into their ABM implementation.
So, why the slow adoption despite the great results? Many organizations are reluctant to dive into an ABM strategy because they have analysis paralysis around implementation, rooted in the misconception that rolling out an ABM strategy will require a major change management exercise and overhaul of the marketing team. While ABM requires a shift in thinking, it’s really easy to get started.
Here are ten steps for implementing a successful ABM strategy that isn’t complicated and will not require you to throw away everything you know about B2B marketing:
Step 1: Simplify and focus
Once you decide to embark on an ABM strategy, think of it as a shift to a shared focus between sales and marketing around a target account list and getting to revenue. You’ll want everyone on your marketing team to develop programs with an eye toward reaching their target account list, and ultimately drive revenue.
Take, for instance, the event marketing team. The way organizations put together their event strategy is often a hodge-podge of different reasons. Whether it’s because they’ve always done that event, their competitors are going to be there, a sales rep asked them to go, or they always receive a high volume of leads from that event, this kind of unfocused strategy will lead to too many events that organizations do not have the budget for.
In an ABM world, organizations determine what qualifies or disqualifies an event by the percentage of attendees on their target account list. If it’s a small percentage, then it’s probably not worth paying for a booth or submitting a speaking submission. Instead, buy a ticket for a sales rep to the event and work with their inside sales rep to set up meetings with the handful of target accounts in attendance. You save a lot of budget and time, and your sales team still feels supported.
Alternatively, when you come up with your short list of events, your marketing tactics will be much different, because you’re focused on the quality of engagements with target accounts versus the number of leads. Instead of spending money on a margarita machine or swag to attract people to your booth, you might host an executive breakfast or dinner for your target accounts to get one-on-one time with them. Your guiding principles will be about target account engagement, not about volume.
Step 2: Know who’s on your team
The “M” in ABM is a misnomer. While it stands for marketing, Account-Based Marketing is much more than just a marketing initiative; it’s an organization initiative. In addition to marketing, sales, operations, customer success, and finance all play an integral role in the success of an ABM strategy and need to work together in the following ways:
Sales: Everyone has heard ad nauseam about sales and marketing alignment, but it’s very true: if marketing creates a target account list that sales haven’t bought into, then your ABM strategy isn’t going to work. Marketing and sales need to be in lockstep around many things, but especially the target account list.
Operations: Operations keeps the wheels on with ABM; they make sure your existing technologies can report on and talk in the account language, things like your CRM and marketing automation solution, but they will also evaluate new technologies you may want to deploy. Additionally, they are usually responsible for all the reporting, metrics and KPIs that are useful in determining what is working with your ABM strategy and what might need additional attention.
Customer Success: Customer success plays an important role in ABM because your customers’ buyer’s journey doesn’t end when they become a customer. Customers are still part of your target accounts because there are renewals and upsells in their buyer’s journey, and you need to continue to nurture those relationships.
Finance: Finance loves ABM because it’s focused on a very specific target account list and getting to revenue. A dollar into marketing to support an ABM strategy is far more predictable to its output on the other end than general B2B marketing practices, which makes it easier for finance to budget year-over-year.
Step 3: Understand your team’s goals and motivations
Now that you have your stakeholder committee, it’s time to understand their goals and motivations so marketing can put together the right programs to satisfy these goals. In addition to revenue goals, consider new product launches, customers retention rates, and logo acquisition goals.
For instance, most sales reps do not simply have a one-million-dollar quota to satisfy any way they like – instead, they have a one-million-dollar quota where 25% needs to come from new logos, 25% might come from a new product launch, and 50%might need to come from retaining or upselling customers (or some combination of that nature). Understanding those dynamics will help marketing teams develop the types of programs that help sales fulfill all the elements of their quota, thereby satisfying the goals of the broader organization.
Step 4: Identify any issues or weaknesses
In rolling out an ABM strategy, it’s important to anticipate pushback, as sales teams haven’t been used to working with marketing. Don’t think of this pushback as objections, but instead, think of it as hesitation or unfamiliarity around a new way of doing things. It’s important to educate your team on the value of an account-based approach and build a strong foundation for moving forward on an ABM strategy.
Step 5: Be clear on KPIs and metrics
In ABM, it’s about quality, not quantity. Metrics should be centered around how you are impacting your organization’s ability to hit its revenue number. Instead of focusing on vanity metrics like click-through rates, focus on revenue performance metrics such as average deal size, close rates and funnel velocity. However, most organizations’ sales cycles are longer than one quarter and showing success in these three metrics will take some time. So, you can add an interim engagement metric to understand whether you are trending in the right direction in the short-term.
For instance, if you are the website manager, how are you engaging your target accounts on your website? Are they getting to the goal pages you want? Are they spending more time on your website or are they bouncing? These engagement metrics serve as guiding principles between sales cycles to determine what you should be doing for your websites to ensure the accounts you care about are consuming and engaging with the content in the way you want.
Step 6: Align on accounts to target
One of the questions we get asked most frequently is how big a target account list should be. At Demandbase, we determine the size of the list by looking at what percentage of your quota you expect to come from target accounts, what are your closed rates, how big are your average deal sizes, among other factors. From that, we get a number which tells us each sales rep will need “X” number of target accounts; then we multiply that by the number of sales reps at the organization to determine how big the target account list should be. Understanding the size is the first step. Second is filling that list with accounts that are ready to engage with you, which you can do by understanding what your ideal customer profile looks like, disqualifying accounts that aren’t going to buy from you, and then identifying the remaining accounts that are in market for your solution. Additionally, you don’t want to spend time, money and effort going after an account that just signed a three-year deal with your competitor. Some of these insights will be coming through technology and some will come from talking to your sales reps. Making sure sales and marketing are in alignment, once again, becomes really important in developing your target account list.
Step 7: Address your audience intelligently, and find budget
Once you have a target account list, it’s time to understand how to address that list intelligently. As accounts on your target account list get closer and closer to becoming revenue for the organization, you should be spending more and more money and resources per account to ensure they become revenue. Many organizations are laser-focused on demand gen and filling the funnel, which is important, but in an ABM world you should have some of your team, if not everyone, focused on the pipeline. Once something is in the pipeline, it’s critical to focus on how marketing can help make sure it closes and closes faster with a larger than average deal size. And once an account becomes a customer, then marketing should continue to focus on that account to help support the account team’s ability to renew and upsell that customer.
