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Note: This newsletter was first published on LinkedIn March 24, 2023
In 2016 I wrote my first article on account-based marketing. It was an interview with Sangram Vajre, co-founder and CMO of Terminus. It was new, it was shiny, and everyone was saying it was the next big thing in marketing.
Before you say it, yes, account-based marketing was around long before 2016, but it was a sales-led motion, not marketing. In 2016, ABM as a marketing strategy was just taking hold, and the technologies were just coming to market; 2017 was going to be the year it broke out.
Here we are a little over six years later, and ABM is mainstream, yes. But it has morphed into something more, both the strategy and the technologies.
If you are marketing to B2B companies, you have to think in terms of accounts. This is true for two reasons:
- If your product/platform is a big purchase, then it’s bought by a committee, not a single person.
- If your product isn’t a big purchase and is likely SaaS (because what isn’t), it’s still bought for a team, and there may be multiple teams in a company who might want to use it. Plus, team members do get a say in what tools they use.
But we still tend to treat an account-based marketing strategy as one tool in the shed. Instead, we should lean most of our go-to-market strategies, like lead and demand gen, towards an account view. Because you are trying to reach all the players in the buying committee, not a single person, your messaging and offers should have that in mind.
Taking an account view is challenging if you’re using technology that doesn’t support an account view. But the tools are changing as fast as the strategies, which means you have options.
Does this mean you need ABM tech? You need some kind of technology that supports an account-based view of your target customers, but you don’t have to buy one of the big ones. Maybe it’s a spreadsheet or using the Target Accounts feature in HubSpot. Maybe it’s a tool that supports a portion of an ABM strategy.
There’s no shortage of options, according to G2. It really depends on the size of your marketing and sales team, your total addressable market (or total relevant market, as Sangram would say today), and what your goals are.
And if we’re paying attention, we see that even the ABM technology vendors are evolving. And we can take clues from this evolution to help us understand how marketing is evolving.
Here’s where the tech gets interesting.
In my conversations with ABM vendors, who, by the way, no longer call themselves ABM – it’s clear they understand this evolution of ABM.
Let’s start with Demandbase.
Lots of product updates happening with this platform over the last couple of years. And although they speak of account-based marketing and its equivalent, account-based experience, Demandbase now refers to itself as a smarter GTM platform.
In a conversation with CMO Jon Miller, two things stood out that reflect how things are changing. First, they acknowledge that there is often more than one buying group in a company, yet all the ABM tools I’ve seen only support a single group (ABM vendors, feel free to correct me). Demandbase is working on resolving that challenge so that multiple buying groups can be tracked (and it will help you figure out who is in a buying group if you don’t already know).
The other item on Demandbase’s roadmap is support for lead gen-type activities, like batch email, forms, and campaigns.
“Note he’s not calling it a replacement, but rather an alternative. Miller pointed out that 80% of companies typically only use about 20% of an MA platform. It’s those companies Demandbase is targeting. And it means that Demandbase will develop a new GTM motion: lead generation.
But how will that lead gen functionality be viewed? I suspect through the purview of an account.
You can read the full article on Diginomica.
Move on to 6sense.
6sense now calls itself a revenue generation platform, supporting RevOps teams. It offers solutions for marketing and sales (so does Demandbase, btw), and it was its new sales platform – Revenue AI for Sales – that I saw recently during the latest Reveal event.
Latane Conant, CMO of 6sense, talked about the four things this new platform does, including gaining access to anonymous buyers, accessing the most relevant dataset, simplifying workflows, and taking advantage of AI (all types of AI). This platform is built for Sales, but as a marketer, I would love to use it, especially the persona map, which visually shows you all the people in a buying team and their activities, as well as people and company pages with lots of details. What I didn’t see was the support for multiple buying teams.
Read the overview.
Then to Terminus.
Terminus CMO Natalie Cunningham told me that account-based marketing is at an inflection point. So much of what happens in an ABM strategy is table stakes; you have to be doing it. But most strategies only apply to building awareness and winning new customers, she said, when there is an entire customer lifecycle where you can apply this strategy. But it’s more than just thinking about accounts across the complete customer lifecycle.
