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Maximize Marketing Automation Investments Before Buying an ABM Platform

By Rick LaFond | September 16, 2021 | 0 Comments

MarketingCustomer Acquisition and RetentionMarketing Technology and Emerging Trends

B2B marketing leaders must answer a wide range of questions when rolling out and scaling account-based marketing (ABM) programs. One key question marketers inevitably ask during ABM adoption is “what technologies do we need to meet and exceed our program objectives?”

Marketing Automation Platforms Support ABM

Before considering new tools to add to your tech stack, you should look to optimize usage of existing technologies. Specifically, marketers should look to their current marketing automation platform.

Across the last few years, marketing automation vendors have developed capabilities designed to support ABM use cases. Examples of such capabilities include support for:

  • Identifying high-priority accounts using first-party intent data and machine learning
  • Offering a subset of accounts a differentiated demand generation experience
  • Orchestrating multichannel campaigns for ABM accounts
  • Measuring engagement with ABM campaigns
  • Measuring account-level and account stakeholder-level engagement

Before investing in any new technology, you should exhaustively explore the potential of your marketing automation platform to execute your ABM program. This step is especially important given that B2B marketers estimate they only use 56% of their current tech stack’s full breadth of capabilities, according to Gartner’s 2020 Marketing Technology Survey.

ABM Platforms Enable Scale

Despite the strides made by marketing automation platform providers in support of ABM use cases, in many instances, they will not offer sufficient support for scaling ABM programs. Marketing leaders who have already completed a successful ABM pilot and are scaling ABM to a large number of accounts (i.e. 100+) should give serious consideration to purchasing an ABM platform.

For those unfamiliar with this type of technology, ABM platforms offer capabilities that enable marketers to run ABM programs at scale. This includes support for account selection, planning, engagement and reporting. Features include:

  • Audience management capabilities to ingest first-party and third-party data from multiple sources
  • Data-driven and AI-driven scoring models to select accounts
  • Contact and lead-to-account matching to help with planning
  • Capabilities to support cross-channel customer engagement

6sense, Demandbase and Terminus are just a few of the vendors in this category. For further information on ABM platform capabilities and representative vendors, see Gartner’s Market Guide for Account-Based Marketing Platforms (subscription required).

Refer to the decision tree below for prescriptive guidance on determining when you’re ready to expand beyond your marketing automation platform and evaluate an ABM platform:

You shouldn’t feel the need to ditch your marketing automation platform after acquiring an ABM platform. You can combine the capabilities offered by both solutions to supercharge your ABM program.

As an example, you could use your marketing automation platform to gather a list of contacts who registered for one of your webinars. You could then pass that list of contacts to your ABM platform. There, you might use the platform’s third-party intent data to uncover engagement from additional stakeholders within a contact’s account. You could also use your ABM platform to run an advertising campaign targeting both the webinar contacts and additional account stakeholders. Then you could use marketing automation to run a personalized email campaign to continue to nurture those contacts.

Looking into to the Future

While marketing automation solutions and ABM platforms each offer unique sources of value, they increasingly offer some overlapping capabilities. Looking into the future, it’s possible that ABM platforms remain a niche solution. However, we can project more likely scenarios that drive future convergence. For instance, ABM platform vendors could build or buy additional capabilities to compete more directly with marketing automation. At the same time, marketing automation vendors could continue to build or buy capabilities in support of ABM, decreasing the need for ABM platforms.

We likely haven’t yet reached a point where marketers need to make a ‘one or the other’ decision. However, you can prepare for future convergence by maintaining an up-to-date, vendor-agnostic outline of your desired demand generation outcomes and the necessary supporting capabilities. This outline can serve as your ‘north star’ to guide technology decisions, even as the landscape shifts.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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