The ABM Consortium advocates and consults with B2B marketers to help them better understand and deploy “High-Performance Account-Based Marketing” programs. This blog features the recent actions of ABM Consortium.
I said it last year but need to repeat it again this year... the B2B Marketing Exchange is the single best, most strategic B2B marketing event of the year.
This year, the crowd was amazing... over 1,400 registered attendees, more than a 40% increase in marketing practitioners. This is really the measure that matters. So many events are swarms of vendors trying to sell to other vendors. Not so much here.
Highlights of our trip to Scottsdale:
The audience - Kudos to everyone... 300 people, packed house nearly every session
Matt Senatore, SiriusDecisions - Always a great session, loved his Demand Spectrum conversation.
Kelvin Gee, Oracle - Shared an amazing story of his journey to enable global adoption of ABM best practice and Insights: predictive, Intent, engagement
Masha Finkelstein, Google - the application of SMB focused ABM
Mark Stouse's house, Proof Analytics - a wonderful host with amazing tequila
Don't worry if you're not an "ABM Expert"
When kicking off the ABM In Action Live session track I polled the audience. I first asked how many people are here because they want to learn about best practices to start their first ABM program... about a third of the audience. Next, I asked how many people have, or have had a live ABM program, and the remaining two-thirds raised their hand. Finally, I asked this group to keep their hands up if they're here because they need to restart or re-engineer a failed ABM program. Half of the people kept their hand up.
About a third of ABM programs are yet to launch and a third are failed and need to relaunch.
To be candid, I believe that the majority of people who feel their ABM program is operating well cannot target, control or measure activities and revenue impact of their ABM efforts. To do so, would require that they have the ability to manage data across these platforms and report it in an account-centric manner. And, based on the research, only 14% of marketing organizations can do this. Hmmm.
In any case, everyone who attended these sessions appeared to learn a lot and certainly participated well. At times it seemed I could see more phones in the air taking pictures than I could see faces.
Meaningful data management processes provide significant value to your ability to measure and control your ABM program but perhaps the most meaning impact is that you can make it easier for buyers to buy. This sounds funny but is true. When you make your outreach more about target accounts and their needs, you're more likely to be "seen" and much more likely to be acted upon. Why? It's simple... you're letting people know that you have expertise in the thing that THEY'RE interested in solving.
Here are some relevant stats to back up this point:
Our "High-Performance ABM Research Report" found that 85% of high performing ABM programs connect target account needs to trigger delivery of relevant and consistent content across multiple channels
Display ad performance jumps up by 700% - MarketingSherpa
Email performance gets a 473% increase in CTR and 146% more opens - MarketingCharts/Epsilon
The Data Management Process
At the ABM Consortium, we’ve come up with a “Data Management Process” you can apply to your ABM program today. Applying this cyclical process, you’ll light up your sales and marketing data, making sense of the “digital exhaust” while you maximize the impact and sustainability of your ABM investments.
ABM Consortium Data Management Process:
Aggregate - Your target accounts interact with you across channels, but data is siloed inside platforms. The true picture of your target account success exists across these platforms. While there are robust platforms that can automate this process, CDP's (Customer Data Platform), here's a great framework to get your thought process started:
Flag target accounts in your CRM and marketing automation systems — This could be as simple as a custom field to identify the list and segment.
Flag target account contacts in your marketing automation system — Simple logic sequences can identify contacts based upon email domain. More sophisticated marketers may want to use reverse IP in the form fill to identify the user’s company at the point of submission. During this step, it’s preferable to also flag those who share a role and title that reflect typical buying roles for your offering.
Convert CRM target account leads to contacts — While this may pose a change to your normal lead processing, the key argument for this approach is it allows marketing to better synchronize their insights and actions with their sales counterparts. This point is addressed in the Manage section as a key to ongoing data management. For marketing organization who can’t “touch” the sales CRM, a lesser option is to tweak this recommendation and synchronize CRM leads back into MAP, making it a single data source of record.
Whitespace contacts between systems — Start from a point where you’re 100% certain that the leads in your MAP are synchronized with the contacts in your CRM. Even those with the best hygiene processes will find gaps that will require record creation in one system or another.
