Far from a flavor-of-the-month sales technique, account-based marketing (ABM) has proven to be a viable, valuable strategy for turning leads into buyers and maximizing your marketing and sales resources. But if your organization is like most, the shift from your traditional sales and marketing operations to your ABM focus has incurred a few extra costs along the way—personalizing and delivering customized messages to specific prospects comes at a price. Combine this with the increasing pressure to show return on every dollar of your investment, and it’s easy to see why it’s so important to ensure you’re giving your ABM program every advantage it needs to be successful. And that success starts with your data.
Good Data Makes for Good Decisions
Fact: You can have the best software with all of the bells and whistles in the world, and the most qualified sales team capable of closing insane deals, but if your data stinks you’ve got nothing. And while it’s true that you don’t have 100% control over everything that goes into your CRM or marketing automation platform (whether you enter it or it is automatically captured by the software) the reality is that that data is going to ultimately determine whether your ABM strategies succeed or fail, so it’s important that you focus on getting it right as often as you can.
Think about it this way: when you’re launching a new plan, where do you look for insights on how to proceed? That’s right, at your history and your previous results. You answer questions like, “Who has purchased from us in the past?” and “What promotions did they receive?” to get a rough idea of what may happen in the future. You need to be able to rely on the data you’re accessing so that you can make informed decisions moving forward.
The cleaner you’re able to keep your database, the easier it will be to locate important strategic accounts, as well as develop ABM account lists and tiers. And of course, don’t stop your commitment to data quality there; continuing your quest to keep data quality high will keep you from missing out on important opportunities, reporting false positives or overlooking behavioral or firm-based trends that duplicate or incomplete data can skew scoring on.
Getting Your Data in Tip Top Shape
When it comes to your marketing automation or CRM database, the name of the game is continual progress over perfection. Follow these tips to help boost your data’s overall quality:
Share the Wealth
Data governance is not something that one person tackles; it is a shared responsibility throughout your organization. To ensure that everyone in your organization understands their role, create a Data Governance and Quality committee comprised of representatives from marketing, IT and sales that is collectively responsible for your systems. Task them with documenting data processes and responsible parties in a written Data Governance manual. And schedule regular reviews and updates to both your governance processes and your manual so that you can account for new trends and report on key metrics.
Closely Manage Fields
Data entry fields are one of the easiest ways for “bad” data to get into your system, so keeping a close eye on these is imperative to your data (and ABM) success. Identify important firm-focused and behavioral data in your database and the fields where this info resides, then be crystal clear on which users and which platforms should have access to these fields and when they should/shouldn’t be updated. Don’t be afraid to err on the side of caution here and then gradually increase access as necessary.
Look Twice, Enter Once
With companies often having several different divisions or subsidiaries (think Siemens and Siemens AG, for example) it’s easy to see how information could inadvertently be entered into the wrong place. Take a second look before associating a contact’s name with a specific account—this will not only help keep your data clean, keeping you from adding a contact who didn’t actually influence an opportunity—and will save you the embarrassment of sending the wrong message to the wrong person.
Special thanks to Caryl Mostacho for contributing ideas to this post.
This year was the first summit for Marketo users since the Adobe acquisition in 2018. For me, it brought home the reality that Marketo is no longer a standalone product but a single app within a much larger structure of product “clouds.”
Although Marketo is no longer the sole focus of its own multi-day event, the union with Adobe could bring benefits to Marketo users who are willing to expand their portfolio of Adobe products. It’s not hard to imagine how less well-developed Marketo features could be replaced by integrations with much more mature and robust Adobe products — for example, Ad Bridge by Ad Cloud or Web Personalization by Adobe Target.
That being said, there are many Adobe products for Marketo users to understand and make sense of. It can feel bewildering, and I find it takes time to build a mental map of how all the products fit together. Some of the non-Marketo content in the keynotes was useful for showcasing what these products can do and is worth a watch for the Experience Cloud-curious.
Let’s dive into some of the new Marketo-specific features and integrations discussed at Summit.
