Jon Miller co-founded the marketing automation platform Marketo, and then went on to co-found Engagio, an account-based marketing platform.
He is one of the most well-known ABM experts, helping define the category that has become a key technology for B2B marketers. He's been called visionary, and that vision of ABM has resulted in a new direction for him and his company.
Demandbase, also an account-based marketing platform, has acquired Engagio, bringing Miller on-board as Chief Product Officer, and his co-founder, Brian Babcock, as CTO.
Together, the two platforms are going to redefine the ABM category and unify the view of data around the account.
Demandbase's view of ABM Next
I spoke with Demandbase CEO, Gabe Rogol, in March about the state of ABM today and its future. Rogol said that we've been through several waves of account-based marketing. The first wave focused on evangelizing the strategy; the second focused on early adopters and generating buzz. Today we know that ABM is an essential strategy and technology for B2B marketing, which leads us to the third wave, what Rogol called, ABM Next.
ABM Next has three key elements: Core ABM platform, account-based audiences, and control and access of data. Rogol said this is the wave where we will finally be able to identify the technology required and the best practices to follow to achieve success with ABM.
One of the biggest challenges to achieving this next wave of ABM is getting alignment between Marketing and Sales. Miller has some ideas on how to make this alignment happen. He presented a webinar where he talked about how important it was for Marketing and Sales to align, suggesting that the two need to rethink how they work together as a team.
Miller suggested that instead of thinking like a relay team, one team handing the baton to the next, think more like a football or hockey team. Each person on the team has a role to play, but they work together to find a way to put the ball (or puck) in the net.
A more complete ABM platform
There are a lot of account-based marketing solutions available, but there is no one definition of an ABM solution. Most provide only a piece of the ABM puzzle: intent, account-based advertising, personalization, account analytics, and so on. What is missing - and needed - for ABM to reach its potential is a clear definition and list of capabilities. When we get this, companies will understand where and how ABM support their business goals. Equally important is the recognition that Sales and Marketing need to be fully aligned on the strategy and implementation of ABM.
When I spoke with Rogol and Miller about the acquisition, Rogol said that both companies have a similar view of the future of ABM, and together, the two solutions provide the platform to support it.
Rogol said that Demandbase brings its strength in the data set and identifying intent. It also provides advertising and personalization on the delivery level (Demandbase released new capabilities in these areas earlier this year). The key focus for Demandbase is building out the first-party data and integrating with CRMs to support coordinated actions between Marketing and Sales.
Engagio brings a robust and intuitive UI that both Marketing and Sales use to find, grow, and maintain accounts. It has an interface that is similar to marketing automation, which makes it easier for companies to use, but the point is that it is used by both Sales and Marketing - one technology, one view of the data, one way to understand and measure impact and performance.
Already, thirty customers are using both solutions, demonstrating the capabilities are complementary and provide a complete ABM solution.
Together, Demandbase and Engagio will provide a new ABM framework that will provide Marketing and Sales with a clear understanding of what's happening from beginning to end. Rogol said they will merge the two platforms, bringing the best parts of each UI, first and third-party datasets, and machine learning to create a new ABM platform.
Both also agreed there was a strong people-fit, not only in terms of the expertise coming from Engagio but also culturally and the way they manage.
The martech stack is evolving
Today, the most predominant technology in the martech stack is the marketing automation platform. But for as many capabilities as it offers, most only use a portion of it, particularly email marketing. Its time is coming to an end, though, Miller points out. And we see signs of it already with companies shifting to tools like Outreach and other sales enablement technology.
Miller said that marketing automation solutions are built on the lead-based model, but buying doesn't happen that way. We need to shift from the MQL to the MQAccount. He did point out that no company is all one or the other, most have something in between. And that's okay. The future that Demandbase and Engagio are creating lets companies do both without having to span platforms.
It's going to require defining ABM at all levels, including redefining the technology and the best practices. Both companies are involved in the ABM leadership alliance, where we expect to see much of this work happen.
Miller told me that the fragmentation of the ABM category has held it back. He believes this new platform - Demandbase and Engagio together - will help clarify and simplify things for the buyer.
Rogol said the market has been building to this moment. It's table stakes to have an ABM strategy. But the pace of change in the world and technology is increasing, and we need to compete. We have to move from models that don't work.
I think this is good news for the ABM category. ABM's rise to popularity (even though the approach has been used for years in Sales) has been somewhat fast and without a clear definition of what the technology should look like. Most companies that have an ABM strategy use several tools to make it work. And that makes it more complex and harder to do.
Integrating these two platforms is going to give us a view of ABM that we haven't seen with any single technology before. And that might make it easier for companies to adopt the strategy faster. I look forward to seeing the final platform that comes from this acquisition, and I am curious to see how other ABM platforms take on the challenge to compete.