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Distilling the hype around ABM tech


Luella Ben Aziza

LUELLA BEN AZIZA / STRATEGY DIRECTOR

20th April 2017 / ABM best practice


It’s so easy to get jaded in digital marketing. Since a website became a must-have item, it’s been a relentless game of whack-a-mole: SEO – done. Email marketing- check! marketing automation – purchased. But the trends and tech keep on coming. My news feeds and meetings are filled with ‘Thought Leaders’ from martech talking about the next shiny new tool. Finally the answer! We must buy it and implement it everywhere.

Whilst organisations are slowly improving customer experience, attribution and ROI, honest marketers admit: the gain from these initiatives doesn’t always match the pain. As vendors get funding their marketing stories creep up on us. This what’s is happening in Account Based Marketing right now.

Martech for ABM

ABM is something we’ve done for a long time and we know it works – so we’re not surprised to see it becoming popular. We knew it would catch on. But technology, not practitioners have defined ABM for the majority of b2b marketers who are starting to adopt it now. That’s led to confusion. ABM shouldn’t be driven by marketing technology, it should be built on strategic insight.

If you look at most of the marketing technology vendors with an ABM proposition, they’re talking about hundreds, often thousands of accounts. It’s not just marketing built around an account, rather a sales and marketing team effort engineered for it. ABM to thousands of accounts? It’s a paradox!

It’s an exciting promise. It’s one that we’ve heard many times before: a personalised experience, truly 1:1, an audience of 1. Unfortunately, while many vendors add value (and some of them are brilliant), they simply cannot deliver on their promise of hands-free ABM, end-to-end, or ABM at scale. Nowhere close.

“A lot of it is taped together”

As an ex-SaaS marketer I have a lot of respect for marketing technology. But as their markets become even more competitive and martech vendors are forced to shout louder, they are forced to over-promise, to the point of marketing things that haven’t even been built yet. Much of it is about raising funds, building user numbers. Sometimes, they show that people will buy a good story over the truth.

In many cases, what they’re describing is not really ABM. And it’s not what we have done repeatedly and found to work. At best, tech can offer an experience that is personalised. That helps to do better marketing at scale. But personalised does not mean persuasive.

Today, to persuade and influence you need what the best sales people know: to confidently lead with deeply relevant and new insights, to use value-based messaging and to tailor your proposition for each account.

A quick ABM martech hype checklist

  • don’t let technology distract you
  • look at technology as a tool, not an initiative
  • hire a technologist or use the resources your agency has
  • don’t skim past jargon – press sales people for meaning
  • see demos and trials before buying – even for enterprise software
  • work backwards from your goals so your goals lead sales conversations
  • stay skeptical and seek transparency
  • start with outcomes, processes and clean data
  • always seek a second opinion (G2 crowd is a great source)
  • ask vendors their differentiation