Co-written by Patrice Greene, Inverta
If you’re searching for a more strategic vision of account-based marketing, or if you’ve wondered why the hype of technology is so common and changing, this article is for you!
The “Big Shiny” And A Series Of Unfortunate Events
For the last decade and a half, we’ve seen a massive pendulum of hype being built and set in motion around B2B martech. The repeated story… “Big Shiny” tech goes to market and promises to address all the bugaboos that marketers face. Beautiful, mysterious and venture-backed, it promises to integrate with your existing stack, provide access to a new area, make an existing thing so much easier or scale something so well that it’ll result in 2x, 4x or even 8x the ROI that you’re seeing today.
This should sound familiar.
Annie the Adopter, career CMO and thought leader with the budget to burn, decides to invest in the “Big Shiny” for her organization. This kicks off a series of unfortunate events:
- Marketing leaders across the industry trip over themselves to keep up with the Annies.
- The growing interest creates a market.
- Soon, established solution providers begin bolting on functionality to address it. After all, why would you invest in a new point tool when the “Marketing Cloud” can do it for you?
- Entrepreneurs think, “Hey, we can do that! And people will buy it!” Competing point solutions with subtle differences crop up everywhere.
Inevitably, the intersection of over promised functionality and sub-optimal use of the “Big Shiny” starts to rear its ugly head. This is when the pendulum really becomes stuck: An idea is developed by the solution provider(s) to create a need and a market for the “Big Shiny.” The idea starts as a thought, an article, an eBook, a webinar, and it is rapidly merchandised into an acronym. The idea is given a name, a hashtag, a framework, an infographic, a strategy, a movement.
Soon the “Big Shiny” and its movement become inseparable.
There are countless examples of this, but here are a few: lead management, marketing automation, inbound marketing, content marketing and our current favorite: ABM.
Martech clutter and the power of these movements force Marketers to constantly acknowledge what’s at stake if they don’t buy in:
- What am I missing that everyone else seems to get?
- Is there a problem I have that I did not know?
- Should I be doing better?
- Maybe it’s not affecting me today, but how can I plan for the future?
Making The Shift To ABM?
Like a moth to a flame, marketers have embraced the ABM movement with both arms. They’ve done the reading, co-opted resources and bought technology in the form of a very expensive ticket to the ABM party. And who could blame them? Over the last two years, many have peddled the idea that 1-to-Many ABM is a replacement to a previous demand generation or inbound marketing strategy. Some have even hypothesized the demise of marketing automation altogether.
The “Big Shiny” isn’t so shiny.
When Salesforce launched Einstein for ABM, they brought out an interesting artifact of this “Big Shiny” effect. In their launch deck, they highlight the gap between hype (Inquiry and Plan) versus the confidence of marketing leaders to properly execute an ABM program.
On one side we can see the near-unanimous consensus of the hype. On the other side, we see the unaided rational thought of marketing leaders.
Marketing leaders reject the hype.
Through the constant drumbeat, top 10 lists, a growing list of acronyms and a robust selection of “ABM Movements,” one thing remains constant: a clear majority of the addressable market doesn’t buy into the hype. 81% of marketing leaders reject the hyperbole. This is a reflection on the poor job of the “ABM Movement” to address those who are thoughtful, strategic and accountable.
What Can We Learn If Hindsight Is 20/20?
If you’re a marketing technologist or marketing leader (or both!), you’ve probably been working with one or more marketing automation platforms for five, seven, even ten years. You’ve seen some of the prior swings of the hype pendulum.
Knowing that, if you could use the knowledge you have today to bring to your first marketing automation platform deployment or program, what would you do differently? While you think about that, I want to apply the same thought exercise to our experience with account-based marketing.
Our ABM Hindsight:
With several years of ABM experience, as practitioner and consultant, we thought we’d give you the benefit of OUR ABM Hindsight:
- Technology is an enabler, not a strategy. Where do you want your revenue to come from? Use that as your North Star and make changes to your people, processes and resource allocation with that in mind. Don’t let the movement divert your course without due diligence.
- Data: Marketing data, the people and response, are the most valuable yet most frequently squandered asset of a marketing organization. This “digital exhaust” is more valuable than any predictive or intent data a vendor can sell but has become lost across siloed platforms and poor data management practices. Prioritize the process of cleaning your own house. Focus on connecting company and people level data across platforms. Learn what your audience is already telling you.
- Planning and insights over automation: Audience targeting and message timing are always going to be more important than the ability to send that next message. ABM should be a means to organize and target the needs of specific targets, not rain media over them. Identify, create, curate and deliver content that speaks to the needs of your audience.
- Account-based marketing isn’t just about marketing: For any account-based strategy to be successful, we must forget about the sequential nature of the funnel as a driver for marketing and sales alignment. Hand-offs? Gone. Service-level agreement to govern lead transition? Gone. Marketing and sales are an inseparable team, working together to develop and execute account-based plays. This is a substantial culture shift that needs to be acknowledged and planned for.
Bottom Line: The Value Of ABM Is Real, The Hype Is Not
When marketing automation was new, the promises were overhyped, but solid marketers eventually found the value and purpose of the solution. It didn’t happen overnight, and neither will the current transitions present in account-based marketing.
Our team at the ABM Consortium produced research that identifies a mere 18% of ABM practitioners produce a measurable, positive revenue impact. They do things vastly different than the hype-driven 82%. Strategy-driven, they prioritize account level data, account plans, content and repurpose all systems to think from an account perspective.
Don’t create a new marketing silo and call it an ABM tech stack. Any organization with any history already has the digital exhaust of buyer engagement from almost any account they could select for their ABM program. Start with what you have, make sense of the underlying CRM and marketing automation data on an account dimension, create account level plans. Check out this white paper if you’d like to see a template for segmenting your accounts, or contact Patrice from Inverta if you prefer.