The Real Benefits of Account-Based Marketing: Q&A with Kevin Cunningham of MRP
“Today, ABM is too often deployed as a “bolt on” tactic to demand generation. In the next 3-5 years, it will become the standard way for B2B companies to implement their digital strategy.”
In this interview with MarTech Advisor, the CEO and Co-Founder of MRP, Kevin Cunningham shares how marketers can enhance the ROI of account-based marketing (ABM) programs. If marketers are wondering about the benefits of account-based marketing for B2B marketers, then the list is long, says Kevin.
With more than a decade of experience in the field of account-based marketing, Kevin leads MRP’s growth story with their ABM platform. His career has been spent in helping B2B sales and marketing organizations take control of their data while delivering the highest impact on their engagement strategies.
In conversation with MarTech Advisor, Kevin shares tips on how marketers can choose the right type ABM software for their organization, measure the ROI on ABM strategies and more.
He answers questions on:
- How can you align account-based strategies effectively?
- What impact does automation have on account-based marketing models?
- How can you integrate ABM into your digital strategies in the future?
Key takeaways from this interview on the benefits of account-based marketing:
- Find out how AI-based disruption impacts account-based marketing models
- Learn how ABM has a real impact on business metrics
- Gain insights into the trends to follow in the B2B account-based marketing space
Here’s what Kevin shares on the benefits of account-based marketing:
A strategic approach, account awareness, and personalization are all important aspects of driving account-based marketing (ABM). How can marketers align all these aspects effectively?
When Account Based Marketing is done properly, it is the most effective way to generate pipeline in B2B. But ABM doesn’t work if we miss or misinterpret the needs of a target account or to fail at selecting the right content and delivery means.
To align these aspects effectively, marketers can experiment manually but to scale this connection of insights and actions, they’ll need significant data management and marketing technology. There are really three components to consider in this case:
- Data management: The “right” insights, or identification of target account needs, are strewn across client CRM, marketing automation and other systems, as well as 3rd party sources of Intent Data. Any of these elements alone may be interesting, but individually each is incomplete. Being able to interpret account insights across a variety of sources is critical in ABM and requires a solid data management system as a foundation
- A single source of “truth”: The “right” message needs to be pervasive across the customer experience, not just within a channel or platform. This is a huge issue as the average enterprise marketing organization uses 5 personalization solutions and 86% cannot personalize across two or more channels.
- ABM Orchestration: Three years ago, MRP participated in primary research that resulted in the first use of the term “ABM Orchestration”. We found that the single most correlated activity to ABM performance was the ability to identify target account needs, identify the right content, and use that knowledge to personalize high-value customer experiences consistently across channels.
What is MRP’s approach for reinforcing a digital culture as part of its marketing and sales strategy?
Through MRP’s CustomerOne initiative, we leverage everything we sell to our clients for ourselves and often beta new functionality with our internal sales and marketing teams before we roll it out to our clients. We “practice what we preach” and performance focused Predictive ABM is embedded in our DNA. We leverage a strong mix of both digital and offline tactics, including prelytix driven inside sales and direct mail. We’re finding that audiences still respond well to traditional tactics, especially when combined with digital.
What are your three tips for marketers to choose the right type ABM software for their organization?
This is a great question because Account Based Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all decision. Here are the decision criteria we see applied most successfully by the market:
- Specific Organization Needs: Every company has different strengths and weaknesses within their sales and marketing organizations. if you’re a small to mid-sized company with few divisions in your go to market approach, your decision criteria and vendor options are vastly different than those a global enterprise should consider. Many ABM platforms were built for the SMB market- companies with a small marketing team and little experience with multiple languages and international needs. Selecting a platform built with the enterprise market in mind provides a lot of the best practices and value built with large global organizations. If the cost can be justified, mid-market companies can take advantage of these best practices and adopt a platform that will evolve as their company grows.
- Fits with your sales environment: One of the fundamental tenants of a successful ABM implementation is sales and marketing alignment. We often see ABM purchase decisions that don’t fully consider the needs of the sales team and its relationship with marketing. For example, being able to modify the ABM approach based on different market segments and the sales teams’ specific needs within each of these segments is critical for success.
- Tech stack integration: Regardless of a simple or complex sales and marketing environment, the ability of your ABM platform to integrate tightly with your adjacent CRM and Marketing Automation systems is critical. AI enabled ABM platforms will only improve if the results of the efforts are fed back into the platform, both positive and negative.
What impact does automation and AI-based disruption have on account-based marketing models?
Without AI, ABM is a manual process that can only be done effectively for a handful of top accounts. We’ve been saying for years now that Predictive Analytics is a great application of AI and that it goes hand in hand with ABM. AI provides the ability to scale ABM beyond the top accounts to the entire addressable market. It provides the horsepower to make sense of and act on the huge volumes of data insights available through the sources discussed in the first question above, making ABM more relevant and timelier.
