The New Way Forward In B2B: Account-Based Experience

Account-Based Marketing

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Steve Lucas, SVP of Marketo, an Adobe company, on Thursday challenged the thousands of attendees at Adobe Summit—The Digital Experience Conference to make every experience count.

“Experience,” he said, “is the line between epic and epic failure.”

With that, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen came on stage to discuss with Lucas Adobe’s 2018 acquisition of Marketo. Narayen provided some insight for other companies that may be considering their own M&As. To ensure a perfect union, an alignment in business mission, people, and culture is required, he said.

Narayen also talked about the experience mandate, which is spreading to organizations across B2C and B2B. His advice: “Digital is either a headwind or tailwind, and it is up to you to decide. The tailwind [mentality] lets you service your customers better.”

Lucas asked the audience of marketers to think about the experiences that engage them every day, as well as how much they’ve changed in just the past 10 years. Uber, without the great experience that is associated with it, is simply getting into a stranger’s car, he said. And Airbnb, without experience, is sleeping in a stranger’s home.

“It’s clear that experience is the true differentiator,” Lucas said. “It comes down to this: Experience makes or breaks a business. Case in point: Coachella vs. Fyre Festival. Coachella, time and time again, delivers amazing experiences to festival attendees. Fyre Festival, in contrast, is a pile of hot garbage.”

Helping B2B Meet the Experience Mandate

For B2B marketers, making experience their business means thinking beyond CRM. “The future of how we engage companies is not based on what people say, but what they do,” Lucas said.
CRM, he said, is inherently flawed as a marketing solution because it is built for salespeople. It relies heavily on salesperson input and perceptions about customers, and is based on what customers have said. But, Lucas said, building a selling strategy based on what people say instead of what they do isn’t the right strategy going forward.

B2B marketers need different data. “We care about people and campaigns—who [customers] are, what they read, how often they visit,” Lucas said. “We want to know which campaigns are moving them through the journey.”

The solution? Account-based experience, an entirely new way to identify, engage with, and deliver new experiences to account-based buying teams. That’s why Lucas said he is excited about this week’s announcement about a strategic partnership involving Adobe, Microsoft, and LinkedIn, which will help marketers gain a deeper, real-time understanding of targeted accounts and audiences more effectively through rich account profiles.

For his part, Lucas announced an industry-first partnership with conversational marketing platform Drift to power customer experiences with “conversational account-based marketing” (ABM) via live chat, one of the fastest-growing channels for B2B marketers. The partnership will allow marketers to personalize every website visit from a target account with a personalized conversation in real-time, as well as track all ABM conversations and attribute them back to revenue.

Jessica Kao, director of client services at consultancy Digital Pi, came on stage to discuss the challenges and opportunities that B2B marketers face with ABM.

“There are three main challenges that I see over and over,” Kao said. “First is the data challenges. We all want to jump right to creating that target list of accounts. But let’s face it: We all have bad data, and a lot of it is incomplete. Second, there’s not enough holistic coordination across all the various touch points.”

The third challenge, she said, is organizational alignment. Interactions with sales are separate from what’s going on in marketing. “It’s like the right hand isn’t talking to the left hand,” she said. In addition, most marketing teams don’t know what sales teams are saying or sending to target accounts, she said.

When ABM goes wrong, Kao said, customer experiences can suffer.

3 Ways Nvidia Is Moving the Needle

Alix Hart, global head of digital marketing at Nvidia, an AI computing platform for leading researchers, developers, and data scientists, talked about her B2B company’s digital transformation and how important ABM has been to that transformation.
“[Our customers are] the Einsteins and Da Vincis of our time, solving what was impossible only a few years ago, enabled and accelerated by the computing systems from Nvidia,” Hart told attendees. “They win Nobel prizes in physics and Oscars for technical effects, design self-driving cars, and find new methods to detect tumors early. They are changing the world.”

To successfully engage these individuals and the corporations they work for, Nvidia saw it needed to approach them with purpose and inspire them to better understand how its technology and systems could be used to accelerate their work and help train their teams.

“In a word, we have to be intelligent, listening and responding with just the right content that is relevant to their industry and the work they do,” Hart said.

Hart shared three ways Nvidia moved its needle. First, it built a platform to bring its customer data together, both digital and in-product data. Second, the company overhauled every experience—from websites to email templates to nurture journeys.

“We improved lead score models and pulled in predictive scoring tools, building some in-house with our data science team,” she said. “We built programs for the middle of the journey, where we most want to engage, share industry innovation, invite them to seminars and training, and celebrate their work.”

Third, Nvidia’s marketing organization partners very closely with its sales team to vet new models and get feedback on what’s working. Case in point: Nvidia’s social monitoring was inaccurately predicting sentiment much of the time. For example, posts about early tumor detection were classified as negative.

Nvidia marketers worked with the AI research team, who created a new algorithm and improved accuracy to over 80%. The company also created a customer segment scorecard to better understand engagement upstream in the journey so it can optimize its content faster, Hart said.

“Our goal is to intelligently connect and engage across a wide set of customers, from avid gamers to AI researchers, to create new customer relationships and build on existing ones—intelligently,” Hart said. “Bringing our data together for a unified view of the customer, and focusing on intelligent experiences and insights [was key].”

This post originally appeared on CMO.com March 28, 2019.