8 Expert Questions to Ask Your ABM Vendor

September 6, 2023

Before you commit to a long-term ABM strategy, ask your ABM vendor these questions.

Not all account-based marketing vendors are created equal and since most B2B deals can take months (if not years) to close, it’s important to figure out exactly what you’re getting with that expensive ABM contract. Below we’ve assembled the 5 most important questions you can ask your ABM provider to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

1. Do you offer reporting on both the account level and the contact level?

Let’s start with the deal breaker. If your ABM vendor doesn’t provide you with reporting at both the account level and contact level, walk away now. Every ABM vendor knows what they're lacking, so sometimes it's easier to ask what’s missing rather than what’s included. However, it's important your ABM solutions have these baseline features: You likely have a target account list, but B2B buying decisions are made by groups of people and individuals within the company, so you need to ensure you are influencing the right ones.

If your ABM provider doesn’t give you contact level data so you can track whether the influencers within your deal have actually seen your ads, then how can you possibly measure your campaigns accurately? Seeing an overall metric at the account level is like viewing your total marketing budget without knowing in which channels the money is being spent.

2. Do you use IP-based targeting or cookie-based targeting?

This is the most important technical question you should ask your provider. While it may seem like a small difference on the back-end of their platform, it actually has a HUGE impact on how your ABM campaigns will be run. Specifically, if your ABM provider is using IP-based targeting they’ll have a lot more limitations to the level of targeting they can perform for you. IP-based targeting uses the IP addresses of the work computers of a company’s employees as a signal that they work for that given company. This means in most scenarios they can only reach an employee on work computers – not personal computers and not on mobile. Lacking cross-device reach is a pretty big limitation, but maybe it’s not a deal breaker.

Where IP-based targeting really becomes a deal breaker is when it comes to persona targeting. Because IP-based targeting is based on location rather than persona, it treats everyone at a company the same way. This means that it will treat the CMO the same way as an Events Coordinator and send the same ad to both. Clearly this presents a huge drawback and it should definitely raise red flags and follow-up questions.

On the other hand, cookie-based targeting allows you to cherry pick the individuals and roles within a company you want to target, and personalize ad messaging to them. It also allows for behavioral targeting as well as cross-device targeting on every device they spend time on throughout their day.

3. Do you offer personalized ads and personalized websites?

One of the key components of an effective account-based marketing strategy is delivering messaging relevant to a prospect’s role in the buying process and the company’s stage in your sales funnel. In an ideal ABM campaign you should be serving personalized ads and, if possible, taking your prospects to a personalized website. In a study by Salesforce, 84% of B2B customers reported that being treated like a person, not a number, is crucial to winning their business. This emphasizes the importance of personalization strategies for B2B companies, as customers increasingly expect tailored experiences. 

We’ve spoken about how important it is to set up individualized content for your target personas, but all that advice is useless if your ABM provider doesn’t allow you to customize your ads on a persona level. While you can certainly do ABM without personalizing your ads and website, in the long run the lower click-through rates (that generic ads are known for) might actually end up costing you more. This certainly isn’t a deal breaker on its own, but paired with a few more shortcomings should make you question your ABM provider further.

4. Is this an all-in-one solution? If not, which features do you NOT provide?

Every ABM vendor knows what their solution is lacking, so sometimes it is easier to ask what’s missing rather than what’s included. A few features that should be important to you:

  • Contact-level reporting
  • Cross-device targeting
  • Persona targeting
  • Personalized ads
  • Personalized website
  • Integrations with Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot, etc.
  • Bi-directional reporting with the above integrations
  • Retargeting

If your ABM provider mentions one or two of the above it shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker. But if they’ve listed 2 or more, you should definitely question them further and look into alternative options. Don’t just settle on the first ABM vendor you happen to research.

5. How do you show ROI and business impact?

If the answer to this question is “we provide air cover,” as in, “we just show people your ads so you’re top of mind,” don’t let them off the hook! This should be a very unsatisfactory answer and it’s a lazy one at best. ABM is all about being highly targeted, highly personalized, and highly impactful. Although it’s true that ABM takes a few months to drive results, the results it drives should be very significant.

Your ABM campaign should ultimately be closing you bigger deals at a faster rate than traditional lead-gen marketing. Your ABM provider should have no problem showing you which accounts were influenced, which people at those target accounts were influenced, and how that was tied into the overall closing of that deal. Again, ABM is a pretty involved marketing tactic so it should be bringing very strong ROI.

6. What type of managed services come with the platform?

One might not think of managed service as part of buying a piece of software, but when it comes to account-based marketing, there are a lot of moving parts and making sure everything is working together how it should. Not to mention, if there are parts of the platform that require more in depth knowledge of capabilities it is much better off having internal experts to help you become comfortable with the platform. Ask if you get a dedicated account manager, customer success manager, or ad operations manager when in negotiation so that you know exactly how much you will have to learn on the fly versus have dedicated support with. Here at RollWorks, you get all three folks to help guarantee success using your ABM platform of choice.

7. How robust is the integration with my CRM?

The CRM is often your company's source of truth, so the ability to send and pass back information from ABM tools into your CRM is crucial to powering your strategy and driving impact through your programs. A bi-directional sync unlocks tons of potential. Also, make sure that information passed back in can easily be manipulated and used to build reports and trigger processes. Fortunately, RollWorks integrates bi-directionally with both Salesforce and HubSpot, so if you use either of those we have you covered! 

8. What's it going to cost me?

The age old question, how expensive is it to use your tool? ABM can seem intimidating when you think about the level of work that goes into creating and running robust programs, not to mention the price tag that can come along with just a tool and not even the programs. That's why making sure the decision makers involved in curating an ABM tool understand cost related to potential return is key. Depending on how mature your strategy is, you might find that an intro level package from an ABM tool makes sense. If you have more experience but lack budget, that same package might work for you. No company is identical and the needs and how you meet those needs will differ, but to think you can't afford a platform to launch ABM programs at scale is just not accurate. 

Key Takeaways as You Search for an ABM Provider

Although it’s true that no ABM vendor will have a perfect score, it’s important to raise the questions above before dropping a ton of marketing dollars on an ABM program. Of course, if an ABM program is executed correctly, it can provide incredible returns. In fact, according to a benchmark by Demand Metric, 38% of ABM leaders are finding ABM offered a ‘much higher’ return than other marketing methods.

If you’re on the fence about whether ABM is right for you, we highly recommend starting out by doing some research and talking with different providers. Depending on the features and costs associated with those features, ABM can be a great strategy to land those big deals that B2B marketers are after.

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