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The Account Based Marketing Technology Stack Emerges

Earlier this month Demandbase raised $30 million in its latest round of funding. After starting in 2006 as the “iTunes for contacts,” the company has pivoted and morphed over time into one of the early leaders in the emerging Account Based Marketing (ABM) stack. As a matter of fact, Demandbase was one of the first vendors to start talking about Account Based Marketing in 2011. Its funding is further validation that Account Based Marketing is one the biggest trends in B2B sales and marketing. At TOPO, we have been tracking and researching Account Based Marketing for the last two years and have seen a surge in analyst inquiries over the last six months. Now, an ABM technology stack is emerging.

The Genesis of the Account Based Marketing Movement

Account based marketing is a strategic process for driving interest and engagement in target accounts. Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio and B2B marketing thought leader, offers a very good definition of ABM: “Intentional go-to-market activities that coordinate personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at a specific account.” In truly advanced ABM programs, the plays, messaging, and go-to-market plan are based on a specific account and that company’s key goals and initiatives.

Account based marketing

The roots of account based marketing can be traced back to over 20 years ago.
Target list sales and marketing campaigns existed before ABM — We have short memories, but before marketing automation and inbound marketing, b2b organizations ran campaigns against target lists. These campaigns were often one-off and lacked the sophistication and continual motion of the ABM process.

The term Account Based Marketing was pioneered by ITSMA in 2004.
Founded in the mid-90s, ITSMA was the original leader in defining the ABM process. At that time, a number of companies worked with ITSMA to begin executing ABM programs. The major difference between then and now is the technology to support it – now company’s can do Account Based Marketing at scale.

Digital demand generation and inbound marketing have consumed marketers for the last 6-7 years.
The introduction of marketing automation, digital demand channels such as paid search, and lead management have been the focus of marketers as they build their processes and marketing stack to support these efforts. The problem is that these programs have been at the mercy of whoever “raised their hand” to own them. The result has often been failure to deliver opportunities at the target accounts that sales covets. For example, one company we spoke to was driving 5,000-6,000 leads per month but only 10-15% aligned with their target account list.

Outbound sales development re-emerged 3-4 years ago.
Outbound sales development and prospecting has begun to proliferate (again) in b2b sales and marketing. In TOPO’s 2014 Sales Development Benchmark report, 56% of sales development organizations have teams dedicated exclusively to outbound prospecting. Outbound was sales’ answer to the lack of opportunities in their target accounts. Outbound prospecting clearly works but it is one channel into the target accounts. The key piece that was missing was marketing.

The timing is right for the ABM movement – an aligned marketing-sales strategy to solve the target account pipeline problem.

Enter the Account Based Marketing Technology Stack

Further accelerating ABM’s rise has been the emergence of an ABM technology stack designed to enable organizations to execute highly targeted ABM programs at scale. The Demandbase funding is certainly an indicator of the potential for ABM technologies. As well, Jon Miller landed $10 million+ to start Engagio, on the premise that Engagio would be the marketing automation platform for ABM.

At TOPO, we have seen a significant rise in analyst inquiries from customers requesting guidance on Account Based Marketing and the associated technologies. While the ABM stack is still nascent, as ABM momentum continues to grow, we expect incumbent vendors to develop ABM-specific products and new vendors to enter the fray.

Today a number of vendors offer solutions to address the following key areas in the ABM stack:

Predictive Analytics
The first step in Account Based Marketing is to develop a list of accounts fitting your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Traditionally organizations generated target account lists by guessing or using filters such as company size, revenue, or vertical. With predictive analytics, marketers can create quantifiable target lists based on multiple variables. For example, Maria Pergolino from Apptus, who like Jon Miller is a marketing maven turned ABM thought leader, used predictive analytics to create a target list for her company. She started with the simple filter of the “Fortune 2000” and then leveraged predictive analytics vendor, Everstring, to identify 400 target companies that “she would have never thought to put on the list”.  TOPO’s Predictive Analytics Report comes out this month and features Predictive Analytics vendors InferLattice EnginesLeadSpace6SenseMintigo, Radius, and Everstring.

Contact Data
Once the target list has been defined, the company must fill its database with relevant contacts at companies fitting the ICP to power outbound sales and marketing processes. Here the need for updated, fresh contact data is critical. In the latest TOPO Sales Development Technology Report, the most-used contact data sources were SalesloftData.comDiscoverOrgInsideViewRainKingDatanyzeNetprospex, LeadSpace, and LeadGenius.

Targeted Advertising
With targeted advertising, organizations can deliver advertising to their target accounts across the internet. For example, assume one of your target accounts is Citibank. As Citibank executives visit websites other than your own (from personal interest sites like ESPN to other business sites), they will be served ads featuring your company. Demandbase, Bizo (part of LinkedIn) and Terminus are vendors in this space.

