Why Account-Based marketing hasn't reached its terminus - the journey goes on

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher January 21, 2020
Catching up with Tim Kopp, former CMO of ExactTarget, now heading up ABM solution provider Terminus.

ticket hall

Tim Kopp is the new CEO of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) solution provider, Terminus. You may remember Kopp as the CMO of ExactTarget, the man who led the company to its IPO and a $2.7 billion acquisition by Salesforce in 2013. Since then, he has been a part of the early-stage vendor fund, Hyde Park Ventures Partners (HPVP).

Kopp isn’t brand new to Terminus - as part of HPVP, he led the investment in Terminus and served on the board of directors. Kopp told me the decision to join as CEO was a “right market, right time, right team” situation. He said ABM is the most exciting thing in B2B technology in a decade, and it will be the primary strategy for marketing in the future.

In a Terminus blog, he wrote:

Ten years ago, Marketing Automation became the center of gravity for CMOs and their teams — as well as savvy investors. But as lead- and email-based constructs continue to create volume versus value challenges, growth-focused B2B companies are looking to an account-centric approach as a more predictable, more efficient, and better-performing strategy. As a result, I believe we’re standing on the precipice of the next marketing revolution. Call it Marketing Automation 2.0, an era in which the account-centric approach will transform more than just marketing.

There is still more to happen before we see ABM be that primary marketing strategy (according to Forrester that should happen in the next five years), but the technology (including other ABM vendors such as Engagio and Demandbase) is steadily evolving to help.Laura Ramos, Forrester VP, Principal Analyst, wrote,

In our survey, 94% of respondents said they see ABM coexisting alongside their other marketing approaches. That’s good but not good enough. In fact, Matt Senatore, Bob Peterson, and Steve Casey predicted at this year’s SiriusDecisions Summit that in five years the term “ABM” will disappear as account-centric becomes the way most B2B organizations identify, manage, and measure demand unit and post-sale motions.

The biggest breakthrough we’ve seen to date, said Kopp, is the way Sales works with Marketing and the CEO. There is a tighter, better-aligned relationship with common goals. That means ABM is not simply a marketing strategy; it’s a business strategy.

Before we see ABM take center-stage in the marketing department, Kopp said two things need to happen:

  1. All new software takes time to go mainstream, they go through a maturity curve and despite the fact that account-based marketing has been around a long time, it’s still somewhat young. However, Kopp believes it is on the cusp of what it’s truly meant to be.
  2. Most ABM solutions are point solutions, and they need to become end-to-end solutions. Here Kopp talked about the TEAM framework that Terminus espouses (Target-the right accounts, Engage - across all channels, Activate - give Sales the information they need to work with the right accounts, Measure - what really matters, and it’s not leads, MQLs or SQLs) as an example for all the things an ABM solution must provide. For ABM to lead in the marketing department, all four elements of the framework must be in play.

In the same blog by Kopp noted above:

In the most successful companies, marketing is partnering with sales to leverage market signals and tap into an ideal customer segment to create aligned experiences from points A to Z in the sales cycle. We need to remain marketer-focused and to do that, we must deliver a platform from the ground up, designed for our account-based world.

The reason(s) for the Sigstr acquisition

To support its growth into a full-funnel ABM solution, Terminus acquired Sigstr. Sigstr is an email signature management solution. It enables organizations to serve dynamic ads in the inbox based on what is known about the customer receiving the email. But the ability to engage with customers via email is only one reason Terminus acquired the company.

Kopp cited three reasons the acquisition was right for Terminus:

  1. It’s another channel of engagement - people still start and end with email, and Sigstr provides the ability to include personalized, targeted banner ads below the signature between a company and its customers.
  2. It has an amazing team (including Bryan Wade, former SVP and Chief Product Officer, Marketing Cloud and Vice President, Email Product for ExactTarget)
  3. Data - the most important part is the unique access to first-party relationship data from email.

On the Terminus blog about the Sigstr acquisition.

Relationship data adds a rich 1st-party piece of intelligence to your account-based efforts. To deliver this information, Sigstr uses its proprietary Relationship Score, which analyzes the email and calendar interactions between employees at your company and those at your customer and prospective customer accounts. It provides detailed insights into the sentiment and strength of relationships at an account, buying team, and individual level.

Imagine combining this data - who is building the best relationships and engaging the most with data related to ad engagement and intent to figure out the best accounts to focus on; it’s easy to see the opportunities this acquisition brings to Terminus.

Sigstr will continue to have its own product capabilities, but will also fold into the Terminus platform as another channel of engagement. Think in terms of Pardot as part of Salesforce as a comparison. 

Building the new marketing stack

All software goes through waves of innovation. Usually, you see it start with a number of point solutions and watch it evolve into suites or platforms and then later back to point solutions and back again. Probably the best example of this might be the web content management industry.

Web content management started as a point solution, providing capabilities to build websites. Then WCM vendors started adding new capabilities like email, basic personalization, social, and analytics and renamed themselves web experience management. Later on, we started to see that while some vendors continued the push to be an “all-in-one” platform, others chose to focus on the things they did best and integrate with other solutions, like marketing automation, analytics, and digital asset management.

If you look at the marketing tech stack of most companies today, it’s fairly big, almost unwieldy, due to so many different “best of breed” technologies that have to work together (but often don’t because of the work required to make that integration happen). Kopp said that customers are looking for one stack; they want a solution that will help drive engagement, regardless of where the customer is.

Terminus is on the path to offering that single stack, through several acquisitions, including Sigstr and Brightfunnel, but also through key integrations, as it has with Bombora (an aggregator of account intent data).

And then there is Scott Brinker’s platform vision, where one vendor (like a Hubspot) provides the ability for other software vendors to build integrations on their platform easily. This approach can be very hard to do but it may well be the future of the marketing stack. The key is data integration - without that, it won’t succeed. And that means you need strong data management and open APIs, Kopp pointed out.

Data management is Terminus’s shining strength, Kopp told me - the ability to provide that single view of the customer across all channels.

My take 

The evolution that Terminus is going through now is similar to the one that Kopp led at ExactTarget. That started as an email solution, then added mobile, social, and website capabilities, then integrated Pardot, becoming one of the most well known digital marketing solutions. It was ExactTarget’s data management capabilities, Kopp said, that made it a category leader. He's betting that it will be those same capabilities that will push Terminus ahead to the next stage.

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