Demandbase CMO Peter Isaacson on the power of ABM

14. March 2019

When Demandbase began 10 years ago, it served primarily as a data company, identifying and selling data about companies to other companies.

While this was a good start for businesses in identifying who they should be targeting in their B2B marketing, the folks at Demandbase noticed a need for not just the data, but recommendations for how to use that data.

This is where Demandbase’s evolution began, eventually turning into what is now a leading account-based marketing (ABM) company, serving upwards of 500 clients and growing steadily.

To learn more about where the company began, where it is now, and where it’s headed, we sat down with Demandbase CMO Peter Isaacson.

ClickZ: Let’s start with the basics. In a few words, what do you do?

Peter Isaacson: Simply put, account-based marketing (ABM) is about identifying companies that are going to have the biggest impact on your revenue and then aligning your marketing and sales teams and activities around those companies. We’re exclusively B2B, meaning we work with companies who want to target other companies.

CZ: So what exactly does that process look like for the client?

PI: When a client first begins with Demandbase, we do a couple things. The first thing we do is work together to identify and understand what problem it is that they’re trying to solve. It’s all about determining the focus of your sales and marketing.

Once we have the goals and strategy in place, we use fairly sophisticated data science, AI, and machine learning to identify which companies are going to have the biggest impact on a business’s revenue, utilizing predictive and intent-based technologies.

From there, the client has access to a platform dashboard where they can do a lot of different things. They can understand what exactly is happening with the accounts that they’re targeting. Are they engaging with marketing? Are they coming to the website? What actions do they take there?

Through the dashboard, they can also create segmented audiences and launch different marketing campaigns. For instance, a lot of companies make it a goal to take care of their current customers to keep them engaged and interested. The client can create a target audience with current customers and launch a marketing campaign specific to those people.

Conversely, the client can then create a target audience for prospective customers, tailoring the messages just to them. The platform will in turn provide the client with measurements and metrics to see how those campaigns are doing and what they might need to do differently.

CZ: Is all of this marketing done manually by the client or can it also be automated?

PI: Well, one thing we recognize is that marketers hate a black box. They don’t necessarily want AI or machine learning or anything automated to automatically activate on something without the marketer knowing why and having a hand in it.

That component is very important to us. As we show signs of intent and interest, we don’t just say, “Hey, this person is showing high intent, so we’re going to advertise to them.” Instead, we show the marketer the signals that drive the intent, like what articles these people are reading and what actions they’re taking when they’re online.

Rather than just looking back at old habits, we can actually use AI and machine learning to identify early signals of intent and, in real time, use Demandbase’s platform to launch campaigns, website personalization, etc. Our clients are able to target the right people at the right time with the right message.

We always give our clients the ability to see what’s behind the recommendations that are being made and let them decide whether to automate, do it manually, or have some kind of combination of the two.

CZ: Does Demandbase integrate with marketing platforms to allow the client to implement these marketing strategies easily?

PI: Of course. With something like email marketing platforms, it’s important to remember that those don’t give you the ability to initiate campaigns against accounts because they’re built on individual contacts. So we integrate with marketing automation and email platforms that allow for account-based campaigns.

Typically in email marketing automation, everything is about the individual, so each individual person is a file that the contact is built around. With an account-based solution like ours, we target entire organizations, allowing clients to organize at the account level, not just the individual.

CZ: You mentioned also bringing sales teams and activities into the mix. How does Demandbase help not just a client’s marketing team, but a sales team as well?

PI: The old school way of B2B marketing and demand generation was based off of the belief that leads were leads were leads.

Marketing teams used to see any lead coming in from any individual at all as something that should be nurtured, qualified, and kicked to the sales team.

The sales teams would then grow frustrated, complaining that they were receiving thousands of indiscriminate leads that weren’t qualified or worth pursuing and were — quite frankly — wasting everyone’s time.

This is where ABM comes in, aligning the marketing and the sales teams with the common goals and strategies and allowing companies to really focus on a discreet set of accounts.

CZ: Demandbase really has come a long way in the last 10 years

PI: Truly! What’s really exciting about ABM as a category is how quickly it’s evolved. As a matter of fact, we’re releasing a book this month that was written by me, Demandbase Founder and CEO Chris Golec, and VP of ABM Strategy Jessica Fewless.

The three of us were talking about it the other day, saying that if we had written this book three or four years ago, it would’ve been an entirely different book. The technology surrounding ABM has advanced so much in the last few years alone.

2019 is shaping up to be a big year for ABM. With our book coming out alongside our upcoming ABM Innovation Summit that’s attracting around 1000 B2B marketers, making it by far the biggest ABM-directed event yet, we know that this is a big moment for ABM.

Demandbase quick facts

HQ: San Francisco

Year founded: 2006

Clients: 500

Employees: 250

Martech category: Account-based marketing

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