May 14, 2021 BrandGen Team

The Future of ABM Without Third-Party Data


Account-based marketing is a key tool in reaching, educating and nurturing the right accounts and contacts in the B2B world. As technology continues to advance, it’s important to stay aware of the changes that could affect the way that ABM happens, both from a technical and strategic standpoint. While ABM, as we know it today, has accelerated as a result of technologies that make ABM efficient at scale, significant changes are looming that are going to reshape the ABM technology sphere as we know it today. If you’re using ABM tools or running ABM campaigns, you need to be thinking now about how you’ll adapt to these changes.  

What’s the Future of Account-Based Marketing?

We believe that there are two technological factors happening now and in the near future that are going to significantly impact the practice of ABM.

ABM Orchestration

The first upcoming change centers around ABM Orchestration. The leading MAPs, (marketing automation platforms like HubSpot) are opening their platforms widely for integration with an ecosystem of specialized tools that support ABM strategies. HubSpot is leading the way in API access to their platform, which allows for a wide range of possibilities for catering your tools and processes to work together and work seamlessly in the way that you need them to run.

We believe that this will open the way not only to Sales & Marketing Alignment, but also for Sales & Marketing Orchestration to take place within your existing MAP. With the powerful automation that’s available in a tool like HubSpot, and with their open API architecture, you no longer need another parallel set of tools to run your ABM strategies. Since most B2B businesses have multiple marketing use cases, ie some marketing is devoted to traditional ‘funnel’ or Inbound types of strategies, and some of their marketing requires using ABM tactics, having all of your marketing information in, and automation run in one centralized place makes a lot of sense. No one likes ‘swivel chair computing’, it’s inefficient, time-consuming and error-prone.

Orchestration is just what it sounds like: the planning and coordination of events in order to get a desired outcome. In your ABM campaign, you want to have everything in place so that activities can become automated, allowing your teams to focus on moving accounts through the pipeline and closing more deals.

Ideally, here’s one example of what the perfect ABM campaign will look like:

  • First, a wide variety of companies are visiting your website, and one of them stands out as meeting one of your ICP criteria. There’s a lot of talk about Intent signals in B2B marketing, and there are few clearer intent signals than a prospective company visiting your site.
  • This company is automatically added to your target account list in your MAP.
  • A task is sent to your VP of Sales from your MAP via your CRM to review this company. After a bit of research, your VP of Sales determines that the priority of this account should be raised.
  • Perhaps there was a recent event such as a change in leadership or a funding round that makes the timing good for your business. The change in state of the priority of this account is passed back to your MAP.
  • Based upon the higher priority of this target account, the MAP reaches to your 3rd party data provider and brings back new contacts meeting a pre-determined set of titles or roles.
  • These contacts are passed to the right sales rep for this industry to intensify prospecting at this account.
  • Simultaneously, select contacts from this list, predicated on title or role, are sent to your direct mail integration to be sent dimensional mailers commensurate with their prospective role in a buying group.
  • The target company is passed to your advertising tool and added to an advertising campaign, and when decision-makers at the target company are reading articles related to what you do, a contextually relevant ad is there building your brand and offering your relevant content for engagement. Your advertising tool is gathering engagement signals that are presented back to your sales reps and marketing teams, combined with on-site engagement, email engagement and conversation engagement metrics, all in one place, your MAP.
  • As parameters with that target account changes, such as perhaps the Lifecycle stage, the advertising campaign adapts accordingly.

Everyone has access to the right dashboards that present account engagement and provides visibility both into your sales progress within an account, but also present an aggregated view of your progress in building your brand in that account. Brand building at the account level accelerates deal flow and helps to remove obstacles to sales. (link to Dave Gerhardt video – I’ve asked him if it’s posted somewhere).

HubSpot has built their ABM functionality and APIs to enable just this kind of account orchestration.

Sounds terrific, right? All of those activities can be triggered based on account activity – just like the beautiful sounds of an orchestra!

Third-Party Cookies and Identity Resolution

The second technological factor that will significantly affect ABM is the upcoming change from Google, deprecating the use of 3rd Party Cookies in the Chrome Browser, in order to understand why, we need to take a look at Identity Resolution.

Here’s how third-party data works right now:

  • The advertising ecosystem outside of the walled gardens of Google and Facebook rely on a few firms at the heart of the ecosystem that have created what are called Identity Graphs.
  • You can think of an Identity Graph as a giant spreadsheet – and you are a row in it.
  • When you utilize a free service that requires a login, you’re possibly contributing to the construction of your line in the identity graph.
  • For instance, let’s say that you use a free online invitations site. When you create your login, you provide an email address. At this time, the site drops a cookie in your browser.
  • The internet at large now has a way to match one of your email addresses to a device you use.
  • Now imagine this happening across many websites, and perhaps you use different email addresses and different devices. Given enough activity, the internet (really, Identity Resolution providers) is able to knit a number of devices that you use to a number of email addresses.

