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I’ve attended two B2B conferences in the past few months – B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange in Boston, and MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Washington DC – and at both, account-based marketing was unmistakably top-of-mind. A majority of sessions and conversations evoked the term in some fashion, matching the trend I’ve noticed online and in client interactions.
A look at the Google Trends trajectory for “account based marketing” over the past five years reminds me a bit of the trajectory for “content marketing” in the five years prior.
It’s only natural that B2B organizations everywhere are either adopting or taking an interest in ABM, because the strategy is founded on so many key pillars of effective marketing today: personalization, organizational alignment, and the focused pursuit of high-value customers.
Understanding the state of ABM and where it’s heading is critical for any B2B marketing practitioner today. Based on what I’ve been picking up at these events, along with data shared in the newly released 2019 ABM Benchmark Survey Report from Demand Gen Report, here are five trends to focus on as we move into 2020.
5 Key ABM Trends to Plan Around in 2020
The fourth annual ABM benchmark study from Demand Gen Report, which surveyed more than 100 B2B business executives from various industries, ranging across several roles, serves to confirm and reinforce a number of trends we’re seeing in the world of account-based marketing.
1. ABM is B2B Marketing
Only 6% of respondents in the survey said they are not doing ABM yet in any form. Meanwhile, 50% said they’ve had their ABM initiatives in place for more than a year, while another 25% gotten started within the past six to 12 months.
When we covered Demand Gen Report’s 2016 survey on ABM benchmarks, only 47% of respondents said they had an ABM strategy, so clearly the practice has grown substantially in a span of three years.
For me, this growth not only signals that B2B brands are increasingly conscious of creating content and experiences for specific buying audiences, but that those efforts are aimed beyond a singular buyer. After all, one of the major premises of ABM is acknowledging that different people with different viewpoints make up a buying committee, something that every B2B marketer needs to pay attention to on the go-forward.
2. Sales and Marketing Alignment is the Biggest ABM Challenge
Most companies report being in the earlier stages of ABM maturity, and it’s evident that sales and marketing alignment is a common barrier to progress, with a leading 46% of survey respondents citing it as their biggest ABM-related challenge.
(Source: 2019 ABM Benchmark Survey Report)
This struggle isn’t unique to account-based marketing, of course, but ABM is uniquely positioned to help solve it. A strategic and sophisticated ABM program is built on orchestrated account selection, outreach, and nurturing processes. These strategies also tend to measure success based on overall results rather than getting bogged down in credit attribution, helping reduce friction and internal contention.
Better alignment between sales and marketing can contribute to a successful ABM program. But the opposite is also true. Creating unity around such an initiative might begin with changing the way we talk about it. In his session at B2B Marketing Exchange (B2BMX) back in February, Oracle’s Kelvin Gee explained that his team prefers to remove the word “marketing” from the phrase because it can feel isolating and disconnected. “We believe words matter,” he said. “We just call it ‘account-based’ because we’re all in it together.”
[bctt tweet="Rather than account-based MARKETING, we just call it account-based because we’re all in it together. @kgee #AccountBased #ABM" username="toprank"]
Certainly, successfully achieving sales and marketing alignment has been a top challenge for brands for ages. But B2B marketers can be the change agents here, as Shahid Javed of Hughes Network Systems shared during his B2BMX session. “Marketing is a service provider to sales—sales is our customer. We need to be able to empower them and enable them to solve problems. We need to make them the hero in the buyer’s eyes.”
[bctt tweet="Sales is our customer. We need to be able to empower them and enable them to solve problems. @shahidj #SalesAndMarketingAlignment" username="toprank"]
For a framework to actualize sales and marketing alignment, you might start with this three-phase approach from Shahid:
- Listening and Information Gathering (Engaging stakeholders and simply listening to what they have to say.)
- Finding the Sweet Spot (Analyzing your data to create a mutually beneficial plan that can bring everyone together—and get C-suite buy-in.)
