Solving the Customer Intimacy Problem with ABM + AI

customer intimacy
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“Marketers have an intimacy problem,” admits Demandbase CMO Peter Isaacson. “Not the kind of intimacy problem that can be cured by a little blue pill, but the type of problem that exists between marketers and companies and their customers and prospects.” Once upon a time, argues Isaacson, sellers had intimate knowledge of their customers. Think of the old corner grocer, who knew exactly what kind of bread, milk or produce his customers liked. Those days are long gone.

Technology was supposed to reestablish this lost intimacy. Back in the day, B2B companies established close relationships through activities like golf. But in addition to making for some strange bedfellows, golf simply isn’t scalable. The tech panacea was much anticipated, but it ultimately flopped. Marketers got lazy. They got hooked on technology that was all about volume. Intimacy was replaced by volume, and the results were akin to a spray-and-pray shotgun approach to problems that should be solved with the precision of a sharpshooting rifleman.

“We’ve become so focused on volume that we lose sight of what the actual results should be,” said Isaacson. “You’re lucky to get a .15 percent CTR on millions of impressions for a digital ad,” he continued.  “Yet we pollute the Internet with millions and millions of ads every day.”

Lead generation yields a similarly pathetic conversion to won business, generally less than .3 percent. Thousands of emails and phone calls in an inbound or outbound sales development campaign might produce a 2 percent conversion rate, while marketing automation entails hundreds of thousands of emails for a paltry 4 percent CTR. “How can we have any kind of connection with our customers or prospects with those kinds of results?” asks Isaacson.

So how to regain that lost intimacy of yore? “What we need most out of technology is to help form the one-on-one connection with our customers and prospects at scale,” said Isaacson. With a combination of account-based marketing and artificial intelligence, “this time technology actually has a shot at making a difference for us,” he added. “ABM is a really important trend. You cannot form an intimate relationship with your customers or prospects if you don’t have a deep understanding of their accounts. ABM is a fundamental part of reestablishing intimacy with your customers and prospects.”

AI is the second part of the solution, asserts Isaacson. “AI is giving you the ability to understand at a very deep and meaningful level the intended behavior of the accounts you’re focusing on and the individuals on those accounts. It’s really going to make — and is already making — a fundamental difference.”

Isaacson acknowledged that ABM and AI may be “somewhat overhyped” at the moment. However, “they’re really delivering value, and the value that they can deliver together is intimacy at scale,” or reestablishing one-to-one relationships with customers and prospects to fundamentally understand who they are, what their problems are and what they need.”

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Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for U.S. news. Based in San Francisco, he is the editor and publisher of Moral Low Ground and is a Yahoo! Featured Political Contributor.