The Singular ABM Stack. Or Not?

Is There a Case for a Single ABM Stack?

Today’s ever-expanding pool of account based marketing (ABM) vendors adds complexity to the selection process for marketers. Some vendors have expertise in a select few ABM use cases, but more are trying to address the entire ABM stack. Another dimension to this issue is that more marketers are bringing their ABM functions in-house. The move toward a full ABM stack would appear to make marketers’ lives simpler and more cost effective. Is there a “right” decision? Let’s explore our options.

Make my life easier – I want all my ABM activities in one place!

For many marketers, this is the ideal choice – but they may lack the expertise to fully vet vendors in each part of the ABM diagram depicted in Figure 1. What makes for good account selection? How can I find companies that don’t sit in my CRM? What makes for a decent media-buying platform? What is the best Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) out there? Moving to a single stack helps simplify the parameters for making these decisions.

Figure 1: All Account Based Marketing activities across segmentation, activation, and measurement.

Truth – A Benefit of the Single Stack

Without a fully consolidated stack, what becomes the single source of truth? Then, how do I tie different parts of my ABM system to that single source of truth? Consolidation creates an opportunity to create a single picture for a marketer’s ABM activities, without the pain of logging into various platforms, the burden of reconciling data, or the need for reporting between different platforms.

In theory at least, going to a single ABM stack allows for full ABM planning and orchestration in one place. It also allows different marketing teams to communicate and coordinate their strategies, as they will all be looking at a single playbook.

That’s Great. So Why Wouldn’t I Consolidate All My ABM Activities in One Stack?

The move to a single stack may not be the cure for all marketers’ ills. One reason is that the ABM stacks may be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none situation, and usually there are going to be some weak spots. Is a marketer willing to live with those weaknesses? Marketers prefer a mix of different vendors that are the best-in-class in their fields. Interoperability and ease of use are key in this scenario.

It’s also very difficult to find an ABM stack that doesn’t tout their AI or machine learning capabilities. Does the marketer want to put full trust into the AI of a particular marketing stack? What if the marketer wants to use its own algorithm to determine which account is their ideal target, or has a data science/analytics team that has already built robust systems? Flexibility is key in this scenario.

The costs of a stack may also not be fully transparent. Without this transparency, the marketer will not be able to know where potential cost savings are. As an example, demand-side platforms (DSPs) in the past were able to get away with opaque pricing strategies, where there was some unknown markup to the cost of media and data. Many marketers have demanded transparency on media-buying costs, which has resulted in cost savings and increased ROI.

So, What Should I Do?

Like many other questions, this is not one that can be answered by an ABM vendor. Marketers are going to know what is best for their company or team. It could also depend on where that company is in the ABM maturity life cycle – a full-stack vendor might make more sense at the start, but the company may later feel ready to graduate and eventually take the training wheels off. What a marketer should do is work with a vendor that can provide either a full-stack option or the non-full-stack option. That will help the marketer evolve over time, allowing a move toward or away from a consolidated stack as needs dictate. To paraphrase an adage, no marketing platform decision lasts forever.

Figure 2: How Account Based Marketing platforms must evolve to support the ever-evolving needs of marketers.

ABM – An Evolution

To summarize, digital marketing and ABM are gaining momentum as marketing teams adapt to the new economy. Dun & Bradstreet believes the future of ABM needs to support how marketing teams are rapidly evolving, as depicted in Figure 2. ABM will be more for the masses. Breaking through current limitations, ABM 2.0 will need to work the way marketers work by bringing flexibility, interoperability, and an “open approach” to accommodate ever-evolving technology stacks.