Safe Harbour: This post does not represent any kind of official “roadmap.” It’s just one person’s observations based on attending keynotes and sessions. Given the increased size of Summit this year, I can’t promise it will be comprehensive. The features mentioned may be at various stages of development, or even still just ideas, and sessions did not offer specific details on timelines.
While not technically a product feature, the branding changes we saw at Summit were significant.
Marketo was referred to as “Marketo Engage” throughout keynotes and on signage in the expo hall. It’s clear that “Marketo” as a single-word brand is going to disappear.
Marketo Sales Engage (Marketo’s sales enablement/automation tool) was described as Marketo Sales Connect.
One component of the Adobe platform mentioned frequently in conjunction with Marketo (I mean…Marketo Engage) was Adobe Sensei. Sensei refers to a set of machine-learning / artificial-intelligence capabilities found throughout the Adobe product suite.
The branding creates an impression that Sensei is a single, unified platform layer embedded in many places. However, I also saw pre-existing Marketo features that leverage machine learning described as “Adobe Sensei.” My impression is that this branding describes any machine learning component across the Adobe product family and may or may not indicate a common underlying technology on the back-end.
Microsoft + LinkedIn Partnership
Steve Lucas announced a new partnership between Adobe, Microsoft, and (Microsoft-owned) LinkedIn called the Account-Based Experience (ABX) Initiative.
The announcement was high-level. However, some of the examples of how this initiative might impact marketers include:
The ability to hydrate profiles in Marketo Engage or Microsoft Dynamics CRM (DCRM) with real-time data to better identify account-based buying teams. (Aside: when did “hydrating a profile” become a thing? Are profiles plants?)
The ability to align account data with LinkedIn information. Steve emphasized that LinkedIn data remained on LinkedIn but indicated we would be able to “align” first-party data with LinkedIn signals in some way.
The ability to message people on LinkedIn directly without needing to log in to the LinkedIn interface.
The details on this are all still a bit sketchy. However, my take-away is that Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn is going to start to bear fruit for DCRM and Adobe customers in some way. I don’t see Salesforce users being invited to this party.
Unless otherwise noted, all new UI-related features appear to be available only in Marketo Sky.
Event Program Registration Cap
The built-in capability to cap registrants for event programs is much-requested functionality that otherwise requires some complex workarounds to achieve.
With this feature, users can set the registration limit for an event or webinar on a per-program basis. The feature will also waitlist people automatically once the cap has been reached and allow you to specify a fallback page to use when the registration limit has been reached.
If using this feature, I recommend that a “Wait List” landing page should become a standard include for tokenized webinar/event program templates, along with registration and thank you pages.
Event Program Goals
This feature allows users to specify goals for both registration and attendance. Marketo Engage will track progress against goals and even proactively notify you if it detects a risk of not meeting your goals, so you can take appropriate action. (See more detail in predictive suggestions below.)
One screenshot shown at Summit depicted goal progress tracking that appeared on the My Marketo homescreen, which seems like a potentially valuable use of that real estate.
Predictions and Recommended Actions
Machine learning is clearly going to be an ongoing presence in the marketing stack, in a way that does more than offer token homage to a trend. Nearly every substantive feature announcement had a dash of Adobe Sensei in it somewhere. And a prime example of machine learning being woven into everyday marketing activities is the “predictions and recommended actions” feature.
Once you define your goal, machine learning will predict how likely each invitee or program member is to register or attend the event and determines how likely you are to meet your goals.
If it predicts you will fall short, Marketo Engage will recommend actions to help you reach your targets. For example, it can identify people similar to the smart list audience via lookalike modelling and suggest you invite those people.
In one session, the presenter even showed a hypothetical user receiving a goal-related warning via the Marketo Moments app and then, from within the mobile app, triggering an ad campaign to boost registration. I suspect this type of application is much further away from becoming reality (I wasn’t aware Marketo Moments was even still supported), but “smart list expansion” type recommendations seem quite achievable and something we might see in the not-too-distant future.
Marketo refers to the machine-learning technology as “glass box” rather than black box — meaning they intend to be transparent about which factors are being evaluated and factored in to recommendations. I believe the efficacy of these recommendations will depend on whether the right signals are being included in the algorithm.
