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Is ABM the new B2B marketing cloud? Martech faces off between platform and best-of-breed

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher August 13, 2020
The digital imperative of the pandemic has given even more momentum to ABM. But can ABM shift martech from best-of-breed to platform? I asked the CEO of Terminus for his take.

Hands holding a sheet with question mark in front of closed doors and stormy clouds © StunningArt - shutterstock

With the acquisition of Engagio by Demandbase and Tribilio by IDG, we see a lot of movement in the account-based marketing (ABM) market. The recognition that companies need some kind of ABM strategy isn't new. But according to Tim Kopp, CEO of ABM platform Terminus, COVID-19 has accelerated business transformation by two to three times, and ABM is a key part of that transformation.

Kopp has some interesting views on marketing technology. He told me he's more convinced than ever that ABM is the new marketing platform of the future and that we need to stop thinking of this idea of a martech stack. "Integration is the new innovation," he said. All-in-one will trump best of breed.

Evolution in progress

Every ten years, we see sweeping changes in technology. Ten or so years ago, we were talking about the platform model - think web experience platforms, customer experience platforms. Then things started to change, and best of breed solutions rose up, providing new marketing technology that was better than a single platform. Companies started putting together pieces of the martech stack to create the technology environment they needed. 

But things are changing again, according to Kopp. And we see evidence of that. From a web experience perspective, look at Acquia. It has pulled together all the pieces required to build the next generation web experience solution - the digital experience platform, at a time when everyone else is focusing on pieces of the puzzle. 

The Demandbase acquisition of Engagio is one example in the ABM space, bring together ABM and marketing automation. Terminus is another with several acquisitions over the last few years, including Sigstr (email signatures), Ramble (chat), and Brightfunnel (analytics and attribution) that bring together the data needed to deliver on the right experiences.

ABM is the new marketing cloud

In Demandbase's 2020 ABM Market Research Study, it was found that ABM budgets are increasing, (40% year over year, from 20% in 2019 to 28% in 2020). There are still a lot of challenges, and they are different depending on which end of the ABM adoption spectrum a company is. 

Kopp talked about the challenges with buying technology today, thanks to COVID-19. The CFO has to approve everything, and because of budget constraints, B2B marketers are trying to do fewer things. 

In the report noted above, there's a quote from Todd Berkowitz, Practice Vice President, Gartner, that states, "ABM programs have been shown to result in significant improvements in pipeline growth. If economic uncertainty continues, these programs should remain a core element of marketing strategy."

Kopp takes it further. He believes that we won't use the term ABM in a few years. Instead, ABM will become the new B2B marketing cloud with data as the hub. One thing B2B marketers are doing that is key to their success is creating a new data architecture that brings together all account-level data in one place. When brought together, the data from systems of engagement like email, advertising, chat, and all interactions can create a more informative data model.

Data struggles are an ongoing issue for many marketers, including those that have an ABM strategy. Every ABM study you read, including the Demandbase report, notes that data quality is a top challenge.

Beating the sales and marketing teamwork drum

We'll never get to one technology alone, Kopp acknowledged, but ABM will become the new backbone as companies transform to the account-based model. I talked with Kopp not too long after he joined Terminus about their approach to full-funnel marketing, and it's clear the path to becoming the next generation marketing cloud is well underway. 

It's a marketing cloud that isn't only going to be for marketing, either. Kopp said that although marketing is still the buyer of the Terminus platform two-thirds of the time, they are starting to see the head of sales pulled into the purchase process two to three times more since last year. 

As we build strategies around the customer, we see a stronger relationship between marketing and sales. ABM is one tech that brings these two groups together; sales enablement is another. There is still a long way to and a lot of hurdles to climb over as each group continues to evolve its approach to customer engagement. 

My take

Technology evolves as businesses try to find ways to get closer to their customers and build better relationships. I do believe the best focus for B2B is on the account and the contacts within those accounts. ABM tech, sales enablement tech, these are two technologies that help marketing and sales work on an account model. Another area that needs tight alignment, an area we've also been talking about for a few years now - is content. That's an equally important topic for another day.

Image credit - Hands holding a sheet with question mark in front of closed doors and stormy clouds © StunningArt - from Shutterstock

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