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ABM Platforms Have Arrived

By Todd Berkowitz | December 06, 2018 | 0 Comments


Last year, I made a prediction that we’d see at least three comprehensive ABM by the end of 2018. While we aren’t at the point of having a single platform that cover all of your needs from an account selection and planning standpoint, while also activating and orchestrating (and delivering)  across all engagement channels and providing comprehensive reporting, my prediction is largely true. In fact, we found 12 vendors that offer enough capabilities to be included in the inaugural Market Guide for Account-Based Marketing Platforms (subscription required) that Noah Elkin and I wrote.

I won’t try to rehash the entire research note in this blog, but I did want to call out a few salient points:

  • While many of the vendors check many of the same boxes, that doesn’t mean the platforms are the same. The vendors have arrived at the same destination, but from many different starting points. You have vendors rooted in data and predictive analytics, others rooted in personalization or advertising or content syndication, and even pure-plays in orchestration and reporting. Those legacies often drive the depth of capabilities in a given category (in a way that a table can’t reflect) and so it’s entirely likely that if you have a really sophisticated ABM program, you may find it makes more sense to use two or even three ABM platform vendors. For example, not all selection models are the same, particularly beneath the surface. The same goes for advertising, personalization and activation/orchestration. This means you should really think through your use cases and your long-term strategy when evaluating vendors.
  • Speaking of activation and orchestration  across channels, when I first started covering ABM in 2015, but even through late 2017, you really didn’t see many vendors have a good story here. Engagio had that from the beginning, but the advertising vendors or those coming from the data side weren’t really focusing on it. Most of the vendors now have some kind of capability where they can create audiences and activate across channels (particularly ones where they don’t have a native capability). Some vendors do this in real-time and adjust the audiences automatically based on engagement or other signals. And a few more vendors can now do full orchestration across channels (particularly sales channels). But there was a lot of effort put in during 2018 to deliver what is really becoming a core capability of ABM platforms.
  • Beyond activation, many of the vendors added at least one significant capability in 2018, including improved account selection models, new advertising or personalization features, and advanced reporting and/or attribution capabilities. As these platforms become more comprehensive (which is pretty clear based on the roadmaps I’ve seen), it’s hard not to see a potential collision course with CRM lead management/marketing automation vendors over the next few years. Most of the ABM platforms don’t have native e-mail capabilities, but you wouldn’t think that wouldn’t be particularly hard to add. The audience building capabilities that exist as part of account selection could function like the segmentation features in marketing automation platforms. Several of the ABM vendors are openly talking about a marketing automation replacement strategy. We aren’t ready to take a position on this, in part because we are waiting to see how the marketing automation vendors respond. But worth keeping a close eye on over the next year.

In general, I don’t want to make a lot of predictions here about what 2019 holds for ABM platforms. I do think we should to see a similar rate of innovation and change when we look back a year from now. Gartner’s ABM inquiry volume, while not increasing at the ridiculous 450% YoY change from 2016 to 2017, still shows no sign of slowing down. And a recent survey we ran found sizable lift across a range of metrics (including pipeline and revenue) for companies running ABM programs (as compared to traditional demand gen programs). So this means that next year’s market guide for ABM platforms will probably read very differently from the one that published yesterday.

As we head into next year, we’re seeing a lot of clients expand their ABM strategies to more accounts, to other regions and across different use cases.  Technology is increasingly becoming part of the conversations we are having with clients. If you are a Gartner client, and want some advice on your program (including the technology), schedule an inquiry with me or Noah or the other analysts that are covering ABM.

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