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How martech has made ABM-at-scale possible
Account-based marketing uses spears instead of marketing’s traditional wide nets to get new customers, and now tech is enabling armies of spears.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) isn’t a new thing.
The idea that B2B salespeople target a few key corporate accounts — using spears instead of marketing’s widely-cast nets, as some have metaphorized — has been around for a while.
What is relatively new is the ability to do this at scale, intelligently and automatically. When the definitive history of marketing technology is written, the creation of this army of spears will be one of its most important consequences.
Major marketing platform Marketo, for instance, added ABM to its resume in 2013 when it bought Insightera. From Marketo’s website:
“Because ABM requires more account-level personalization than traditional marketing it has historically cost more to implement. However, advances in marketing technology have enabled marketers to employ ABM for much less than previously possible and at much greater scale.”
In part because of the tech tools available, ABM is now common. A 2016 report from SiriusDecisions on the “State of ABM,” for instance, found that over 70 percent of B2B firms have now completely or partially adopted ABM as a strategy.
In a way, the adoption of ABM is a counter-movement to two other marketing and sales strategies: inbound marketing, which uses content and other means to drive leads to sales, and the age-old technique of marketing based on customer personas, which has largely been based on demographic assumptions about customer types.
ABM, on other hand, is outbound marketing that is based not on assumed demographics, but on data related to the needs and actions of specific companies and the individuals inside them. This approach has become affordable through many platforms in large part because of the recent proliferation of ways to manage and analyze big data — a capability that inbound marketing and persona-targeting don’t require.
When conducted using marketing tech platforms, marketing and sales efforts can become more aligned toward targeting a select — but now much larger — list of accounts.
Tech-driven ABM has been made possible by the confluence of various technologies that have only come together relatively recently. These include:
- Predictions about which companies in specific industries — and which individuals in those companies — are most likely to respond to your products, based on their social conversations, browsing history, and other data.
- Intelligence to determine the key people in a company who are making buying decisions for specific products, and what kind of offers might appeal to them.
- Personalized customer journeys for individuals and their corporations, which can be intricately tracked and automated for materials viewed, contacts made, responses, offers, and so on.
- IP and other techniques to identify which individuals are looking at what content. This intent data, such as that available from Madison Logic, can immediately signal that people at Company A are looking at web pages offering office furniture, for instance.
- Real-time targeting and retargeting of individuals who are identified by such techniques as their corporate IP address when they visit web sites, such as provided by Demandbase. The targeting can take the form of company-specific, dynamically generated web page content, or followup personalized ads.
Three of the biggest current developments in martech — the integration of artificial intelligence/machine learning, the integration of offline behavior with online platforms, and the proliferation of intelligent agents/bots — could well impact ABM.
Industry-oriented expert systems, for instance, could handle an account’s complicated B2B needs through an intelligent agent much more efficiently than human-driven marketing and sales tools. And the addition of real-world data — interests shown at conferences, visits to suppliers’ showrooms, even travel patterns — could boost predictive capabilities, account profiles, and intent data records.
The spears are more plentiful, more accurate, and sharper than ever before. Because of these changes driven by marketing tech, it’s difficult to imagine that hunting for new business will ever return to the old ways.