AiThority Interview with Eric Wittlake, Senior Marketing Analyst at TOPO
Tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at TOPO.
As an Analyst in TOPO’s Marketing practice, I’ve had the privilege of spending more than two years learning about and working with some of the best organizations as they implement and improve their account-based strategies.
Specifically, I spend my time on four primary things: (1) studying account-based as a go-to-market strategy, (2) publishing research, including benchmarks, frameworks, best practices, tools and technology perspectives for account-based, (3) advising clients on how to address critical challenges and help them apply best practices in their own business, and (4) engage with practitioners and leaders across the industry through events and in small group settings.
How has the ABM technology landscape evolved in the last two years?
One of the most important technology changes in the last two years has been the emergence of account-based platforms.
Two years ago, many of the account-based technology solutions served a single primary purpose, leaving organizations to cobble together a complete solution that stretched from account selection through to measurement. This put organizations often in one of two camps: using highly manual processes to stitch everything together, or targeting a list of accounts with just one or two tactics and not actually achieving a significant level of coordination.
The other key change has been the emergence of intent data as an increasingly important solution for prioritizing accounts. As organizations look to scale their account-based initiatives (the #1 challenge identified by respondents in TOPO’s recently released Account Based-Benchmark Report), intent data becomes even more important as a way of selecting accounts for inclusion into specific programs.
How does ABM strategy enable Marketing teams to improve on their current deliverables?
An account-based strategy gives marketers focus, letting them invest more against the accounts that matter the most. You see the difference across many of the things Marketing was already doing:
- Marketers develop deeper insight into their target accounts and the key individuals at those accounts.
- They invest in more impactful direct mail and advertising programs just for those accounts.
- They create customized content and specific research to drive engagement at specific accounts.
- They put on small high-end events just for their most valuable accounts.
These activities aren’t new, but the increased focus allows marketers to take many of these traditional activities to the next level.
How could the Marketing and Sales Technology customers benefit from your Account-Based Benchmark Report?
We are seeing two immediate benefits of our Account-Based Benchmark Report for TOPO clients:
First, having access to benchmarks gives companies something to measure their own results against and is an additional source of input into their planning and forecasting. The benchmark data includes data points such as the average improvement in ACV and win rates that organizations achieve through an account-based strategy.
Second, the benchmark isolates many of the practices that differentiate the best account-based organizations, which helps set a path for organizations to follow when implementing or improving their existing account-based strategy. Two examples of this are the importance of investing in the creation of a robust ideal customer profile and the specific tactics companies say are important to the success of their programs.
What are the key takeaways from the report that CMOs and Marketing leaders should focus on?
I’ll highlight three of them for you. First, an account-based strategy is a strategic choice that drives key business metrics. 80% of respondents see an improvement in customer lifetime value, 75% see better retention rates, and 86% see high win rates. But if you are looking at this as a new lead generation campaign, you’ll be disappointed.
Second, account-based creates an incredibly efficient funnel. On average, organizations win 11% of the accounts they target. In contrast, a demand-gen approach often converts just 0.25% to 1.0% of leads to revenue. The ability to name where we are going to win is what lets us change those metrics in a way we haven’t been able to before.
Finally, Marketing cannot do this alone. An account-based strategy requires a coordinated effort across customer-facing functions. When marketers ranked the most important tactics, they selected SDR outreach by a wide margin.
What predictions do you have for the maturity of CRM and Marketing Automation with ABM?
I expect vendors will invest, both through acquisitions and product development, in improved support for account-based strategies. Today, people make the solutions they have work out of necessity, but they are not mature solutions for account-based.
Account-based platforms and Marketing Automation platforms will ultimately end up competing to become the single primary platform for marketers. I expect this new competitive threat to significantly increase the pace of investment and innovation in Marketing Automation over the next 12 to 18 months, and it is going to make for competition in the space that is fun to see again.
Tell us more about the “Future of ABM” with a current roadmap into intent data and Location-based targeting. Which technologies would make further inroads into the ABM industry?
We need the ability to work from shared data and insights across disparate groups in the organization. This includes account insights, such as intent data, a shared view of how we are pursuing the account, and a consolidated view of the engagement we are seeing with each account. Today, we still don’t share information across our organizations in highly usable and actionable ways.
I expect intent data to have a great year, as companies increasingly adopt it not just for prioritization and selection of accounts, but also start using it as an input into segmentation. We’ll continue to see companies integrate intent data into other solutions to make it more actionable and accessible across the organization.
Three technology areas I expect to see show increased adoption in account-based are direct mail solutions, integrated Marketing Automation, and Sales Engagement platforms, and chat, including chatbots. While all three have traction, they are underutilized today and I expect we’ll see them continue to grow.
Which start-up ideas and companies are you keenly following?
While I pay attention to a broad range of ideas, companies, and technologies, areas such as Artificial Intelligence are impossible to avoid as a topic today. I’m also very interested in data privacy and the impact it will have. I fully expect that some of the most important changes for Marketing in the next decade will come from society, not from Marketing Technology and Marketing data.
Thank you, Eric! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Eric Wittlake studies the account-based market in TOPO’s marketing practice. Prior to joining TOPO, he spent more than 15 years creating and executing demand generation, marketing, and advertising programs for B2B (and a few B2C) companies.
TOPO is a research and advisory firm that helps the world’s fastest-growing companies grow… well, faster. We do this by analyzing the patterns, behaviors, and plays that drive exceptional revenue growth at the world’s fastest-growing companies. This data informs everything we do for our customers, whether it’s a custom sales playbook, strategic advisory support, or intensive training.