- Empowering Execution (Making it easy for the sales team to get the marketing and sales collateral they need to be the hero for their customers.)
3. Sales Teams Are Driving Account Selection
When asked how they build and formulate their targeted account lists for ABM, a whopping 80% of respondents said this directive is led by the sales team. Here were the other responses in the report:
- Firmographic: 68% currently using, 22% plan to use
- Technographic: 35% currently using, 40% plan to use
- Behavioral/Intent Signals: 55% currently using, 13% plan to use
- Predictive: 26% currently using, 39% plan to use
It obviously makes a ton of sense for sales to be heavily involved with account selection – they know first-hand which types of accounts are easiest to work with and most likely to convert – but there is a clear opportunity for marketing to play a bigger role here, perhaps by taking charge with some of the other methods listed. Technographics (the analysis of potential accounts based on their current technology stacks) appears to be viewed as most promising.
As Ty Heath framed account selection during her talk on combining ABM and social selling at MPB2B: “It boils down to, what accounts do you think will be profitable long-term, will be pleasurable to work with, and do you think you can make a real difference for?” Several voices ought to be involved in reaching these conclusions.
[bctt tweet="It boils down to, what accounts do you think will be profitable long-term, will be pleasurable to work with, and do you think you can make a real difference for. @tyrona #ABM #SocialSelling" username="toprank"]
4. B2B Influencers Aren’t Yet Being Widely Integrated
Speaking of clear opportunities, I was stunned by the graph below. Among six types of content and experiences listed for ABM usage, influencer advocate-related content was last in prevalence at only 29%.
(Source: 2019 ABM Benchmark Survey Report)
As I wrote earlier this year, B2B influencers and ABM are a powerful combination. The focused nature of account-based strategies lends itself well to collaborating with subject matter experts who are visible to, and trusted by, the prospects you most want to engage. When you know specifically who you’re trying to reach, you can confidently identify niche influencers that your audience is likely to recognize and listen to. Research shows that people are more likely to trust technical experts and peers in their field than brand-driven messaging.
Seeing this synergy and opportunity, I’m excited for our team at TopRank Marketing to keep expanding our world-class influencer capabilities in the ABM space specifically.
5. Quantity Is the Primary Measurement Focus for ABM
How are B2B marketing executives measuring the success of their ABM programs? Here’s how the responses shook out:
- Net-new accounts engaged (60%)
- Number of qualified accounts (52%)
- Contribution to pipeline revenue (50%)
- Win rate (50%)
- Pipeline velocity (46%)
- Account engagement score (41%)
It comes as no surprise that bottom-line numbers are being prioritized over relative rate metrics. Business leaders want to see results, and considering that 69% of respondents in the survey report that their account-based efforts are meeting or exceeding expectations, it seems those results are there.
Find Your Perfect Fit with ABM
Buzzwords aside, account-based marketing is a very simple and natural evolution for B2B marketing. Whether or not you want to attach the label, virtually every business that markets to other businesses should be adhering to many of ABM’s core principles.
Looking to learn more about ABM and its fundamentals? Check out this primer from our own Josh Nite: What You Need to Know to Get Started with Account-Based Marketing.
The post 5 Key ABM Trends for B2B Marketers to Track Heading into 2020 appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.Read More »
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The post How to Analyze Your Facebook Ad Performance: 9 Ways appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.Read More »
Welcome to this week’s edition of the Social Media Marketing Talk Show, a news show for marketers who want to stay on the leading edge of social media. On this week’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show, we explore new tools to help creators start their own IGTV series with special guest, Rebekah Radice. We also […]
The post Instagram Launches IGTV Series Tools: What Marketers Need to Know appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.Read More »
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About 7 years ago I wrote about how the search relevancy algorithms were placing heavy weighting on brand-related signals after Vince & Panda on the (half correct!) presumption that this would lead to excessive industry consolidation which in turn would force Google to turn the dials in the other direction.