LinkedIn is considered by many to be the ultimate targeted b2b advertising resource. You can use LinkedIn for Account Based Marketing but must spend enough ($25K is the current unconfirmed low end) in order to request this option. Maria Pergolino of Apptus runs LinkedIn display and Inmail campaigns targeted toward the company’s target list.

Website personalization
With website personalization, organizations can deliver account-specific content as contacts from the target account visit the company’s website. Take the Citibank example. When Citibank executives visit your website, they will be shown messages and content specific to them. Demandbase and Marketo are two vendors enabling this dynamic display of targeted content.

Account-based management and tracking
While Salesforce.com is undoubtedly a leader in CRM, it isn’t necessarily perfectly suited to employing an ABM approach. In Salesforce.com’s current state, leads and accounts/contacts/opportunities essentially live in different databases, making comprehensive account visibility difficult. LeanData has created an application to overcome the idiosyncracies of Salesforce.com and manage, track, and measure the effectiveness of target account efforts across leads and accounts/opportunities. Breaking down the database-silo barrier is the key to LeanData and companies are finding many ways to put this to use. One example is Lars Nilsson, VP of Field Operations at Cloudera, who uses LeanData to automatically convert new leads to contacts and attach them to their target accounts.

More applications will emerge as ABM continues to gain traction. Engagio’s offering is still in development and we anticipate it will provide a platform for managing the ABM process. We also predict more ABM-specific metrics and reporting offerings to come to market by the end of 2015.

If you’d like to learn more about Account Based Marketing, contact TOPO.

About the author: Craig Rosenberg is a co-founder and Chief Analyst at TOPO and blogger on the Funnelholic sales and marketing blog.

  • Craig, once again you’ve come up with a “definitive” post that exact captures the state of the account-based marketing industry. Well done!

    A few thoughts on the emerging stack:
    Consider adding “ABM Content” (e.g. account-specific offers) as a piece of the stack. This could include companies such as Agent3 and Freya News.

    There may or not be a separate stack component about ABM insights, account-level sales triggers, etc. Think of companies such as InsideView.

    At Engagio, we think of ABM Management and Tracking as being deeper than trying leads to accounts. While that is absolutely essential, we also think that the traditional marketing metrics such as leads and opportunities are not sufficient to answer the real questions in ABM related to account coverage, engagement, and penetration.

  • Sangram Vajre

    Fantastic post, Craig. Love that you are putting together an ABM stack thought out there. I think it’s extremely important for marketers to realize that there are more than one way to think and implement an #abm strategy and all these platforms, including Terminus, are just pieces of the puzzle!

    Thanks for including Terminus in your write up. We are honored!

  • Craig, Congrats- this is one of the best articles on ABM that I’ve seen. And great that you recognize that ABM has actually been around for a number of years. The difference today, and the reason that ABM is now getting so much traction, is that vendors like Demandbase and the others you mention are giving companies the ability to scale their ABM efforts through digital technology. ABM is quickly evolving from just a B2B marketing strategy, to a full fledged category. Thanks for including Demandbase.

  • Dan Ziman

    Great summary, Craig! In support of Jon’s comments below, businesses moving to an ABM strategy need to go beyond traditional marketing metrics (i.e. SQL conversion rates) and lead to account (and opportunity) matches. When taking an account perspective, one needs to think about “do I have the right buyers and decision makers on-board” in addition to “marketing’s running the right campaign to create more traction in target accounts”.
    Regarding momentum (just another data point), Google searches for “account based marketing” have tripled compared to a year ago (from 320 month to 1,000/month).

  • Sandman2222

    Craig, good article. And yes, we at ITSMA still believe that ABM is an important Strategic Business Initiative. And yes, today’s marketing automaton tools enable companies to best manage their ABM program, especially as they think about scaling. When applied and used correctly these tools can provide account-level insight into how to best apply ABM. Let’s not lose sight of the fact, though, that good and successful ABM is still about relationships. By leveraging the technology and gained knowledge, conversations with key client executives can be more relevant and resonate better thereby deepening relationships.

  • Charlie Liang

    Great article. I think any of these tools by itself is great, but amplified when used together. YMMV with certain industries, however.

    New-school startup marketing is all about amplifying and automating sales’ grassroots efforts.

  • Paul Feldman

    How do folks create the account target list in SFDC? Is it via a campaign (Top 100 High Tech Companies Campaign) and contacts get associated? Or via a field on the account Account.Target List? Or via a custom object?

  • Val Sanford

    This is a great summary of what we need. I’m in the process of scoping a ABM solution for a client and this is a big help. Thanks.

  • Thomas Gatten

    If you’re interested in predictive SME/Mid-Mkt target lists in Europe look at the company I founded, GrowthIntel. We’re helping to scale ABM and ‘audience of one’ style marketing to smaller businesses in Europe.

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