Account-based marketing (ABM) has become a powerful way for B2B marketers to connect with their most valuable customers and prospects, and many companies are beginning to implement it throughout the organization. The latest buzz around artificial intelligence (AI), and the combination of AI and ABM, are intriguing to many marketing organizations as well, but the process of combining the two can be intimidating.
I sat down with Peter Isaacson, CMO of Demandbase, on the eve of his company’s Marketing Innovation Summit—which takes place in San Francisco April 6-7—to discuss these trends, including his take on ABM + AI and his prediction that one-to-one marketing’s time has finally come. Isaacson also gave me a sneak peek at the topics a couple of keynote speakers will be presenting at the conference.
Demand Gen Report: What are the biggest trends you’re seeing right now in ABM?
Peter Isaacson: There are two things happening that are really interesting around ABM. One is the practical application of ABM and how the market has turned the corner from a lot of tire-kickers and folks that were recognizing that, yes, ABM’s good and important, and we need to get to it, but we’ve got X, Y or Z initiatives that we’re going to deal with first. What we’ve seen in the market is very much a turning of the corner where folks aren’t asking us to explain ABM or talk to us about ABM, but they’re saying, “I get ABM, we’re going to do ABM. We’re already taking our first steps around ABM. Now tell us how you can help us accelerate our ABM strategy.”
That’s one trend that we’re seeing. The second trend, which is a little more nascent, is the combination of AI and ABM. When I say “nascent,” I think AI as an overall trend is getting a lot of play. There is a lot of interest, but a lot of confusion and a lot of uncertainty on how to implement it. But what we’re seeing in our own platform is that the combination of AI plus ABM is a really powerful solution.
DGR: Right, because in the research you recently published, 80% of marketers said they think it’s going to revolutionize marketing, but only 26% are confident they understand how it’s going to be used in marketing, and only 10% are currently using AI today. So, what are going to be the factors that drive adoption for marketers?
Isaacson: What’s interesting about AI is that those three data points tell the story: A lot of hope and promise, a fair amount of confusion, and no one feels like they’re using it right now. AI is not about you as an individual company hiring a bunch of data scientists to figure out how to apply AI to your marketing. AI is getting embedded into the technology that you’re already purchasing, to make it better, more targeted, more relevant [and] more personalized.
As companies start to recognize that AI is the underlying intelligence that’s really driving the products that they’re buying from vendors like Demandbase. I think it becomes an easier thing to understand.
DGR: Rohit Prabhakar, Head of Digital Marketing & Technologies at McKesson, is one of the keynote speakers at Demandbase’s Marketing Innovation Summit next week. Can you give me a preview of what he’ll be talking about and what he brings to the conference discussion?
Isaacson: We’re thrilled to have a great set of track speakers, and Rohit is a high-profile executive who is doing great things at McKesson. He’s going to talk about their implementation of AI and ABM together, and some of the results that they’re seeing when you bring AI and ABM together. As part of Rohit’s presentation, he’ll be sharing some insights and results from a new product that Demandbase is going to announce at MIS.
DGR: Alison Wagonfeld, VP-Marketing at Google Cloud, is another keynote speaker at your event. Can you talk about what she’ll be presenting?
Isaacson: Alison has such a big role within Google. Google Cloud is a multi-billion-dollar business for them, and one of her challenges is to expand into the enterprise and develop Google Cloud and refocus their marketing so that it really hits on the enterprise. She’s going to be talking about how data science, machine learning and AI are really driving [and] helping their own marketing within buyer journeys.
DGR: Last year, you teamed up with Oracle to deliver integrated solutions for clients. Should we expect to see similar strategic partnerships announced by Demandbase in the future? It seems so many companies have recently announced significant partnerships to strengthen their own offerings for clients.
Isaacson: You’re not going to see any new announcements specifically around our partnering with Oracle or any of the other big marketing clouds at the Marketing Innovation Summit. We have continued to strengthen the partnership that we have with Oracle based on the ABM automation launch that we did last year, and that’s continuing to be a huge success for both ourselves and the story that Oracle’s able to tell in the market around ABM.
DGR: What are the most important benefits of ABM plus AI for marketers?
Isaacson: The thing about marketers and marketing right now is that all the technology that’s been introduced over the past 10 or 15 years, which was supposed to connect us even more tightly to the customer—whether it was CRM or marketing automation or even the digital advertising that we do—very quickly became a volume game that left us very disconnected from our customers or prospects.
In the process of that, we actually lost a sense of intimacy with our customers and prospects. The stuff that we were doing, like changing the name on email coming out of your marketing automation system, is not establishing a strong connection with your target audience. That is ultimately the goal of marketing: to get that strong emotional connection with your target audience. The value and the promise of AI is that, because it combines massive amounts of data with real insights about the company and the individual within that company, you can take action—at scale—that reestablishes a sense of intimacy with that individual. And you can do that across the web.
You’ll be able to do that across advertising, but you’ll really be able to hyper-personalize your communications and do it truly at scale, and that’s really going to be transformational. One of the things I’ve talked about is Peppers and Rogers, you know, 25 years ago, promised that the one-to-one revolution was going to happen, and we were going to reestablish the strong connection. It never really happened, but I think AI can actually pay off that promise.