5 Questions To Ask Your ABM Vendor In 2020

Early February is when most of us have (begrudgingly) shaken off our holidays, had time to reset and refocus for 2020, and are ready to make this the best year yet. It’s when many start wondering, “What’s next? What can I do now to get the year started on the right foot?” If Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is in the plan for 2020, then you’ve probably done your research and maybe even started talking to a few technology vendors. With over 7,000 (!) marketing technologies out there, how do you choose which one is right for you? As a lead on our Sales Engineering team here at Demandbase, I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings with marketers who are just trying to cut through the noise and find solutions that work. It can be discouraging and exhausting!

That’s why I’ve put together 5 questions to ask during your next vendor call. After all, isn’t technology supposed to make our lives easier, not harder? My hope is these questions will help guide you to have a successful partnership with your technology.

1. Can you help my business execute on our strategic goals?

Not all vendors fit all initiatives. Some companies only need a point solution to fit a specific need, some need a wider range of use cases covered. Some companies don’t even have a strategy in place yet (see the next point) but want to dip their toes into a new way to view marketing and sales alignment. In this case, see if your vendor offers training and certification for general ABM, not just their own products. (for example, Demandbase offers a certification that over 3700 marketers have completed to increase their knowledge of ABM overall)

Some questions that might be helpful:

  • Do they have an internal strategy team that helps customers see value?
  • How big (and involved!) is their customer success organization?
  • Besides customer references, are they willing to let you speak to a member or leader of their customer success team?

All of this can be instrumental in helping you choose a vendor that you can be confident will accomplish your goals.

2. Can you help define or refine my strategy?

If you don’t even have a strategy laid out yet, then choosing a vendor can seem doubly daunting. Not only do you have to figure out what to do, you have to decide how to do it while incorporating technology that may or may not help you with your needs. In that case, you may be stuck in a contract with a tool that sits unused. To avoid this, see how your vendors have (or have not) helped their clients define their strategy or refine an initial strategy.

Some questions that might be helpful:

  • How does the vendor approach the sales cycle? Do they recommend going all in on everything they sell, or do they take the time to understand your business and start with the solutions that are most relevant to you?
  • Can they provide case studies or references for other clients who were at a similar level of maturity as your organization?
  • How do they recommend starting out? Do they define a strategy based on “gut feel” or use data to build a thoughtful, considered program?

Not having a strategy doesn’t have to stop you from getting started with ABM – but proceeding with the wrong strategy can put you on the back foot for sure.

3. What happens if what I’m doing doesn’t work?

There’s no worse feeling than starting with a vendor and realizing that your initial plan needs to be changed, and quick. If everything is going wrong and you need to start from scratch, how does your vendor support this exercise? If they aren’t with you every step of the way or if they emphasize “self-service,” then a bad experience can easily become even worse.

Some questions that might be helpful:

  • What level of support do I get throughout my engagement?
  • How can you help if I decide I need to redo my strategy? Do I have to lead this initiative or can you help through data and personnel?
  • How easy is it to stop what I’m doing and take a different direction with my marketing efforts if I realize what I’m doing isn’t working?

Having to reframe and reset isn’t the worst thing in the world, although it may feel like it. Having a vendor that can be nimble enough to support your needs rather than their own can make an otherwise arduous process much easier.

4. How do I get the most out of your tools?

All vendors are (or claim to be, at least) good at certain things like account identification, targeted advertising, sales alerting, and the list goes on. The trick is in figuring out how the different pieces of the puzzle come together. How do the tools that vendors offer support your strategy and business needs? This is something that a vendor should be able to demonstrate to you without hesitancy once they know your goals.

Some questions that might be helpful:

  • Can you talk me through a day in the life using our existing stack in conjunction with your solutions?
  • What am I losing out on by not having access to your products?
  • How much would my team miss your solutions if they could no longer use them?

It’s more of a tactical discussion, but understanding how a vendor’s solution fits your needs (once they’re defined) will help ensure that they can become a valuable partner for the long term.

5. Why are you the right vendor for me?

In principle, this is the simplest question, but in practice it has the most depth to it. Many vendors have a whole song and dance about why they are the best in the marketplace, why their data is better than all others, why they can take you to the moon and stars, and so on, but it really comes down to who is the right fit for you and your company. Who can really support your goals and strategies, who can help you define and refine them, and most importantly, who is ready to become a long term strategic partner and advisor for your business.

This question is typically answered through a combination of the questions above, but sometimes you have to come right out and say it. If and when you do, look for:

  • industry and customer validation
  • the aforementioned focus on strategy
  • openness and honesty from the vendor

Armed with these 5 questions, you can make the right choice on which ABM vendor to partner with. If you’re curious about how Demandbase can answer these questions for your business, check out the following resources:

  • ABM Stack Evaluator: Answer seven quick questions and you’ll receive a customized report of recommendations for matching the right ABM technologies to your ABM strategy.
  • Schedule a demo
  • Meet us at the ABM Innovation Summit: Join us and over 1,000 marketing leaders for the ABM event of the year! Redefine what you thought was possible with ABM.