Account-based marketing in 2017: Is it time to call it 2.0?
Account-based marketing has been around for more than a decade, and is used mainly by black-belt CMOs of large enterprises. Now, two key innovations will unlock mass-adoption of this concept. Which leads to the question: Is 2017 the year to announce the birth of Account-Based Marketing 2.0 in, or is it still too early?
People unfamiliar with the subject may spend weeks burying their noses in books, guides, and white papers promoted by ABM gurus to make sense of this term. Put simply, account-based marketing starts by accurately defining your target customers, preferably right down to their names and titles. With ABM, you don’t need to run expensive and ineffective lead generation campaigns. Your B2B marketing becomes a concentrated and very personalized effort. It zeroes in on engaging with your target account’s decision makers, convincing them and hopefully turning them into eager evangelists for your company’s message.
It took a long time for the pioneers to sow the seeds of account-based marketing among the CMOs of B2B companies. The term itself was coined by ITSMA back in 2004. Yet it took more than a decade for ABM to become popular among the B2B marketing crowd. Today, more than 70% of B2B marketing managers are interested in buying into ABM, according to Sirius Decisions data. Still, the actual adoption rate is barely cracking the double digit mark.
I believe that, with the two innovations described below, ABM will finally overcome the current barriers. We will then witness the mass adoption of account-based marketing — and by all businesses, large, small, and medium.
Some readers may be old enough to remember a category of software products that large enterprises paid six-figure sums to implement, until Marc Benioff came to Larry Ellison to say he will be building a SaaS product. And we’ve all seen how SalesForce with other SaaS CRM products quickly spread among small businesses by offering a simple and affordable CRM — something that was impossible to buy from Oracle, Siebel, or SAP. And we also watched how these new entrants moved upmarket to challenge the status quo of CRM market leaders.
Account-based marketing will follow the trail already blazed by CRM and ERP markets. At the moment, heavy ABM solutions cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and require massive efforts to integrate. Just check out the products and solutions page of Marketo or Demandbase. These sophisticated products offer dozens of ways to be helpful: account identification, email marketing, predictive content, account-based advertising, and chat integration, to name just a few. In contrast, a true self-service SaaS product offers one clear workflow that leads to quick results with little (if any) integration effort.
The second innovation redefines the role of advertising in a B2B marketing mix. Advertising is an excellent tool: it’s less intrusive than cold emails, and it has a bigger and more immediate reach than search ads or content marketing. For ages, massive advertising has been the go-to medium to build awareness and drive consumer interest, yet it was useless for B2B marketing. Without precise targeting of customers, it was simply a waste of money to build huge volumes of website traffic in the hope finding a single buyer among millions of page views.
Advertising platforms have recently tapped into the budget pockets of the B2B marketers by introducing narrow segment targeting tools. The primary winners of this game are those who own users’ data: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You can now target specific industries and roles via LinkedIn, or followers of specific categories via Twitter. However, the job of all advertising platforms is to sell their own properties, so you can’t really leverage LinkedIn data to target Twitter users.
But what if you could target advertising across all existing platforms, all social networks, and online media? It turns out that plugging in machine learning to analyze the digital footprints of social network users, in combination with programmatic data, can raise the accuracy bar of ad targeting to the personal level. This is precisely what we do at Influ2.
Personal advertising is a true game changer. The first and obvious change is, you don‘t throw away money by advertising to millions of people who are not your prospective customers.
The second change is, now you know the name of the prospect who enjoyed your article — an absolutely priceless piece of information. Now you can target your outbound campaign specifically to these warm leads. You can adjust your messages to the content that first drew their attention. For example, if the CTO of a payment company read a few of your articles about mobile payment solutions — as happened to one of our clients recently — it’s worth it to reach him with a more detailed offer or a whitepaper on the topic.
With personal content advertising, you can significantly boost your efforts in PR and content marketing. Even if your PR team failed to generate a lot of coverage for your recent breakthrough, or your white paper was ignored due to weak SEO ranks, you can rest assured your customers will still have a chance to read all about it via personal content advertising. Moreover, you will know exactly for whom your piece of content turned out to be relevant — it’s a great signal for further ABM and sales efforts.
In sum, with a simple SaaS-style workflow, combined with the evolving smarts of machine learning solutions, we can foresee a new breed of account-based marketing products geared for mass adoption. Is the era of ABM 2.0 coming? If it does, you’ll want to be ready for it.