A question I often get asked is how to find budget for addressing your target account list. My response is simple: You don’t need to find new budget. If you focus on target accounts, you will optimize your budget because you aren’t spending budget on really expensive tactics that aren’t getting in front of their target accounts. Instead of casting a wide net and hoping you reach your target account list, you will know who your target accounts are and can spend money only on tactics that focus on those accounts.
Step 8: Align on campaign and segment prioritization
Everyone focuses on sales and marketing alignment, but marketing on marketing alignment is equally important. When you’re focusing on a much smaller set of target accounts, there is potential for marketers to step on each other’s toes. As a result, it becomes increasingly important to take a hard look at the various marketing functions and tactics to understand where they play in the marketing funnel. Make sure you are segmenting your list based on where accounts are in their buyer’s journey and tailoring your message across the channels that make the greatest impact at each stage.
Step 9: Collaborate with and enable your sales team
We’ve talked about sales and marketing alignment and we’ve talked about it with regards to identifying the target account list, but it’s also important to engage your sales team from a sales enablement perspective. As a marketer, you should be thinking about how to enable the sales team to take advantage of the programs you’ve put together. For instance, if you’re doing a webinar, enable your sales team before, during and after the webinar to make sure you (and they) are satisfying your goals.
As the sales and marketing team become aligned on KPIs, marketing will have a vested interested in sales enablement. The best and highest performing ABM programs I’ve seen think of their SDR, or inside sales team, as an extension of the marketing team and both teams have the same KPIs around pipeline generation. With this approach, marketing and sales become inextricably linked and are great partners in generating pipeline for the organization.
Step 10: Ease your way into an ABM strategy
Some people say crawl, walk, run with your ABM strategy, but I like to put a little more context around it. The first phase is really about shifting the focus for the entire marketing team. Likely, everyone on your team is experienced in B2B marketing, so it’s not about throwing that away, but instead, it’s about looking at your marketing mix through new a new lens of whether each tactic or channel can reach your target account list and how to execute it such that it will help drive pipeline and revenue.
Then, in phase two, take all the learnings from phase one and the new set of target account list engagement metrics driving you forward and figure out how to optimize your programs, your budget spend, your headcount and resources to make sure you are doing the most to generate pipeline and engagements with your target account list.
Finally, phase three, you’re ready to run or go all in with ABM. If you think of phase one as a pilot phase, phase three is about making your entire marketing team an ABM machine — it’s not just the demand gen team or digital marketing, it’s everyone in marketing.
ABM is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a long-term strategy that needs to be built on a solid foundation. By aligning marketing, sales, operations, customer success and finance around shared goals and an account-focus, you’ll be off to a great start with your ABM strategy. With the guidance of these ten steps, hopefully, you see a clear and actionable path to embarking on an ABM strategy that is right for your business.
Last Friday’s Salesforce outage meant work came to a halt for thousands of marketing and sales users locked out of Pardot and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
The outage, reportedly caused by a faulty Pardot database script, was prompted by reports that users were able to see and edit all of their company’s data, regardless of their permission settings. Salesforce quickly responded by cutting off access to current and past Pardot customers as it worked to resolve the faulty script.
“As a result, customers who were not affected may have also experienced service disruption, including customers using Marketing Cloud integrations,” a Salesforce spokesperson said in a statement. Salesforce and Pardot have not responded to Marketing Land’s request to comment on the outage and remediation plan.
Why we should care
Productivity all but stopped for many organizations that rely on Salesforce for their sales and marketing efforts. If you couldn’t access any of your analytics, content, data, contacts, how would your team operate?
It’s yet another reminder that internal and external workflows and processes we rely on to conduct business throughout our organizations could all potentially be impacted by an outage. The impact of lost productivity may have been especially devastating to small organizations that were unable to access their instances and solely depend on Salesforce for their business operations.
Digital marketers strive for seamless integrations and unified marketing execution, but this outage should serve as a wake-up call to us. Digital marketers need to develop contingency plans for handling worst-case scenarios and platform outages that out of our control. If your organization doesn’t have a marketing-specific business continuity plan or disaster recovery plan, work with your internal stakeholders to identify risks and outline plan of action in case of an emergency.
More on the outage
Users were locked out for 15 hours before Admins regained access on Friday.
Salesforce users who want to monitor for updates related to this issue can do so on the Salesforce status page.
Under “Administration/Users”, check the Profiles and Permission Sets in Setup to determine if your Sandbox Copy contains a valid data backup.
If your non-admin profiles are configured such that all of the “Standard Object Permissions” (read, create, edit, delete) are unchecked, the Sandbox org was not impacted and is not a valid source for recovery.
Permission Sets and User Profiles can be deployed from Sandbox to Production orgs through the following links:
Please note that your sandbox configuration could be outdated and not identical to your product org before the incident. Carefully review these setting before deploying them to production. Salesforce recommends testing with one profile before migrating all profiles.
If a Sandbox containing production profiles and permission sets does not exist and there is an organizational need for you to restore, Admins can manually modify Profile and Permission Set configurations to grant appropriate access to users:
If your digital marketing team struggles with attribution, you’re not alone. Nielsen reports that only one out of every four marketers can confidently attribute revenue to their digital efforts. But does that surprise you?
Probably not — attribution is a pressing issue and can be a serious challenge for marketing and sales teams. Activating cross-channel campaigns through different platforms leads to siloed data in various, disconnected systems. The continued growth of your martech stack could create significant challenges, including attribution accuracy. But despite these challenges, your team still needs to be able to confidently track ROI and communicate value to your organizational leaders.
The attribution issue
Many marketers feel the frustration on a day-to-day basis, and attribution disparities often expose larger organizational challenges. If marketers can’t demonstrate to their leadership the ROI behind their digital marketing, how can they ask furthered martech investments?