Analyze - Identify what you know, and equally important, what you don't know:
Contacts — Download contacts that you have in your CRM and Marketing Automation platform for each target account. In an Excel spreadsheet, pivot the data to identify key insights for each account and dedupe based upon email address. Rank the order of accounts with the most contacts and the ratio of buying-role contacts at each account. Ultimately, you want to identify accounts where you are missing data and determine if it makes sense for you to acquire more.
Accounts — Download Campaign data from your relevant system of record for campaign participation data. Again, in Excel, pivot the data to understand campaign participation (frequency, response rate) and stage of buying cycle (no/limited sales interaction, current opportunity, closed opportunity). Are there campaign themes that surface as highly relevant for a particular target account? If you used CRM data rather than MAP for the first step, download nurturing flow participation for each flagged Contact in the system. Pivot the data to group by target accounts and count the number of different nurturing flows each target account participates in. Are the flows similar within each target account or different?
Append - Apply learning from the “analyze” stage to form data-driven decisions about data acquisition and marketing system changes. This is where your work realizes its value, enabling you to buy or change only those things you need, saving money and time:
Correct data inconsistencies — Are there automation contact records that need help, or multiple CRM accounts you can consolidate?
Fill gaps in field data — Identify contact records missing roles/business contact information and account records missing ownership data. Similar to data inconsistencies, you’ll likely find many more issues to correct.
Fill gaps in target account buying roles — For U.S. based contacts you could consider a purchase, but don’t forget other CPL options like content syndication or outsourced telemarketing and direct mail, for U.S. and international needs.
Enrich data records — Are there account-specific firmographic or technographic data that could help you become better at targeting?
External intent and predictive analytic signals — This is a critical source of data as it fills what we call the “blind side” of your sales and marketing efforts. However, don’t make a purchase without solving the ABM data conundrum as the value of the data grows logarithmically when you reflect it off what you see in your existing efforts. You’ll better understand how to deliver a compelling and targeted effort at each opportunity. Consider this, how would your response change if the intent identified target accounts that had an existing opportunity, compared to ones where you had no contact data or engagement history?
Action - ABM revenue impact begins when your program reflects the needs of your audience — content that’s defined by them and not you.
Adjust marketing automation flow and campaign participation — As you develop a hypothesis for content needs at each target account, you need to adjust your content strategy accordingly. There are two general dimensions that affect the need for change at each target account: the topic of interest and stage of the buyer’s journey.
Triggered programs rather than campaigns — ABM revenue impact thrives when you capitalize on the expressed needs of a target account. This is a huge departure from the campaign-based philosophy of many, which generally serves its primary purpose only in a pre-engagement stage. Here, you scale insights (needs, topics, stages of buyer’s journey) and trigger execution asynchronously, only as the needs of a target account change.
Manage - This process is cyclical, that is, it’s intended to be repeated on a regular basis. Between cycles, there are activities that should be updated on a continual basis:
Lead-to-account matching — This is a critical step because marketers can generally control how messages are sent, but we have no control over the way that people interact. That is, leads come in from a variety of sources and you need the means to process target account leads in a prioritized manner. There are platforms you can purchase that do a tremendous job at this function if you have the budget. For everyone else, find a resource on your team that can scale or automate your processing of the contact section in the “aggregate” step above.
Bounced email — Identify and flag marketing automation contacts who indicate a bounced state. Copy that information over to your CRM instance.
Buyer reporting — Develop a report that can isolate the response of target account contacts with the buyer role and flag them. For extra credit, add pipeline stages as columns. This is a critical piece of information for your sales team, so they can see peaks and changes to buyer interaction, across channels and at each target account.
More than a new source of external data, marketers need to start their ABM program from a position of strength and with a solid, integrated view of target accounts and buyers across their sales and marketing systems — not a momentary snapshot from a BI tool or an integration of spreadsheet. First-party data is the single most valuable competitive tool you can ever own.
59% of B2B Marketers rate email as effective for driving early stage engagement, 81% say it's effective at driving conversions later in the funnel.
Let that sink in for a moment...
Email marketing is one of the most widely adopted and effective channels a B2B marketer can use, yet it's glaringly absent in the best practice we see today. Top 10 lists, ABM jingles and thought leadership presentations, completely vacant. Wow!
Two critical dimensions for this concern... As a primary communication channel...
It produces a ton of "digital exhaust". That is, you can learn a lot about a target account by gauging their interaction with email.