Predictive Smart List Filters
Predictive smart list filters allow you to proactively define audiences using machine learning. Instead of constructing smart lists with reference to static lead properties or past behaviors, this feature would enable users to select audiences based on predicted likelihood to take a particular action. The threshold is configurable as part of the filter constraint.
You can also select an audience using a lookalike filter, based on an audience that achieved a particular status in another program.
“Sensei” models thousands of signals to pick the right audience, and one PM noted this resulted in significant performance improvements in some early experiments.
Program Member Custom Fields
This is another long-awaited and potentially game-changing feature. It extends the Marketo Engage data-model to include additional custom dimensions on the program member — similar to custom fields on the campaign member object in Salesforce.
The classic use case for this is capturing “chicken or fish” type meal choices when someone registers for an event, but it could be used to store any type of data point that describes a property related to the person/program junction.
Another important use case is storing UTM parameters related to a form fill at the program level. This paves the way for more robust offer/channel modelling in Marketo.
It remains to be seen how this data will be exposed in Marketo, and how this element of the feature is executed will determine its ultimate value. If data is only visible in the program members tab or accessible via smart list constraints on triggers and filters, it will be valuable but limited.
If the data is exposed in reports and can be synced to equivalent fields on the campaign member in Salesforce, the range of applications will be much more wide-ranging.
Journey view in a smart campaign would show an at-a-glance view of how the smart campaign will work.
Sky’s the Limit
One main takeaway for me is that it’s going to be increasingly difficult to ignore Marketo Sky.
I’ve personally not explored it in depth. It’s not that I don’t like all the new features; it’s a combination of sticking to what’s comfortable and an assortment of perceived / reported bugs or limitations.
However, Sky is clearly the future. It’s where all the new features are. I do want to use those features and help my clients do the same. So I personally plan to spend more time stress-testing Sky and identifying where it makes sense to use in production.
Platform and Performance Improvements
In 2018, Marketo launched accelerated trigger campaigns, which reportedly scaled processing speed by 5-10x. We also now have the “priority override” feature for smart campaigns (Sky only). This allows the user to define processing priority manually on a campaign-by-campaign basis.
Both of these features aim at improving overall system performance when it comes to triggered smart campaigns. However, there can still be issues in high-volume instances based on Marketo’s processing logic, which will continually privilege higher priority items that enter the queue over lower priority ones.
This logic makes sense on the surface, but in an environment where the queue is constantly full of high-priority items, those lower priority campaigns may experience unacceptable delays.
So this year, Marketo plans to release a new feature that also takes into account time-in-queue, ensuring that even low-priority items don’t “starve” in the queue.
Marketo is planning functionality to process batch email programs in parallelized chunks. For example, instead of processing a list of email recipients in sequential order, Marketo will break the group into chunks that can be processed simultaneously. This will speed up email sending and may eliminate the need to use “head start” functionality for large / complex instances.
Smart List “Contains” Optimization
Use of “contains” in smart list filters is a well-known performance killer. This optimization allows faster performance in some cases where contains might be necessary to achieve a particular goal — for example, checking an email address against a list of domains.
Marketo will improve performance here by generating a table of domains that is pre-indexed. When you include the “@” symbol at the beginning of the domain in the smart list, it will enable this optimization and improve query performance.
Marketo plans to switch the Microsoft Dynamics integration to the REST API and introduce several new flow actions — Create Task and Change Owner. This is a welcome step, bringing the DCRM integration a bit closer to parity with the SFDC integration. There is still a wide gap, but given the strong partnership between Adobe and Microsoft, I expect it will continue to shrink.
Salesforce users will also receive some performance improvements through various optimizations.
Account-Based Experiences (ABX)
Marketo heavily promoted its capability to deliver “account-based experiences” or ABX. This isn’t a single feature but rather appears to refer to a series of new and existing features that together could support an end-to-end ABM capability at scale.
For example, an ABX journey could start in the Account Profiling tool (formerly AccountAI). This is a recently released feature that I haven’t used, but it seems like a useful way to leverage look-alike modelling to do your account planning inside Marketo Engage.
