A Light At The End Of The Tunnel

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Mark Ogne

Founder, CEO, ABM Consortium

Platforms and ideas will come and go, but the concept of defined audiences will remain and become pervasive across B2B marketing.

While there’s a glimmer of hope that this account-based marketing rollercoaster of hype and hyperbole will smooth out, the next few years are going to be tumultuous, yet, a lot of fun!

At the ABM Consortium, we’ve learned from and worked with several thousand organizations for nearly four years. More than conjecture and some new jingle, our focus and the trends noted below are vendor agnostic and 100% focused on quantifying the path towards high-performance ABM and to help marketers and vendors achieve it.

Before getting started, I’d like to submit a word of advice based upon trends we see from those who outperform the market. At these organizations, ABM is viewed as a data challenge. They achieved the right ABM results because they set a firm foundation. To distill a quick punch list, consider that somewhere you have relationships with just about any organization you could add to a target account list. Find those organizations and their contacts within your sales and marketing systems and tag them. For each account, identify who you know, and more importantly, who you don’t know. Determine where they are in their buying journey and tag that. Identify the nurturing flows they already participate in and determine if you need to change that.

Trends my organization is tracking include:

  • Trials Give Way To Strategy: Platforms and ideas will come and go, but the concept of defined audiences will remain and become pervasive across B2B marketing. Early stage ABM efforts are starting to transition into an account-focused marketing strategy, integrating the initial ABM silo into the tech, processes and teams across the organization. Some early stage efforts succeeded and others failed, but in both cases, organizations are beginning to see that a limited number of defined companies are willing to pay more money, will hear a value proposition better and will stay longer.
  • From Accounts To People At Accounts: The stark reality is that a target account has never bought anything, but people at those accounts influence and make purchase decisions every day. Reading this, you’re probably saying that I just stated the obvious. Your sales team sees this as obvious, but only a small yet growing minority of ABM programs agree. This is one of the most intriguing trends — fewer than 20% of ABM programs judge MQA (marketing qualified account) status based upon influence gained with buyers at an account. Driving this trend, we’re seeing an increasing flow of sales teams reject MQA status based upon anonymous website visits and media interaction. In fact, this has been a huge driver in ABM-caused sales and marketing misalignment in those organizations.
  • Vendor Consolidation: Whether a fire sale or strategic acquisition, marketers are going to face many decisions as their vendor selection becomes unstable over the next few years. The reality is that most “ABM platforms” end up being features of what marketers feel an ABM platform should have been from the onset. In a sense, this market condition is a natural response to venture-funded experiments that need to be in market rapidly, but marketers have suffered even to this point as their data and customer experiences were siloed, tech stacks bloated and results impossible to measure.
  • Rise Of Agency Relationships: Recognizing the balance of the ABM content as mere hyperbole, more than 80% of marketing leaders have lacked confidence in their organizations’ ability to successfully execute an ABM strategy. These same people are now hearing the right strategic vision from a different class of providers, agencies and consultancies. This trend is parallel to what happened during the rise of marketing automation, where marketers found a strong need to tap external resources for strategy and deployment. And, just like that point in history, many of these providers have yet to build success in this new area … evaluate this decision carefully.
  • Shift From ABS (Account-Based Spam): The intention of “Scaling ABM” is changing from a desire to send more messages to the focus of scaling the identification of target account needs. Let’s face it, scale is not a substitute for intimacy, and ABM is not a campaign. As market leaders shift from trials and pilots to integrated ABM strategies, we’re seeing organizations shift focus to the analysis and application of insights to drive triggered messages based upon the needs of an audience. Next-phase ABM platforms are beginning to fuel this scaled form of deterministic marketing. The corollary of this trend is that channel-based ABM delivery platforms — like “account-based advertising” — will move past recent issues of attrition to next experience commoditization of their core value proposition.
  • Measurement Matures: Best-in-class marketers have moved from platform-based reports to attribution platforms and will next move to data platform solutions. While ABM should make it easier and more precise to measure and analyze the results of marketing efforts, the reality is that this has been a huge challenge as account data are spread across platforms and teams. Whether a standalone CDP (Customer Data Platform) solution or an ABM platform that has built this functionality, this data-forward view of the issue has become best practice as it’s capable of aggregating and normalizing people and account-centric data across channels and platforms. Only in this environment can you properly analyze and optimize ABM efforts.

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