It creates a ton of mixed up and confused situations when it's not in sync with your display ads or other ABM communications.
Malpractice = when ABM ignores email
This isn't a gripe about marketers. On the contrary. This is a gripe about the general state of what has been declared as ABM best practice.
Over the last year and a half, pretty much every marketing automation player has scratched their head and thought that they too should have a stake in this ABM game. After a litany of announcements, only one has passed muster as being a serious contender in this space, Oracle and their ability to augment Eloqua functionality with their recently announced CDP offering, Unity. This is probably out of reach for SMB to mid-tier B2B marketers but their announcement last week about integration with MRP Preltytix changes the game for any Eloqua customer. It's freakishly strange how we can find only one such player in the email market that has a serious idea around ABM.
Confounding at best, how can ABM platforms ignore email? OK, a couple of them can deploy email outside of client core systems, but it's by far the exception that any ABM platforms can both gather insight from a clients' email platform and can, in turn, deliver account coordinated messages back through it.
Considering ABM? Add email to your purchase requirements!
The single best thing you can do at this point is to ask the right questions. We've got your back!
Your email platform should be both a source of insights and a channel of delivery in your ABM program. Period. Don't let a sales rep try to convince you otherwise.
Why is this important? Don't make it hard for buyers to buy. When you present buyers at target accounts with conflicting and dissimilar messages between channels you make it harder for them to grok what you do and how it can be important for them. When your most reliable channel, email, is a part of your ABM program, you can make the content strategy between channels seamless.
This something you can solve today. Make it a priority. It's already hard enough to get your message through to buyers. The AMA estimates people are subject to as much as 10,000 impressions per day... make your messages the ones that leave an impression.
Data defines your greatest sales and marketing assets
Targeting, personalization, measurement... what do these all have in common? Data. Specifically, ABM Data.
Considering data to be a contact you purchase, an Intent Data signal you acquire or a marketing list to hammer upon misses the point. If your company has been in the market for more than a few years, chances are, you already have contacts, intent signals and companies lodged somewhere between platform silos in your tech stack.
Data Myopia starts when marketers focus on expanding technical capabilities rather than organizing and making sense of the underlying data in those technologies. #ABM #AccountBasedMarketing #B2BMarketing Click To Tweet
Don't make it unnecessarily difficult for buyer to buy
Contrast these two perspectives...
B2B buyers evaluate vendors in a considered purchase using an average of 6 channels
Two-thirds of them leave the experience dissatisfied and frustrated, finding no clarity and consistency in the content between channels... making it unnecessarily difficult for them to under understand what the vendor does.
Enterprise marketers have deployed an average of five personalization technologies yet only 14% of them can integrate personalized experiences across two or more channels, and 74% say that return on their personalization efforts has been marginal so far.
Intent isn't a way to purchase great targeting
In all the conversation of Intent Data, what's most often left out is the idea that your sales and marketing data is already laden with intent signals.
Intent data is a signal. That's it. It's a great signal because it's trying to fill the "blindside" of your data, the vast majority of the time your audiences aren't directly engaged with you.
Having said that, 3rd party data isn't a panacea. It suffers from three great issues:
Latency - in the best of all situations, it takes weeks for an Intent platform to identify and score sufficient knowledge to determine in market behavior.
Accuracy - it's not always intuitive that the keywords or topics used by an audience reflect what you think they do. For example, if you're an IT security company, it's plausible that people researching physical security or home security might get wrapped up into the signals.
Completeness - your 1st party insight, the knowledge that a target account is responding to your sales and marketing activities, is not included in Intent Data, yet is vastly more important to know.
If you're primary marketing action is to subscribe to an Intent Data feed and trigger sales and marketing actions, you'll always be a day late and a dollar short. By the time accurate intent data is found in 3rd party platforms, that means, by definition, that the account is already weeks into their research and evaluation phase of the purchase. This isn't to say that 3rd party Intent Data is bad or wrong, it's just not a complete marketing strategy.
Don't make it unnecessarily difficult to measure results
New research by Demand Gen Report indicates that only "7% of B2B marketers in the US rate their company’s current ability to measure and analyze marketing performance and impact as 'excellent'".Key to this finding, marketers have relied upon platform based analytics and the majority, 52%, find themselves manually manipulating spreadsheets to try to close the gap.
