Choosing the right account-based marketing software can be a messy process.
Some ABM software is an add-on to an existing tool. Some companies sell relevant software but not explicitly for ABM. Whether you need certain tools depends on the scale of your program or your target accounts.
Ultimately, a successful ABM campaign needs to solve three problems. Software can help with each:
- Identify the right accounts and targets within them.
- Deliver tailored marketing and sales messaging to those people.
- Measure how they respond.
This post walks you through three ABM tools in depth. You’ll get an idea of what ABM software can do and how it does it. It also surveys other all-in-one ABM tools and supporting software.
Table of contents
When should you pick a tool(s)?
As Steve Watt details in his course on account-based marketing, a pilot program is an essential starting point for account-based marketing. Pilot programs refine the process—and your target list—while (hopefully) demonstrating enough ROI to earn buy-in from marketing, sales, and executives.
So which ABM tools do you need to execute a pilot program successfully? As Watt argues, few to none. A pilot program, in addition to testing your ABM strategy, is the best way to test for software needs.
Many popular ABM tools scale a manual process. That makes it difficult to know which ABM tools you’ll need before you have a strategy. Are you targeting a few dozen accounts? You may not need anything. Are you targeting a few hundred? You’ll almost certainly need something.
You may get what you need simply by pulling data from other martech platforms you already use. But you won’t know what you need until you run a pilot program. The initial research will show you which company or individual insights, in your industry, are hidden from view.
Once you’ve passed through the pilot phase, a good place to start is Forrester’s Wave report.
Forrester’s market leaders
The Forrester Wave report on ABM tools identifies three industry leaders—Demandbase, MRP, and Jabmo—among 11 other entrants offering account-based marketing platforms.
Demandbase and Jabmo focus exclusively on ABM. MRP is a predictive tool that serves the ABM market—as well as email, direct mail, and others who benefit from predictive marketing.
The more detailed dive below isn’t an endorsement of Forrester’s “Leaders” over other ABM solutions. However, for those unfamiliar with their options, it’s a good way to understand what the tools can do and how they do it.
Demandbase is generally regarded as the industry leader—with an equivalent price tag.
While it doesn’t publish prices publicly, an interview with the Demandbase CEO in 2017 claimed that the average revenue per customer per month was $20,000. Smaller businesses purchasing partial access, he continued, “may come onboard for $2,000 to $3,000 per month.”
G2 Crowd confirms that it’s a high-cost option. Demandbase’s costs place it in the 96th percentile for “Marketing Account Management” software.
The high price tag self-selects Demandbase customers. It makes sense for those who are going after big fish. User reviews on G2 Crowd reinforce that perception:
DemandBase is on the pricier side, it also doesn’t do a very good job with targeting smaller businesses (really only good for mid-to-large size businesses).
What does the platform do? The starting point for Demandbase and other ABM tools is a collaborative account identification process:
- Users upload Ideal Customer Profile data for target accounts or CRM data.
- Demandbase cross-references its database to find companies that are a good fit.
ABM software like Demandbase goes beyond demographic, firmographic, or psychographic data. It’s not just a giant CRM that matches customers with a subset of relevant accounts.
Instead, it collects data on browsing behavior of users on your site and others. Using that information, it’s able to identify a degree of “intent.”
For example, if multiple users from a company (usually identified by IP) are reading about how to reduce their corporate real estate footprint, it may flag that company as a strong prospect for a seller of space management technology.
That same data is also used for later follow up. For example, Demandbase notifies teams of activity by target accounts that suggest increased interest. As one user noted:
With the GA reporting alerts, email and SLACK alerts, our sales teams find Demandbase beneficial in identifying the account’s activity and helping prioritize sales tasks.
Jabmo has a useful visualization and walkthrough of the entire process.
Based on Forrester research, Jabmo’s offerings outpace its market share. Similar to Demandbase, it touts a start-to-finish platform to help find, target, and close accounts.
A breakdown of features shows the ABM challenges that software tries to resolve. It also offers a window into how these systems work:
- Capture browsing behavior of target accounts. Like other ABM tools, Jabmo relies, in part, on IP addresses to determine the source of traffic. It also uses a patchwork of other factors (and AI) to identify the likely source of a visit even if the IP is unknown.
- Show ads based on IP address. Jabmo has its own database of IP information and programmatic ad platform. That means it can target advertisements to people in specific companies. Given the number of people involved in B2B decisions, account-wide coverage has value in addition to one-to-one targeting.