Marketo purports to examine your best customers and compare them against an external database of 256 million companies to find ideal target accounts, which are graded A-D.
Marketo’s AdBridge was launched in 2015 but, in my experience, has been of limited practical use. The feature has not changed substantially since first launched and still requires significant manual effort to add/remove people from ad platform audiences.
This year Marketo featured some new integration capabilities for advertisers, which I assume will become upgrades to or a replacement for AdBridge. Exact functionality was unclear to me, but featured improvements include new integrations with Adobe Ad Cloud, DemandBase, LiveRamp, and LinkedIn, all of which appear to allow more seamless access to those platforms from within the Marketo interface.
Marketo Sales Apps
Summit highlighted a number of potential improvements for Marketo Sales Engage (formerly ToutApp).
First off, the Sales Engage app, which allows sales users to place prospects into automated “cadences”, was rebranded as Marketo Sales Connect as described above. Furthermore, screenshots showed this tool within a dedicated region of Marketo called “Marketo Sales Apps,” suggesting it may be one of multiple sales-focused applications in the future.
Additional possible improvements include:
Triggered Sales Hand-Offs: Marketers can automate sales hand-offs using a smart campaign trigger to automatically put someone in a sales campaign.
Dashboard of all Prospects in Cadences: Sales users can monitor who is coming in and who is generated by Marketing.
Central Task List: Sales users have a central task list to manage all workflow items assigned to them.
Target Prospect List: Sales users have a target list of people (who may not be in a cadence) from which they can click on a person and see what they’ve done and an exact preview of what email content the person looked at. This feature seemed very useful — potentially a long-awaited Marketo Sales Insight replacement, if it could be embedded in CRM.
Recommended Templates: Sales users can access AI-recommended templates when composing a message.
Feedback on Marketing Assets: Sales users can send feedback to the marketing team about assets and what’s resonating with the audience — a great way to close the feedback loop between front-line BDRs and the content creation team.
Performance Data on Marketing Assets: Performance data from sales campaigns appears on a dashboard of a smart campaign showing MQL-to-positive response ratio for that piece of content as well as seller feedback. This idea seemed interesting to me, although it was unclear how the ratio would be calculated.
Marketo Sky is slated to feature a number of improvements to Design Studio.
Adobe Experience Manager integration with Marketo: Import digital assets directly from AEM to asset editors. This integration would be good news for users of AEM who don’t want to duplicate their digital assets across two spaces.
New Design Studio Design in Marketo Sky: The home screen will provide quick links to recent items and key areas.
Journey Automation for Assets: Design studio could contain machine-learning driven recommendations to guide marketers on where to use an asset. For example, when you upload a white paper, the system would identify it as a white paper and make suggestions for which campaigns or audiences it should go to.
This last feature seemed a bit unusual, as presumably a marketing team should have answered these questions long before the asset was completed. But I may not have captured all the details.
Marketo announced a new partnership with Drift (conversational marketing / chatbot tool) as part of its ABX initiative.
The announcement was brief, so it was unclear what new functionality this partnership would bring. However, based on the press release on Drift’s website, the integration appears to enable better personalization and segmentation of Drift experiences based on Marketo data. For example, Drift could be configured to share a relevant piece of content or fast track the lead directly to a named account representative.
Adobe has already published all the sessions from Summit online. If you’d like to dive deeper into product roadmap, here are the original sessions:
We had an amazing response to our second Coffee MUG webinar “Digital Marketing Predictions for 2019”; a huge thanks to all who attended. For those of you who weren’t able to join us, here’s a quick recap.
Featuring Carrie Merchant, Director of Customer Experience at Mintigo, Brad Stephenson, Senior Director of Client Services from Level.Agency, Michele Albanese, Partnership Marketing at Drift and yours truly, we covered a variety of topics in the webinar, including what digital marketers need to be focusing on in 2019, what game changers we should anticipate and what 2019 being the “year of the brand” means for marketers. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
Let data help refine your focus
Data was a huge topic of discussion, with Carrie from Mintigo stressing its importance as something marketers will need to focus on in 2019. From a B2B perspective, she suggests finding the right accounts in your prospect list with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics. By doing this, you’ll be able to focus on the “right” accounts instead of all accounts, meaning those that are showing significant signs/interest in purchasing your product or a product similar to yours.
