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Demandbase ABM Virtual Summit review - where is the ABM market headed from here?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher March 24, 2020
ABM is a core marketing strategy for many B2B companies. But challenges lie ahead, including tech platform harmonization and sales/marketing alignment. The CEO of Demandbase gave us a look into what's next.


Demandbase didn't hold its annual ABM Summit this year, but that didn't stop the executive team from doing their virtual keynote. Before that keynote happened, I had the opportunity to speak with Gabe Rogol, Demandbase's CEO, about the ABM industry, and some new capabilities to the Demandbase platform.

Rogol has been CEO of Demandbase since November, but he's been with the company for over seven and a half years.

He's watched the evolution of account-based marketing, and believes we are at a place where we can start to define what "the de facto standard technology and best practices should be."

ABM strategies are growing and improving

Rogol told me that for B2B companies, ABM would be the central hub in the next two to three years, as more companies adopt the strategy and start to ramp up on the technology and processes required:

The reason it will be is because it will own the account-based audiences, which are the most important audiences in terms of driving your revenue.

ABM is talked about in every B2B company, with many saying it's table-stakes. But the numbers who are still trying to figure it out, versus those that have made it a central part of their business strategy show we still have work to do as you can see in the diagram below from ITSMA:

ITSMA ABM figure 1
(ITSMA figure 1)

ITSMA: ABM 2019 Benchmark Study

Rogol said that we've crossed the critical mass of those who agree ABM is essential but did acknowledge that many have still to unlock ABM's full potential:

I would quantify it on the order of a quarter to a third of the companies so far - but it's increasing every day - have gotten to the full potential of ABM. But more and more companies are getting there. And the exciting thing for the market and for Demandbase is that there's kind of a universal awareness that the approach account-based marketing is critical. And now it's just about aligning how do we make it successful.

Still struggling with Sales and Marketing alignment

One of the challenges for companies implementing ABM strategies is getting Sales to buy in, said Rogol. ABM is successful when Sales and Marketing work together. Marketing gets it. Sales aren't always prepared to align, instead, continuing with the belief that deals are "made on the golf course."

The ABM Benchmark study confirmed this, noting the 27% of respondents agreed with the challenge: "Educating sales on the process and value of ABM (e.g., ABM marketers are not event planners!)."

Another survey, 2019 State of ABM Surve yfrom Terminus, Sigstr, and, showed that alignment with Sales is also a top challenge. Not the top challenge, but it sits in the top three after "having enough personal with the necessary expertise," and "concerns about the ability to scale ABM."

From the studies, it seems that aligning Sales and Marketing is a challenge for early and mid-stage ABM adopters, which makes sense. Any organization that is excelling at ABM, or at least has its strategy in place and is executing well, would need to have that alignment in place.

A vision of ABM Next

In the Demandbase keynote, Rogol talked about three waves of ABM. The first wave started around 2007 and was about evangelizing the strategy. The second wave that began in late 2015 focused on early adopters and generating a lot of buzz for the strategy. During this phase, there was no consistent technology or best practices (which is where we are today).

Rogol said we are entering the third wave – the definitional wave (ABM Next). Demandbase sees ABM Next as having three key elements: Core ABM platform, account-based audiences, and control and access of data.

This next wave is where we will finally be able to identify the technology required and the best practices to follow to achieve success with ABM.

Here's the Demandbase view of the ABM tech stack:

Demandbase ABM platform
(Demandbase ABM platform)

From the ABM Virtual Summit

In the 2019 State of ABM Survey mentioned above, the top ABM technology included account-based analytics (79%), account-based advertising (73%), account-level web engagement insights (58%), and intent and behavioral insights tracking (57%).

In both cases, analytics, web engagement data, advertising, and insights tracking are all key. We have much of this data and capability from an individual person perspective; now we finally get it from the account perspective

How Demandbase is aligning to ABM Next

Demonstrating its vision of ABM Next, Demandbase announced two new capabilities and a new product, all aimed at completing that vision of where they believe the technology needs to be.

Rogol said all three focus on the theme of getting control of your data and programs and making ABM actionable across the enterprise.

First, they introduced Data Stream, a new product that makes ABM account activity accessible to everyone in the organization. In the Demandbase platform, marketers create account-based audiences using things like website engagement, account intent, demographics, and CRM data. They then push that audience data into other parts of the marketing stack, the data warehouse, data lake(s), and reporting.

A few ways other parts of the organization use this data:

  • Sales can see which audiences are most important to focus on.
  • Customer Success teams can learn which audiences to cross-sell/upsell, or build retention programs around.
  • Engineers and data scientists use the data to develop their own models to drive the business forward.

The platform also has two new capabilities: site analytics and self-serve targeting. Site Analytics connects your web analytics tools to Demandbase to give you an account-based lens to the activity on your website.

Self-serve targeting gives marketers more control over creating and launching advertising campaigns on the platform. Rogol told me that advertising is the biggest marketing owned activity, but too often, they don't have the right ad technology to work with accounts. Demandbase enables marketers to optimize bids not only for specific accounts but also for people within those accounts who show the highest level of intent or the content most related to the product you are serving.

My take

If we have finally reached the next phase of ABM, then we should be hearing about more success working with the strategy. But it is a significant change in how companies work, particularly with the technology stack they need to do ABM right.

In some cases, it's the same technology – like your CRM, marketing automation, and so on. In other cases, it's new technologies or enhancements/integrations with existing technologies – like those listed above for Demandbase.

Getting the strategy and approach right is the first part, finding and aligning the technology to support that strategy is the second, although equally important part. For now, we still have a long way to go before we see the technology standardize, making it easier for companies to know what they need.

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