If you’re not seeing success with your existing B2B demand gen efforts, you may actually be targeting your audience too broadly and going about performance measurement the wrong way. More and more B2B marketers are realizing that in order to reach the right decision makers at the right types of companies, they need to get a bit more targeted with their efforts, and focus on personalization.

Additionally, B2B advertisers are learning that the traditional person-based attribution model for digital marketing does not take into account the complexities of the B2B buyer journey. Rarely does a user click on a paid social ad, convert immediately, demo the product, and decide to purchase a million-dollar software for their business. In reality, these decisions typically involve multiple buying committee members, and a LOT more touchpoints (both paid and organic).

So how do we get more targeted? How do we solve these measurement challenges?

In this post, we’ll dive into the world of account-based marketing, and talk about some of the tools that can help B2B marketers solve these challenges.

What are Account-Based Marketing Tools?

If you’ve been in the B2B marketing world for a while, odds are you’ve at least heard of some of these tools. Some of the most popular ABM solutions include 6Sense, Terminus, and DemandBase.

What do these tools do exactly?

These ABM tools all give advertisers the ability to identify companies that are showing intent for their products or solutions, reach and engage these companies via paid advertising, and measure the sales impact of paid advertising toward these companies.

Each of these tools work slightly differently, and have their own unique way of measuring intent, targeting accounts, and measuring performance, but they all essentially do the same thing.

Account-Based Advertising Capabilities

Before account-based advertising solutions like Terminus, DemandBase, and 6Sense, advertisers were somewhat limited in terms of their options to target based on company lists. The only reliable way to target based on account was through LinkedIn, and this channel is only so scalable (especially when you’re targeting a finite account list).

Account-based marketing tools allow advertisers to reach their target account lists via Display, Native, Video, and more. Each of these tools plugs into a different ad network–for example, 6Sense plugs into AppNexus, and Terminus accesses inventory from The Trade Desk. These display networks do not normally allow for account-based targeting, but when you access this inventory through an ABM provider, you unlock this capability.

In addition to being able to target by company across these ad networks, you can also layer on Job Function and Seniority targeting to ensure you’re reaching the right users at your target companies as well.

Layering on Intent

In addition to broad company and job role targeting, these platforms all have their own version of intent data, which you can layer on top of your campaign targeting, allowing you to get more personalized with your creative, messaging, and landing page strategy.

Most of these platforms partner with intent data providers like Bombora and Aberdeen to identify accounts that are surging for different topics (typically product-based). Once you layer this data on top of your campaigns, you can create a more tailored user experience. For example, you can run a display campaign targeting a list of Enterprise-level Manufacturing companies surging for the term “Payroll Software” and serve them with creative and a landing page that matches both their industry and intent.

Some of these tools also measure the level of intent, which is typically based on the number of interactions a specific company has had with your brand (site visits, formfills, webinars attended, etc.). With this data, you can slice-and-dice your account lists by their level of engagement and align your messaging and offer strategy accordingly. For example, you may choose to serve less engaged accounts with more educational content, and serve highly engaged accounts with a demo or free trial of your product.

Benefits of Account-Based Measurement

Perhaps the biggest benefit of account-based marketing tools is their ability to more effectively and holistically measure the effectiveness of your paid advertising investment.

Most B2B advertisers are still using a last-click, person-based attribution model to measure their digital marketing performance, so in order for paid channels to receive credit for opportunities and pipeline revenue, a user must click on an ad, convert, and that same user must be attached to the opportunity created in your CRM by a salesperson. This model is flawed for two main reasons:

  1. This model favors more bottom funnel channels – since B2B buyers are more likely to reach out to sales at the end of their customer journey (typically after conducting a brand search), more bottom funnel tactics like Brand Search and Retargeting typically get the most opportunity credit, while upper funnel channels (like Display) appear to have no value.
  2. This model assumes only one decision maker – the reality of most B2B purchase decisions is that they involve a variety of decision makers and decision influencers, all of whom have a stake in the buying decision. So if one buying committee member converts via a paid ad, goes and talks to their boss, and their boss ultimately reaches out to sales and purchases the product, paid receives no credit even though it very much played a role in influencing the deal.

Account-based marketing tools attempt to solve for these two huge blindspots by looking at performance through a different lens. For example, many of these tools (like 6Sense) use metrics like “Influenced Pipeline” to show all opportunities from companies that were also touched by upper-funnel channels like Display. Below is an example of a 6Sense Display campaign. As you can see in the screenshot, 38 opportunities and $518K in pipeline were generated from companies that received a Display touch, and did not already have open opportunities/pipeline prior to the campaign start.
Example of ABM tool that uses metrics of "influenced pipeline"

These tools also provide a variety of unique reports that help B2B marketers think about performance a bit differently. In addition to questions like “how many leads are we getting?” and “how many deals have we closed from paid media?” advertisers should also be asking themselves “are we increasing the level of engagement within our target accounts?” and “are our target accounts progressing through the marketing funnel?”

Reports like 6Sense’s Buyer Journey Report help advertisers tell this story. In the below screenshot, you can see this particular advertiser saw a 12% increase in accounts in the “decision” stage and a 6% increase in accounts in the “purchase” stage, but at the same time they saw a significant portion of accounts move back into the awareness stage as well. From this sort of analysis, we might draw the conclusion that we have solid support in terms of mid to bottom-funnel tactics, but we may want to invest in more top-funnel channels to move accounts from the awareness stage to the later buying stages.

Example of basic analysis of funnel investment

Final Thoughts

Choosing to invest in an ABM software is a huge decision for any advertiser, and these tools can be costly. However, the benefits in terms of targeting, personalization, and more holistic reporting capabilities make these tools a very worthwhile investment.

As tracking, measurement, and reporting becomes increasingly more difficult, it’s going to be much harder for B2B advertisers to justify their media dollars. ABM tools help B2B marketers make the case for paid media, so our advice would be to start investing in ABM now to set yourself up for success.

Now that you know the importance of investing in ABM technology, let us help you select the right tool for your business! Contact us if you’d like to learn more.