Marketing automation vendor Marketo recently announced a new platform for Account-Based Marketing, but is the practice all it’s cracked up to be?

Yesterday, marketing automation software maker Marketo announced the release of its new Account-Based Marketing Platform. It’s the first new product to come from Marketo since it went from being publicly traded to a private company acquired by Vista Equity Partners, earlier this year.

The release signifies Marketo’s ambitions to become more than just a tool for demand-gen marketers. The Account-Based Marketing (ABM) solution is designed to be a collaborative platform for both sales and marketing, leading to more focused engagement efforts, a unified customer experience and the use of collective digital insights.

But what exactly is Account-Based Marketing? Put simply, it’s a style of B2B marketing that encourages the targeting of fewer, more valuable accounts, rather than trying to engage as many accounts as possible. The criteria for targeting can range from only focusing on companies that are likely to repeat purchases, or only targeting companies within a certain geography. The aim is to go fishing with a harpoon, rather than casting a wide net.

In theory, ABM doesn’t sound terribly innovative, and it isn’t. The actual practice of ABM has been around for decades, but it’s becoming a buzzword today due to its increased capabilities and potential for success in the digital age.

Digital ABM means that sales and marketing teams can work together by using analytics to identify target accounts, engage them with highly personalized campaigns and accurately measure the results of their efforts. It’s a more focused approach than your typical lead-gen marketing programs which aim to capture as large an audience as possible and funnel leads down to sales, who may not always get the kind of contacts they’re looking for.

Why Account-Based Marketing works well in B2B marketing?

ABM is also based on the premise that within any one company, there are multiple stakeholders who make the final purchase decision, so it is more effective to target all those individuals with relevant content or ads, instead of batch and blast campaigns. For example, if you’re a maker of enterprise software trying to sell to a large automobile company, you want to be able to engage not just the primary decision maker, but also their colleagues and team members, using content and messaging specific to their company and situation. This can be done by sending them email, or targeting them with a paid search or social ad. The cost for a number of small but targeted ad impressions is minimal, but the high degree of relevance pays off.

According to ITSMA research, 80% of B2B marketers said ABM outperforms other marketing initiatives, while 41% of B2B marketers said they planned to increase spending on ABM in 2016.

While Marketo’s ABM platform offers email and limited web and social engagement solutions, it has access to an ecosystem of partner marketing tools called Launchpoint which expand the user’s omni-channel options. What Marketo does offer is a central hub for orchestrating these engagements, and a system of record for looking at combined customer data from both sales and marketing. This is the most essential component of ABM, a unified view of the customer data that allows teams to make decisions on which accounts are going to be targeted.

ABM is best suited for B2B marketers and sales team that have complex value propositions, and have to deal with long sales cycles and enterprise clients. We can expect to see a lot of ramped up activity in this space within the next year as the practice becomes more mainstream and the marketing automation providers make it a part of their next innovation cycles.

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