- Tailor website messaging. Similarly, Jabmo can personalize messaging to visitors, including first-time browsers:
- Retarget consumers based on behavior. The value of identifying anonymous visitors extends to retargeting. If Jabmo identifies an anonymous visitor as someone from a target account, the user is remarketed to.
- Analytics. All the activity that the platform monitors is rolled up in a reporting dashboard. The analytics portal syncs with independent CRMs to wed engagement and sales data.
- Sales enablement. The analytics data, in turn, prompts sales staff to follow-up with accounts that show increased interest based on browsing behavior, ad clicks, email opens, etc.
- Other integrations. Salesforce. Eloqua. HubSpot. Marketo. WordPress. The list goes on. Integrations move data between platforms and also power automation. They’re not, however, seamless. As one user notes: “Matching the content with CRM tools takes time. No miracle – prospection and sales takes time and requires high precision work.”
Whether Jabmo’s system works better than Demandbase (or any other platform) depends on more than the system alone. Does Jabmo’s database of IPs cover more of your industry? Then it may be the better choice.
The inverse may also be true. As the Forrester report notes, “Jabmo is best for marketers targeting global industrial/manufacturing accounts.” That’s only one segment of the B2B market.
The importance of coverage is paramount. The ability to identify anonymous visitors impacts the value of every other feature.
The ROI you get from tightly targeted advertising also depends on your ad spend. You could save six figures if a current “shotgun” approach spends millions. A modest spend has less potential.
Even then, the value of those clicks depends on whether marketing materials or sales staff are persuasive. As one reviewer conceded, that’s a challenge that software can’t solve:
For us the ROI is still not totally found, as we are struggling with the sales channels who are not so enthusiastic about having to manage cold-to-cool leads, for a question of resources (again) and mentality.
MRP’s offering is a single platform, MRP Prelytics, that serves several marketing channels. MRP positions itself as an “account-based display advertising” solution rather than a complete platform.
Still, an account-based advertising platform ultimately touches every aspect of ABM software:
- Identify the company of anonymous visitors.
- Aggregate that data at an account level to know which accounts to target.
- Deliver custom ads programmatically.
- Use analytics from ad campaigns to prompt sales staff to take action.
While Demandbase wins reviews for account targeting (“It provides the best [. . .] target account marketing in B2B segment,” wrote one user), MRP has tried to differentiate based on how it selects and delivers ad content.
That differentiation, according to MRP, hinges on “the right balance of both scale and control, using combinations of IP address, geo location, context (publishing site selection), 3rd party cookies, retargeting and more.”
Rather than claiming to have the best IP targeting, MRP argues that the combination of factors improves the selection of ad targets (and continually refines the ad content shown to those targets).
Does it actually work better? It’s a difficult claim for consumers to evaluate. As with other ABM platforms, the key components of ABM software are hidden from view:
- You can’t compare the machine learning algorithms based on a demo or marketing materials.
- IP and account databases are proprietary.
Still, most ABM software is known for individual strengths or weaknesses. Below are brief overviews of other end-to-end solutions.
Other dedicated ABM platforms
For Adobe, it solved an issue related to lead volume. They had too many leads to follow-up with, and their existing scoring system didn’t work.
Software’s role was to put the target company at the forefront of the scoring process. The aggregation of individual behavior at a company level was the critical innovation.
Lattice Engines is one of several other end-to-end entrants in the ABM software market.
6sense. 6sense contends that it illuminates the “dark funnel.” The ABM software scores activities by anonymous but identifiable users. Reading your blog post might put them in the top of the funnel; watching a video of how your platform works may move them farther down.
Like other platforms, 6sense then automates messaging (via integrations with Marketo and Eloqua) based on the perceived location of an account within the funnel.
We’ve struggled to align sales and marketing to focus our efforts on the same companies and with 6sense, we’re all in agreement of which accounts are ready to be prospected.
The main problem we’ve been trying to solve is ensuring our sales and marketing teams are aligned on the status and next actions for key accounts.
Engagio. Several reviews of Engagio highlighted its simple interface and reporting capabilities—daily, weekly, or monthly. The reporting feature may be more important for companies under more pressure to show the benefits of an ABM strategy.
Terminus. Terminus pitches the product as an “all-in-one” solution. Still, it highlights its strength as an “account-based advertising” tool. The targeting capability is the first thing many reviews highlight:
Terminus has allowed us to get extremely personalized through our paid channels when it comes to ABM, allowing us to target not only key accounts/companies, but also specific departments within that.
Terminus also recently acquired BrightFunnel, a reporting tool.
