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24 questions to ask ABM vendors before signing the contract

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Most B2B marketing organizations today practice some kind of account-based marketing (ABM) strategy. At its most basic, that means investing marketing and sales resources in guiding high value accounts through the journey to conversion. There are a range of ABM technology solutions available to support this strategy, but selecting and implementing one can be a fraught and expensive process.

Once you’ve gone through the checklist to determine if you need — and are ready for — an ABM solution, the next step is to identify and contact vendors.

Your vendor shortlist. Make a list of all the ABM capabilities you currently have, those that you would like to have and those that you can’t live without. This last category is critical, and will help you avoid making a costly mistake. For example, if enriching your ICPs with deeper technographic data is important, be sure to ask about it during vendor interviews and demos. If you find that one vendor doesn’t offer this “must-have” capability, it’s obviously not a fit.

Take your list of capabilities and then do some research. Speak to your marketing peers to find out who is using which ABM tool and why. Narrow your list down to those vendors that meet your criteria. Submit your list of the ABM capabilities you’ve identified, and set a timeframe for them to reply. Decide whether or not you need to engage in a formal RFI/RFP process. The most effective RFPs only request relevant information and provide ample information about your brand and its ABM needs.

Questions to ask at the demo. Not all the questions on this list will be relevant to your business needs; most will be. But the important thing is to be properly prepared with a comprehensive list of questions prior to the demo. These are our suggestions:

  • How easy is the tool to use?
  • Does the vendor seem to understand our business and our marketing needs?
  • Are they showing us our “must-have” features?
  • Does the tool help identify target accounts?
  • What type of machine learning and/or artificial intelligence does the tool use?
  • Can we segment and view accounts by multiple criteria?
  • Can the tool match existing and new leads to their correct accounts?
  • Can the tool identify anonymous leads and match them to their correct accounts?
  • Does the tool show where visitors came from (channel or campaign)?
  • Does the tool track website visitor actions (i.e., clicks and content views)?
  • Can the tool track visitor actions across all visits?
  • Can we manage cross-channel campaigns (in all of our relevant channels) through the tool?
  • Does the tool help us comply with relevant privacy regulations?
  • Does the tool provide real-time analytics?
  • Does the tool provide summary and/or detailed views of account data and insights?
  • Does the tool measure account engagement? How?
  • Are native integrations with our CRM and/or marketing automation platform available, so we can utilize historical data?
  • If not, is an API available for custom system integrations?
  • How much training will we need to use the software, and what kind of training is available?
  • What level of customer support is offered, and when is it available (i.e., 24/7 vs. 8/5)?
  • What is the turnaround time for support queries/tickets?
  • Are professional services or support available for our transition to ABM?
  • What new features are under consideration?
  • What are the long-term product roadmap and launch dates?

Questions to ask the vendors’ customers. Of course, even the most honest vendor will lean towards giving you the answers you want to hear. That’s why it’s important to ask for customer references. Ideally, the vendor should be able to produce two or three customers with businesses similar to your own (if they don’t have any such customers, that’s a red light).

The conversation with the customer reference probably won’t need to be as detailed as the conversation with the vendor, but here are our tips for questions to ask:

  • Why did you move to an ABM tool?
  • Why did you select this tool over others?
  • Has this tool lived up to your expectations?
  • How long did the system take to implement?
  • Who was involved in the implementation?
  • Are you also using additional tools for account data, competitive intelligence, predictive analytics or event management?
  • Were there any surprises that you wish you’d known about beforehand?
  • Where have you seen the most success? The biggest challenges?
  • How are you measuring your own success?
  • How easy was the set-up process and how long? Did the vendor help?
  • How responsive is customer service?
  • Has there been any down time?
  • What is the most useful, actionable (favorite) report the solution generates?
  • What do you wish they did differently?
  • Why would you recommend this tool?

Get the Marketing Intelligence Report. Much more advice, including information about an extensive range of vendors, is available in our MIR, “Enterprise Account-Based Marketing Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide.” It’s available for free download here.


About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:  

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

2. Understand topical authority: Keywords vs. entities

Google has been talking about topical authority for a long time, and in Discover, it is completely relevant. Traditional SEO includes the use of keywords to position your web pages for a specific search, but the content strategy in Discover should be based on entities, i.e., concepts, characters, places, topics… everything that a Knowledge Panel can have. It is necessary to know in which topics Google considers we have more authority and relevance in order to talk about them.

3. Avoid clickbait in titles

“Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.” This is the opening sentence that describes how headlines should be in Google’s documentation. I always say that it is not about using clickbait but a bit of creativity from the journalist. Generating a good H1 is also part of the job of content creation.

Google also adds:

“Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.”

“Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.

Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”

Do you think this information fits with what you see every day on Google Discover? I would reckon there were many sites that did not comply with this and received a lot of traffic from Discover.

With the last core updates in 2023, Google was extremely hard on news sites and some niches with content focused on Discover, directly affecting E-E-A-T. The impact was so severe that many publishers shared drastic drops in Search Console with expert Lily Ray, who wrote an article with data from more than 150 publishers.

4. Images are important

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at your Discover feed, you’ll see most of the images catch your attention. They are detailed shots of delicious food, close-ups of a person’s face showing emotions, or even images where the character in question does not appear, such as “the new manicure that will be a trend in 2024,” persuading you to click.

Google’s documentation recommends adding “high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover” and notes important technical requirements such as images needing to be “at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting.” You may also have found that media outlets create their own collages in order to have images that stand out from competitors.

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

One of the most important parts of having a website is making sure your audience can find your site (and find what they’re looking for).

The good news is that Google Search Essentials, formerly called Google Webmaster Guidelines, simplifies the process of optimizing your site for search performance.

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