Supporting your Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy with the right tools can significantly amplify your efforts. But with an ever-growing plethora of marketing technology, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
In this article, Dorothea Gosling, a Senior Consultant with Inflexion Group and an experienced ABM practitioner, explores the range of marketing tools and technologies that can help, offering her thoughts on what is available, and how each tool can support your ABM programme.
First thing’s first: your tools should follow and support your ABM strategy. Not the other way around. But, if you’re starting out, or have inherited a tech stack, tuning it to your needs is a pragmatic foundational step and a great way to start the conversation with internal stakeholders about what you need to realise your longer-term vision.
Here are some guiding principles:
1. Establish a single source of truth
Collaboration between marketing and sales lies at the heart of any ABM programme. To connect these teams seamlessly, you need clear lines of communication and a centralised repository of vital information. While sophisticated integrated systems like Adobe Experience Cloud and Salesforce Marketing Cloud coupled with a Customer Data Platform are ideal, they might not be feasible for everyone. In most cases, aggregating data from various sources like marketing automation systems (e.g., Marketo) and content platforms (e.g., WordPress) into a single source of truth, such as your CRM (e.g., Salesforce or HubSpot), is a practical solution.
2. Understand your customer
Deeply understanding your customer is the key to ABM success. There is a wealth of account information available, and some great tech tools to help you work out which opportunities are the most important, and where to focus your ABM plan. Taking time to do your research and consider your options as you begin and truly understanding your point of departure is foundational to ABM success.
You might want to consider:
- Account and executive insight tools like Boardroom Insiders give you access to account and executive insights beyond your internal systems. When you are just starting out, particularly in strategic ABM, working with a specialist research firm to deeply research just the handful of accounts and executives you are interested in might be a better option for your budget, and what you learn can help inform your future technology use-cases and decisions.
- Social listening tools such as Sprout Social can help you gain a comprehensive understanding of your audience’s conversations on social media, and thus inform your strategy and tone.
- Look who’s there! Implementing an IP API helps you gather firmographic information about your website visitors and gain insight into their interests and needs.
3. Plan your campaigns carefully
While tools cannot (yet) replace the intuition and creativity of ABM teams, leveraging technologies that gather market intelligence and personalise your outreach can enhance the effectiveness of your tactics. Consider the following tools:
- Content personalisation tools like PathFactory suggest relevant content based on a visitor’s browsing behaviour on your website.
- Targeted/retargeted digital advertising lets you place highly targeted ads and then gather customer insights through retargeting to better understand account stakeholders’ interests and online behaviours, which then helps you further improve the relevance of your messaging. Remember that IP API from point 2 above? This is where you can use the information gathered to inform your campaign or use it in conjunction with your media partner’s third-party data to serve up digital ads at a time that’s just right, with a message that is in context.
- Social media platforms, such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social, let you segment your audience, tailor messages, and gather valuable insights.
- Social amplification and employee advocacy activates your account teams, layering in orchestrated organic social media with the help of PostBeyond or Haiilo for example, helping to not only grow your following, but also positioning key team members as thought leaders among your target audience.
- Paid social campaigns with carefully curated and tailored content for your target audience, are a great way to further amplify your messaging, and can help reach decision makers and influencers outside your account team’s direct network. LinkedIn lets you target narrowly and offers excellent tools to manage your efforts at both asset and campaign level.
- Webinar and event platforms. Platforms such as On24 and Social27 allow ABM-ers to provide live virtual experiences to target accounts, while tools like Eventbrite smooth the invitation and registration process and also support hybrid options.
- Direct mail (the analog version). Almost declared dead, the proliferation of random digital messaging along with the desire to create a more personal connection, direct mail is making a comeback. In hand with virtual events, offline ‘care packages’ and gifts are increasingly sent to delegates’ home and office addresses to provide a distinctive experience. Specialist companies like Sendoso and Reachdesk manage this through their own technology platforms, making sure that privacy rules are followed in the handling of contact data.
- Contextual advertising options, such as Smartology’s SmartMatch SaaS platform, allow you to display your content alongside relevant articles on reputable publishing platforms while the reader is showing an interest in a particular topic or subject matter.
4. Integrate your data
The integration of marketing technology tools is crucial to review ongoing ABM campaigns effectively. Consider using Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) like Adobe and Salesforce to integrate data from multiple systems, enabling better-informed decision-making. Additionally, explore integration options with third-party data providers like Demandbase, 6Sense, and Terminus for overall campaign orchestration and analytics. Platforms like GoodData and Tableau can enhance your account dashboards. If you run many of your digital display campaigns via your preferred media agency, Datorama, which is a platform often used by them, can be a good place to aggregate your data, without you having to do all the heavy lifting of the build.
5. Track your progress
Always baseline your efforts as part of your account onboarding. Without your baseline — your point of departure — it will be hard, if not impossible, to show your programme’s impact.
At the account level, CRM systems are the most obvious place to review and track ABM progress. They provide a view of activities, interactions and opportunities or deals — the last of which are, ultimately, the most important metrics for measuring ABM impact.
The drawback of solely using CRM systems to track ABM results is that they are only part of the picture. To manage your programme, evaluate its performance and identify opportunities to optimise, you will need to devise or have access to multiple dashboards — or views within a system — to give you the full perspective, at programme, account-, deal- and activity level.
6. New tech — and the rise of (conversational) AI
Measuring, let alone optimising the ROI of your digital advertising efforts across multiple platforms and campaigns is extremely difficult. A new player has recently emerged, Channel99, who promises to let you benchmark your digital marketing and optimize ROI.
ChatGPT alongside other AI tools has the potential to truly disrupt — and with that ABM. There are already a number of tools and aaS platforms that promise significant productivity improvements, bringing the elusive true ABM at scale one step closer. One player of note here is JasperAI, which promises on-brand content across multiple platforms and helps users with templated prompts for specific purposes and other features that should save time and help stay on-brand and on-tone, in multiple languages.
Another interesting newcomer, still an early start-up, is mysocial.ai. The founders have focused on helping users enhance their LinkedIn presence and grow their network by using AI to curate content, write it — in the tone of the user — and then either post immediately or schedule. There’s much more, but that warrants a future post.
Remember that aligning your tools with your strategy is crucial, and refining your tech stack to meet your specific needs will lay the foundation for long-term success.
For more advice, insights, and case studies on Account-Based Marketing and Account-Based Growth, visit inflexiongroup.com.