An ABM MarTech Stack Design Guide

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a precision approach to acquiring high value customers.

Rather than casting a wide net, it directs focused campaigns toward tightly defined target audiences.

The TOPO Account Based Benchmark Report revealed that 86% of marketers say their account-based strategies win more clients than traditional methods. 80% of the respondents also say it improves customer lifetime value while 76% report higher ROI.

Campaign messaging is focused on meeting the individual needs and preferences of selected accounts. That includes delivering relevant and personalized messaging at each step of the buyer journey.

As you might expect, technology is needed to deliver the 1 to 1 personalization that generates engagement and conversions.

An ABM MarTech Stack

The account based marketing technology landscape is complex. The volume of applications can quickly make it feel overwhelming.

Marketers struggle to align limited budgets with what looks like a sea of unlimited technologies. And unless they demonstrate clear payback or measurable ROI from their investments, they put those budgets at risk.

What's needed to escape this complexity is a software portfolio method that directly aligns technology with the problems it solves or the benefits it delivers. This can be done with an ABM MarTech stack, such as the illustration below.

ABM Tech Stack

An effective ABM tech stack should do several things.

  • It should define a holistic software portfolio that replaces a mixture of ad hoc and piecemeal systems.
  • It should define the technology to best achieve the most important business outcomes. Things like targeting, engaging and converting accounts. The key here is to identify the most effective tools, not the most popular. That means the tools that deliver the biggest financial impact.
  • It should lower overall IT cost and future proof technology decisions.
  • And most of all, an ABM MarTech Stack should define the fewest technologies to achieve the most program objectives in the least time.

Avoid the temptation to start with vendor solutions when defining your ABM tech stack.

That's because starting with products leads to misaligned capabilities, supercharged claims and a sea of hyperbole.

Instead, focus on the types solutions first, then you can narrow down to the best fit vendors.

Technology Categories and Capabilities

More people would take advantage of technology if it were simplified.

So, my aim is to consolidate the dozens or hundreds of account based marketing software tools into the three most important categories.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." —Albert Einstein

Consider the below capabilities when determining what you want to improve, what you want to achieve and how you will measure success.


Account Targeting

Account-based marketing begins by targeting and segmenting high-value accounts. This is best done as a data-driven exercise that filters and prioritizes accounts pursuant to firmographic, demographic, technographic, intent, and behavioral data.

It's the behavioral data that tends to be both the most valuable and difficult to acquire. So, look for tools that detect online buyer signals and digital footprints.

Customer Data Platform (CDP) apps and similar tools permit you to append your first-party data with third-party data to increase specificity and conversions.

Rank tools according to their precision in selecting high-value accounts. Those are the prospects that will achieve the highest close rate, fastest sales cycles, highest propensity for revenue and longest customer tenure. These are essentially the characteristics of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).


Account Engagement

Account-based marketing platforms perform most of the engagement activities. In fact, for many marketers, they perform nearly everything. These tools include Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) solutions such as Adobe Marketo Engage, HubSpot and Salesforce Marketing Cloud. If you are new to account-based marketing, or just beginning to purchase marketing technology, this should be your first purchase.

More mature marketers with larger budgets may append their MAPs with best of breed solutions. These apps tend to stick out in their ability to unify first- and third-party data, detect online buyer signals, and manage account-based (display, retargeting or social) advertising. Popular vendors include 6sense, Demandbase, Terminus and ZoomInfo.

Whether using a MAP or best of breed solution, engagement often begins with omnichannel campaign management tools. Look for features such as fine-tuned account selection, dynamic segmentation, setup of campaign families, deep campaign profile records and the ability to automate highly personalized campaign flights across different channels.

Engagement tools manage the challenging task of delivering the right message to the right buyer at the right time. Further, that message or interaction must be highly personalized to address the unique and most important needs of each recipient.

Those needs may be detected with tools that harvest buyer behaviors, purchase intent, contact activities, digital footprints and online signals. All of that is then aggregated into a lead score that prioritizes leads for the sales team.

Messaging must be planned for each step in the buyer journey. And those steps occur across digital channels such as email, display, digital ads, social media, the company website, landing pages and web chat. They may also include offline channels such as snail mail. Tools that then append custom audiences with tailored messaging, assets and other content will increase engagement and conversions.

Some of these solutions can aid the difficult challenge of marketing and sales alignment. They do this by automating joint processes. Things like defining a sales-ready lead score, routing qualified leads to the salesforce, and creating joint management with a Service Level Agreement.

They also apply shared technology such as tight integration between the MAP and CRM systems. This alignment is essential for a unified approach to account engagement and advancement.


Performance Analytics

Account-based analytics bring real-time performance measurement to program progress and results.

They measure account engagement, activity conversions, campaign performance and ROI. Most tools deliver real-time alerts and notifications.

Some tools are more advanced. They deliver cross-channel attribution reports, account engagement scores and account-level insights for each step of the buyer journey. Some offer predictive models such as calculated buyer propensity scores or the optimal mix of target audiences, content and channels that maximize conversions.

The right marketing analytics are critical for understanding what's working, what's not and when to inject course corrections.

Fewer Is Better

If you are building your ABM tech stack for the first time, you will be best served by starting at the bottom with the platform applications (especially the MAP and CRM) and working your way up.

These foundational apps are the system of record for campaigns, leads, contacts and accounts. Many times, they are full stack solutions that provide all or most of everything you will need for a successful account based marketing program.

Several of the platform solutions offer impressive account targeting, campaign management and performance analytics. They are embedded with AI. And they are very extensible. That means they will provide features and capabilities that remove the need for many other point solutions.

One more thing to know.

The point of an ABM tech stack is to procure technology in a sequence and pursuant to a plan. Rather than buy apps because they look cool or solve the problem of the day, they are adopted in a planned order where each app builds upon the prior. It's a tech strategy that will result in less maintenance, lower total cost of ownership (TCO), higher utilization and much higher ROI.

Less is more when it comes to account based marketing technology.