Then, Carrie suggested developing a deeper understanding of these accounts by layering on intent signals. This not only helps refine your audience, but also provides key data to help understand relevant topics for marketing to craft more relevance and personalized content.
Video as a game changer
In terms of game changes for 2019, “video” was mentioned by several of our experts. Brad from Level.Agency spoke about how it will be more important than ever to build a product video strategy, capturing as much footage as possible so you can frequently repurpose assets and developing a detailed production plan that considers various ad dimensions and durations.
Facebook was another game changer on Brad’s radar, especially for B2C companies—he anticipates Facebook Instant Experiences (formerly Canvas) will pop up more and more in feeds, as they’re now more user-friendly and offer a full ad experience for mobile users within the ads platform.
Michele from Drift took the perspective that we live in a world of infinite supply, with thousands of vendors available to meet your every need, each of them trying to sell you what they offer. How are you as a consumer supposed to sift through the noise? According to Michele, the answer is brand. Remember, buyers have all of the power; before they even visit your site, they’re talking with connections in the community, looking at reviews and generally have an understanding (and opinion) of who you are by the time they land on your site. It’s imperative you have a strategy for your online presence beyond your site.
Happy Saturday, Mélange readers! Today, we’ll talk all about account-based marketing or ABM. We’ll explore why ABM is no longer considered a fad, will talk about ways to ensure ABM success, will discover ways to scale your ABM efforts and will get tips on overcoming some of your most common ABM challenges.
An alternative to “spray and pray”
Looking for a marketing strategy that can improve your reputation by an average of 84%, boost your number of relationships by 74% and increase your revenue per account by a whopping 69%? Then take a closer look at account-based marketing or ABM, says Joe Hyland in Martech Today. More than a mere flash-in-the-pan marketing fad, account-based-marketing is based on the less-is-more premise, forcing marketing and sales teams to focus more deeply on what truly matters: interacting in a meaningful way with your highest value prospects and customers.
What types of companies can most benefit from an account-based marketing approach? According to Joe, those with “complex, long, and sometimes political buying cycles.” The ABM approach allows you to hone in on the dozens or hundreds of organizations’ leads where your product or service can truly add value rather than taking the old “spray and pray” approach that may generate a large number of leads with little to no value. Read the rest of Joe’s case for taking an ABM approach to marketing here.
Ensuring ABM success in 6 easy steps
A recent Dun & Bradstreet survey found that among B2B organizations, 60% have already adopted an account-based marketing approach while another 27% have plans to make ABM a reality this year. So how can you fine-tune your ABM approach to increase your chances of success?
According to Josh Mueller in Martech Series, building your market landscape is the most important of the six steps to ensuring ABM success. Tying together first-party and trusted third-party data will allow you to create a comprehensive ideal customer profile that doesn’t allow important information to slip through the cracks. This “master data” forms the foundation of all of your ABM activities and will drive all of your business decisions, so it’s important that it’s clean, relevant and connected. Check out the five other steps you need to tackle after your market landscape and master data are in order here.
Scaling ABM marketing efforts
When marketing and selling in an ABM environment, your brand doesn’t just have to impress a single person—it has to wow a whole team of people. So how do you ensure your product or service rises above the noise and stands out among your competition? According to Justin Keller in MarTech Advisor, it’s by concentrating on the overall feeling you’re trying to deliver and on reaching the “holy grail” of ABM activities that are highly scalable: requiring low effort yet delivering high impact.
One example Justin provides is that of dedicating time to research. “It’s no secret that understanding the habits, demographics, personalities, challenges, and passion-points of the contacts in the various accounts a brand is targeting requires hard work,” says Justin, but the resulting content gathered is a goldmine, used to inform personalized campaigns and sales communications. Read all of Justin’s piece here.