Single-touch is likely the most-used model, where attribution is credited to the final touchpoint that converts. Multi-touch attribution models, on the other hand, use a methodology that assigns different weighted values based on how likely marketers believe each touchpoint influences the conversion throughout the whole customer journey.
“Determining your attribution model and where to assign the weight is the largest challenge we face as marketers,” said Natasha Humphrey, strategic digital marketing consultant at SmartSearch Marketing. “Undervaluing one source in the attribution model, however, could present a challenge when we need leadership buy-in on continued investment in that source.”
Part of that challenge, according to Raviv Turner, chief executive officer of CaliberMind, is the standard attribution methodologies most marketers use today. “Many organizations have shifted from single-touch attribution to multi-touch attribution models, but that creates complex challenges without good, clean data sets. We need to start using chain-based models going forward,” he said.
The practice of assigning weight to channels across customer journeys relies heavily on human bias — the channels that we believe heavily drive conversions are assigned the most weight. “But what if instead of bringing human bias to the table, we go back to the lead and reverse-engineer the customer journey?” Turner asked.
That’s where machine learning comes in.
Machine learning and chain-based attribution
The rise of advancements in AI, machine learning and natural processing has become much more tangible to marketers over the past five years, but many still face difficulty understanding how to apply them to our marketing. “With a machine learning model, we’re able to remove the human bias,” said Chris Nixon, vice president of marketing at CaliberMind. “The model learns with your data to look at different outcomes — revenue, pipeline, lead generation, etc. — and identifies the touch points across the customer journey.”
“The machine learning model analyzes buying patterns over time and identifies the patterns that influence a chain of events,” Nixon added. “If you’re looking at revenue from ‘closed/won or closed/lost’ opportunities, what was the path for each?” The chain-based model starts with the outcome and looks back at the steps across the journey taken to drive the end result.
Create marketing intelligence for leadership
Automation and machine learning both have a strong presence in the martech landscape, but CaliberMind’s chain-based attribution tool takes a different approach. The tool connects siloed platforms, tracks ROI by starting with the outcome, and works backward to understand the holistic impact of each step of the customer journey. This method could improve the quality of marketing intelligence and insights we gain. Marketers should feel equipped with accurate knowledge of their digital performance to have well-informed discussions with decision-makers.
According to Humphrey, adopting this methodology could be a large step forward for marketers. “The chain-based approach could make a big difference to marketers who need leadership buy-in for continued investment in undervalued sources,” said Humphrey. “We need the insight to provide ROI to leadership and clients, and into how the full-funnel is attributing to the journey. Chain-based attribution could very well do that.”
As digital marketers, we make tons of decisions every day. We carefully identify targets to develop segments. We match products to prospects and decide which channels and platforms to use to reach them. We are continually adapting to support dynamic business goals and increasingly investing in martech to execute. We focus on driving value by building customer journeys to foster relationships. However, our interactions in those relationships — from channel strategy to messaging — can be very different depending on how we define them.
But the very definition of our channels might be changing too. Just ask Steve Lucas, former Marketo CEO and current Adobe senior vice president of digital experience. While marketing sectors have so far neatly organized under either B2B or B2C, Lucas said Adobe is embracing a new channel strategy dubbed B2E, or business to everyone.
“It’s really business-to-everyone”
“We often have a divergence in terms of how we approach marketing from B2B and B2C,” Lucas told Marketing Land. “The reality is that the divergence makes it difficult to connect the individual profile that we build to the account.” He believes this leads to flaws in how we think about — and engage with — our customers from a marketing perspective.
“We need to take the behaviors and characteristics of the individual people that comprise buying teams to orchestrate experiences for all of those people on the team,” he said.” Unique, specialized and acute experiences that manage to help each customer conclude that the product is the right one.”
Lucas pointed to Amazon as he described the forces driving the need for change in how they define their customers, to stop bucketing people together at the account-level. Instead of marketing to businesses, Adobe is using a personalized, conversational chatbot approach to deliver these experiences. The messaging can be tailored to the different individuals who compose enterprise buying teams, The solution also leverages real-time engagement metrics and sales results to align content to each buyer.
But B2B and B2C designations exist for a reason. We don’t necessarily speak to consumers on either side within the same context. “There needs to be an overarching message to the consumer audience at some point,” said Natasha Humphrey, strategic digital marketing consultant at SmartSearch Marketing. “You can’t eliminate B2B or B2C and go straight to B2E because you need to speak to your audience at a high level during any customer journey.”
But according to Lucas, it is time for a shift. “We’ve reached an inflection point relative to how we engage, how we serve our customers,” said Lucas. “If you think of it in the context of how we actually do it, everything is predicated on CRM.”
The shift to customer-centric marketing
Lucas is right, of course, that CRM software is a fundamental component of today’s businesses. Decisions about many of the engagement tools in our martech stacks are based on their CRM integration capabilities. However, CRM is a sales tool, not a marketing tool. It never was intended to be a vehicle for delivering unique customer experiences.
Lucas said the CRM-driven approach forces marketers to make decisions, limiting us to grouping people into segments. “Essentially, CRM is not customer-centric,” said Lucas. “CXM (customer experience management) flips that upside down.” The difference is, according to Lucas, that CXM is a customer-first approach to marketing to the individual people involved in any type of buying decision.
“CXM breaks from traditional approaches by presenting an entirely new way to deliver customer experience management,” said Lucas. “It helps us understand how people are receiving their messaging, creating opportunities to fine-tune and deliver optimized experiences for the customers.”
The concept of delivering personalized customer experiences isn’t groundbreaking, and the task of executing a business-to-everyone strategy could pose a legitimate challenge to marketers. Humphrey points to the need for solid infrastructure and a seamless martech stack as key success factors for tackling this approach. “The infrastructure needs to be a collaborative effort for marketing to define the strategy, then work with operations and IT to execute,” she said. “That works when those teams work well together. It’s 100% collaboration.”
