Account-Based Marketing – The story of two worlds colliding

I mentioned in a recent blog that Account Based Marketing (ABM) was a phrase that was on the lips of every marketer in 2017 and looks like it’s going to be a critical focus area for enterprises going into 2018. Yet as a concept ABM is not a new, and at its core ABM follows the foundational B2B marketing approach of:

  • identifying the right companies to target,
  • delivering the right message at the right time to the right people at those companies to build awareness and generate leads, and then
  • qualifying the leads and routing them to the sales organization.

The reality however is that there has always been a chasm in B2B marketing organizations between the teams focused on account-based advertising and building awareness, and the teams focused on account based demand generation and driving leads for sales. This has meant that very few B2B marketing organizations have satisfactorily integrated their account based marketing activities across their entire funnel from awareness through to sales.

The core problem is that advertising, and AdTech more specifically, is designed to target individuals which means that it works best when applied to B2C marketing. Agencies can build audiences from first-party and third-party data management platforms (DMPs), based on demographics (such as age, gender, household income, preferences), and location. These audiences can then be targeted very accurately with digital marketing, such as display ads, across a broad range of media. The challenge is that when this approach is applied to B2B marketing it is impossible to target specific companies.

Traditionally B2B companies have gotten around this by focusing on messaging, and then placing digital display ads on websites based on content that is relevant for their target audience. The other approach was to focus on building communities in social media and deliver similar content to those groups. In both cases the activity typically drives traffic to their website or a landing page, where the visitors are asked to provide their information in exchange for an offer (e.g. to download a whitepaper or access a webinar). If they don’t fill out the form, these prospects have a cookie placed on their device and are retargeted and nurtured with further ads until they do fill out a form. It is only when a prospect provides their contact and company information that the two silos are connected.

While the approach works and does drive awareness and leads, this is a band-aid solution that lags in effectiveness when compared to the more sophisticated B2C AdTech solutions. This means that B2B advertising tactics are not accurately targeting prospects, so media costs increase, the quality of the leads drop, and potentially valuable buyers are not even targeted. Furthermore, this approach also creates a blind-spot in the marketing funnel as it’s not possible to determine the effectiveness of the advertising in targeting accounts unless a form was filled out the target was captured as a lead. As a result, advertising campaigns often measure impact based on unique impressions and clicks. However, when you look at the results through a B2B account based lens, it is not possible to measure impressions based on accounts and there’s a huge drop off when it comes to measuring the leads that have been generated.

This is now changing and B2B AdTech is finally starting to gain some ground on its B2C counterpart. The catalyst for this change is IP-to-company data.

For advertisers, IP-to-company data means that it is now possible to analyze advertising data based on companies and build audiences that are more relevant for B2B enterprises. In addition to that, by integrating firmographics advertisers are now able to build out very sophisticated B2B targeted audiences based on several critical variables such as company size, location and their technology profile. Agencies can also analyze IP data by type of digital content across multiple publishers and websites, and start to predict purchase intent – the likelihood that a business is planning to buy a specific solution based on the content that their employees are researching.

The major impact however is when enterprises start to reap the rewards of the IP-to-company data. As well as being able to work with more effective B2B agencies and advertisers, the overarching benefit for enterprises is that they can now connect their account based marketing activities along their entire funnel. By incorporating the IP data, along with firmographics into their web analytics, enterprises can now analyze anonymous traffic on their websites by company. This allows them not only to better measure the effectiveness of their digital campaign, but also to identify which of their target accounts are researching their products and then in turn incorporating those companies in campaigns them across all their marketing tactics. We’ve seen companies increase their pipeline by over 40% by building out this integrated ABM strategy. The other significant benefit is that enterprises are also able to better streamline marketing planning and reporting, and measure their ROI.

In summary, the integration of account-based advertising and account-based demand generation into a single discipline is transforming B2B marketing, and IP-to-company data is the Rosetta Stone that bridges the chasm. As B2B marketing continues to become more digital, more data-driven, and more integrated, I can foresee the time where knowing the IP addresses of companies will be as important as knowing their physical address.