My thesis was Google would need to increasingly promote some smaller niche sites to make general web search differentiated from other web channels & minimize the market power of vertical leading providers.
The reason my thesis was only half correct (and ultimately led to the absolutely wrong conclusion) is Google has the ability to provide the illusion of diversity while using sort of eye candy displacement efforts to shift an increasing share of searches from organic to paid results.
As long as any market has at least 2 competitors in it Google can create a "me too" offering that they hard code front & center and force the other 2 players (along with other players along the value chain) to bid for marketshare. If competitors are likely to complain about the thinness of the me too offering & it being built upon scraping other websites, Google can buy out a brand like Zagat or a data supplier like ITA Software to undermine criticism until the artificially promoted vertical service has enough usage that it is nearly on par with other players in the ecosystem.
Google need not win every market. They only need to ensure there are at least 2 competing bids left in the marketplace while dialing back SEO exposure. They can then run other services to redirect user flow and force the ad buy. They can insert their own bid as a sort of shill floor bid in their auction. If you bid below that amount they'll collect the profit through serving the customer directly, if you bid above that they'll let you buy the customer vs doing a direct booking.
Where this gets more than a bit tricky is if you are a supplier of third party goods & services where you buy in bulk to get preferential pricing for resale. If you buy 100 rooms a night from a particular hotel based on the presumption of prior market performance & certain channels effectively disappear you have to bid above market to sell some portion of the rooms because getting anything for them is better than leaving them unsold.
Dipping a bit back into history here, but after Groupon said no to Google's acquisition offer Google promptly partnered with players 2 through n to ensure Groupon did not have a lasting competitive advantage. In the fullness of time most those companies died, LivingSocial was acquired by Groupon for nothing & Groupon is today worth less than the amount they raised in VC & IPO funding.
Most large markets will ultimately consolidate down to a couple players (e.g. Booking vs Expedia) while smaller players lack the scale needed to have the economic leverage to pay Google's increasing rents.
This sort of consolidation was happening even when the search results were mostly organic & relevancy was driven primarily by links. As Google has folded in usage data & increased ad load on the search results it becomes harder for a generically descriptive domain name to build brand-related signals.
It is not only generically descriptive sorts of sites that have faded though. Many brand investments turned out to be money losers after the search result set was displaced by more ads (& many brand-related search result pages also carry ads above the organic results).
The ill informed might write something like this:
Since the Motorola debacle, it was Google's largest acquisition after the $676 million purchase of ITA Software, which became Google Flights. (Uh, remember that? Does anyone use that instead of Travelocity or one of the many others? Neither do I.)
The reality is brands lose value as the organic result set is displaced. To make the margins work they might desperately outsource just about everything but marketing to a competitor / partner, which will then latter acquire them for a song.
Travelocity had roughly 3,000 people on the payroll globally as recently as a couple of years ago, but the Travelocity workforce has been whittled to around 50 employees in North America with many based in the Dallas area.
The best relevancy algorithm in the world is trumped by preferential placement of inferior results which bypasses the algorithm. If inferior results are hard coded in placements which violate net neutrality for an extended period of time, they can starve other players in the market from the vital user data & revenues needed to reinvest into growth and differentiation.
Value plays see their stocks crash as growth slows or goes in reverse. With the exception of startups frunded by Softbank, growth plays are locked out of receiving further investment rounds as their growth rate slides.
Startups like Hipmunk disappear. Even an Orbitz or Travelocity become bolt on acquisitions.
The viability of TripAdvisor as a stand alone business becomes questioned, leading them to partner with Ctrip.
TripAdvisor has one of the best link profiles of any commercially oriented website outside of perhaps Amazon.com. But ranking #1 doesn't count for much if that #1 ranking is below the fold.
TripAdvisor shifted their business model to allow direct booking to better monetize mobile web users, but as Google has ate screen real estate and grew Google Travel into a $100 billion business other players have seen their stocks sag.
