Andrew Seidman
By Andrew Seidman | ABM | January 28, 2021

Understanding ABM in your Marketing Automation Platform

Recently, I reviewed an ABM plan from a pretty sophisticated organization. It had detailed outlines of KPIs, messaging, and outreach strategies. The target audience, in terms of both account and persona demographics, was clearly defined. But, there was no mention of two cornerstone ABM elements: Data and Personalization. Without Data and Personalization, ABM programs can’t be successful.

Data & ABM

Data is the ugly stepchild of the ABM world. We all know it’s important, but data is messy and requires Marketing Automation and CRM knowledge. With that in mind, let’s talk about how to structure ABM within your data platforms. Most especially, within your most powerful data platform – Marketing Automation.

Data & ABM

Data plays a few key roles within the ABM environment. But, before we dive into those roles, let’s start with a cursory overview of what ABM is, how it works, and what it looks like:

  • ABM is a marketing philosophy that emphasizes Account Engagement instead of Lead Generation.
  • ABM works by identifying Accounts that match your Ideal Customer Profile. Then, depending on criteria, those accounts are sorted into Tiers of priority (most commonly: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3)
  • ABM personalizes, offering relevant experiences to people that work at your target accounts. This personalization takes various forms: dynamic on-page content, Account-specific ad copy, personalized chat, relevant sales outreach, and more.

You may notice that I bolded the word “criteria,” that’s because that criteria ends up being dataspeak; you’ll need to translate between your planning sessions and your Marketing Automation platform.

For example, a Marketing Team Planning Session might look like this:

“We need to target the biggest accounts in the Financial Services industry, and also in the Robotics industry. Our key personas should be decision-makers and influencers within those accounts. And, the emphasis needs to be “New Logo” accounts – no existing customers should be included in our ABM program.”

But, ultimately, this needs to become something like this:

  • Tier 1:
    • Account.Industry = Financial Services, FinServ, Banking, Finance, Robotics, Robotic Engineering
    • Account.Annual Revenue > $5B
      • OR Account.Employee_Count > 10,000
    • Account.Type < > Customer
    • Person.Title CONTAINS President, Director, Senior Developer, Senior Manager
  • Tier 2:
    • Account.Industry = Financial Services, FinServ, Banking, Finance, Robotics, Robotic Engineering
    • Account.Annual Revenue >$1B AND <$5B
    • Account.Type <> Customer
    • Person.Title CONTAINS President, Director, Senior Developer, Senior Manager
  • Tier 3:
    • Account.Industry = Financial Services, FinServ, Banking, Finance, Robotics, Robotic Engineering
    • Account.Annual Revenue >$100M AND <$1B
    • Account.Type < > Customer
    • Person.Title CONTAINS President, Director, Senior Developer, Senior Manager

With logic like the above, you can construct your ABM Tiers, the bedrock of your ABM Program.

There’s just one problem.

Your data needs accurate, reliable information for the fields described above! Do you know which accounts belong to which industries? How big is each Account? Some organizations can’t even identify which Accounts are customers, or what services or products they currently use.

So, when I take over an ABM program, I always start with Data and Marketing Automation. Ensuring data quality and list segmentation in Marketing Automation is a requisite component of ABM.

Once you can clearly identify your Accounts and People, you have tons of great options to leverage your Marketing Automation platform to personalize and empower your campaigns.

Personalization in ABM Marketing Automation

As soon as you have your data-ducks in a row, you’re ready to maximize value from your automation software. The real key to increasing account-specific engagement is personalization – it’s what differentiates traditional B2B Marketing engagement from ABM strategy.

As Marketing Automation is the ultimate multi-function tool, I won’t try to outline literally everything you can do. But we’ll capture a few key components: segmented nurture, prioritized notifications, and platform integrations.

Nurture in ABM

Nurture is perhaps the most powerful automation function, and it plays a vital role in powering ABM. In traditional marketing, nurture often looks something like this:

  1. A Lead/Contact engages with your website
  2. They are added to an email drip
  3. That’s it

However, personalization opens up new windows for nurture strategies. This time, we’ll lean on data to determine a few critical questions:

  • Does the person who engaged work at a target account?
  • If so, in which Tier is that target account?

In some more sophisticated nurture programs, you might even add questions like:

  • What job role or function does this person have? What KPIs, products, or services are they likely interested in?
  • What stage in the funnel is this person in? Are they a likely near-term buyer? Or, just starting their information-gathering process?

With those questions in mind, Marketing Automation allows us to deliver different nurtures based on complex logic. Then, it ties email campaigns directly to your key segments. Often, I’ll recommend that engagements from Tier 1 accounts skip automated nurture entirely and get routed directly to the Sales Team.

Speaking of which…

Prioritized Notifications

All Accounts are not created equal, and your sales team needs to know when there’s a big fish on the line. So, just as ABM logic lets you personalize your prospects’ journey by sending experience-specific emails, it also lets you loop in Sales at the right time and empower them with the right information.

For example, at Digital Reach our target accounts jump the queue. Tier 1 Accounts get immediate manual attention. Tier 2 Accounts get a premium notification. And Tier 3 accounts get a higher priority than non-target account engagements.

This may seem like a small thing, but fast response time and personalized sales outreach can make a huge difference!

There are other software components that contribute to Sales empowerment (e.g. integration of a conversational marketing chat service within your web UX to bring salespeople directly into conversations with target accounts). But, to actually use those software pieces, you’ll need to be able to integrate your software. Luckily, this is one of the places Marketing Automation shines.

Integrating Software

ABM often features a dynamic and complex software stack. Your stack might include pieces like:

  • Sales enablement (e.g. SalesHub, Outreach.io)
  • Data (e.g. TechTarget, DiscoverOrg)
  • ABM Personalization (e.g. Demandbase, Terminus)
  • Conversational Marketing (e.g. Drift)
  • Advertising (e.g. Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads)
  • Internal Communications (e.g. Slack, Asana, Jira)
  • CRM (e.g. Salesforce)

Marketing Automation can be the tool that brings everything together. I want to call out a few key components of the above list where ABM gets the greatest benefit.

  • ABM Personalization tools like Demandbase use data directly from Marketing Automation to create and manage lists and provide segment-specific experiences on-demand.
  • Chat tools like Drift similarly use real-time lists to serve highly relevant chat experiences to your target audiences. Without Marketing Automation support, these tools wouldn’t be “smart”, and you’d end up with generic, less-engaging experiences.
  • Advertising platforms like Google Ads or LinkedIn Ads rely on accurate data to drive display audiences and retargeting lists. Normally, these audiences need to be manually updated and uploaded from platform-to-platform, but Marketing Automation makes it a breeze. Fast transfer of data into your ad platforms will yield lower-cost conversions, MQLs, and opportunities.

Marketing Automation as the Foundation

Hopefully this has been a useful starting point into Marketing Automation’s role within the ABM architecture. Marketing Automation serves as your ABM foundation – all of your emailing, sales outreach, advertising, and personalized web experiences will be built on top of great data and well-constructed automation logic.

If that sounds like something you’d like a hand in developing, let us know! We have experienced automation experts available to help guide you through the ABM experience.

PS: If you found this article interesting, check out this piece about how to construct account funnels within marketing automation to report on ABM results.

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