While it offers content syndication, reviewers noted that where that content ends up is not fully disclosed. For some, that poses a risk. Company content may end up on a site that doesn’t reflect brand values.
RollWorks. Built by NextRoll (formerly AdRoll Group), the company offers machine-learning capabilities and CRM/MA integrations. Users can identify and score accounts more likely to close and engage buying group members with personalized ads and automated sales emails.
Beyond the end-to-end platforms, several tools support efforts to identify and evaluate accounts and leads.
Intent and lead identification tools for ABM
Mintigo. Mintigo pitches itself as the only “full-stack, full-customer lifecycle AI solution.” Its sales enablement component stops short of automating messaging. It segments contacts based on perceived intent but still requires manual selection and delivery of tailored content.
Leadspace. More than other tools, Leadspace emphasizes sales team support. It helps B2B marketers maintain individual contact information. In short, it delivers the data but not the automation.
One user, for example, lauded its ability to identify when potential buyers moved to other companies (so that marketing and sales efforts could shift accordingly).
Others repeatedly mentioned its ability “to fix incomplete, inconsistent contact records that have accumulated in our database over years of form submissions and list uploads.”
Everstring. Everstring divides its solutions into three parts: for marketers, for sales, and for “advanced analytics.” For ABM, it calls out the ability to use closed-won data to create predictive models and identify target accounts.
ABM tools to personalize content delivery
Manually, it’s possible to uncover the type of content that an account or target may be interested in. What are employees from a target company talking about on LinkedIn or Twitter? What are they writing or speaking about in the industry? Software scales those insights.
Bombora. Bombora catalogs the content that target accounts consume. Then, it scores those habits based on topic and “intensity of that consumption.”
The resulting score helps marketers prioritize messaging. For example, based on intent data, who should be shown a “Schedule a Demo” ad or receive direct mail?
TechTarget. According to the Forrester Wave report, TechTarget enjoys one of the largest market shares among ABM tools.
TechTarget works by publishing reams of content across more than 140 owned websites. That content, in turn, earns organic visibility for hundreds of thousands of keywords. Visits to TechTarget-owned sites allow the company to place first-party cookies on targets’ browsers.
TechTarget uses those cookies to aggregate intent data from site visitors. TechTarget clients can then deliver messaging (e.g. display ads, native content) to those who show the highest intent.
Website, content, and video personalization
End-to-end solutions like Demandbase and Jabmo offer web personalization as part of their product. Other products do solely that.
Personalization is more than changing a headline to match a company name. Triblio, an ABM platform that focuses on personalization, powers customized messaging throughout a site.
So, for example, the CTA for a first-time visitor can offer an initial platform walkthrough, while a returning visitor (or a visitor from a subset of flagged accounts) may see a call-to-action to compare a product with competitors.
Other personalization-only tools like VWO or Optimizely offer personalized web experiences but don’t have accompanying account or target data. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for personalization engines details dozens of options:
- Companies can retarget site visitors with custom videos related to the product.
- Personalized video content can help SaaS companies deliver better onboarding experiences.
ABM measurement tools
As Watt contends, ABM focuses on macro-conversions (i.e. closed sales) rather than micro-conversions (i.e. whitepaper downloads). That’s because ABM campaigns often blanket target accounts with messaging. Not every ad will get clicked, but it may still play a role in winning the account.
End-to-end ABM tools build reporting into their platform. For stand-alone reporting, Bizible and Full Circle Insights both target complex B2B needs. They help answer the question, “Which marketing campaigns actually drive sales?”
As Bonnie Crater, Full Circle Insights’ CEO, explained in an interview:
The primary challenge our customers have is that they need to understand how marketing campaigns are affecting revenue but their Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) never matches what’s inside Salesforce.
Marketo purchased Bizible in 2018, in part to counter the tight integration between Full Circle Insights and Salesforce. For companies already using Marketo (or other Adobe products), integrations with Bizible may be easier or cheaper.
Almost every ABM tool review was glowingly positive. It makes sense. ABM software isn’t just another way to do something that most companies are already doing. The end-to-end solutions are a significant upgrade. Even when they’re imperfect, they’re still better than the previous setup.
Those dedicated solutions exist alongside dozens of other tools that help identify accounts, manage contacts, and personalize content delivery.
A lingering challenge for all tools, however, is the required buy-in. It takes time to integrate data across platforms, identify new accounts, target them with messaging—and wait for a months-long sales cycle to prove ROI.
So which tool is right? It comes down to your budget and the most urgent need for your ABM campaign:
- Finding accounts;
- Building a list of targets;
- Delivering personalized content;
- Proving value.