Case in point, many of the players in the Predictive Analytics space are now building customer data management (CDP) functionality. In addition to this, MRP sees AI extending even further than the CDP use case, fueling Machine Learning algorithms that can optimize and coordinate Orchestration across multiple channels, and identify a connection between identified needs at a target account to the “right” content for any given situation. We also see the application of AI maturing, from static weekly or monthly cycles to real-time streaming insights, placing marketers at a competitive advantage as their insights are now keeping pace with the speed of buyers’ engagement.
Do you see more marketers shifting towards ABM? In what ways does ABM drive real impact on business metrics such as increasing pipeline and revenue?
We’re shifting enterprise-class B2B marketers towards account targeted and revenue-focused marketing and sales programs for 17 years. We didn’t see some hot trend and jump into the market, it’s simply the right way to execute a marketing strategy, one that’s aligned with sales and relevant to targeted audiences. With the limited resources our clients must get the right value proposition in front of the right customer at the right time, its critical to leverage an ABM platform that is powered by AI to drive pipeline conversion and revenue.
Several months ago, a client marketer from a global top 10 tech company asked how he’s supposed to describe to our results to his CMO, he had a 128% improvement in pipeline days to close, and a 157% increase in ACV. His ABM results were more than 2X greater than his average and he was nervous to set the expectation with his CMO. Now, that’s a great problem to have!
How do you see marketers integrating ABM into their digital strategies in the future?
Today, ABM is too often deployed as a “bolt on” tactic to demand generation. In the next 3-5 years, it will become the standard way for B2B companies to implement their digital strategy. The path to achieving this integrated vision is found in solid data management technologies and practices.
Today, fragments of engagement are spread across platforms, making it seemingly impossible to see the totality of marketing efforts and response for any account. While Customer Data Management will finally make it possible to successfully focus attention and investments on accounts, rather than channels or platforms, perhaps the more interesting conversation will occur as a byproduct, improvements in account structured data and insights will also grab the attention of the executive team. Not simply because of the nature of the data will improve targeting and relevance, but rather, these new data practices will enable substantially better insights, and create the ability to prove business impact of each marketing investment.
When it comes to measuring the ROI on ABM strategies, how can marketers optimize their learnings? Which data points should one consider for analyzing ABM tools?
The best marketers have addressed core Customer Data Management capabilities and because of this have evolved their core metrics beyond engagement, display impressions/clicks, website visits, etc and are focused on revenue. Without this data foundation, it will be a bridge too far as many marketing vendors are still trying to attribute display ad activity directly to revenue, for example. Revenue is the goal, but for some tactics it is more likely to measure conversion into pipeline or further movement into an active sales cycle.
All these points tie directly back to Customer Data Management, data that exists beyond a siloed ABM platform. There’s a lot of work to progress an account from ‘initial engagement’ to closed revenue and it’s important to have solid ways to measure ABM’s ROI on that progression. Conversion to pipeline revenue is the most critical metric.
What are the upcoming projects at MRP, you are most excited about?
It’s hard to share too much on future initiatives since we’re part of a public company, but I’m excited about the progress we’ve made MRP Prelytix dashboards and analytic capabilities. For example, our customer time series engagement dashboard shows responses and engagement across all marketing channels and intent sources over a period in one screen. We have a strong product roadmap for the coming year and are excited about some of the product announcements coming this year.
Could you share any predictions for trends or technologies in this space for 2020?
The practice of ABM is just now starting to mature. I enjoy speaking with marketers and have noticed a marked increase in attention towards three themes:
- ABM will continue to evolve beyond Account Based Advertising with orchestration and execution taking place across all marketing channels including email, social, direct mail and inside sales. This requires managing customer data and ABM programs across systems like Marketing Automation and CRM. Broadening the tactic mix helps show the value in ABM engagement converting prospects throughout the buyer journey vs. attributing revenue to a single top of funnel/awareness tactic.
- AI will become more prevalent in ABM platforms, allowing organizations to scale their ABM strategy to their entire addressable market. More personalized, timely messaging delivered across the broad range of tactics discussed above is critical to scale effectively.
- ABM Measurement and Analytics will improve. As mentioned earlier, media impressions and website visits translating directly to pipeline revenue is no longer acceptable. It will be important to show how that media spend ROI can be attributed to progression of a prospect throughout the buyer journey, how the right mix of tactics drives higher pipeline and conversion together, how sales and marketing teams can be optimized to meet and exceed the revenue goals of the client.
Neha: Thank you, Kevin, for sharing your insights on the benefits of account-based marketing. We hope to talk to you again soon.