Overcoming common ABM challenges
Are you trying to move your nurturing prospects toward a deeper funnel offer like a demo or sales conversation WAY before they’re ready? If so, you’ve fallen victim to a common account-based marketing mistake that many organizations make. According to a post by Ironpaper, trying to drive the demo too early is something that happens quite a bit during ABM. Instead, focus your communication on highlighting the ways that your business can bring value in particular situations, and give context on how you’ll generate this value.
Additionally, Ironpaper suggests that you create a variety of different content that’s appropriate for each stage in the nurturing process. By holding off on the demo until your prospect has a sense of context, they’ll be able to better appreciate and understand your value—you’ll effectively be preaching to the choir. Check out the rest of Ironpaper’s tips on overcoming ABM challenges here—it’s a great piece.
Happy Saturday, loyal readers. In this issue, we’ll explore a few high-value account-based marketing tactics, will find out what one survey says is the number one data challenge among companies, will share a few ideas for generating leads via social media and will find out if consumers in the US are still willing to share their personal data in the wake of recent data scandals.
ABM targets & tactics
So you’ve implemented account-based marketing within your organization as a way to increase engagement, boost the number of targets in your pipeline and generate prospects who are more highly qualified. You’ve successfully figured out ways to overcome the challenges of matching up leads to accounts and shifting your operations to align with this new focus. Are there some specific tactics you should be implementing to start getting all of the value of ABM right now?
Yes, says Michael Zhou in Influencive.com. Specifically, Michael suggests a content campaign that publicly lets your prospects know that they’re on your mind and your radar. Go beyond simply publishing an article that proposes your product as the perfect solution to your prospects’ pain points; consider including prospect company’s names as key examples so they’ll receive a notice when searching online for company press mentions. And don’t forget the power of social sharing in these efforts; getting your team on board to share within their networks can go a long way toward getting your content in front of the right eyeballs. Read all of Michael’s tips here.
Leader or laggard?
Is your company a leader or a laggard when it comes to leveraging the power of customer data? According to a recent survey by Forbes Insights and Treasure Data reported in Martech Today, the vast majority (87%) are laggards. And respondents from across the spectrum pinpointed one data challenge as particularly cumbersome; the fact that in most organizations (81%), only senior management has access to data, with staffers being able to analyze and use data to drive strategy in a mere 26% of organizations.
Executives seem to want to give their employees greater access to data, but the survey shows a gap between desire and action. Fewer than half (48%) of employees have the ability to act on data insights without the approval of management, and only 14% of employees have full autonomy to make decisions based on data. But those companies that are leaders in the industry are those that empower marketers at all levels to make data-driven decisions. Clearly, hiring smart people and giving them access to gather information and insights is an important factor in a company’s overall success. Read other report highlights here.
Want more leads via social media? Here’s how
If you feel overwhelmed when you face the task of generating leads via your brand’s social media channels, you aren’t alone. Research shows that while 70% of online marketers say that converting social media leads is their number one priority, 63% of those same marketers find it to be their biggest challenge. And this is far from one of those “if you build it they will come” scenarios—simply having a profile is not enough. You must actively plan, deploy and optimize your social media lead generation strategy in order for it to pay dividends.
Thankfully, Manvi Agarwal gives a handful of helpful tips in Business2Community on techniques that can boost your lead potential. For example: many brands host webinars, but how about hosting a webinar (or more informal chat) via Facebook Live or Instagram Live? Though some of Manvi’s tips may be a bit on the “basic” side for many of our readers, it’s worth checking out her piece in case one of her tips can spark an idea for your own brand.
US consumers still willing to share data
Give them the right incentive and US consumers are still willing to share their data with you. That’s the finding from the recent survey by Acxiom and DMA as reported in MarketingLand. More than half (58%) of respondents indicated that they’d be willing to share personal data under the right circumstances, which is no change from years of previous survey results. Respondents also indicated a higher general awareness that their data was being collected, and millennials responded higher than the average consumer when it came to the willingness to share their data.
As mentioned, these results align with the results from previous years’ surveys—which is slightly surprising in itself, given the publicity surrounding situations like the Cambridge Analytica data breach and the implementation of the GDPR in the European Union. It appears as if we as marketers continue to provide clear value, Americans will continue to share their personal info. Check out more survey results here.