Google sits at the top of the funnel & all other parts of the value chain are compliments to be commoditized.
- Buy premium domain names? Google's SERPs test replacing domain names with words & make the domain name gray.
- Improve conversion rates? Your competitor almost certainly did as well, now you both can bid more & hand over an increasing economic rent to Google.
- Invest in brand awareness? Google shows ads for competitors on your brand terms, forcing you to buy to protect the brand equity you paid to build.
Search Metrics mentioned Hotels.com was one of the biggest losers during the recent algorithm updates: "I’m going to keep on this same theme there, and I’m not going to say overall numbers, the biggest loser, but for my loser I’m going to pick Hotels.com, because they were literally like neck and neck, like one and two with Booking, as far as how close together they were, and the last four weeks, they’ve really increased that separation. ... I’m going to give a winner. The fire department that’s fighting the fires in Northern California."
As Google ate the travel category the value of hotel-related domain names has fallen through the floor.
Most of the top selling hotel-related domain names were sold about a decade ago:
On August 8th HongKongHotels.com sold for $4,038. And the buyer may have overpaid for it!
Google consistently grows their ad revenues 20% a year in a global economy growing at under 4%.
There are only about 6 ways they can do that
- growth of web usage (though many of those who are getting online today have a far lower disposable income than those who got on a decade or two ago did)
- gain marketshare (very hard in search given that they effectively are the market in most markets outside of China & Russia)
- create new inventory (new ad types on Google Maps & YouTube)
- charge more for clicks
- improve at targeting by better surveillance of web users (getting harder after GDPR & similar efforts from some states in the next year or two)
- shift click streams away from organic toward paid channels (through larger ads, more interactive ad units, less appealing organic result formatting, etc.)
Wednesday both Expedia and TripAdvisor reported earnings after hours & both fell off a cliff: "Both Okerstrom and Kaufer complained that their organic, or free, links are ending up further down the page in Google search results as Google prioritizes its own travel businesses."
Losing 20% to 25% of your market cap in a single day is an extreme move for a company worth billions of dollars.
Thursday Google hit fresh all time highs.
"Google’s old motto was ‘Don’t Be Evil’, but you can’t be this big and profitable and not be evil. Evil and all-time highs pretty much go hand in hand." - Howard Lindzon
Booking held up much better than TripAdvisor & Expedia as they have a bigger footprint in Europe (where antitrust is a thing) and they have a higher reliance on paid search versus organic.
The broader SEO industry is to some degree frozen by fear. Roughly half of SEOs claim to have not bought *ANY* links in a half-decade.
Anonymous survey: have you (or your company) purchased backlinks - of ANY quality - for your own site, or any of your clients' sites, at any point in the past ~5 years?— Lily Ray (@lilyraynyc) October 24, 2019
Long after most of the industry has stopped buying links some people still run the "paid links are a potential FTC violation guideline" line as though it is insightful and/or useful.
Some people may be violating FTC rules by purchasing links that are not labeled as sponsored. This includes "content marketers" who publish articles with paid links on sites they curate. It's a ticking time bomb because it's illegal.— Roger Montti (@martinibuster) October 24, 2019
Ask the people carrying Google's water what they think of the official FTC guidance on poor ad labeling in search results and you will hear the beautiful sound of crickets chirping.
Where is the ad labeling in this unit?
Does small gray text in the upper right corner stating "about these results" count as legitimate ad labeling?
And then when you scroll over that gray text and click on it you get "Some of these hotel search results may be personalized based on your browsing activity and recent searches on Google, as well as travel confirmations sent to your Gmail. Hotel prices come from Google's partners."
Zooming out a bit further on the above ad unit to look at the entire search result page, we can now see the following:
- 4 text ad units above the map
- huge map which segments demand by price tier, current sales, luxury, average review, geographic location
- organic results below the above wall of ads, and the number of organic search results has been reduced from 10 to 7
How many scrolls does one need to do to get past the above wall of ads?
