This article is part of our series about 2019 trends, predictions, and new opportunities. Click here for more.
Cloud software is the fastest-growing segment on NASDAQ by market cap. In turn, the space is becoming more competitive—and account-based marketing (ABM) is emerging as the front-runner strategy for B2B companies to differentiate themselves.
In fact, over 70% of B2B companies have adopted or are planning to adopt ABM practices in the next year, according to eMarketer. As well they should: ITSMA reports that of the companies that adopted ABM in the past two years, 55% are seeing significantly higher ROI than with traditional marketing.
TOPO, a leading research firm, defines ABM as the “coordination of highly valuable, personalized experiences across all functions to drive engagement and conversion at a targeted set of accounts.” At Adobe, we refer to the program as account-based experiences (ABX) because account-based is not just marketing—it requires coordinating an ecosystem of teams to deliver cohesive experiences to our top enterprise customers.
Adobe’s Digital Strategy Group has identified three imperatives for cloud software companies to adopt and scale ABX.
1. Create Immersive Digital Experiences To Reduce Research Friction, Ensure Customer Satisfaction, And Build Brand Loyalty
By 2025, the number of digital natives in the workforce will exceed 75%, and, thanks to digital leaders like Amazon and Uber, their expectations for B2B transactions have dramatically changed. Half of B2B buyers have switched to a competitor because they provided a better digital experience, and Econsultancy reports that 67% of digitally native buyers expect a personalized experience with tailored content across channels. Cloud software companies that are not prepared to provide immersive digital experiences will lose out to the competition.
Our B2B software research reveals that while companies are investing in ABX, few are deploying personalization across all digital channels. Orchestrating personalization requires greater quantities of content tailored by industry, business need, and persona. We found that cloud software companies are often missing many of these key account-based content blocks, particularly role-based content and user-generated content. Companies able to personalize digital experiences and shift away from the status quo of static brochure pages will capitalize on this opportunity. For example, call-center technology provider Genesys delivered relevant content to top accounts via LinkedIn ads targeting IT and support roles by account and geography. As a result, 60% of new leads were coming from high-priority target accounts and passed to sales.
Furthermore, engagement channels and preferences are shifting. Digital natives use six different channels and devices to conduct research, and 90% use mobile throughout their research. In addition, Adobe Digital Insights research found that mobile site traffic and engagement has grown over the past three years on B2B software company websites; mobile phone visits grew 57% and time spent per mobile visitor has increased by 46%, while engagement has decreased on desktop devices. Cloud software companies must ensure their mobile experiences are as strong as their traditional web experiences. Device graphs can help deliver consistent personalized experiences to customers who use multiple channels.
Keep in mind, the application of intelligence does not need to be complex to drive results. Regardless of where companies are in their ABX maturity, low-effort opportunities can drive immediate results. For example, embracing measures such as formless leads for known accounts, instead of traditional form fields, can help remove perceived barriers and increase personalization.
2. Cloud Software Companies Must Align Technology Architecture And Data With ABX Initiatives To Recognize Accounts And Surface Insights
To effectively execute ABX, teams across the company must invest in master data management to integrate offline (e.g., events) and online (e.g., website browsing behavior) systems of record. A critical step is integrating and updating legacy systems to deliver timely and actionable insights. In fact, according to Econsultancy’s research, 96% of B2B survey respondents said improving data analysis capabilities is the most important factor in delivering a great customer experience. Once data is integrated, companies can use machine learning/artificial intelligence to advance their reporting and mining for insights.
To deliver personalized content to top accounts, companies must know when their accounts are viewing their websites. We have identified three key elements to drive higher ID detection: third-party data to enhance identification, a centralized database that contains account profiles, and systems to deliver timely and insightful data to sales.
Cloud software companies should ensure their technology architecture supports the delivery of ABX. Start by assessing gaps in data sources and technology capabilities. Next, develop one or two priority ABX use cases and plan the architecture enhancements needed in order to execute.
Integrated architecture detects account behavior and activates insights through sales and marketing
3. Align People And Processes To The Omnichannel ABX Strategy
Teams across the company must collaborate to execute ABX, particularly sales and marketing. A Marketo study found that sales and marketing alignment can generate 209% more value from content and make an organization 67% better at closing deals.
In an ABX strategy, both sales and marketing must focus on serving the same set of target accounts. Marketing shifts from generating leads to crafting personalized content. Sales moves from pitching product capabilities to having highly relevant use-case conversations based on customers’ buying signals and content consumption. The partnership requires executive sponsorship, increased knowledge-sharing, an aligned target account plan, and high-frequency check-ins to ensure a smooth transition across online and offline channels. Aria Systems CMO Andres Botero noted that after launching ABX in 2016, the company spent 40% less on marketing while driving 49% more pipeline. Cloud software companies must prepare to invest time and resources into building a strong alignment between sales and marketing to fully capture the value ABX can generate.
Account-based experiences can help B2B companies become more customer-centric and less sales-driven. To capture these opportunities, cloud software companies are advised to use existing data for quick wins while refining a long-term strategy to support ABX, such as account-based personalization for top accounts, strong tech architecture, and cross-functional collaboration. With these ingredients, ABX can generate significant revenue increases and provide a strong competitive advantage to nurture all priority accounts and grow revenue.