Despite the need to create experiences through positive interactions with consumers, supporting highly-personalized campaigns looks daunting. Solutions emerging in the martech space to address these needs and help us meet our customers’ expectations are a hopeful indicator that as experiences evolve and revenue becomes increasingly dependent on digital, operationally marketing teams will be able to continue to adapt.
Salesforce is launching Pardot Business Units, a new feature for digital marketers looking to segment audiences across different areas of an enterprise. The solution, announced Monday, aims to provide agile functionality and analytics to global marketing teams for account-based marketing efforts. The tool leverages Pardot Einstein, Salesforce’s AI, seeking to help sales and marketing teams interpret digital engagement metrics and understand what type of content effectively resonates with the individuals who compose enterprise buying teams. The AI analyzes engagement metrics from across an entire enterprise, rather than the business units, giving digital marketers access to enterprise-level data and connect with their global marketing partners to share insights.
Why we should care
Enterprise digital marketers are familiar with the challenges of operating in an environment with limited access to different parts of the business. For companies composed of sub-brands, business units and across multiple geographies, most team have their own siloed data, best practices and processes. The lack of visibility and processes can hinder teams from sharing data and aligning messaging across the organization. Pardot Business Units seeks to allow users to break down those silos.
It also addresses privacy and compliance regulations by allowing teams in different geographies to see when a customers has provided explicit permission. “Compliance is such an important part of this capability,” says Nate Skinner, Pardot vice president. “We’re focused taking care of compliance to help marketers manage it.”
More on the news
Digital marketers using Pardot can now:
Segment audiences by line of business, sub-brand or geography for targeting.
Understand what customers and leads have provided consent for marketing.
Create visual reports for engagement metrics across multiple domains.
Recent research we conducted on ABM suggests that success can come in all shapes and sizes and that success is being realized on the back of some key process changes. One critical area of change is leads — what they really are and how they’re handled by marketing and sales. This takes me back to when SiriusDecisions launched its major reconception of the Demand Waterfall two years ago. While I came out bullish on the Demand Unit Waterfall, many of my industry colleagues were less sanguine. Well, now it’s two years later and the core systems of the MarTech stack still aren’t built to easily implement the DUW and the process changes needed can be hard. However, the evidence shows that the architects of this model are onto something very big.
Here are four pragmatic steps that many more companies could be taking to improve their demand capture now.
#1 – Agree that ‘leads’ aren’t the be all, end all
I’ve written a lot about this and so have many others. Leads were a construct we adopted in B2B because we didn’t have anything better to represent actual demand measurably. Leads have a ton of shortcomings that contribute mightily to our sales counterparts’ opinion that many leads are useless. Thus, B2B organizations that remain committed to leads as the marketing be-all, end-all must face a frustrating reality: To make your planning numbers tie out, you’ll be forced to grow lead volumes without addressing the fundamental issue of quality. Since the classic demand gen lead is a poor predictor of real demand, a slavish focus on lead volumes commonly makes matters worse. Even if volumes go up, quality goes down.
As CEB has been pointing out for some time, B2B buying decisions are made by groups, not individuals. There simply isn’t enough information contained in a standard MQL to expect a seller to trust it out of hand. Of course, for the process of demand gen to become effective, we marketers need our sellers to trust the demand we send. To rekindle sales’ trust, we can begin by aligning our focus to their accounts. We can agree about the potential of those accounts. And since our overarching goal is to help sales productivity, we can start providing additional information to better inform their actions. For example, we should look to aggregate demand in useful ways: Perhaps two simultaneous inquiries from a single account are better than a single MQL? What about three from the same location? Think about it. What kinds of information should actually be better than your old-fashioned “lead?”
#2 – Know when to pull the plug on personas
Shortcuts designed to help have to be handled with care – there are clear limits to their usefulness. Whether applied by marketers as part of a targeting and scoring model, or by salespeople to improve efficiency, personas are an artificial construct that can obscure real demand. As management theory calls for flatter organizations and innovation encourages broader team empowerment, personas have not been keeping up. Yet still, when I interview folks about their use of personas, I’m reminded a bit of the resident I met in my youth during a stint as an overnight emergency room orderly. Before heading off for a catnap, he turned to me and said, “Don’t wake me unless there’s some really heavy trauma.”
Marketers continue to place too much emphasis on seniority in scoring models. Salespeople too often dismiss demand signals from certain titles. We’re all running the risk of missing real demand. The point is that two or three junior people researching your solution should easily trump cold outreach to their boss or waiting for the “authority” qualifier in BANT. Like leads, personas are not very predictive of how demand becomes identifiable in real life. They’re a shortcut. And you need to make sure that shortcuts aren’t cutting you short. Again, this points you to aggregating signals from multiple individuals, less by rank and more by relevance to your solution.
#3 – Understanding accounts alone are never enough – you need the people, too
Most of those who jumped into the ABM pool early have probably already realized this: While classic demand gen definitely needs improving, just layering on targeting at the account level doesn’t get you very much further towards the real goal. The real goal for marketing is to catch more of the current relevant demand in your markets and accounts – to do a better job of identifying real demand that your sellers can close – all within the economic realities of your plans and budgets.
If you have a significant ad budget, targeting accounts may help you reduce ad spending somewhat, but it’s still a brute force effort and it’s not particularly effective at increasing information that sales can leverage.
Likewise, IP-lookup to identify accounts visiting your website helps. But when you then layer on persona-driven contact lists as a way of triangulating towards potential buyers, you end up just pushing a lot of cost downstream onto your ISR team.
Although I’ve gone pretty rough on leads, one major thing about them remains critically important. Call them buying centers, demand units or your whatever your pleasure, but at the end of the day, like leads, they’re still made up of people. And to close more business, you need to know exactly who they are. If you can connect the signals you observe from an account to the actual people generating them, you can efficiently focus your attention. If you can understand the relevance of those behaviors to what you sell, you can be far more effective at engaging the people exhibiting them. And if you have permission to market to these people, you can be efficient and effective at scale.
#4 – Block out the noise, read the right signals and find real purchase intent
Part of the problem with old-school leads is that too many of them are just noise. Even if you gate all your content, there are plenty of folks who just like to keep up with everything they can. The same is true on the inbound side. A lot of your website traffic is a “nice to have” from a reputational perspective but bears little connection to actual demand for your products.
