As ABM Moves To A “Must-Have” Tactic, Marketers Begin To Ramp Up Their Skills

Account-based marketing (ABM) is gaining serious traction as more than 90% of B2B organizations consider it a “must-have” tactic, according to SiriusDecisions’ 2015 State of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Study. Wider adoption is anticipated; nearly two-thirds (60%)of marketers expect to invest in ABM technology in the next 12 months, the study revealed.

While ABM requires a shift in mindset and dedicated resources, the potential payoff is significant. According to research from ITSMA, a marketing trade association, more than 80% of companies say that ABM delivers greater ROI than other marketing initiatives.

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Demandbase Raises $30 Million To Accelerate Growth, Explore Acquisitions

DemandbaseDemandbase2, a provider of account-based marketing (ABM) technology, has raised $30 million in equity financing to bring the company’s total funding to more than $90 million.

The company plans to use the investment to accelerate the growth of its ABM solution in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, Demandbase will explore acquisition opportunities to bolster its B2B data assets and real-time identification technology.

With this investment, Ned Gilhuly, founding partner of Sageview Capital, will join the Demandbase board of directors.

“We already see customers spending 10 times more on ABM than they spend on marketing automation tools, and the category will continue to explode over the next several years,” said Chris Golec, CEO of Demandbase. “The additional $30 million investment will allow us to capitalize on this market trend faster and commercialize several ground-breaking innovations in ABM to help keep our customers ahead of their competition.”

This latest round of funding was led by Sageview Capital, with participation from existing investors Adobe Systems, Altos Ventures, Costanoa Venture Capital, Greenspring Associates, Ventures, Scale Venture Partners and Sigma West.

B2B Marketers Use Predictive Tools To Boost Account-Based Marketing Results

While it is not a new strategy, account-based marketing has recently become a critical part of the marketing mix. More than 90% of marketers believe that account-based marketing is a “must-have,” according to SiriusDecisions’ 2015 State of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Study. While just 20% of respondents are currently using an ABM approach, 60% expect to adopt a targeted account approach over the next year, according to the survey.

"Account-based marketing has been a viable and successful strategy for B2B for the past decade, but the tools that are available now make it much more attractive to implement," said Megan Heuer, VP and Group Director at SiriusDecisions, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. "There is a greater opportunity to take advantage of ABM because today's technology makes it much less labor intensive."

To succeed at ABM, many savvy B2B marketers are relying on predictive analytics to focus on the accounts on their targeted list that are showing the highest propensity to buy. “The majority of ABM programs have a list of targeted accounts in the 500 to 2,000 range, so that is still a lot of activity that is hard to track manually,” said Heuer. “Predictive is the one thing that enables companies to scale their ABM efforts, something which was not possible even a few years ago.”

Demandbase, which offers an ABM platform, is using predictive tools to boost its own ABM strategy. “To accelerate our account-based marketing efforts, we required a scientific understanding of the highest value companies to target,” said Peter Isaacson, CMO of Demandbase. “By organizing our sales and marketing efforts around these high value accounts, we have better aligned our teams and significantly increased our pipeline.”

Using predictive tools from Lattice Engines, Demandbase identified the key characteristics of its closed accounts and late-stage pipeline. Armed with that data, the sales and marketing team then developed a list of target accounts. The result was a 75% increase in close rates and 72% increase in average selling price compared to accounts identified through traditional lead scoring tactics.

Demandbase measured the success of its ABM strategy using three metrics:

  • Annual Contract Value (ACV);
  • Close rate; and
  • Funnel velocity (i.e., how quickly an account moved from MQL to close).

“Where predictive can help in ABM is looking beyond the firmographic and demographic data to really identify the buying intent data of that account,” Nipul Chokshi, Head of Product Marketing for Lattice Engines. “Predictive can zero in on intent data such as participation in forums on third-party networks or when members of a buying committee at a targeted company download syndicated white papers, attend webinars, view videos and click on ads.”

Using buyer intent data is a critical component of predicting which accounts are more likely to purchase, according to observers. “If you have an account in which for the past few weeks, multiple contacts have been researching a new phone system and downloading white papers about new phone systems, that not only tells you if they meet your buyer criteria, but it tells you they’re in the market now,” said Alison Murdock, VP of Marketing for 6sense.

CSC, a provider of IT products and services, is piloting a predictive platform in partnership with 6sense to identify new buying intent within its strategic accounts as well as new business opportunities. CSC uses models and digital buying signals to understand if a specific targeted account is showing increased interest in a particular solution area. The marketing and sales teams then work together on a coordinated approach.