It’s also getting management to think past leads and MQLs – this is the biggest challenge for marketers. We can talk about how the MQL is dead, but it’s not. It lives on in many marketing teams because it’s a model everyone understands.
“And that does require the type of marketing leader that is willing to have the tough conversation with a CRO and a CEO and not get pushed back into leads and MQLs as the only thing that matters. That, I think, is the big change that we’re seeing right now. People that are willing to lean in and talk about revenue and have those business conversations, build their programs to be successful around revenue, not just pipeline.”
And ending with Clearbit.
Sometimes it’s better not to say you are an account-based marketing platform, even though you act like one. Clearbit is a data activation platform that talks about revenue-driven marketing. It refers to ICPs and companies and tracks intent, but it also supports lead scoring and routing and talks about demand generation. It bridges the world of ABM and demand generation and lead generation through data.
When I spoke with Clearbit CMO Kevin Tate, we talked about how marketers need to spend more time on the middle of the funnel:
“Tate advises that marketers must pay attention to the signals and determine fit and intent. By keeping an eye on the right-fit people, you learn if they are truly in-market and can find ways to help them move through to the next stage. What is important is being responsive and capturing interest before they leave. He pitches that Clearbit allows companies to work across different stacks in motion, including PLG, direct sales, website, etc. (i.e., you aren’t committed to one go-to-market strategy at a time).”
What I’m working on.
Adobe announced many new enhancements and products at its Summit this past week. I wrote an overview you can read here. Much of the news focused on generative AI and other AI enhancements, including Firefly. With Firefly, users can use their own words to generate new images, audio, vectors, video, and 3D and use creative elements like brushes, color gradients, and video transformations. Pretty cool, even if only partially released.
But did you also know that Canva had a big event this week, too, and it also announced a lot of new things, like a Brand Hub that helps a company ensure their assets are always on brand. Think templates, folders, guidelines, workflows, and something called Magic Replace that will automatically update an asset across all your company content. And then there are the AI tools like AI-powered copywriting, translations, AI-generated presentations, and more.
Everything can’t be AI-focused, though. I had a great conversation with Randy Frisch, Chief Evangelist of Uberflip, about its new Pages, a no-code tool that lets you build pages for all your ABM and marketing campaigns at scale. We talked about how it worked, but also, why now?
I’ll be covering these things in more detail soon, plus a new tool from Terminus related to intent.
Let’s end with a couple of events:
Content Matters Podcast Episode 2 with Scott Brinker.
Scott Brinker, VP of Platform Ecosystems for HubSpot, is joining me on the Content Matters Podcast (audio, video) on March 31 at 2 pm ET to talk about tech stacks, platforms (and what that word really means), low-code/no-code, and a lot more. It’s a lot to pack into 30-40 minutes, but it will be very interesting.
We’re live on LinkedIn this year, so you can sign up here:
And speaking of the Chief Martec.
Brinker is holding a Best of Breed Marketing Summit to help celebrate #Martechday on May 2. They’ll release the 2023 marketing technology landscape and announce the 2023 Stackies Awards. But equally interesting is a series of 20 minutes talks by practitioners and martech experts, including David Edelman, Darrell Alfonso, and Jill Rowley.
The role of a RevOps leader.
I’ll end with an event that connects nicely with our ABM/revenue generation topic. Dave Gerhardt of Exit Five has an upcoming webinar, “RevOps Deep Dive: Exit Five Live with Lindsay Rothlisberger, Director, RevOps at Zapier.” RevOps is the merging of marketing operations and sales operations. This is a conversation about what RevOps is and how it works, not a tech conversation (although I’d be surprised if it’s not mentioned at some point).
Thanks for Reading!
Okay, thanks for joining me on the marketing merry-go-round this week. Please reshare, repost, like, or comment if you like what you are reading. Also, please help me reach other like-minded individuals looking for sources that help them bridge the strategy and technology of marketing (and sales).
FYI – I’m working on something that will accompany this newsletter – will announce that next time. And if you have a great story to tell about your technology or your strategy, let me know.