The Disconnect Between ABM Strategy and Technology
Perhaps the most universal challenge facing marketing and sales teams today is the disconnect between strategy and technology. Adopting a target account strategy is a no-brainer for most organizations. It only makes sense to dedicate a subset of your resources to the companies that are most likely to become successful, lucrative, long-term customers.
But here’s the problem: as teams take an account-based approach, many have struggled to find technology that meets their needs.
Despite the proliferation of ABM, the fact is, it’s still in its infancy.
According to a recent Forrester survey of B2B marketers, more than a third said they are experimenting with an account-based approach or getting started with ABM in 2018. This massive uptick in early-stage adoption is in large part thanks to the proliferation of ABM technology in recent years.
But not all ABM solutions are created equal. As the category grows, it’s important marketers understand which capabilities to look for and expect out of an account-based marketing platform.
The Emergence of Account-Based Technology Platforms
We recently hosted a webinar with Eric Wittlake, senior analyst at TOPO, about the five big realities of account-based today. During the webinar, Eric discusses the state of account-based marketing, common traps that B2B teams fall into, and ABM best practices based on TOPO’s extensive research.
In Eric’s words, account-based is hard right now.
He explains that there’s little existing infrastructure to support a target account strategy. Go-to-market teams have gotten good at piecing together different tools to create their tech stacks, but these fragmented solutions mean a lot of manual work for marketers and sales reps.
Fortunately, it’s getting easier.
What will become key to successful implementation are account-based technology platforms that are built to be account-based from the beginning.
Account-based platforms will prove key to managing and measuring campaigns and programs at the account level. Traditional automation tools are not going to cut it. That’s because they’re not designed to manage a target account list over time, and they force you to manually manage program execution across multiple channels. This creates a barrier to effective activation and reporting.
“An account-based platform should be addressing [your] major workflow issues and challenges, and [it should] ease them,” Eric explains. If it doesn’t, he says, it’s just another tool that will consume your team’s time.
On that note, what should you look for in an ABM platform?
Top 6 Criteria to Look for in a Scalable ABM Platform
With Eric’s thoughts on ABM platforms in mind, these are the top six criteria we believe B2B teams should seek out as they’re evaluating account-based marketing platforms.
- Account Targeting Functionality
Identifying and prioritizing the right accounts for your organization is foundational to a successful ABM program. Look to a platform that leverages AI-based technology to assist in identifying your best-fit accounts and building tiers and lists. This will save your team a ton of time previously spent consolidating data from different sources and staying on top of each account segment.
- Centralized Source of Truth
Silos are the death knell of an effective ABM program — and a good platform should help eliminate them by serving as a central source truth for everyone on the revenue team. Marketing, sales, and customer success should all be able to leverage the platform to get a clear picture of any given account at any time. Since ABM is about expanding relationships with accounts by deepening engagement over the course of the lifecycle, cross-functional teams need to have visibility into engagement data and where each account is in their lifecycle. This will help you prioritize engagement, understand an account’s journey, and predict when an account is at risk.
- Account-Based Advertising
Any ABM platform worth its salt should support multichannel, account-based advertising. It should make deploying highly targeted, personalized ads to engage decision-makers across an account’s buying committee easy. Digital ads are critical because they allow you to proactively engage your target buyers at scale, even when those buyers are unreachable via other channels. When you’re focusing on quality over quantity, traditional ads aiming for volume no longer fit the bill.
- Real-Time Engagement Data
In ABM, engagement insights can tell you when a target account is hot. A platform that alerts your team, in real time, to which accounts are showing spikes in engagement and what specific content they’re engaging with can empower your team to strike while the iron is hot with timely and relevant outreach. Your ABM platform should provide insight into both known contacts and anonymous contacts that aren’t in your database. This will allow you to identify, prioritize, and increase velocity on your hottest accounts, even when buyers within those accounts haven’t filled out a lead form.
- Full-Funnel ABM Analytics
Marketing and sales teams are typically under the microscope because they’re on the hook for demonstrating ROI. But ABM in particular tends to be under tougher scrutiny because it’s a new methodology for a lot of organizations. With that in mind, you want a platform that allows you to clearly measure the success of your program, make data-driven decisions to better optimize campaigns, and show how you’re driving pipeline and revenue from target accounts.
- Customer Success-Driven
While best practices in ABM are advancing, most companies struggle with how exactly to implement an account-based strategy and drive alignment among their team. The customer success piece is crucial in achieving ABM success, particularly as most organizations are just beginning to pilot their programs. Look to a partner that provides resources, implementation and strategy support, and a stable of integration and technology partners.
There are a lot of moving parts in the ABM process — from account selection and engagement insights to orchestration and reporting. In an ideal world, an ABM platform should help you streamline this process, avoiding the operational and technical lag that can come from having to integrate countless individual tools before you start generating results.
Until recently, however, only ABM point solutions existed, which made it really hard to implement account-based strategies. Now, numerous vendors have emerged as ABM platforms, which is a great sign for the category and for those invested in ABM.
But the challenge is these platforms all vary widely in features and functionality. There’s no true apples-to-apples comparison, which has made it hard to know which is the best solution for your organization.
Stay tuned for part two of this blog post series, where we’ll look at exactly how the Terminus Account-Based Platform meets all these requirements to help teams win best-fit accounts and report on their marketing impact.
For more on the state of ABM, watch our on-demand webinar with TOPO’s Eric Wittlake: The 5 Realities of Account-Based Today.