I’ve been researching the topic of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and find that 57% of businesses plan to invest in ABM software in the next 1-3 years. Business marketers in every industry must add ABM functionality to their marketing tech stack because their buyers only want communications relevant to their current business issues.
The ABM process is actually a long-established marketing/sales methodology in business services companies, where success depends so much on personal empathy and the relationship. So, they research the interests and needs of their target audiences and provide that “market intelligence” to their sellers or account managers.
The advent of digital marketing, tooled by technology advances in website and data analytics, now allows all B2B businesses to do ABM by leveraging collected behavioral and profile data on companies (accounts) or even individual buying decision-makers. ABM software enables marketers to channel personalized content to potential buyers. But first and foremost, ABM is a strategy and is applicable to all marketing channels.
ABM is currently the most-used promotional acronym by marketing software vendors with well over 90 software vendors claiming to provide ABM-specific functionality. There are probably several dozen more with no ABM claims but also being used by B2B companies to market to specific accounts with target-market segmentation and content personalization. Still, I estimate the software market at around $750 million in 2019 with a current annual growth rate of some 12%.
The term ABM is actually a misnomer, it should be Account Based Marketing and Selling (ABMS). The ABM process will only succeed if marketing collaborates with its sales counterparts to select the target accounts; share the important contact data; coordinate content distribution and distribute intent alerts. My survey found the second most important driver for ABM investment to be “enable sales to better understand their customers”. Some interview respondents pointed out that they have always done ABS but this is now supported better by their ABM project.
My prediction is that the current mire of confusingly-positioned vendors will converge to a couple of dozen platform providers supporting all, or most, of the ABM-related processes such as account and contacts selection; analytics and insights, content personalization, customer engagement orchestration, and performance assessment. Many survey respondents reported deploying two, three or even four ABM vendors, with integration an issue. 30% plan to migrate to a more suitable system, unusually large compared to other vendor selection matrix surveys.
As usual, I will publish a Vendor Selection Matrix showing the ratings for the 20 most cited ABM vendors across our survey of 1500 practitioners. That will be on October 8th. The top ten vendors rated by the respondents are (all listed alphabetically): 6sense, Demandbase, Engagio, Kwanzoo, InsideView, Jabmo, Madison Logic, Adobe (Marketo), MRP, and Zoominfo. In positions 11 thru 20 are vendors Agent3, D&B Datavision, Lattice Engine, LinkedIn, Radius, RollWorks, TechTarget, Terminus, Triblio, and True Influence
I’ve just been to two fascinating events that fed a theory currently rotating in my head about marketing automation software – the question asked in the blog title. Sure, I make a living off the fact that marketing professionals need help selecting vendor partners to automate various business processes. But I have found myself asking some whether they are really ready for that step at all: for various reasons.
Event #1 was held in Munich by Nintex, the business process automation (BPM) vendor. Last November, my research on Marketing Lead Management had exposed that many marketers automate that process not with a branded marketing automation software but through a BPM project – both bpm’online and Pegasystems appeared in the top ten rated by 1500 business professionals globally. So, I’m keeping my eyes out for other BPM vendors and appreciated Nintex’s invitation to their 2019 customer event.
Nintex has certainly grown up since their early success as a utility/tool that made Microsoft Sharepoint so much easier to manage and use for business operations staff. They now have over 8000 clients and offer a fully-fledged BPM suite (including the Robotic functions which form the new secret sauce for BPM projects) as a cloud solution. I networked with many experienced ops developers who’ve been loyal to Nintex for years and were now excited to see how this relationship can continue. Nintex CEO, Eric Johnson, pointed out that three quarters of enterprise business processes in organizations are still NOT automated. While the spread of packaged business applications continues to reduce this number, many mid-sized companies and enterprise organizations prefer to eshew that option and instead task their operations departments (or a services partner) to set up the required automation through a low-code, drag and drop, scalable workflow automation system that better fits their needs. Nintex showed some examples of these projects in marketing at the event. And even Workfront are now promoting their system as a solution for Marketing Ops.
The other event was last week in London – I was invited to present at the GetStacked conference by my old friends at B2B Marketing. They scheduled me in the “Getting Started” track and briefed me to “keep it simple”. And I did meet several Marketing Directors who were experienced in marketing but new to the concept of automation technology – and were not that sure about it, in various ways. I congratulate B2B Marketing for recognizing this need. Indeed, I did present the slide you see below with the comment “You may not even need a marketing automation application”.
