B2B technology evolution – account-based marketing

We’re a month into 2017.

Everybody is thinking about how to maximize their efforts to accomplish everything they want to do this year. The to-do list is insanely long for B2B marketers. Unfortunately, one thing I have heard from a lot of my compatriots in the B2B industry is that they are still focused on lead generation.

I thought now was the time that we were starting to shift away from leads? But here we are at the beginning of 2017 and folks are still discussing how to generate all these new prospects to fill in the top of the funnel.

Before we talk about how to move forward in 2017, I want to take a moment to reflect how we got here. I recently had the privilege to sit down with Scott Brinker, the godfather of marketing technology (#MarTech) and founder of chiefmartec.com.

Scott had recently published Hacking Marketing and we (along with Jeff Perkins, CMO of QASymphony) talked about the biggest mega trends in B2B marketing. You can see the interview here:

Its the year 2000, and email marketing is on the rise.

Enter the world of AOL, email, and mass marketing. Enter amazing open- and click-through rates that gave rise to other trends like landing pages, content marketing, and much more. Even today, e-mail marketing is still hot. B2B marketers rely heavily on email to drive revenue.

By 2005, marketing automation has entered the scene.

B2B organizations had the ability to send virtually infinite emails at no cost. But too many emails gave rise to the need for automation In 2005, marketing automation was born, with companies like Vtrenz (acquired by Silverpop), Eloqua (acquired by Oracle), and Pardot (acquired by Salesforce) paving the way. My colleague and friend, Bryan Brown, who recently became our first Chief Product Officer at Terminus, has an awesome LinkedIn blog post on this topic.

So what happened?

It was great that we were able to communicate through email and to automate this marketing activity in one platform, but what were these tools actually doing to drive revenue? This was a problem for B2B sales teams.

Marketers were presenting sales with all these leads they generated from emails, webinars, you name it. But if you’ve been in the B2B marketing game for a while, then you’ve probably heard at least one person from your sales team bemoan the fact these leads are crap.

That’s because the leads were more interested in your new white paper download or the free iPad you were giving away at your trade show booth than actually doing business with your company.

That’s what gave rise to predictive marketing in 2010.

With too many leads, inside sales teams struggled with knowing which contacts to actually work and pursue. This gave rise to predictive marketing to underscore the point that not all leads are equal. Just because someone downloads content from your email does not mean they’re a “hot” prospect.

Predictive analytics helped to identify which leads had the highest propensity to buy based on their fit with your ideal customer profile (ICP). Today, companies like Everstring, Mintigo, 6Sense, Infer, and many others are actively working on solving this problem with marketing to people at the best-fit companies.

This is the evolution of B2B mega trends I’m talking about.

Here’s an interesting thing to note about these trends: what hasn’t changed is that B2B organizations are still using email as the primary channel for engagement. There are a lot of marketers out there that are still maniacally focused on generating new leads. How much has lead gen actually helped us?

At some point between the year 2000 and present day, B2B marketers forgot that they were supposed to generate high-quality leads. This goes beyond getting hundreds of people to your webinar, or meeting thousands of people at an event.

But our world is changing. Our buyers are online on multiple channels. It’s no longer just about emails and phone calls. There’s an ever-increasing number of social channels and ways to connect. We have to graduate from engaging with one person over email or one guy who downloaded a piece of gated content.

Enter account-based marketing, the biggest mega trend in B2B marketing.

The future of #MarTech is getting even more interesting. Now that we know we have the leads that fit our ICP criteria for the sales team to focus on, the question that we are left with is: are they from the right accounts?

After all, sales only closes accounts and not leads, right? This philosophy of focusing on best-fit accounts truly flips the traditional B2B marketing and sales funnel on its head and is revolutionizing, yet again, the marketer’s job.

The current future of B2B marketing is the rise of account-based marketing (ABM).

We have to quit relying on emails to do it all. It’s the marketer’s ability to connect with best-fit accounts across mobile, social, web, videos, at events, sending direct mail, and other targeted activities that will help generate revenue for sales.

Here’s a presentation I did on the subject at the #FlipMyFunnel Atlanta conference towards the end of 2016.