“The buyer process is changing a lot and it’s not going back to the way it was. They call the shots.”
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Colby Cavanaugh, VP of Product Marketing at Integrate, was reflecting on the rapidly changing B2B marketing environment. “We really feel like ABM doesn’t go far enough. Even traditional ABM players are finding the limitations with ABM. We describe what B2B marketers are trying to do as ‘precision demand marketing.’” That means not just targeting the right individuals within accounts, but activating connections with them across channels using the right marketing tech systems, all based on a foundation of high-quality data.
“If you are making decisions based on bad data, you are not going to be successful. And that’s where a lot of marketers find themselves today,” he said.
The product roadmap. Announcements at Integrate’s Game Changers conference this week are focused on the events channel:
- A new campaign type in Demand Acceleration Platform around events and webinars, enabling comparison and synching with digital campaigns, content syndication, ABM advertising and social, all within the same framework; and
- A new integration with events platform ON24 (following an earlier integration with webinar platform BrightTALK);
- A new webinar insights dashboard.
Integrate will is also be announcing new capabilities for job title and department classification, representing the first use of its AI engine. One challenge B2B marketers face is making sense of the vast range of job titles and department names used across their target accounts. The AI will be able to make use of fuzzy logic in developing probabilistic classifications, learning as it goes.
A challenging environment. “We’re all working differently than we ever worked before,” said Cavanaugh. That includes B2B buyers, of course. With the buying process not heavily digitized and with people working remotely on a range of devices, lines are blurring between B2C and B2B buying behaviors.
“I see that convergence of B2C and B2B happening really rapidly,” Cavanaugh said. “I think the other dynamic is that you’ve got a new generation of buyers who don’t buy like previous generations — on the B2C or B2B level — and they have budget. We have to meet them where they are and how they want to show up in the buying process.”
Data from Gartner suggests that 17% of time in the buying cycle is now spent with a salesperson — representing, said Cavanaugh “a massive decrease.” There’s also little reason to believe that the trend will be reversed once more in-person meetings become possible. Buyers are even talking about preferring a rep-free buying experience.
Other data, this from a study conducted by Heinz Marketing for Integrate, suggests that 60% of B2B marketers are not confident in their current strategy, technology or team structure. This number climbs to a remarkable 87% for ABM teams and 73% for revenue marketing teams.
The problem, said Cavanaugh, is that while the B2B buying process has changed dramatically, the marketing organization has stayed the same. “Marketing leaders have flipped their strategy and gone after accounts,” Cavanaugh acknowledged. “However, the thing that has not changed is that marketing leaders are still held accountable for funnel metrics,” such as leads, MQLs, SQLs. “Fundamentally you’re measuring the wrong thing. An account-based approach should be around account engagement.”
Read next: Account-based marketing tools: A marketer’s guide
A cross-channel system of record. “Our vision,” said Cavanaugh, “is to become a standard platform for demand marketers. We’re trying to give demand marketers a system where they can bring all of their demand campaigns together. We would argue that there’s no real system of record for marketing that’s out there. Maybe the answer most marketers would give you would be marketing, but who really logs in to marketing automation, who uses marketing automation?” Marketing automation remains a critical component in creating the buying experience once an individual is identified. CRM is critical too: ” Today we’re able to put information into CRMs, create alerts and account statuses. In the future, we anticipate a lot more bidirectional flow.”
He continued: “Where we anticipate innovation coming is really around cross-channel activation and insights, allowing marketers to create programs for buyers across channels, connecting that experience so that buying is less painful; connecting the channels, having really flexible, bi-directional frameworks.”
Why we care. The radical evolution of the B2B buyer is unmistakable. When that buying process is discussed today, we hear terms like “experience” and “engagement.” We talk about seamless experiences across channels. We talk about meeting thE buyer where they are.
It’s come a long way from meeting the buyer on the phone or in-person; a long way from being able to assume the buyer is sitting in front of a desk-top computer from nine to five reading your white papers. Perhaps the central point Cavanaugh makes here is that, while the technology to support the new buying process is being developed, marketing organizations don’t yet have — or are not yet using — the right success metrics for this new environment.
Account-based marketing: A snapshot
What it is. Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts to focus on high-value accounts.
This customer acquisition strategy focuses on delivering promotions — advertising, direct mail, content syndication, etc. — to targeted accounts. Individuals who may be involved in the purchase decision are targeted in a variety of ways, in order to soften the earth for the sales organization.
Why it’s hot. Account-based marketing addresses changes in B2B buyer behavior. Buyers now do extensive online research before contacting sales, a trend that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of marketing’s tasks in an ABM strategy is to make certain its company’s message is reaching potential customers while they are doing their research.
Why we care. Account engagement, win rate, average deal size, and ROI increase after implementing account-based marketing, according to a recent Forrester/SiriusDecisions survey. While B2B marketers benefit from that win rate, ABM vendors are also reaping the benefits as B2B marketers invest in these technologies and apply them to their channels.
Read next: What is ABM and why are B2B marketers so bullish on it?
About The Author
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.