How Account-Based Marketing Brings Action to Sales Intelligence

I have been intrigued with “Sales Intelligence” applications for many years as the former head of Products for Siebel Systems and subsequently as a venture investor.

They just naturally make sense.

After all, what isn’t to like about an application that quickly and cost-effectively enables a sales rep or sales team to capture data about a specific account/customer so they are better prepared to engage in the sales process?

So, why have these applications failed to take off creating a large independent Sales Intelligence company or product line within the existing CRM companies?

Why Sales Intelligence Products Are Not Enough

Sales Intelligence 1.0 products have been focused almost exclusively on the “assimilation of account data” problem. However, once the data is acquired, they don’t really help companies with the process of operationalizing it – supporting collaboration and custom workflows that allow the organization to subsequently prosecute a sales campaign from the collected data.

Current generation Sales Intelligence products demo well and typically generate great adoption at the beginning. Quickly though, because they don’t offer much help with the execution process, usage tends to drop off leading to high churn rates for the Sales Intelligence application provider.

The real opportunity has been, at least in my mind, to connect the data assimilation and sales execution processes together so they are seamless. And, that is the exciting idea behind Account-Based Marketing or ABM.

Account-Based Marketing

According to Wikipedia, Account-Based Marketing is defined as:

A strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with an individual prospect or customer accounts as ‘markets of one’.

Some of the original ABM concepts are actually embedded within Martha Rogers and Don Peppers first book “1:1 Marketing” and Joe Pine’s book “Mass Customization” in the early 1990s. They postulated the idea that companies in the future would be able to target “markets of 1” with “products of 1”. There are still very relevant ideas in their work.

At the time, most of what they contemplated was not yet possible. The Internet, for example, existed as primarily an academic/military communication system. The browser and html had yet to be created. Websites – nope, not yet. Smart phones – science fiction.

Today, however, a lot of the technology infrastructure necessary to accomplish what Don, Martha and Joe contemplated is now in place.

How ABM Drives Sales Intelligence

It is now possible to create data-driven applications that automatically pull from a variety of structured and unstructured data sources, filter/augment that data, to identify key people in an account (e.g. their relationships, hobbies, etc.) what the buying/budget cycle for a particular company is, and a variety of other “key buying criteria” that sales reps and teams need to know.

ABM applications use that data and “operationalize it by enabling the sales teams to collaborate with other members of their company (products, marketing, finance, etc.). These applications let them quickly create and generate a sales campaign without relying upon a separate IT or marketing team to create the campaign on their behalf.

What made this possible are 5 key technology transformations:

  • Mobile – a powerful, anywhere, anytime compute platform.
  • Real-time – new database platforms that support Complex Event Processing computational techniques.
  • Predictive – machine learning algorithms that can identify root causal issues from vast amounts of data that humans are incapable of quickly processing.
  • Collaboration – applications with collaboration embedded within them, not a “bag on the side”.
  • Cloud/SaaS – solutions that can be configured, managed and operated by the LOB. sales/marketing no longer need to wait for IT — business operates in real-time, not weeks/months.

While the “ideas” behind ABM may have been around for quite some time, the ability to execute upon them is really only just now becoming possible.

ABM is the Future of Marketing

ABM give sales teams deep real-time account insight but, more importantly, ABM shines by enabling them to use the collected data to collaborate and execute against that insight in “deal-time”.

Doug Pepper and I were the first investors in Jon’s last company, Marketo, which became the leader in Marketing Automation. We believe Engagio is going to be the leader in this emerging ABM market. This is why we are proud to be investors in Jon Miller and excited he has allowed us to be a part of his next journey.

Bruce Cleveland
Bruce Cleveland
Bruce has been a venture investor since 2006, focusing on early-stage enterprise SaaS companies. He is a former board member of Marketo (Nasdaq: MKTO), and currently serves on the boards of Appmesh, Aria Systems, Biba, C9, Damballa, Get Satisfaction, Splice Machine and Stellar Loyalty, and is a board observer of Totango and co-led investments in Doximity and Opal Labs. Prior to becoming an investor, Bruce held senior executive roles in engineering, product management and product marketing with companies such as Apple, AT&T, Oracle and Siebel Systems. Bruce's last operational role was as a member of the founding executive team of Siebel Systems where he served as SVP, Marketing and SVP and GM, Products. Bruce writes about venture investing and life in Silicon Valley on his blog RollingThunder:

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