In a world where B2B buyers use an average of 6 channels to engage sellers, how can we unravel the mess of platform-based measurement when nearly half of the marketers can't measure any results across channels? If that's not enough, half of the marketers aren't able to measure results between buyer stages.
Correcting your vision of data
Until you have a comprehensive and connected view of people and company level data across your tech stack, your marketing will suffer from all the stuff above, and more.
Make 2019 the year where you take a deep breath and develop an internal SWOT team to address this Data Myopia. Sure, there are customer data platform solutions that could help you with this but don't think this is your only path. At least at the onset. Initially, you might want to simply tag and match data between two core systems, like CRM and Marketing Automation. We wrote about this a few weeks ago (High-Performance ABM Starts with a Data Foundation), take a look at that as a next step, and feel free to reach out to us if you need some help or advice.
The folks at Demand Gen Report asked us to contribute to their 2019 Account Based Marketing trends report just released in ABM In Action. Personally, I often times don’t like these stories because the advice is terrible, but the real value in a publication like ABM In Action is that they can find a collection of really knowledgeable thought leaders on a topic. This years article is a really good read.
Overall, we see 2019 as a continuation of the rollercoaster we’ve seen recently but yet a budding start to a growing trend of increased ABM maturity. Increasingly, we’re hearing marketers focus on buyers within accounts, adopting strategies found in the Challenger or Demand Unit Waterfall models. As well, increased focus on activating their existing systems, like email/marketing automation and CRM, for data inputs as well as delivery channels.
There have never been more ways to communicate with audiences, yet actual attention has become increasingly elusive.
Among a proliferation of point solutions, what's missing is the ability to collect and normalize data across sales and marketing programs and channels, and to resolve those data against a persistent view of each target account and buying role. Without this, marketing will never connect to measured interaction or revenue impact. Rather, it will exist primarily to pursue channel-based marketing objectives based on volume and miss the opportunity to stimulate target audience pipeline.
The ABM Data Foundation
To achieve this, marketers primarily need strategy and technology with focus to aggregate and normalize large datasets spanning multiple channels, make sense of less-than-fully-structured data, and align all that data against a persistent recognition of individuals within target accounts.
This isn’t panacea, this is the reality. No marketer has ever said that their marketing data rocks, but they should!
Once this first-party world is appropriately shaped, third-party data becomes increasingly valuable.
This approach contradicts a lot of todays' tribal knowledge. Marketers are tolde to ignore the state of their first party environment and instead grab value by adding outside data to the equation. Whether firmographic, technographic, intent or predictive analytics, the value of any of these solutions can only be amplified after a proper first party data foundation is in place:
How do you know which contacts you need if your CRM and Marketing Automation aren't first aggregated and deduped? A lot of marketers can save a lot of money on this one!
How valuable is Intent Data if you can't first see target audience needs and timing in your first party data?
Don't be silent, engage your Account Based Advertising vendor
Let's start with the conclusion... this is a massive issue and one that B2B demand gen marketers are often not as familiar with as they should be.
Do yourself a favor, read this post and then ask your vendors what they do to help monitor, identify and measure ad fraud.
While nobody is perfect at solving this issue, only a few account-based advertising platforms do anything about it.
Estimates indicate that non-human, bot traffic can be account for as much as 50% of ad impressions, even clicks and website traffic. Believe it or not, bots can even complete form-fills... your leads may never have happened!
Ask the right questions of your provider, it's the right starting point: The team over here at the ABM Consortium want to enable you to ask the right questions, and this is a HUGE question that you need to know the answer to...
What are you doing to monitor and minimize the issue of ad fraud?
What sites does it come from?
Can I remove these publishing sites from my ad campaigns?
News: Large ad fraud ring captured
While this huge news story made just a blip on the radar of overall news, it brings to mind the need to discuss the scale of the issue.
This one group developed an army of malicious bots, called 3ve ("Eve"). The department of justice, Google and a group called White Ops found that this group of bad actors amassed:
While Google and Microsoft both disputed the browser-based approach by FraudLogix, a separate study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) determined the issue to cost advertisers $7B in 2015, delivering ads that nobody will ever see. The World Federation of Advertisers estimates the fraud number to have increased to $19B in 2018. Consider this, at this scale "ad fraud could become the second largest organized crime enterprise behind the drug trade."
A wealth of ad fraud statistics can be found at PPC Protect...