ABM is Not a Horse Race: An Open Letter to Analyst Firms

Dear “Big Brand” Analyst Firm,

We just reviewed your latest ABM Landscape Report, which has a nice looking visual placing 10+ different ABM vendors in an X-Y layout, with one well-funded vendor in the coveted “top right corner”. You approached us earlier this year to participate. You collected a lot of detailed information. Your lead analyst spent 45 minutes 1:1 with us, at a recent industry event “to pick our brains”. You featured us in your first ABM report a year ago. Our business has grown stronger since, with many new, global, B2B enterprise clients. And yet, you sent us a letter that said:

“We will not be including your company in the upcoming ABM Landscape Report. The analysts writing this report considered a number of factors in making this decision, such as vendor revenue, product revenue, breadth of offering, and interest from our clients.”

At first we were concerned. Then we were confused. And now that we have reviewed your report, we want to say:

“Thank You for Not Including Us!”

With all respect to our fellow ABM vendors and partners, we’d like to provide you and your peer Analyst Firms with some feedback of our own:

The World Does Not Need 10+ All-in-One ABM Platforms

Your entire report evaluates 10+ ABM tech providers across 10 different ABM capability areas. You rank and score providers across all 10 areas, and then place them on an X-Y grid. Of course, when you collected the information from us, we had no idea how you planned to use the information. And now that we do, here’s the core issue: Being an All-in-One ABM Platform is NOT the end goal for many ABM vendors (nor should it be!)

“All-in-One ABM Platform” Today is Just an Idea, Not a Reality

We can all agree that no single platform today, even those positioning as All-in-One platforms are anywhere close to delivering all the capabilities needed, across a complex, enterprise-scale ABM process, equally well.

Customers Want To Add-On, Not Rip and Replace Entire Platforms and Process

The Customers we work with are all adding 1 to 3 capabilities at a time that gets them onto their ABM journey from a more traditional demand-generation world, or closes a gap with their current ABM process. They are looking for an open approach, that leverages their existing investment in back-bone platforms (MAPs, CRMs), and brings new ABM data and analytics into their current demand gen process. They are carefully watching their budgets, spending on what’s additive and essential, so they can quickly demonstrate ROI from new ABM investments.

Customers Want What’s a “Best-in-Class” Capability In any ABM Platform

From where we stand, Customers are not interested in comparing ABM vendors on “breadth of capabilities” as we often see in analyst reports. They are looking to understand the 1 to 3 capabilities which any specific ABM platform can deliver on really well. They then map out alternative ABM providers for this same capability, and then choose ABM vendor partners.

“All-in-One ABM” Is Not Necessarily the Right End Goal for Everyone

We don’t believe current analyst reports as they are typically laid out helps Customers accomplish their goals. Many reports recommend, just as you do, that both ABM vendors and Customers pursue “Breadth of Capabilities” and an “All-in-One approach” over everything else – as if All-in-One ABM through a single platform should be the primary aspirational end goal. We couldn’t disagree more!

A Better Way: Why Not Map the Best of Each ABM Platform to Customer Needs?

Rather than a “horse race” of All-in-One ABM Platforms, what if your report was organized to match the way Customers are building out their ABM tech stack? What if you framed it in the following way:

  • Frame a series of steps that apply for moving to an ABM approach from today’s demand generation processes at B2B companies.
  • Explain each step, recommend sources of ABM data, and suggest ways to repurpose current capabilities for ABM, using the Customer’s existing suite of B2B marketing, sales and ad-technologies.
  • Help Customers identify their likely biggest gap areas to realizing a functional ABM process, as they begin to move their demand generation from a lead-based to an account-based approach.
  • Present the top 2 to 3 choices for ABM vendor partners who can plug or fill each critical gap area (e.g. Account Selection & Prioritization, Program Execution for Account Engagement, ABM Analytics) in an updated, ABM-oriented, demand gen process
  • Drill down on the differentiation between vendors who can service a specific gap area.

“Cash on Hand” in an Emerging Market Does Not Equate to Customer Adoption

We know of several providers in your report who have similar revenue levels to ours. $3MM in VC money does not equate to $3MM in revenues. And by the way, it is a lot harder to support and service 10 large, global, enterprise clients than 50-100 SMB clients.

We would encourage you and fellow analyst firms to look more closely at Customer traction as a key metric, versus “Cash on Hand”. The one true yardstick of growth has to be Customer adoption, and not VC funds raised. We have all seen many VC-backed companies burn through cash, and exit the ABM space in the past few months.

You Play An Important Role – Let’s Avoid Horse Races, And Work Together

Building an business, especially a B2B SaaS business in an emerging category such as ABM, you will agree, is hard work. Your vendor partners are investing millions of dollars in bringing some compelling capabilities to market. By creating “horse races” and an unnecessary competitive dynamic, you are pitting vendors against one another when it is not even warranted.

You cause confusion for Customers when you do not explain best alternative providers for each specific ABM capability. Wrong framing only slows down sales conversations for everyone. You end up doing the larger industry and our mutual Customers a disservice.

Let’s Highlight What’s Good, Help Customers, And Grow the Industry Together

You do offer an important service. Each vendor has something interesting to offer. So why not highlight what they offer and stand behind as a business? Truly understand what class of customer and specific use cases they want to support and service the best. Then share that with mutual customers after your due diligence by talking to the vendor’s Customers. Setup a process for both vendors and your Customers to add to what you’ve learned. With less confused Customers, we’d see faster adoption of innovation, with the resulting benefits to everyone.

We’d welcome further conversation. Just write us a comment or note below. Or write us directly.


The Kwanzoo Team

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