The artificial intelligence pushing sales and marketing together

Account-based marketing (ABM) is too difficult to do at scale, right? Not any longer.

Nothing says modern B2B marketing quite like the letters “ABM”. While account-based marketing seems a relatively recent and compelling concept, the idea of businesses concentrating their sales and marketing efforts on the biggest and best customers is hardly controversial if difficult to do at scale.

What has created the fresh buzz around ABM is technology.

Rather than businesses needing to cast their marketing campaigns far and wide to try to reach more of their target market, ABM technology allows them to create customised campaigns based on specific customer needs and attributes. More importantly, when done well, ABM allows businesses to have clearer alignment between sales and marketing. It delivers more efficient and effective campaigns and proves return on investment.

The most recent survey of more than 200 B2B world marketing leaders by SiriusDecisions shows that 93 per cent of respondents believe ABM is either “very” or “extremely” important for their business. About nine in 10 said their average deal sizes are larger for ABM accounts than for non-ABM accounts. A majority also found that ABM has had a positive impact on influenced and sourced pipeline and revenue. Despite this, just 63 per cent reported having a full ABM program … although this was an advance on the 40 per cent that said they were doing ABM fully in 2016.

"What makes ABM so attractive … is the way it combines insights for strategy and technology for execution,” said Megan Heuer, vice president and group director at SiriusDecisions in 2015. “Marketing teams who understand ABM are in a powerful position to better align to what sales needs, and to make smart choices about the right actions to take and the right time to take them to grow high-potential accounts.”

According to recent research by ABM solutions company Demandbase, two in three US-based B2B agency marketers say their business uses an account-based marketing approach. Some 39 per cent of agency marketers told researchers they use ABM and have a team dedicated to it; 28 per cent say they use ABM but do not have a dedicated team while 34 per cent say they do not use ABM.

“It’s about analysing data, adjusting models accordingly, and then enabling sales to take action based on that data” – Madison Logic's Sonjoy Ganguly

What is getting many people exciting about ABM’s future is its alignment with artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Writing in Martech Today, Peter Isaacson says that businesses using ABM has been held back because of the research and in-depth knowledge of customers needed to develop insights so that messages were relevant for each audience. He says AI helps businesses using ABM technology to deliver a 1:1 connection with their customers at scale.

“We finally have the superhuman ability to source massive quantities of data and convert it into the insight and action needed to scale our 1:1 interactions,” he writes. “Modern AI technology has the ability to ingest unstructured data and deliver relevant information about your target accounts — what they care about, who their competitors are, what they’re reading, talking and writing about and more. It [also] gives us the ability to leverage that information across our most critical digital channels.”

Sonjoy Ganguly is the senior vice president of product management at martech company Madison Logic, which is based in New York. Also writing in Martech Today, Ganguly says that ABM has become a critical strategy for B2B marketers because of the laser-focus on business revenues.

“This renewed aligned focus on revenue creates the clear need for precision tools that all sales and marketing teams can use to operate in a very targeted way and at scale,” he writes. “Teams who are getting on board with hardcore ABM are jointly getting deeper into data, getting real about collaboration – recognising that it’s not just about passing data to sales; it’s about working together to change operating models.

“It’s about analysing data, adjusting models accordingly, and then enabling sales to take action based on that data. Gone are the days of mere campaign-level metrics. The analysis, and then the action and optimisation around content marketing and nurturing, has to happen at the account level.”

Ganguly says that most effective organisations expose data to sales through integrations with their CRM (customer relationship management) systems. “They also establish weekly discussions to review this data with marketing and sales around the top accounts for the week – those that are getting the most reach and engagement, those that are showing the most interest – and examine the topics gaining the most interest. Then they can work together to craft messaging strategies and priorities.”

Photo: William Bout on Unsplash