“ABM isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity,” said Nick Panayi, Director of Global Brand and Digital Marketing at CSC. “We have to go to market in a focused, highly targeted way. Our products and solutions are quite sophisticated, and we support mission critical environments in large customers and governments.”

Predictive Helps Improve Messaging To Targeted Accounts

Panayi noted that the company also offers content recommendations to all website visitors based on their digital body language, but those recommendations are even more accurate for targeted accounts. “How well you can predict a buyer’s behavior is a direct function of what you know about them. When it comes to ABM accounts, we clearly know more about their content consumption habits and are able to make more accurate predictions about the content that will engage them.”

Overlaying predictive analytics with other attributes of successful accounts can help marketers further target their messaging. “This has helped many of our clients have more fact-based and relevant conversations with their targeted accounts,” said Lattice’s Chokshi.

Chokshi noted that one client, a tech consulting firm, has used predictive tools to identify target accounts that have had a recent change in IT leadership. The firm then developed specific content for those specific accounts.

In another client example, Chokshi said a storage device manufacturer determined that companies that have recently invested in content management systems are more likely to buy than companies with other characteristics. They targeted those accounts with use cases around the role of storage needs and content management.

The future of ABM will likely involve tighter integration with CRM, marketing automation and additional tools for more precise ad targeting.

“We’re very excited about additional integration with marketing automation and some of the new things we’re seeing and new things from LinkedIn to help with targeted ads,” said Jessica Cross, VP of Marketing for Fliptop. “Anything to make those connection points work more seamlessly will make it easier to succeed at account-based marketing.”

Social Data Takes Lead Enrichment To The Next Level

While lead enhancement has been low on the priority list for many B2B marketers, it is taking on a heightened importance as marketers turn to advanced tactics such as account-based marketing and predictive lead scoring to improve campaign performance.

Savvy marketers are using third-party providers to scour social media and other online sources to enrich prospect and customer data. If someone updates their LinkedIn profile with a new role or a company tweets about expanding into new markets, that can indicate buying intent, observers noted. However, this largely unstructured data has been challenging to gather and connect to contact information.

“As B2B marketers shift to a mindset of fewer leads but higher quality leads and a steadier lead flow, lead enhancement becomes critical,” said Derek Slayton, VP of Marketing at Dun & Bradstreet NetProspex. Dun & Bradstreet acquired NetProspex, a data services company, in January.

While marketers recognize the value of a complete and accurate database, most records are still lacking information. According to NetProspex’s 2015 State Of Marketing Data report, two thirds (66%) of records were missing revenue and industry data, two key components of lead scoring.

“Many marketers are still struggling to round out customer profiles — whether those records are manually entered or from a web form fill, trade show, or webinar attendance,” Slayton said. “There is still a lot of database incompleteness, but forward-thinking marketers know that they need to have that record fully populated before sales engages with a lead.”

Progressive marketers are also looking to append their databases to help them provide more relevant content to prospects and customers, said Maribeth Ross, Chief Content Officer and Managing Director at Aberdeen Group. “As buyers become more empowered, marketers really have to think about the completeness and richness of their database before developing a content marketing strategy. If they don’t, they’re just blanketing the database with generic content.”

Social Signals Go Beyond Job Title

To present leads with pertinent content, marketers need to understand the individual’s role in the company and the buying process. While the goal is to have every record include the person’s title, it is not always an indicator of their responsibilities, observers noted.

“For example, a person’s title might be IT manager, which is generic,” said Brian Hession, President and Founder of Oceanos. “But if you dig deeper into their social profiles, you can see by their certifications and the groups that they are involved in that they’re responsible for a specific area, such as network security. In addition to those indicators, we can scan for keywords in a person’s profile to provide a more complete picture of their actual job responsibilities.”

Enhancing information beyond job title can improve lead scoring, Hession noted. “If I’m selling a network security product, for example, and someone has ‘IT manager’ as their job title, they might have a relatively low lead score. But if they have network security certifications listed in their LinkedIn profile and as part of their job description, that’s a game changer.”

Social media profiles can also assist in targeting demographic groups, according to Hession. A client recently wanted to segment “young” and “mature” engineers and offer messaging that was specific to each group, he explained.

“We overlaid social media intelligence, specifically including education, to these contacts,” Hession said. “This allowed us to identify their graduation year in most cases from undergraduate or graduate school.”

Oceanos then analyzed the date range associated with each prospect’s bachelor degree, Hession explained. “Those who graduated during the years of 2003 to 2014 were considered the ‘young engineers,’ and those who graduated 2002 or before were considered the ‘mature engineers.’ While this approach will not always be 100% accurate, it is a creative way of leveraging social media information to accomplish the task at hand.”

