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Justin Gray

The Ultimate Practitioner’s Guide to ABM Technology

Justin Gray / April 19, 2017 / 0 Comments

The key to scale in Account-Based Marketing is Technology.

For better or for worse, tech seems to lead most conversations in B2B.

Account Based strategies are getting a ton of buzz, partly because it’s effective and partly because it’s just so hard to pin down exactly what a complete account-centric go-to-market looks like. This means when speaking with marketers, we often get asked what an ABM tech stack looks like.

By definition ABM is all-encompassing. It’s threaded plays and players on both the selling/educating team and that of the buyer. It’s not about just one process or tactic. So like a good ABM strategy, we recommend a mix of technologies to make account-based thinking a reality for any organization.

Download & Disclaimers

As a follow-on to this post, I’d invite you to download the LeadMD ABM Tech Stack infographic as a reference guide to help you see the big picture described in this piece at a glance.

Disclaimer: I don’t list anything in this post that we aren’t currently using, either at LeadMD, Six Bricks, or via customer projects. We receive ZERO compensation for this post and, in fact, pay for the large majority of solutions below.

The Basic, Core Requirements

You can run one hell of an Account-Based strategy with little to no technology—until you’re ready to scale. However, there are some basic, core requirements all good Account-Based Marketing (ABM) tech stacks should employ. We recently created an easy to follow flow chart to help you choose the right marketing tech stack.

The very first question to ask yourself before you purchase any software for any purpose is if you have a clear process on how to implement and use the software. If the answer is no, put the credit card away.

Simply grasping all of what ABM encompasses can be difficult, add choosing a tech stack and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some core requirements your account-based tech stack should possess at it’s core.

ultimate abm database tech

1. Database

A. Data

ABM starts with data, and unless you have a perfect database, you’ll want to work with a provider to help define your ideal customer profile (ICP, full disclosure—we do this work) and augment your database. Even though data isn’t necessarily “tech,” the mode through which it’s delivered often is.

We recommend: Oceanos, DiscoverOrg, Lead Genius
Here’s why…

Oceanos has a great per-record data model and integrates seamlessly into Marketo and Salesforce.com to provide cleansing and appending over time. DiscoverOrg is a completely different technology-enabled approach, which provides us a hierarchical “buying committee” view into ICP. Lead Genius takes an AI approach to hard-to-get-at signals and data sets. All three are excellent for a true ABM approach.

B. Lead to Account Mapping

What used to be the most frustrating part about CRM has quickly become table stakes in Account-Based Everything (ABE). In fact, the entire structure of CRM has undergone a tectonic shift. Previously, the standard practice was to insert and route all net new leads as such in CRM, to eventually be converted into Accounts and Contacts if it was discovered that they, in fact, already belonged to an existing Account we already had a relationship with.

This created a TON of confusion in large organizations that sold divisionally. Did you convert the record immediately? Do you qualify the interest first? This led to data that was distributed in many different places, making it very difficult to get one universal view of an Account.

We recommend: Engagio, LeanData
Here’s why…

Whether you choose to automatically convert new Leads belonging to your ICP as soon as they enter your database—our recommended method—or sequester them as Leads until they are vetted and qualified, Engagio allows you to visualize these “waiting room” records as one Account. They do this by breaching Salesforce.com‘s traditional architecture and relating Leads to Accounts even prior to conversion.

LeanData does exactly the same thing (hence my table stakes comment) but goes a step further into enterprise routing, rules that they have also made available to the admin to adjust. If you have complex territory routing rules, especially within the same account, give LeanData a look-see.

ultimate abm account planning tech

2. Account Planning

A. Business Process

We all have business processes. Whether yours is a well-documented, well-oiled machine, or whether your team hacks their day together with miles of Excel—it’s all process. We built our business on process creation and enforcement—for us, it’s the key to scale and an absolute must for best in class growth. Today there are a ton of technology solutions available to help you standardize the motions of your teams, but there’s only one robust enough to build and end to end system that truly enables growth at all stages—especially a 360° view of the customer for ABM.