The same is true for many of the signals you can now get from around the internet. For example, Google Alerts can provide good background on things happening in a target account. So can LinkedIn — job openings, job title changes, what the company (or certain people in it) are talking about, and more. For cold calling, all this information is far better than what we had just a few years ago. Yet it’s difficult to scale with and it doesn’t really help a seller prioritize much or be truly relevant to an individual in search of a solution.
The type of information you really need to more confidently pursue demand in an account must identify real people and permit you to contact them. It should be both intense enough – frequent – to be believed and widespread enough within a function to represent a real buyer’s journey. Unlike a lead, our evidence shows that a core buying team comprising only three people may throw off dozens of buying signals as they work towards a decision. This is what real purchase intent looks like — much more information than classic demand gen systems were designed to capture and communicate, much richer than legacy demand gen capabilities are built or budgeted for. By seeking and evaluating third-party sources of information like this in your market, at a minimum, you can begin using this information to nurture accounts more relevantly. Or you can provide it directly to your inside sales teams, showing them where to focus and what specific solution-relevant topics will resonate with the active demand unit you’ve shared.
Stop playing ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey:’ Take off your blindfold and begin a totally new game
Before the unveiling of the Demand Unit Waterfall, we could all talk about the total demand in our markets in a general sense, we could model it in our plans, but operationalizing the concept without a framework to guide us made progress slow indeed. Now that we have a way of explaining what we’re after, we shouldn’t let systems shortcomings and organizational inertia stop us from doing better. Account-based marketing reminds us that companies buy. Clear thinking reiterates that individuals transact and new data sources can identify exactly the ones that are in the market now. It’s time for more companies to stop playing ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ — take off the blindfold and get in the game of efficiently identifying the active demand in accounts and then spending real energy more effectively engaging and closing it.
Marketing automation has become the lynchpin of successful marketing campaign management, yet many brands struggle to fully maximize their marketing automation ROI. We settle for automating manual tasks — like lead management, email campaign development and landing page creation –because we’re too busy to learn what marketing automation can really do for campaign effectiveness.
Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), a new breed of marketing automation solutions can “mimic” human intelligence and recommend marketing actions. The AI-fueled outcomes include predictive lead scoring and product recommendations, account-based marketing (ABM) and social media campaign integration for B2B brands, as well as highly personalized B2C website experiences that analyze content consumption trends, on-site behavior and CRM data.
If you’re not using “smart” marketing automation tools, your brand will be left behind. More than half of executives surveyed by MemSQL said that machine learning and AI are their companies’ most significant data initiative for 2019. More marketers are recognizing that customers control the buying journey, a trend that has accelerated with the proliferation and increased sophistication of mobile devices. Customers decide where to research, how to buy, when to purchase and where to buy. And, their expectations for the brand experience is higher than ever before.
In light of these changing dynamics, it’s up to us as marketers to transform how campaigns connect with customers and prospects. Forward-looking brands are already discovering how to use AI to develop longer, deeper customer experiences that strengthen relationships and increase lifetime value. Let’s look at how they are doing it.
Delivering 1:1 experiences
ZoomerMedia Ltd. is Canada’s largest diversified media company developing content, services and experiences for the country’s nearly 16 million residents aged 45-plus. The company also operates CARP, Canada’s leading non-partisan, non-profit, advocacy organization for older Canadians. Despite being Canada’s largest age group – with the spending power to match – the 45-plus population was neglected when it came to digital media. ZoomerMedia sought to change that by adding digital to its arsenal of media platforms.
The company’s goal was to deliver richer, more personalized campaigns to every 45-plus Canadian by analyzing online reading habits, browsing habits and more. ZoomerMedia adopted an analytics-driven marketing methodology to serve the most engaging content to the right people at the right time. The company teamed with Watson Marketing to build a new marketing platform that was fully integrated with a single, centralized source of customer data from the company’s CRM. As a result, ZoomerMedia has been able to create a more accurate view of customer preferences and reach out with tailored messages automatically. For example, when marketers see a number of print subscribers reading articles about healthy living on the CARP website, they can build campaigns that direct them to similar articles on the Zoomer magazine website.
Intelligent automation has also allowed ZoomerMedia to complete essential tasks such as segmentation, list building and analytics in a fraction of the time that it took previously. Marketers have more time to dig into customer data to uncover new ways to delight audiences. Today, the company has more than 750,000 customers on its email list, and drives more than 50 million digital interactions per year. ZoomerMedia has successfully increased its marketing touches by 20 percent while ensuring that every message is relevant, compelling and personalized.
As the traditional media company transforms to a new media company, marketers plan to integrate machine-learning capabilities to open the door to more personalized customer services. By combining sentiment analysis with data on a customer’s past interactions with the company, agents will offer products and services that will be relevant to the customer in that moment.
Smarter means scalable
Speaking directly to individual customers and taking them on personalized journeys with your brand is key to successful marketing. The challenge for enterprise marketers is how to target thousands or even millions of individuals with the right message in the right channel at the right time. How do you track and honor unique customer preferences? And, how do you quickly and cost effectively design, execute and measure customer-driven campaigns across all channels?
That was the challenge facing the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), which serves one in three British Columbian households with industry-leading products, including home, auto and travel insurance, roadside assistance and full auto services. BCAA captures a huge amount of customer data and wanted to make the most of it when it came to marketing outreach. The problem was that BCAA’s existing campaign management platform wasn’t equipped to deliver tailored, multichannel marketing communications at the speed and scale needed. It took so long to develop and implement a campaign that the organization was only able to send out campaigns in weekly or monthly batches. The goal was to use customer data to shape tailored campaigns, then deliver them at the right time and on the right channel.
BCAA invested in an upgrade of its data and analytics capabilities, digging deep into both operational and customer information to strengthen strategic decision-making and customer service. BCAA worked with IBM® Lab Services to introduce a new, analytics-driven digital marketing platform. Data was centralized from many source systems into a central data repository, creating a single view of customers across all business lines and channels. The new approach enabled BCAA to segment its customer base according to customers’ purchase histories, preferences and previous interactions with each business line.
