The future of B2B marketing: ABM and AI
Columnist Peter Isaacson believes Account-Based Marketing and artificial intelligence hold big promise for bringing B2B marketers closer to delivering personal, one-to-one customer experiences.
If you’ve been in marketing for a while, you’ve probably come across a copy of Don Peppers and Martha Rogers’ book, “The One to One Future.” (If you haven’t, it’s a good read for any B2B marketer.) Written in the 1990s, the book painted a bright future — one where marketers could connect with their audiences on a more personal, one-to-one level. The idea was simple: all of the new technology and data flooding marketing at the time would pave the way for personalized, incredibly relevant customer experiences.
Two decades later, we’re still not any closer to making this vision a reality. In fact, I’d argue that the technology we’ve deployed has, in many cases, pushed us further away from that 1:1 connection. We’ve taken innovative technologies and platforms like marketing automation and digital advertising and used them to spam our audiences with millions of untargeted, irrelevant messages.
As a result, marketers haven’t been able to deliver on what our customers really need: a personalized message with relevant information.
While technology has pushed us further away from our customers, I believe that we are on the cusp of actually (finally) using technology to help restore that 1:1 connection. We’ve already started to see this happen, and it’s made possible by two important things: Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and artificial intelligence (AI).
ABM and the return to customer-centricity
I’ve written about ABM before, usually in the context of why it’s good for marketers. It helps them be more efficient, deliver more effective campaigns, prove ROI and actually impact the business — benefits that are music to any marketer’s ears. In fact, we get so excited about how an account focus will help us drive more results, we don’t always talk about why.
In reality, ABM benefits our prospects and customers quite a bit, because it forces us to learn more about them and get them the right messages at the right time. Once we’ve slimmed down our traditional demand-gen activities and focused on a narrower target account list, we have the opportunity to give them the right experience at every phase of the funnel, from first touch to close to measurement.
The problem is that while delivering that white-glove experience to 10 accounts is feasible, it gets harder when we have a target account list of 500 or 1,000. That’s because to deliver that experience, you need to have quite a lot of in-depth account knowledge about each account: what their priorities are, what challenges they face, who their competitors are and what needs they have.
Without that information, it’s hard to build relevant messages and campaigns, or even start the conversation. And as you move to more accounts, getting that information becomes more of a challenge.
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