We recommend: Salesforce.com
Here’s why…

We run into so many organizations barely scratching the surface on Salesforce.com. If you’re using it for contact management—seriously—let’s talk. CRM is designed to be molded around your specific needs—it’s also designed to be a single source of truth.

We love bending Salesforce.com to empower performance in teams. At LeadMD, we sell to Marketo and Engagio customers. As soon as a company adds one of those scripts to a web property, we have listeners in place that find the company in our database (inserting it if it’s not there). Then a critical field for our Ideal Customer Profile is updated with either the ‘Marketo‘ or ‘Engagio‘ value.

Once this happens, the group of leads in our database is automatically converted under one account, our SDR team is alerted to assign an Account Persona and curate the buying roles based on that classification. It’s poetry in motion and it would be impossible without the flexibility of Salesforce.com—the hands down choice in this category.

ultimate abm content tech

3. Content

For many, content has a foggy, tenuous connection to revenue. A lot of that stems from a lack of formal content marketing strategy. Content remains a very important piece of the account-based model, and you’re not going to see much in the way of results if you’re winging it or leaning on superficial metrics like an arbitrary number of blog posts or per week or “adding video.”

We recommend: ClearVoice, Vidyard, SnapApp, PFL
Here’s why…

A. Content Creation & Scheduling

You want a space where everyone involved with content creation can collaborate around strategic content needs and tactically execute smart content plays. For us, that’s ClearVoice. There’s more to content than how many blog posts you run each week—you need to know who you’re serving, why they care, how your content helps them and communicates what they need to do to get the benefit.

ClearVoice enables comprehensive content planning and execution, and serves as the system of record for our content marketing efforts. The editorial calendar provides at-a-glance overviews of what’s being published when and where—which is handy—but it goes deeper than that. ClearVoice allows us to track conceptual content ideas and assignments, and associate these with highly detailed personas and campaigns. This is crucial to enabling the bespoke content required of account-based strategies. There’s even a built-in, freelance marketplace for those times when you need a unicorn-on-demand.

B. Video

The content revolution will not be televised. Okay. Actually, it IS being televised and Vidyard makes sure we have the video intelligence to deliver our very best. Vidyard makes customized video a reality, with robust editing, split testing, and social sharing functions available right out of the box. Not only does Vidyard provide better data than YouTube, it syncs with our Salesforce.com and Marketo instances, allowing a rich new dimension to our account-based content marketing efforts.

C. Interactive Content

One of the more recent additions to our ABM tech stack is interactive content solution SnapApp. SnapApp lets us serve up dynamic content experiences that, put simply, really drive engagement. With an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface, it’s an elegant tool focused on one thing–serving up a beautifully designed, immersive content experience that makes conversion fun. And of course, it plugs into Salesforce.com, Marketo, and more, which only makes it more valuable.

Assessments, quizzes, calculators, interactive infographics and white papers–the list goes on. We’re gonna have a lot of fun with this one. In fact, if you’d like to see how we’re using SnapAPP at Marketo Summit later this month, check out our ABM Readiness Assessment.

D. Swag

Our company exists to make a difference in the lives of our customers. That means going above and beyond. A little thing that we’ve found makes a big difference is showing our customers we appreciate them when the least expect it. PFL‘s SwagIQ service puts a selection of personalized gifts at our fingertips—right within Salesforce.

ultimate abm execution tech

4. Execution

A. Campaigning

In an ABM context, campaigning takes many forms. Keeping things somewhat concise for the purposes of this post, let’s just say campaigning is the facilitation of messaging. Due to the necessity of both air cover and one-off I’ve curated two really different technologies here to help with this diverse requirement.

I will say that I think Engagio is well positioned to bump Outreach out of this category, but there’s currently a gap preventing me from listing them here. We can debate all day long about the pitfalls of activity metrics as a leading indicator of success—and I’m apt to argue both sides of the point, actually—but the truth remains that Engagio doesn’t currently log activities in Salesforce.com.

This hole in the integration prohibits visibility into things on which we base SDR compensation, like meetings and Opportunities that result from meetings. Again, for the sake of getting to the tech, let’s just say that maintaining a single source of truth for each Account is incredibly important, and that means activity creation. I’m told soon that gap will close, so watch out, Outreach.