What happens next in the advertising ecosystem is what’s called Onboarding. Through an Identity Resolution provider, you can send over a list of email addresses (there’s usually a minimum number they’ll accept in order to create an anonymous cohort audience), and these email addresses are “matched” with an online identifier that enables you to place ads to devices associated with these email addresses. Inevitably there’s a “match rate” associated with onboarding where not all of the email addresses have an online match. This is what happens with many tools that you push emails lists across to in order to build online advertising audiences.

So what are ‘3rd Party Cookies’?

Taking this to the next step, let’s say that you want to advertise to people that meet a certain profile, for instance people within a given credit score range and above a certain income level. Currently, 3rd Party Data Providers such as Experian are more than willing to let you get access to advertising audiences using their data. The query goes to them and they push back a set of hashed emails that are then onboarded to create your advertising audience.

When you consider the fact that there are hundreds of 3rd party data providers onboarding all kinds of audiences you may be a part of without your consent for them all to use your data, you can see why the ad-tech ecosystem is ripe for change. 

In B2B advertising using ABM platforms as they exist today, the 3rd Party Data providers are B2B contacts companies such as Dun & Bradstreet or V12. When you want to reach a given company, and a given title, it’s often the onboarding of this data that enables an ABM provider to target your advertising audience.

While this approach can be effective, you can’t know that a given CIO at a given company is available in a given advertising cookie pool. All that you know is that you’re targeting ads at the intersection of a known company and as many cookies as the ecosystem can provide of “devices that look like they’re operated by people that look like CIOs”.

What Happens Post-Cookies?

Right now, there are a lot of very smart people looking for alternatives to the 3rd Party Cookie ecosystem for advertising targeting, so far, no one has fully cracked the code. The entire advertising ecosystem, including ABM advertising, is going to go through a shock in 2022 if Google holds true to its promise, which right now seems imminent.

While there are other ways to get at “Company” with respect to advertising targeting in a post-cookie world, such as the ability to discover IP addresses of networks and devices associated with a company and tools like pin-and-radius or geofencing geographic targeting, it’s very difficult to replace the 3rd Party Cookie to reach people by Role or Title. Right now this requires a 3rd party data source and advertising audience onboarding.

While there will be some life of 3rd Party Data targeting through an ecosystem being assembled whereby the email is identified by the publisher and the 3rd party data comes around the backside to match a visitor with data, the cross-site targeting ability that advertisers are accustomed to will be significantly reduced, because this will require a publisher to use one of your email addresses to match to their 1st Party Cookie. You’re likely going to see more publishers requiring some type of login for what was formerly free content, often after the first few free articles in a month. This is because they need to this data to attract advertising dollars. More publishers will also look to charge for content, both to supplement possible advertising revenue lost in this new world, as well as to reclaim some of their power lost to ad-tech, by getting those log-in credentials that are suddenly becoming so valuable.

Context Is Everything

Since those strategies aren’t likely to work well in the long run, we believe that an important alternative, and in reality, a potential improvement to targeting members of a buying group in a given company is Context. With contextual ABM advertising, you’re saying, “we know we can reasonably often get at devices associated with a given company fairly accurately, the way that we’re going to identify the ‘who’ is by the content being consumed where the ad would be placed.”

The Benefits of Context Include:

Even if you’re using cookies to target role/title, adding a Contextual layer to your targeting will broaden the reach of your campaigns in target accounts. This will increase the likelihood that you’re reaching all of the buying group, including those that the 3rd Party Data ecosystem may not “see’” and those who are maybe the actual decision-makers or key influencers who may not visit your site at all, or not until very late in the buying journey.

If you’re an Inbound Marketer, you know that Context matters. A CTA that’s contextually related to a blog, and is the “natural next step” in an information journey, will attract far higher engagement. 

Similarly, early tests indicate that a contextually related ad will far outperform an ad that is strictly cookie-targeted but is outside of context (when you’re on eBay shopping for whatever it is you collect, who wants to see an ad about a cybersecurity solution?).

Context matters for both brand building (it’s less creepy and annoying) and campaign performance.

A MAP like HubSpot, that already has significant contextual information (keywords for instance) will become a leader in ABM as context begins to rule.

You know the basics of ABM, so you’re ready to make it happen – and we’re here to help.

Put ABM into practice with our eBook Demystifying Account-Based Marketing: Yes, You Can Make It Happen.

Want to learn more about how can help future proof your campaigns? Let’s talk.

Published by BrandGen Team May 14, 2021