With a better understanding of individual customer behaviors, BCAA marketing teams now craft more tailored messages and deliver them on the optimal channel — helping campaigns resonate more effectively with target audiences. Most importantly, with highly automated campaign design and delivery tools, BCAA is building and launching campaigns faster than ever. Marketing teams can re-use components such as audiences, segments, offers and treatments to design new outbound marketing campaigns quickly and easily. The result has been a 50 percent increase in the number of campaigns run annually. To facilitate these levels of success when implementing a martech transformation, here’s a useful checklist to make sure all resources and stakeholders are aligned.
Multichannel marketing that removes conversion obstacles
Research shows that more than half of consumers start their buyer’s journey online, but use a variety of online and offline channels throughout the buying process. But most marketing organizations are unable to interact with customers consistently across multiple channels and have difficulty guiding them smoothly through a multichannel buying cycle. The biggest obstacle? Siloed customer data that blocks effective targeting and personalization, and ultimately hurts customer engagement and conversion.
Try as I might, I failed to get my kids excited about most sports. They took more to the arts. Surprisingly, though, skiing was different. A perfect groomer, fresh powder, mogul runs, even the steeps — they love it all. Maybe it was just how we got them into it. The joy was in “just doing it.”
That’s how I’m starting to feel about ABM. It’s less about succeeding out of the gate and more about just doing it — and how our every little move makes us better. So if you’re struggling with ABM, or even if you haven’t begun a program, make 2019 the year you jump in.
Don’t be put off by perceptions of complexity. Don’t delay by thinking you need some miracle new piece of software. Start by taking a closer look at your existing processes and how you view your information and then make tweaks. You can easily supplement these tweaks with new sources of insight available right now. Here are two great ways to get started.
1. Get your scoring model on track
Basic lead scoring, delivered via marketing automation, is still the most popular source of account insight that B2B marketers provide to sales. Because it can generate timely alerts for attentive lead catchers, this functionality is definitely better than nothing. But with better models of real account behavior and richer sources of near real-time insight now available, it’s high time we addressed the inherent weaknesses of automated lead scoring. As we enter the New Year, here are several ways that your current lead-based approach could be holding you back, beginning with the inputs to your model:
Firmographics and technographics
Companies selling mature products into mature markets use firmographics and technographics to protect themselves from wasted effort. They know that they don’t want to even try to sell into certain situations A model built to exclude unsellable demand is good for them. In contrast, if you’re growth-oriented, you’ll want to be more careful about how your model — your filters — exclude unfamiliar indicators of valuable demand. While behavioral signals from companies that fall outside of your historic sweet spot may not fit into your standard lead-handling approach, if you’re looking for new sources of demand, at a minimum, you’ll want to design a way to preserve this information — whether obtained from outbound, inbound and 3rd-party channels alike.
How do you choose the demographic inputs for your chosen automated model? In our experience, they often reflect historic data from past deals when they closed. The problem with this is that the information recorded on the transaction rarely communicates how the process began. And if lead scoring is conceived to provide early evidence of a buying process, the demographics at the start will likely be very different from at the close. While some buyer’s journeys still get kicked off at the top of an organization, most bubble up from innovators on the front lines. While innovators — usually lower-level players — provide the best early warning signals, as individuals, they don’t carry enough decision-making weight to garner a high score. Many lead-scoring models, therefore, discount exactly the people whose behavior would give your company an early leg up.
Ironically, the biggest challenge with automated scoring may arise from its greatest benefit — its ability to capture behavioral signals. This is why today’s advanced ABM practitioners are turning to quality sources of third-party purchase intent data:
Delay kills demand. The basic problem is that, for most companies, there just aren’t very many of these signals to “qualify” any given individual. The more rigor you apply to scoring, the more crowded your market and the smaller your presence, the more likely you are to suffer negative consequences. While you’re waiting for more and better signals, the prospect is moving on with their journey. Use real third-party purchase intent to determine if the account is in market and then accelerate your pursuit of deal-centered engagement.
Over-scoring adds cost and worse. Knowing this, many marketers try to goose the model by scoring certain behaviors much higher than others. But that’s commonly based on internal constituency preferences more than knowledge about real buying patterns. Too many companies are still using their inside sales resource more to disqualify leads than to pursue real demand. MQLs are quickly dispositioned negatively and, worse, that quick decision can easily taint any further leads from that account that might be following close behind. Until you can find a way to better inform your lead qualification team about what’s going on in the account — and get them to pay attention to this information — your scoring efforts can actually backfire at this critical hand-off point.
The real failure of leads. Since B2B purchases are made by groups, the most important behavioral indicators of purchase are not understandable at the individual level at all. If you’re not working to link people together within accounts, you’re missing the behavior that matters most. To create a valid rationale that inspires proactive outreach by your people to the prospect’s people, you need to be able to show that an account is in market and the specific people are involved in buying behaviors. You need to adjust your reliance on lead scoring and place more emphasis on behavioral signals coming from groups within accounts. Quality third-party purchase intent data can provide this information.
2. Keep BANT from holding you back
Despite the positive aspects of a BANT-qualified lead, it’s still a lead-based idea, and that makes it the poster child for everything that’s problematic about leads in general. Because its origin lies in sales teams’ need to pursue efficient account penetration (by connecting with an empowered person), BANT forces us marketers to delay sharing information. BANT requirements force us to spend precious time and effort building a case to go after “that guy” — even as we ignore other members of the buying unit (not to speak of buying units at accounts where we just can’t seem to connect with “that guy” at all). By decoupling account information from leads, leading ABM practitioners are now using alternative sources of data to populate BANT-quality information at the account or buying-unit level much earlier in the process. In doing so, they’re providing sales teams with a much better chance to see and break into more deals. What’s more, they’re doing it much earlier, at the point where their sellers still have a chance to shape outcomes to their company’s advantage.