We recommend: Marketo, Outreach
Here’s why…

Marketo is hands down the most robust marketing automation solution on the planet for B2B. “But Justin, you have an agency that serves only Marketo customers. You’re biased!” I’m calling BS on that. Listen, I’ve been on so many rollercoasters with Marketo, it would make your head spin. If you think for an instant that I would be exclusive to Marketo if there was a better—or even equal solution—on the market, then I don’t know what to tell you.

I’m happy to grab a whiskey and share my take on how my organization’s unwavering commitment to quality is as far from self-serving as it gets, but that’s a topic for a different day. Today, let’s just focus on the fact that Marketo is a hybrid, inbound/outbound tool that integrates so seamlessly with Salesforce.com, both from data and methodology standpoints, that they have struggled to create an integration with any other CRM that can even be described as in the same ballpark since 2013 (when the acquisition deal fell through with SFDC).

I have an instance of Pardot and I regularly evaluate the leading marketing automation tools several times a year. Marketo serves everything you need in B2B; demand gen (yes, it still exists in ABM), nurture, engagement, operations, and assets, latency issues aside.

B. Playbooks

Whew, that was a lot on Marketo. Let’s talk Outreach. Outreach fulfills a critical need in ABM—until Engagio grants my wish; the building and execution of account-based, threaded plays. Now, you might be asking, “Isn’t Outreach a ‘sales’ tool?” It can be, and I think that’s it’s primary danger—it’s just too damn easy to pop 1500 contacts into a ‘cadence’ as they call it and set and forget.

That’s high touch, low quality—the exact thing we are looking to avoid in ABM. However, when used for good and not evil—Outreach is a powerful tool to scale, um, outreach (sorry) across your organization and engage the many players in the buying committee on the customer team.

SIDEBAR: If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about with these threaded plays, first thing you should do is check out my latest framework on The Anatomy of an Account-Based Play. Then head on over to Engagio and snag their entire Account Based Everything Playbook.

C. Personalization

Recently “someone” on Twitter mused, “That sales rep spent too much time researching our company—said no one ever!” I spent a few minutes tracking the quote down and failed. Maybe it was Jill Rowley or Jill Konrath, but it doesn’t even matter because it’s so undeniably true.

We demand personalization based on really solid research. Once you’ve done your homework, you have to scale the reach of the insights you’ve found. Web and ad personalization are great air-cover tactics that work to surround the buyer with messaging at the right time. Just another not so subtle reminder this messaging has to be dead-on-par accurate or it will be a complete waste. There are very few shades of gray in ABM.

We recommend: Optimizely, Terminus
Here’s why…

Have you ever seen Optimizely? It’s slicker than goose shit, as my grandfather would say. I have no idea what the consistency of goose dung actually is—nor do I have a lingering curiosity—but based on how great Optimizely is, it must be some seriously vicious stuff.

Optimizely lets you tailor experiences on web properties you own based on what you know about the buyer in systems like CRM or MA. What was once a really sweet A/B testing tool is now a really sweet, intelligent experience manager with an incredibly intuitive interface. This is key, since you really do only have one chance to make that first impression.

I say this all of the time to customers just getting started in Account-Based. Activity feels good because volume is comforting but think about the scale at which we are playing in ABM. Each rep might have 100 accounts total in front of them. Each of those accounts way be worth anywhere from $50k to $5MM in ARR—is the comfort of volume really worth a breakdown of trust with a very finite set of buyers? Of course not. So we have to curate every experience and ensure our best foot is forward. Optimizely does just that—and all without the need for development chops or even a full design team.

D. Targeted Ads

Moving on to Terminus, it only makes sense that we would extend that hyper-customization off-site and into the buyer’s navigation path online by way of ads. I know. Don’t jump all over me yet. I know we all hate advertising… until we don’t.

The truth is we have intrusive ads that bring no value—they’re poorly targeted and seemingly everywhere. Terminus solves for that two-fold by reducing your ad spend to only the companies you actually want to target and then allowing you to use what you know about that company and buying committee to serve up something that doesn’t suck.