Justin Hall, of the
renomatedagency Protocol (who are certified on several MA solutions), also had a slide saying: “DO YOU NEED MA AT ALL? Is it just modern-marketing hype and bullshit?“. Then he showed how he had set up their own marketing automation system for less than 500 GBP.
On that note, the GetStacked conference ended with a keynote that was emotional and dramatic in its major point that marketing automation vendors promise too much, deliver too little and show little sympathy for the true challenges that marketing executives have in their jobs. Maureen Blandford, clearly as exasperated as she is experienced, said that she is tired of their “shame-marketing” (referring to the typical tone that much of the vendors’ marketing content likes to adopt). She also stated (wrote it on slides even) that:
- “Foundational Tech doesn’t work as it states on the tin.”
- “Proliferation of Band-Aid Tech to make up for the gaps in the foundational but causes integration and reporting gaps.”
- “Worse than budget, ever bit of tech requires
capacityto learn it, onboard it, use it. And troubleshoot the downstream issues x every piece of tech in your stack.”
Her 30-minute rant was met with heavy applause by the GetStacked audience of around 400 B2B marketers – looks like the vendors need to create more empathy in their marketing (reminds me of my post on digital marketers being cobbler’s children).
Oh, and my theory was fed once more only yesterday when a vendor of Web Experience Management software (my next research report in April) briefed me on how one of its clients had used the software to create a Partner Relationship Management portal as well as a quite capable Sales Engagement Management solution.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
What an exciting time to be discussing Marketing Lead Management (MLM) automation – a topic galvanized recently by the headline news that Adobe is acquiring Marketo for $4.75 Billion. Marketo – the vendor that led the first charge a decade ago to automate the MLM process in B2B companies, along with peers like Act-On, Hubspot, Eloqua, and Neolane. MLM automation continues to be a priority investment area for many CMOs – in our recent survey of 1500 users worldwide, 72% of respondents said they were now investing in it – half of those to replace their existing system. In fact, we estimate total annual software license, maintenance and SaaS revenues for MLM to be around $3.5 Billion this year, shared around roughly 60 vendors.
But planning to buy software, investigate the vendors and select the right solution is not a trivial task for any business professional. While the influence of IT professionals is increasing in this application area (historically, marketing has often been able to make autonomous decisions about its services and technology procurement), most marketing automation decisions are still finalized in the marketing department. But, as a CMO told me a few months ago: “The thing is, the vendors always know so much more than me, they talk about their solution every day – I only get into this topic occasionally and need to select a vendor partner perhaps once in a decade”.
The buyers inform themselves about potential vendors through general internet research, talking to their peers and reading industry analyst research. More and more, they use peer reviews websites such as G2 Crown or Capterra. The challenge for buyers is: analysts are mostly focused on the needs of large enterprises, their target clientele; while the peer review websites tend to get quite busy and difficult to align to specific needs.
I have spent the last months following a new research methodology which addresses those issues. I first surveyed the business users, asked them which vendors they have worked with, and asked for a rating of the vendors based on specific criteria (criteria aligned to the typical selection criteria used when selecting a software vendor). I then shared this “feedback” with the vendors and got briefed by them on their go-to-market strategy and product roadmap. The combined scoring schema of the 20 vendors most named by the survey respondents inform a Vendor Selection Matrix for Marketing Lead Management Software that I have now published. The survey is global and covers SMBs as well as enterprises. I’ve profiled the top 10 vendors with these headlines.
Act-On Software Mid-market success now spreading to the enterprise segment #1 Global Winner, Joint-#1 in Customer Satisfaction Hubspot Inventor of “inbound marketing” continues to innovate and execute Joint-#1 in Customer Satisfaction Marketo Marketing automation leader now under the Adobe brand promise Bpm’online Drive for process management in marketing helps bpm’online success Joint-#1 in Price/Value Ratio Salesforce Probably the preferred choice for Salesforce customers Adobe Investing BIG in marketing lead management Pegasystems The business process manager for marketers Salesfusion Capable marketing platform for SMBs with service if desired Joint-#1 in Price/Value Ratio SAP A brew in progress: a little SAP, Hybris plus Callidus – final recipe to come Oracle MLM leader gone cold due to lack of focus and corporate inertia
The biggest surprise is certainly the progress of Eloqua since it was acquired by Oracle. What is also clear is that many companies do not want a marketing application, but prefer a rapid development tool that enables them to automate their marketing processes specific to their needs, and quickly. This also reflects the increasing influence of IT professionals in the buying process. The survey report is available at the researchinaction.de website – the vendor scorecards are available to clients.
Always keeping you informed! Peter