A Peek Behind the ABM Curtain (second in series)

An Interview with Mahesh Jeswani (aka MJ), Principal Product Manager/Head of Product for Account Based Marketing Products Marketo

Kwanzoo: Mahesh, your CEO Steve Lucas recently claimed that “We’re the Best in Marketing Automation” – a space that focuses on lead generation, contacts, and MQLs. So why roll out Marketo ABM?

Jeswani: When you listen to a lot of the people who are talking about or doing Account Based Marketing (ABM), a lot of what they are discussing sounds similar to marketing automation software-related requirements. If you look at the large enterprise companies that Marketo sells to, you will see as they use Marketo for their broad-based or lead-based marketing that the next question that comes up is “What if we had account-based marketing built right within the same Marketo platform that we have been using over the years for traditional marketing?” It is a natural thought progression from a marketing perspective. That is why at Marketo we believe that ABM should live within the Marketo engagement platform and now we have made it a reality by delivering a new best-in-class ABM product few months ago.  

Kwanzoo: Does Marketo ABM require users to think differently about accounts, campaigns, KPIs, etc.?

Jeswani: If you look at how Marketo has been implemented through the years, marketers have invested a lot of time and resources building best practices around content, campaigns, reporting, scoring, etc. ABM is not a replacement of what these marketers have been doing—it is a complementary approach that also leverages the work that marketers have built into the marketing automation platforms to go after those highly focused target markets. Marketo ABM increases the ROI by providing essential tools to target accounts, engage key people from those accounts across channels with high level of personalization and measure success using account-level metrics such as engagement, pipeline, sales cycle and revenue by allowing marketers to leverage their existing investments.

Kwanzoo: Earlier you called Marketo an “engagement platform.” How do you see platforms such as Marketo ABM helping sales and marketing teams in the next year?

Jeswani: We see ABM as one of the top initiatives for our customers in 2017. One of the key reason is to bring tighter alignment between the marketing and the sales teams and ABM is undoubtedly an effective approach to bring that level of alignment between the two teams. Another key reason is to engage high-value accounts across channels with consistent messaging and high-level of personalization. New technologies are generating more and more touch points for marketers to consider. Look at Slack. That has become a go-to-market tool for every organization. With more of these tools entering the market, marketers need a platform that can be adapted and configured to accommodate these ever-growing touch points. Therefore we are focused on delivering the best-in-class ABM solution that will allow closer collaboration between the sales and marketing teams and cross-channel personalized engagement for targeted accounts through a unified platform.

Kwanzoo: Marketo ABM relies on strategic partnerships with best-in-breed vendors. Where do you see ABM display ad and retargeting campaigns fitting in with Marketo ABM?

Jeswani: Display ad and retargeting is a great complement to marketing automation regardless of it is for demand generation or ABM. That is we are making our platform more open and flexible so strategic technology partners such as Kwanzoo can easily plug into any new tools which Marketo will build in the future. Even the ABM platform which we launched a few months ago is open enough for Kwanzoo to plug into and run display ad campaigns to the targeted accounts which are managed within the Marketo ABM platform. Display advertising is a very important channel not only for Marketo customers but for Marketo’s overall strategy going forward from a product perspective.

Kwanzoo: When it comes to ABM there seems to be a lot more data and touch points to deal with. How is Marketo ABM going to use that data to help sales and marketing teams?

Jeswani: Yes, you are right. We are seeing that as more and more large enterprises become Marketo customers the amount of data coming to Marketo from the outside (websites, emails, adtech and IoT platforms) is enormous. We are building a new platform that can scale, handle this volume of data, and provide strong performance—while allowing us to manage relevant activities in an optimal way. We want to provide a way to “listen” to all the touch point activities in milliseconds. We are not only changing our architecture but we are changing our user interface as well. We are looking to revolutionize the way data is processed not only at the back end but also at the UI level. We want to give marketers access and insight from billions of activities almost instantly. The way that decisions will be made in the future will certainly change. Timing and adjustments can be much faster—impacting performance, productivity, and revenue.

Kwanzoo: Obviously Marketo sees ABM as more than just the latest “shiny object” for sales and marketing. Where do you see ABM opportunities evolving in the near future?

Jeswani: In the coming year, you are going to see Marketo focus a lot on sales enablement. Over the last few years Marketo has been focusing on building tools for marketers and less on building tool for enabling the sales teams. We are now looking at building richer tools for enabling the sales teams. Imagine an app that the sales team can use daily to not only get insights from Marketo at both lead and account level but to collaborate closely with the marketing team on common objectives. This is the high level direction we are taking around sales enablement. We are looking to provide better collaboration between sales and marketing from an ABM perspective on those target accounts that both organizations are mutually going after.