Better ways of establishing “Need”
When you rely too much on leads as your initial source of information about an account’s understanding of its need for a solution, you’re assuming they’ll come looking for you. Alternatively, you could lookalike model the account and bombard it with cold calls looking for that understanding. A better approach — one that finds you more demand earlier — is to seek out third-party data sources that can show you who inside the right accounts is looking for solutions like yours. This won’t initially give you any type of lead at all. It will, however, tell you where those leads should be coming from, right now. It’s then up to you to prioritize that account and create engagement!
Better ways of “Timing” the market
At best, the BANT stricture on timing is used to help sales teams distinguish between what leads are “real” and which don’t yet have enough momentum to really be believed. Too often, however, when timing doesn’t meet a seller’s exact criteria, it’s used as a rationale to de-prioritize the lead. On the client side, timing can change very quickly. That’s why advanced ABMers are using third-party purchase intent to monitor accounts for changes in behavior. In this way, they can see deals suddenly heating up without having to rely on a task calendared in a sales rep’s CRM. Instead, they can alert the sales team early on that an active account needs prioritized engagement.
Better ways of engaging “Authority”
Even in the old days of top-down command-and-control management, leaders relied on their front-line teams to identify and solve problems. And especially today, if a team doesn’t support a recommended change, there’s a good chance that it will never gain enough traction to be moved forward. In today’s reality, teams are the agents of change. ABM leaders have recognized this. Instead of looking for managers after they’ve “authorized” a project, they pursue teams that are seeking a solution and work with them to shape it into a proposal. To enable this approach, marketing needs to help identify an active team and the issues it is grappling with. Then, together with sales enablement, they help position their offering in context with the buying unit’s needs. They’re able to do this because new sources of purchase intent data can illuminate a team’s specific concerns and focus areas — the features and drivers likely to fulfill their requirements. By getting the team on board, sales can actually become a partner in helping to accelerate the approval process.
Better ways of addressing “Budget”
If you’re not driving the budget bus, you stand a good chance of getting run over by it. Again, the budget question in BANT is there, at best, to help establish whether or not a real opportunity exists. At worst, after all your effort, it can suggest the deal isn’t worth pursuing at all. ABM leaders using better data are now getting insight into buyer’s journeys before budgets have been set. This enables them to deploy value-selling techniques and drive a budget-creation scenario where both the buyer and seller can win.
3. Make 2019 the year you move beyond classical lead-based demand gen
As we all know from industry research (and our own low conversion-to-opportunity rates), individuals are rather poor predictors of B2B purchase behavior. B2B purchases are made by groups. And though lead-based marketing can try to adjust for this by layering on qualification gates, analytical scoring models, etc., none of these techniques really address the core issues. Instead, all in the name of avoiding costly mistakes downstream, they end up adding cost, delaying effective sales actions, and reducing your business potential. So while its super-exciting how, as ITSMA reports, 45 percent of ABM report doubling their ROI, still (according to Engagio), only 24 percent of companies have reached an advanced stage of ABM practice. What better reasons could you ask to make 2019 the year your team create some fresh new tracks of its own?
If you visit the same restaurant you’ve gone to for years, there’s probably a waiter who knows your name. They stop by, welcome you back and ask how your family is doing – and instead of asking for your order, they just bring it to the table. And the friends that came with you to this restaurant for the first time? They’re impressed.
Now imagine you’re going to a restaurant for the first time and you have that same experience. You haven’t had to show up for years to build this rapport, because they’ve done the hard work of finding out who you are and what you like. There’s a high likelihood that you’ll talk about that experience. And there’s a high likelihood that you’ll become a regular customer. That’s what a prospect experiences when an account-based marketing (ABM) campaign is executed successfully.
ABM is more than a trend
As a marketer, you’ve probably heard the term “ABM” by now. Forrester’s 2017 Q1 International B2B Marketing Panel Online Survey showed that 36 percent of companies had an established practice of ABM. That figure nearly doubled in the same survey this year, reporting that 61 percent of companies in 2018 now have a mature program, and Forrester’s Q1 2018 Global B2B Marketing Benchmark Panel Online Survey revealed that mature ABM programs correlate to exceeding revenue goals.
ABM is often described as fishing with a spear instead of fishing with a net. It allows you to focus on the top 20 percent of accounts that can actually drive profitable revenue growth, which means spending less time on developing generic content and instead focusing your energy on specific, personalized content – content that actually has a chance of capturing someone’s attention in a busy sea of noise. ABM provides marketers a chance to succeed in highly competitive markets and even accelerate the sales cycle.
Yet ABM can pose some challenges, especially as the program is in its early experimentation phases. Forrester surveys report that common early ABM challenges include everything from creating personalized content to getting a prospect to engage with it, and even measuring whether the program is working at all.
So how do you move over the hump of early experimentation and into maturity? It’s about having the right tech mix.
As the practice of ABM is maturing, so are its tools. Forrester’s 2018 Q2 Report on the top ABM tools shows that different platforms have different focuses and core competencies, but the majority are either planning on rolling out additional features or going through mergers to offer more. While the landscape is growing, Forrester recommends taking a look at any gaps in these four areas when you select ABM tools:
1. Account selection and intelligence: Do you have the right tools in place to track the high impact accounts for your bottom line? This includes not only identifying these companies, but also selecting key decision makers within those organizations to focus your efforts.
Premium tools: Advanced tools like Clearbit, Crayon, LeanData or ZoomInfo will combine sales and marketing data to help identify what works and what doesn’t, help you choose prospects worth pursuing, and provide you with the intelligence to make that first touch effective.
Just getting started? Take a look at your existing CRM, which may have some of the capabilities you need, like the ability to consolidate insights from your lists of existing and prospective customers. Additional tools to help launch an ABM program include Leadspace, Demandbase and LeanData.
2. Account engagement: When you’ve done your planning and execute that first touch, do you have the tools to deploy it on the right channel? This can be anything from direct mail to social media, or even a combination of different channels. In this category, it’s worth focusing your energy on the channel tools that will most likely match where your target prospects prefer to hear from you. An effective email tool won’t help you reach prospects on social media.