As many B2B companies target specific titles or roles beyond the C-level executives, lead enrichment can help identify the right prospect within an organization.

For example, Confio Software, a provider of database performance monitoring and analysis software, typically sells to database administrators. Since the company's Confio Ignite product is a good fit for organizations that run Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server, they used NetProspex’s TechProspex tool to find database administrator titles at companies using those technologies.

Enriching Account-Level Data

While enhancing individual leads can improve targeting, enriching data at the company level is also crucial as more B2B organizations adopt account-based marketing. “Companies are looking beyond size and location to other criteria that could help determine which customers or potential companies would be a good fit,” said Hila Nir, VP of Marketing and Product at ZoomInfo.

Nir noted that company websites and social profiles can help identify top accounts to target. “Using my own company as an example, ZoomInfo considers a company a target if it has a significant internal sales force,” she said. “The goal is to be able to focus your efforts within the right companies and not just waste budgets and resources reaching out to companies that would never buy from you. You need a rich database to achieve success in account-based marketing.”

Titles can also help marketers identify whether a company is a good target, according to Nir. “Take as an example a company that provides content services. They would be interested in companies that have employees with specific titles, such as content managers and social media managers.”

To succeed at account-based marketing, Ross noted that marketers need to collect different and more granular data points, such as the technologies that a company currently uses and their buying patterns over time.

“This is particularly important for B2B marketers, as this information can tell you how they make decisions and at what speed they pull the trigger. This is difficult information for the sales team to gather, so it raises their value when the marketing team can bring this information to the table.”

As marketers get more proficient at data enrichment, they are better equipped to own more of the engagement process, Slayton said.

“Marketers are accepting more of the responsibility of getting accounts to a point where they should be turned over to sales, and the data has to tell the whole story to build trust that marketing is identifying the right target accounts.”

Enrichment tactics are continually changing and need to be frequently evaluated, Ross noted. She said that progressive B2B marketers are using tactics such as A/B testing to gain feedback on the accuracy of their lead enrichment efforts. “You may think that, based on the data that you’ve gathered through lead enrichment, that you’ve put that person on the right nurture path, but it doesn’t hurt to check.”

Madison Logic Launches Account-Based Marketing Platform

MadisonLogic placeitMadison Logic, a marketing solutions provider, unveiled Active ABM, an account-based marketing suite designed to use buying intent data to define company targets, retarget web site visitors and employ predictive targeting.

Using Active ABM, users can also identify topics that are resonating with their audiences, aiming to boost content-driven marketing campaigns.

IDG Launches ABM Solution To Identify Buying Signals

IDG Communications launched ABM360, a suite of account-based marketing solutions designed to help marketers identify purchasing intent at the company and decision-maker level.

The offering is intended to leverage the company’s media brands, data and marketing services and global reach, according to company officials.

Infer Unveils Account Scoring Solution

infer dashboardInfer, a provider of predictive applications, announced the general availability of its Account Scoring solution, a service designed to help businesses source more sales opportunities by ranking cold accounts based on their fit for the product and revenue potential. The new service was unveiled at the SiriusDecisions Summit in Nashville, Tenn.

Infer’s fit and behavior models positions users to analyze key signals — such as a company’s business model, technology vendors, relevant job postings, public filings, social presence, marketing automation data, product usage data, and other attributes — to produce account, contact and lead scores. The scores can then be shared with the CRM system.

Progressive B2B Marketers Take Revenue-Team Approach To Sales Alignment

The benefits of sales and marketing alignment have been well documented over the past several years, but many organizations are still not on board. More than half (58%) of respondents rated their sales and marketing operations alignment as “poor,” according to research from SiriusDecisions.

Progressive B2B organizations are re-defining the sales and marketing relationship by forming “revenue teams” or “demand gen teams” with shared performance goals. “We’ve seen an increase in the revenue team model, where members of the marketing team work with sales toward a joint goal to make their numbers,” said Chris Tratar, VP of Product Marketing at SAVO Group.

Lattice Engines Supports Account-Based Marketing Tactics With New App

placeitLattice Engines launched its Lattice Account Prioritization application, a tool designed to support the shift in B2B marketing toward account-based marketing tactics. The app is intended to leverage predictive analytics to segment and target the right accounts in their campaigns and develop personalized messages that resonate with buyers.

The Account Prioritization application positions sales teams to prioritize outbound efforts with buying intent signals and predictive account scores. This information can then be used to personalize the conversations sales reps have with target accounts.

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