Kwanzoo: The ABM technology landscape seems to be ever growing and changing.  Where do you see Marketo ABM fitting in to that landscape?

Jeswani: Yes, I agree. The ABM technology stack is growing at a very fast pace. In fact, I picked up a brochure at a conference recently that showed that there were more than 100 startups providing some kind of ABM solution. That tells me that there is a huge need, which everyone is realizing, that the marketing automation software like Marketo must satisfy. It makes it clear for us. When it comes to ABM, we want to be the “go to” platform for automating end to end Account Based Marketing needs for marketing and sales teams. Now having said that, we at the same time are not saying that we will build everything within Marketo.

We are saying that we will build essential components that are required by marketing organizations to build a foundation of ABM. Once marketers have the foundation through our platform, they can then access integrated, specialized solutions like Kwanzoo to enhance the value of Marketo ABM. Our idea of the essential components begins with the ability to manage accounts. In the past Marketo has been focused on “leads” so changing the platform and introducing an object such as an “account” object is a very important need to satisfy for Account Based Marketing. So, we have built an account object. We have built a management tool that manages the whole lifecycle of your accounts within Marketo.

The immediate benefit of this approach is that the Marketo instances already have good integration with CRM systems such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. You get instant value. With other tools that are not platforms you need to have the integration first built out. So, the first essential component is management. A second essential component includes the ability to engage people from those accounts across different channels. You need a platform that can quickly adopt new channels and allow you to engage those people from the target accounts. We are providing a cross-channel orchestration capability within Marketo by the way you build your campaigns. Or you can build your campaigns at an account level and orchestrate those accounts across the channels.

A third essential component is the ability to measure success at the account level. Let’s say that your ABM technology stack has six solutions in it. At the end of the day, you need a way to “stitch” all of the reporting and performance measurement together. That is exactly how Marketo ABM was designed. We have a dashboard that “stitches things together” and provides you with aggregated information and insights at an account level. This is highly important to truly measure success in ABM. These are the essential components that we have addressed in Marketo ABM.

Obviously, this is just the beginning. We have built great relationships among accounts, leads, opportunities, and activities. So, for the future, we are taking these relationships to build “account teams.” With these identified teams you can know which internal stakeholders (account owner, sales development rep, etc.) are focusing on specific accounts so that Marketing can collaborate with Sales on a day-to-day basis. Can you see the power of associating objects such as account teams, opportunities, and activities together on the same platform? Once we have the object relationships worked out, sales and marketing misalignment should go away. Everyone will have the same information in front of them when they are looking at specific target accounts. Some of our customers are already realizing this benefit.

Kwanzoo: Mahesh, can you talk a little bit about the challenges of implementing ABM with so many different pieces to manage such as data?

Jeswani: Absolutely. Having an optimized set of data consistently across the different systems when you are executing ABM is a highly important aspect of implementing ABM. As I work with customers coming on board with Marketo ABM I see three challenges around ABM implementation and execution. The top challenge focuses on organization. Before implementing ABM, it is critical for Sales and Marketing to align with each other. If Sales and Marketing are not in alignment around the targeted accounts, the whole ABM strategy will fail. I have seen companies spend a lot of money and time setting up their ABM initiative only to have Sales come back and complain about the lack of results when engagement does not happen right away. The two groups are not on the same page and have not mutually agreed upon the objectives.

The second challenge focuses on operations. Right now there is a lack of ABM best practices. Here at Marketo we produce our definitive guides on a variety of topics. There is no document out there that walks through the ABM process from end to end—that tells the whole story of ABM and how to go about it. There are many solutions today and everyone has a different view of what ABM is doing and how it should be implemented. I see customers getting really confused. Marketo is trying to step up with our services team and LaunchPoint ecosystem partners to come out with best practice guides and blogs and to implement these best practices in our engagements with our partners.

The third challenge focuses around the technology stack. There are a lot of attractive, specialized solutions out there and marketers want to try them all. The problem at the end of the day is trying to stitch all those solutions together—and making them work together. Very tricky. Marketers do not realize this challenge as they buy each individual solution but they do see it over time. So, to us, it makes sense for marketers to start with the technology that they have already employed—Marketo—and build a foundation from it. Then start extending. Have confidence using partners that have been certified by Marketo like Kwanzoo. Marketo will recommend Kwanzoo to our customers who have display ad needs and hopefully we have earned their trust. If a customer chooses to use someone who is not certified and part of our LaunchPoint ecosystem then they are going to struggle from an integration perspective. I always tell customers to please step back and take a long look before they employ any new technology.

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