The most experienced ABM marketers usually start out with one or two marketing technologies as they build their first ABM campaigns and prove the value of the account-based model to their organisation. Marketing automation platforms have long been a valuable component of these tech stacks, and without doubt, email is still a vital communication channel in ABM. Most of the big marketing automation platforms now also accommodate some aspects of account-based marketing functionality (including the use of intent data and personalisation).
In general, though, marketing automation platforms retain the imprint of the use case scenario that has made them so useful: automated email-based campaigns that target relatively undifferentiated audiences of prospects drawn from in-house CRM systems and third-party list suppliers. They serve as a perfect platform experimentation when marketers first turn their attention to ABM. It’s certainly possible to run small-scale ABM programs from within most marketing automation platforms but they are not specifically designed for the complexity of advanced ABM programs which experienced marketers now need. Without sales activation, digital advertising and in-depth personalisation, marketing automation platforms can only satisfy one piece of the ABM puzzle. They aren’t built to surround accounts in the way that ABM platforms are designed to do so.
ABM platforms have evolved specifically to incorporate a variety of different marketing channels, and solve one of the biggest problems around ABM data. They can ingest intent data, and then make that data truly actionable in all respects. They go the extra step, bringing everything together, using predictive analytics to manage and filter behavioural signals and isolate those with an apparently higher propensity to purchase results in better conversion metrics, allow you to really unify messaging and offer real value to an account with the right content at the right time. ABM platforms have mechanisms for sales-marketing collaboration, and with their 360 account view, can easily demonstrate the impact of ABM on an account. ABM platforms allow you to truly perform account-based marketing.
When should I add ABM platforms to my tech stack?
When you’ve built the case for ABM within your organisation and have a defined strategy in place, the attraction of ABM platforms starts to become very evident.
For most, the tipping points for investment in an ABM platform are 1) a need for scale, and 2) a need to surround their accounts more intelligently through multiple channels.
On that first tipping point, Gartner has a very clear argument: if marketers have piloted ABM programs, perhaps using their own 1st party data sources, and they now want to run programs targeting 100+ accounts, they should consider using an ABM platform. (In the technology industry, this is actually a modest hurdle: 96% of the marketers we surveyed in 2021 expected to be working with 500+ account ABM programs in 2021).
Our own research with tech marketers confirms Gartner’s argument that increasing sophistication leads to increasing adoption of dedicated ABM platforms. Among tech marketers with six months’ experience of ABM or less, 27% told us they perceived marketing automation as the most successful platform for ABM operations. (24% identified dedicated ABM platforms).
But as marketers grow in confidence and ambition, the balance is in favour of dedicated ABM platforms. At this point, the specialist tools offered by a platform come into their own. Once marketing organisations have 12 months of experience with ABM, 35% rate ABM platforms the most successful tool, while only 24% opt for marketing automation platforms.
Clearly, scale matters. But how and why?
Why are ABM platforms useful when I want to add scale?
To do ABM well, you need to have all the necessary components working together.
Specifically, there are at least five ways in which a dedicated platform makes a big difference when you are running ABM campaigns at scale:
- The ability to ingest and harmonise high volumes of variably formatted data from multiple sources (1st party and 3rd party)
- The ability to match up leads (for example, from a CRM system) with accounts (identified by an ABM platform working with intent data)
- AI-driven functionality that excels at scoring very large volumes of accounts identified by intent and first party data
- The ability to run and automate complex customer engagements across channels, with ability to dynamically adjust
- Personalisation at a manageable scale: instead of attempting to personalise appeals to a very large and undifferentiated lead generation audience, ABM platforms allow personalised and segmented appeals to an audience that has been filtered to include targets that display buying signals.
- Bringing all the information about an account into one ecosystem, and giving you a whole view of an account from a single platform.
If I add an ABM platform, what happens to my marketing automation tool?
The renowned mid-century American psychologist Abraham Maslow once famously said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as a nail”.
Maslow’s saying is an argument for diversity in the toolbox. This is our argument, too. We recommend using both technologies to succeed. Both tools can be deployed to do different jobs within different campaigns, or within a single campaign. For example, consider an organisation that wants to follow up a successful customer event by providing access to video highlights and encouraging sign-ups for next year.
With both marketing automation and an ABM platform available, there’s no need for this organisation to restrict itself to emailing existing attendees and vast, undifferentiated third-party prospect lists for next year. Using marketing automation, this organisation can target this year’s attendees. Using intent data and ABM, marketing can also reach in-market target accounts with a high propensity to purchase, offering them access to both this year’s thought leadership and an option to benefit from next year’s event.
Foundry ABM is integrated with all leading marketing automation tools.
If you are looking for the most comprehensive way to approach account-based marketing, to scale your ABM strategy and to uncover more opportunities, the move to an ABM platform is wise.
Interested in expanding your ABM efforts? Talk to one of our ABM experts