It really changes the way you think about ads. What if, instead of “HEY LOOK AT ME!” advertising, we could use an ad to remind someone of the webinar taking place the next day? Or the big dinner the CRO is trying to get them to? Terminus takes ads and moves them from traditionally top of funnel dwellers—where conversion rates are declining—and transitions them into an influence and velocity tactic. Brilliant! So much so that when you talk to Sangram Vajre, the Co-Founder & CMO at Terminus, it’s almost exclusively about creating efficiencies with account-based funnels. He even invented the whole #flipmyfunnel movement to get marketers looking at ad spend differently.

ultimate abm evaluation tech

5. Measurement

A. ABM Analytics

The words ‘data driven’ are branded on marketers at birth. The irony exposed by our 2016 benchmark of over 2000 marketers, however, revealing only 18% of organizations can track buyers through their entire cycle is abysmal.

The first step in any business case for Account Based Everything is taking a hard look at how your demand generation funnel is performing. We spend a great deal of time helping marketers cobble together these numbers, and one of the first things we start talking about when they sign off on a project are the KPIs by which we will measure the success of our engagement. Every time, this leads to a discussion of the system or systems in which we’ll need to monitor these critical optics over time.

It makes no sense to be in marketing in 2017 and beyond and not have a trusted dashboard. This is the biggest gap in marketing, and it is the biggest potential underlying factor to success with ABM.

ABM costs a lot. Time, effort, staff, training, technology—you will invest more in implementing and maintaining your ABM process than you ever have before. Your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) number will go up (unless you’ve been burning so much cash around demand gen that even ABM is cheaper—we’ve seen that too), but I guarantee your retention figures (anti-churn) and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) numbers will rise as well.

We recommend: Engagio, Bizible
Here’s why…

Engagio is the only account-based platform on the market taking such a highly opinionated approach to category creation. That’s music to my ears. Marketing needs opinions. It needs someone to define “the right way” and run with it. Engagio is doing so with their introduction of the ICARE framework:

  • Impact – how and when a marketing activity produces an outcome that was beneficial
  • Coverage – the quality of your data, the right accounts and the right people
  • Awareness – the level of base familiarity (awareness) target accounts have for your solution
  • Reach – the percentage of people you connect with that are the ones you are targeting
  • Engagement – the amount of time that the right people at the right accounts spend with you

Of course, it’s convenient that Engagio is the only platform able to deliver all of these critical metrics under one roof, but that’s not to say the metrics aren’t absolutely the right ones for ABM, because they are. Everyone in your org should be talking about marketing and sales success in terms of coverage and engagement. Period.

What Engagio doesn’t yet deliver on—and I haven’t seen it on the roadmap yet—are operational reports that are traditionally more initiative focused. Even with ABM, we still need a way to tie spend to result. That’s where we can combine something like Engagio’s coverage and engagement metrics (for Sales Qualified Account) as the produced result with a solution like Bizible, which is hands down the best platform we’ve ever seen for attribution and spend tracking.

B. Campaign Attribution

If I’m looking at an acquisition report by campaign with CAC, I’m looking at Bizible. The program reporting that, frankly, should be part of all marketing automation platforms—but never has been—is what Bizible brings to the table. They started out in paid search metrics and expanded to all online and offline channels.

Bizible plugs right into Marketo and Salesforce.com, so all of your data is there by way of those connections. Then they add the magic cherry on top—their cookie tracking is absurdly awesome.

They aggregate all of the annoying, little, short URLs and decorated parameter strings that make your web analytics go nuts—only to have to be re-worked in Excel—and they clean them up for you. What’s more, because their cookie tracking is just that cool, they can also tell you things like search term and traffic source and add the tracked individual to the right PPC or search campaign in Marketo. To say that we love their tool is an understatement.

The Pillars of Account-Based Everything

So there you have it, the basic pillars of Account Based Everything broken down into nice, neat, technology-enabled chunks. This is the stuff we use to deliver results all day, every day.

Get the full infographic below



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