If one clicks on one of the hotel prices the follow up page is ... more ads.
Check out how the ad label is visually overwhelmed by a bright blue pop over.
Worth noting Google Chrome has a built-in ad blocking feature which allows them to strip all ads from displaying on third party websites if they follow Google's best practices layout used in the search results.
You won't see ads on websites that have poor ad experiences, like:
- Too many ads
- Annoying ads with flashing graphics or autoplaying audio
- Ad walls before you can see content
When these ads are blocked, you'll see an "Intrusive ads blocked" message. Intrusive ads will be removed from the page.
The following 4 are all true:
- Google buys entire businesses, guts them & sells them for parts.
- Google's core business model is selling paid links with ever lighter disclosure.
- Some SEOs suggest selling links or exposure is beneath them.
- Ex-Google employees leverage their past gains to buy well linked sites like Money.com.
Hotels have been at the forefront of SEO for many years. They drive massive revenues & were perhaps the only vertical ever referenced in the Google rater guidelines which stated all affiliate sites should be labeled as spam even if they are helpful to users.
Google has won most of the profits in the travel market & so they'll need to eat other markets to continue their 20% annual growth.
Some people who market themselves as SEO experts not only recognize this trend but even encourage this sort of behavior:
Zoopla, Rightmove and On The Market are all dominant players in the industry, and many of their house and apartment listings are duplicated across the different property portals. This represents a very real reason for Google to step in and create a more streamlined service that will help users make a more informed decision. ... The launch of Google Jobs should not have come as a surprise to anyone, and neither should its potential foray into real estate. Google will want to diversify its revenue channels as much as possible, and any market that allows it to do so will be in its sights. It is no longer a matter of if they succeed, but when.
The dominance Google has in core profitable vertical markets also exists in the news & general publishing categories. Some publishers get more traffic from Google Discover than from Google search. Inclusion in Google Discover requires using Google's proprietary AMP format.
Publishers which try to turn off Google's programmatic ads find their display ad revenues fall off a cliff:
"Nexstar Media Group Inc., the largest local news company in the U.S., recently tested what would happen if it stopped using Google’s technology to place ads on its websites. Over several days, the company’s video ad sales plummeted. “That’s a huge revenue hit,” said Tony Katsur, senior vice president at Nexstar. After its brief test, Nexstar switched back to Google." ... "Regulators who approved that $3.1 billion deal warned they would step in if the company tied together its offerings in anticompetitive ways. In interviews, dozens of publishing and advertising executives said Google is doing just that with an array of interwoven products."
News is operating like many other (broken) markets. The Salt Lake Tribune converted to a nonprofit organization.
Many local markets have been consolidated down to ownership by a couple private equity shop roll ups looking to further consolidate the market. Gatehouse Media is acquiring Gannett.
The Washington Post - owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos - is creating an ad tech stack which serves other publishers & brands, though they also believe a reliance on advertiser & subscription revenue is unsustainable: “We are too beholden to just advertiser and subscriber revenue, and we’re completely out of our minds if we think that’s what’s going to be what carries us through the next generation of publishing. That’s very clear.”
We are nearing many inflection points in many markets where markets that seemed somewhat disconnected from search will still end up being dominated by Google. Gmail, Android, Web Analytics, Play Store, YouTube, Maps, Waze ... are all additional points of leverage beyond the core search & ads products.
Google is investing heavily in quantum computing. Google Fiber was a nothingburger to force competing ISPs into accelerating expensive network upgrades, but beaming in internet services from satellites will allow Google to bypass local politics, local regulations & heavy network infrastructure construction costs. A startup named Kepler recently provided high-bandwidth connectivity to the Arctic. When Google launches a free ISP there will be many knock on effects causing partners to long for the day where Google was only as predatory as they are today.
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