Premium tools: Demandbase, FeedOtter, RollWorks, Sendoso and Sprout Social all help you distribute personalized content at scale. Some of these are channel-specific, and others are more flexible across channels.
Just getting started? Social media channels can be a very basic way to begin ABM efforts. Early supplementary tools include Terminus and PFL, and tools like Demandbase, Sendoso and even LinkedIn can help position you early on to grow a successful program in the long-term.
3. Orchestrate interactions: Your ABM tools should provide you with the flexibility to transform marketing automation into personalized content delivery without losing the ability to scale your efforts. This will help you take a prospect from a stranger all the way through to a customer.
Just getting started?6Sense, Marketo and Outreach can provide you with automation tools that position you for program growth.
4. Measurement and reporting: ABM success relies on the level of insights and analytics you can piece together over user interactions. This includes everything from basic contact information to predictive analytics, purchase intent and advanced behavioral analysis.
Premium tools:Pardot, Oracle / Eloqua and Marketo all give you advanced customer data and the ability to measure interaction at scale.
Just getting started? Your existing CRM combined with Google Analytics can give you a basic palette to start painting with. Demandbase and LeanData are tools you can layer on to start measuring at a deeper level.
ABM allows you to engage the right buyers, reach them more efficiently and effectively, increase deal sizes, shorten the sales cycle and even grow the lifetime value (LTV) of customers through a high level of personalization. First impressions last a lifetime, and the right tech stack will help you to engage new prospects with the right content in the moments that matter.
For those of us who aren’t salespeople or marketers, account-based marketing (ABM) may seem like something that should have been part of marketing platforms all along.
After all, if you’d like to get Big Company to become a new customer of your products, wouldn’t you choose and pitch the account as well as the individual?
Of course, said Gartner Managing VP and analyst Todd Berkowitz.
“The notion of ABM has been around for a while,” he said, “starting with very large companies looking at their top 50 accounts” and trying to figure out how to increase their customer base. Last month, he and Senior Director/analyst Noah Elkin released their “Market Guide for Account-Based Platforms.” [Gartner account required.]
Traditionally, he said, B2B sales was oriented toward key accounts to sell them more product, while marketing was focused on new customer acquisition.
Many digital marketers originally found new business with their digital tools by targeting and nurturing profiles of individuals. Although the individuals’ profiles contained firmographic info about their respective companies, the marketing automation platforms were largely set up to handle individual leads.
“Everyone thought about [individual] leads,” Berkowitz said, “because everything was based on people [who] engaged with you, who came to the web site.”
Now, new intelligent tools allow marketers to target prospective new accounts, at scale, while juggling interactions with individuals from that account.
As these ABM tools evolve more capabilities, a battle is brewing among these tool providers and marketing automation platforms. And the results of that battle can impact marketers’ future options in tool selections, customer data management and other areas.
A key marketing reason behind the rise of ABM in the last few years, Berkowitz noted, is that “the number of people involved in the buying process keeps going up,” he said. This includes the number of what he called “assassins”: people inside a company who can kill a deal.
Why are there now more people involved in buying decisions?
One obvious reason, he pointed out, is that the more complex the deal — and complexity can correlate with the amount of money involved — the larger the decision team. Since many purchase decisions involve technology or other products/services that are used across an organization, wide-scale buy-in is often required.
“If it’s a $2000 annual subscription,” he said, “one person can decide.” But, if it’s a million dollars, he noted, there is often a committee.
And, since virtually all sales, marketing and other business software are now offered as cloud-based software-as-a-service, technology purchasing decisions have moved away from centralized IT departments and toward other departments, where a departmental buy-in is often needed.
The AI driver
Another reason why ABM tools have recently emerged is the availability of AI. First, AI was used by ABM to propel the automated selection of target accounts via predictive analytics. Increasingly, it is also driving the intelligent orchestration of nurturing and other marketing responses, based on how the targets respond, their needs and profiles, the perceived hierarchy of individuals in that account, and so on.
“One of the things about ABM,” Berkowitz said, is that “it takes a long time to do well and get it right.”
If you’re targeting, say, 200 accounts as potential new corporate customers, some individuals at those accounts will visit different pages at your site, some will download white papers, while others will respond to emails. Additionally, new data will emerge, for instance, on where new branch offices of the targeted companies are opening.
Responding to such a dynamically changing engagement and delivering the next best action requires a coordinated, sophisticated and automatic orchestration that is only now emerging in ABM platforms, he said.
Not a stable scenario
One might think that the tools in the ABM category would have been swallowed up by the large marketing automation platforms. While some ABM additions have been made to platforms like Marketo and Salesforce, Berkowitz said, they don’t offer the capabilities of ABM-specific platforms like Engagio, Demandbase, Terminus, 6th Sense, Radius and RollWorks.
On the other hand, ABM tools in general are not expected to be systems of record the way a Salesforce customer relationship management system is, and no ABM tools have a fully developed, native email capability — a key need for account nurturing.
As a result, ABM platforms all integrate with marketing automation tools, but Berkowitz predicts that this isn’t a stable scenario.
The coming battle
ABM tools are going to develop more of the capabilities of marketing automation platforms — like sophisticated email features — he predicted, because software is always looking for competitive differentiators and because the increased use of AI will enable new levels of dynamic response across channels.
With added capabilities, ABM tools can then coordinate email interactions, orchestrate across channels and determine the next best response, in addition to predicting the most responsive target accounts, tracking web visits and generating reports. In short, they will be able to offer the key interaction capabilities needed to pursue an account, lacking only a system of record for maintaining target and customer profiles.
By adding capabilities, ABM tools can get a bigger share of marketers’ budgets. With these additional functions, it’s unlikely they’ll fall victim to marketers’ desires to reduce their toolset, Berkowitz said, since many marketing departments have shown their willingness to manage “a massive stack.”
As ABM tools grow their resume, the Adobe/Marketos, Salesforces, Oracle Eloquas and B2B toolsets growing around Customer Data Platforms are going to have to decide whether to fully develop their ABM side, or to buy an existing ABM vendor.
It’s not clear yet how the larger marketing automation platforms will respond, Berkowitz said, but it is clear the battle is set.