Account-based marketing has been at the center of business development conversations for many years. By now, the concept is not novel or outside the box. According to LinkedIn, more than half of B2B marketers were using ABM in some form last year, and 80 percent planned to boost their ABM budget here in 2021.
And so the conversation is shifting. Visionary business leaders are turning their attention toward the next evolution of ABM. How can brands harness the revolution of data, personalization, and experiential marketing to elevate their strategies and deliver for their customers in profound new ways?
We asked seven influential ABM voices in marketing leadership for their perspectives on what comes next for account-based marketing. Here’s where they are setting their sights.
In his role as Senior Vice President of Consulting for the advisory firm ITSMA, Rob Leavitt places a key focus on account-based marketing and its applications, helping clients stay on top of this fast-changing practice. He laid out the key challenges ahead as businesses aim to take ABM to the next level.
Here’s what Rob had to say:
“Questions about the potential of data-driven marketing, the importance of full lifecycle marketing, and the role of ABM in overall B2B strategy are nothing new; we’ve asked them for decades. And the core principles of ABM haven’t changed since the early 2000s: Use deep client insight to generate relevant, compelling, and personalized messaging, experiences, and solutions that drive shared strategic value.
The context has obviously changed dramatically, though, since we’re now swimming (or drowning!) in data and have powerful new tools to help find the essential signals in extremely noisy environments. So the big challenge now is investing enough to harness the data in the right ways while maintaining enough focus on the creative personalization and collaboration that truly stand out. The search for the perfect blend of art and science continues!”
“The big challenge now is investing enough to harness the data in the right ways while maintaining enough focus on the creative personalization and collaboration that truly stand out.”
Stephanie Losee runs content globally for Autodesk’s ABM program and has a robust background in communications and editorial strategy. She’s at the forefront of innovating how companies engage and interact with their customers. We asked what the broad shift from marketing to experiences — reflected here at Demandbase by the emergence of ABX — means to her.
These were Stephanie’s thoughts:
“I think—or hope—it will prompt a shift in thinking from marketing motions to community-building. The promise of better data is to create that Netflix-like experience customers have come to expect and enjoy from services they subscribe to. But that’s the trick; in order for marketers to accord with GDPR, customers must opt-in, and when they don’t, that Netflix-like experience eludes us. So we must offer them so much value that they elect to join a community. Community-building is quite a different enterprise from pushing content to marketable contacts, and the good news is that it benefits marketers and target audiences equally well.”
“We must offer customers so much value that they elect to join a community.”
It’s a conundrum: ABM strategies require deep, accurate, and timely customer insight to be successful, but various forces are making this information harder for brands to procure. Masha Finkelstein, who leads Marketing Innovation and Best Practices at Intuit, says marketers need to devise new methods for understanding customers and their behavior, and she was generous enough to share several suggestions.
Here they are:
“B2B marketers need to figure out new ways of managing behavior-based audiences and retargeting campaigns that do not rely on browser cookies.”
As a B2B marketing consultant, author, and educator, Ruth Stevens recognizes that knowledge is power. This is at the core of her philosophy around account-based marketing and how it can be most powerful.
Here is what Ruth shared:
“An accurate, complete set of company and contact records is essential to ABM success. When focusing on a limited universe of high-potential accounts, we need to know everything we can about our targets.
At the account level, we need to understand their needs, how they buy, and who is involved in the purchase decision. At the contact level, we must learn their buying role, their job function, and as much as we can about their interests and behaviors. The more accessible the data to marketers, the more effectively we can craft relevant, persuasive communications and generate business.
To do ABM well, you need to bend the sales odds in your favor. The best way to bend the odds is to utilize customer data you collect over time and deliver a seamless customer experience (CX). That is it!”
“To do ABM well, you need to bend the sales odds in your favor. The best way to bend the odds is to utilize customer data you collect over time and deliver a seamless customer experience (CX).”
Grab your magnifying glasses and throw on your deerstalker caps, gumshoes. According to B2B marketing consultant Pam Didner, creating a resonant message and experience tailored to specific accounts requires marketers to gather evidence and let it guide their approaches.
“If you want to target your buyers successfully, you need to “study” them. Understand what they do on your website and your marketing channels, make an effort to anticipate their next move or their future intentions. Then, create a great CX to facilitate the purchase stage of your target accounts. I always tell my clients that you need to be a marketing detective if you want to maximize account-specific outreach. Again, use your data and customer experience to your advantage.”
“I always tell my clients that you need to be a marketing detective if you want to maximize account-specific outreach.”
Keeping a close eye on trends and best practices as longtime editor-in-chief for B2B Marketing, Joel Harrison observes that ABM has already more or less reached a point of ubiquity. The key now lies in finding a competitive advantage by turning data into actionable insight that impacts the customer experience.
Joel shares his thoughts:
“ABM has defied the cynics to become established as mainstream B2B, with most B2B brands doing it, trialing it, or at least considering it. But that means it’s becoming more competitive and harder to stand out and be effective, which in turn means you need to make your data work harder to deliver genuine insights to facilitate engaging experiences — throughout the customer journey and lifecycle. Brands’ ability to leverage data will define those who win and lose with ABM in 2021 and beyond.”
“You need to make your data work harder to deliver genuine insights to facilitate engaging experiences — throughout the customer journey and lifecycle.”
Kerri Vogel runs global account-based marketing programs for Ellucian as a VP and emphasizes the critical nature of alignment in executing successful ABM. Kerri agrees with Joel about the vital importance of turning data into insight and says companies can’t afford to skip steps if they want a message that connects.
Here are Kerri’s thoughts:
“ABM marketers have always known that data is core to driving impact and customer engagement. As data and technology get better daily, marketers need to learn how to best apply data to enable insights. Marketers should first use data to build messaging that is centered on the customer and their pain points and is in their words. Then, they need to ensure sales is enabled with those key insights and messaging, to ensure consistency and alignment.
Once that foundation is built, marketers can drive ABM programs to targeted audiences aligned with the right content offer, at the right time and in the right place. But without getting the messaging core right and alignment with sales first, it’s hard to drive a strong, meaningful customer experience where ABM succeeds … even with all the data in the world.”
“Without getting the messaging core right and alignment with sales first, it’s hard to drive a strong, meaningful customer experience where ABM succeeds … even with all the data in the world.”
At Demandbase, we’re excited to help usher this evolution through our transformative new solution. Learn about Demandbase One and how we’re bringing it all together.