ABM In Action caught up with David Raab, Principal of Raab Associates, a marketing analytics and technology firm, at the recent FlipMyFunnel event in Austin, TX. Raab led a session called Building Your ABM Stack: Lego Blocks or Frankenstein?, and we spoke with him to get his perspective on how companies should approach their ABM strategy.
ABM IN ACTION: Should marketers look at ABM as a separate tech stack, or is there cross-over in some of the tools they may already have?
DAVID RAAB: The thing about ABM is that it’s one type of marketing; it’s not a separate stack. You’re going to use the same stack that you’ve always used, and you have to add certain functions to it, certain capabilities. But you’re not going to go out and buy a separate marketing automation system, a separate database, a separate set of analytical tools. Think about it in terms of what are the functions I have to do for ABM? Can I do them with my existing tools or do I have to go out and supplement or enhance my existing tools?
ABMIA: What do you see as the biggest change organizations face in successfully implementing ABM?
DR: The biggest change, and therefore the biggest gap, is actually on the data side. Buying lists of contacts and lists of companies was considered bad form for a long time. With ABM, it’s assumed that you’re going to be out buying lists of target companies and targets’ names. [There’s] a bigger focus on that, which is a good thing. It means people have to pay more attention to actual data quality issues; to understanding who they’re really buying from and what’s good and what’s not; and to understanding how complete the coverage is. So that’s probably the one major change.
I would say the other thing … is tighter CRM integration. The whole point of ABM is working much more closely with sales and marketing, so you need a deeper kind of integration.
ABMIA: You mentioned that ABM still requires some of the same tools and approaches as traditional marketing. Does that mean marketing automation is still vital to an account-based strategy?
DR: Absolutely. The issue with marketing automation is not that you don’t need it. It’s that most marketing automation systems aren’t organized around accounts; they’re organized around leads. For ABM, you have to do account scoring, so marketing automation is still critical. You will continue to send emails and track web behaviors, which is what marketing automation does. It’s still going to probably be how you integrate with CRM, so the core functions of marketing automation are going to be used. You have to make sure that your marketing automation system does what you need or that you supplement your marketing automation system with something else that does the things that you need for ABM.
ABMIA: Are there any new tools that stand out as vital to ABM success?
DR: There are some. Engagio and ZenIQ are two that come to mind, [which are] probably the most comprehensive attempt to really be an ABM platform. But even they will be the first to tell you that they’re not
CRM [or] marketing automation. They’re really something that orchestrates all those things, in particular, between marketing and sales. There are specialists like Demandbase and Terminus who are doing different kinds of advertising, retargeting and display that are also more focused on ABM.
“Because ABM is so much easier to adopt, it is being adopted much more quickly than marketing automation.” David Raab, Raab Associates
ABMIA: For organizations that have not rolled out an ABM strategy and are trying to get buy-in from their executive team, what kind of guidance do you suggest to prepare them for success?
DR: It’s probably easier to get buy-in for ABM, partly because it’s clearly something that helps sales. Building on the foundation that you have with marketing automation, ABM is more of an extension, so you don’t have to learn a whole new set of skills. B2B [marketers] didn’t use too much advertising, so there’s some things you have to learn, but it’s nowhere near as complicated as learning how to design and nurture a campaign.
ABMIA: Because ABM is more about precision and not around generating volumes of leads, does that change expectations?
DR: It certainly changes the metrics that you use. Theoretically, we’re not being judged on lead volume anymore as B2B marketers. [That] was always the primary metric. Now you’re looking at things like funnel velocity as one of the major metrics for ABM, and sales guys understand funnel velocity. You’re talking their language much more than you used to, and that definitely makes it easier to sell internally within both sales and marketing.
ABMIA: You’ve been tracking the adoption curve of marketing automation space for a number of years with your VEST Report. Do you expect a similar adoption curve for ABM technologies and rollouts to what you saw in the early days of marketing automation?
DR: I think ABM is actually already moving vastly faster. Some of the penetration numbers for ABM are actually higher than the numbers for marketing automation today. Because ABM is so much easier to adopt, it is being adopted much more quickly than marketing automation.