Account-Based Marketing Explained: Behind SourceMedia's New ABM Solution

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Marketing services. Content marketing. Native advertising. Now account-based marketing is the latest digital advertising buzzword. If B2B media is about connecting buyers and sellers, account-based marketing enables publishers to breathe new life and value into lead generation by identifying and targeting highly qualified leads and charging a premium for it—provided they invest in the technology and personnel to support it.

Last week, SourceMedia officially unveiled its own account-based marketing solution—SourceMedia ABM—which applies leading-edge machine learning techniques to the company’s proprietary audience data to identify customer interests and purchase intent. Connectiv spoke with Marcus Witte,(pictured), SourceMedia’s VP of Integrated Marketing and Demand Generation, about what account-based marketing is, how SourceMedia does it, what they can charge for it and what other publishers should be prepared to do if they want to offer it.

(Connectiv members are also invited to join our Audience Marketing Council meeting by phone or in person on Sept. 15 at 1pm ET to hear SourceMedia VP of Audience and Data AnneMarie Wills and Omeda’s chief revenue officer James Capo discuss “What Is Account-Based Marketing and What Does It Mean for Audience Marketing?” RSVP to Matt Kinsman at for details).

Connectiv: Marcus, would you define what account-based marketing is?

Marcus Witte: Account based-marketing, at its very basic level, is taking a group of names that make up an account—company based like IBM or Coca-Cola or brand based--and doing very targeted messaging to them. If you were just looking at this basic level, a lot of companies are grabbing names and doing targeted marketing to those lists. We take it one step further because in our umbrella of brands, we’ve got some really robust first party data that we can pull from. We’ve implemented what we call a customer data platform, which is responsible for aggregating all our users so that we can reconcile identities. We have eight different database platforms now—including anything from our mobile sites to our CMS that publishes content to our email marketing platform which is Marketo, to any number of conferences and subscriptions. In the past, if you came to a conference and signed up for an email and downloaded a whitepaper and looked at some advertising, we might have you in our database five different times—we thought you were five different people. This customer data platform can now reconcile all those users—instead of five ‘Matts,’ we now can see one ‘Matt.’

And it goes beyond saying this is a name at a company of a certain size. We can identify your interests, what are you browsing, whether you are socially enabled, do you engage with e-mail and what time of day you prefer to consume content. We’re able to pull in this really rich data around our users. But at the same time, we don’t want to be super creepy and target individuals on a one-on-one basis. So we’re applying lookalike modeling—here’s ‘Matt,’ and here’s 20,000 people who look like ‘Matt.’ They prefer email, so we’ll target them via email. They’re on a mobile site so we won’t waste money on reaching them via their desktop if they seem very mobile-focused. It’s about efficiency—figuring out the types of content that take consumers to the next level so we can work with our advertising partner to target them most effectively but also understanding that these are their best prospects or their ideal consumers.

Connectiv: Can you give some context on the opportunity with ABM? Is this a premium program?

Witte: We approach it as a premium buy. I say that because we are really tapping into first party data. There are companies out there like Demandbase that are doing some good things out there with account-based marketing but those are direct banner ad buys. Buying lists and then targeting those individuals with ad creative. We could take a group of people and target advertising to them—that wouldn’t be a premium buy but it would be higher CPM because you are applying filters. SourceMedia ABM is a premium offering that comes with tremendous value for advertisers because we’re cutting through the fat.

B2B is about leads. In the past, when we asked a client what they did with leads, we would typically get answers like they kicked the leads over to sales who didn’t really know what to do with them, or the leads would say they just wanted to read a white paper, they don’t want to be sold to. Then the sales team says ‘all these leads are bad, nobody wants to be sold to.’ That happened time and time again and brought us to how can we help our customers cut through the fat and find those individuals who are the best prospects? We’re tapping into our first party data through our customer data platform, we’re developing live dashboards so they can go in at real-time and see who’s engaged, how they’re going through the sales funnel and how they’ve been scored. It’s definitely a premium offer for us because clients get a lot of consultation around content and creative being targeted to these individuals, dedicated account managers and real-time dashboards.

Connectiv: Can you share a specific example of a SourceMedia ABM effort?

Witte: We’ve got five clients currently doing this with us and we’re excited about that because we’ve only been offering this for four months.

We have three different stages to an ABM effort—awareness, consideration and intent. Awareness is driven by thought leadership and education—are you interested in a specific topic? In the awareness stage, we keep the advertiser brand in the background. In the consideration stage, the prospect is engaging with content and we start to bring the advertiser brand to the forefront. What has the advertiser done around that topic, how they helped solve a specific problem, etc. With intent—we don’t say ‘decision’ for this stage but others do--we will get the advertiser as close to possible to that prospect, but it’s the advertiser’s job to get them to make the decision and close the sale. The advertiser has gone from a thought leadership position to an advertising position to a solutions position. As we score these individuals, we show the advertiser where the customer sits in the funnel. The advertisers get a very accurate look at where prospects are engaging with the content. That’s a really powerful lead, clearly talking to you.

One client in the employee benefit adviser space wanted to segment four different audiences—those using a competitor, those using a smaller competitor, those that didn’t have the product at all and brokers who were recommending the solutions to employers. We broke up the four different groups and tailored content and advertising to those groups. We based all of the content on what we saw as trending topics in the customer data platform and we had targeted advertising as those leads came into the Source portfolio and we also targeted them with advertising on the exchanges outside the Source portfolio. Of a list of 10,000 individuals, we identified 300 names as being interested in that specific topic. From there, we got 51 percent of individuals to consideration—reading something on behalf of the client. We were trying to get 15 high priority leads and ended up with 22.

Connectiv: How is the sale around ABM different? How does it start?

Witte: If you think about traditional lead generation around a white paper for example, there are plenty of clients who say, ‘I want to put this white paper on your site, can you get me 200 leads’—that’s a quantity play, it’s a shot in the dark. There’s not a lot of consultation. We do tons of those types of programs—some clients just want that quantity. It’s different sale when it comes to account-based marketing because it’s about quality not quality—we’re not guaranteeing 300 or 400 leads, we are guaranteeing 15 to 20 super-interested leads so you can cut through the clutter and your sales team doesn’t waste their time going through those 300 leads.

It’s a different sale in terms of shifting perception with clients—a lot of clients think in terms of ‘I have to fill my pipeline.’ This is not a feed-the-machine type of program. We charge a flat fee, not a cost-per-lead and what we will do is dive into our customer management platform, marketing and content and advertising creative. Based off that data, we’re coming up with a very consultative program. We’re going to make the data actionable. That’s what resonates with our clients—taking all of our data from the CDP, tailoring that content so we get higher engagement, and developing a multi-stage program where it’s not about throwing one thing out there and hoping it sticks, but nurturing people through a sales process to find the best prospects.

Connectiv: What the range for pricing for an ABM campaign?

Witte: Greater than $40,000 per quarter. Over the course of a year, it’s well over a $100,000. We typically do it on a quarterly basis. Looking at the type of content those consumers engage with, that’s one month out of the gate to engage with the first piece of content. If they do, great, they get moved into intent. We don’t want to bombard them with content that will annoy them. We try to space these things out so we’re not pounding people over the head. By nature, this is a three-month program. Clients can extend that to develop new contents or maybe they want to re-target the people who didn’t engage.

Connectiv: Who’s involved at Source?

Witte: It’s a pretty big undertaking, which includes the audience team, the editorial team, the customer content team (marketing solutions group), lead gen and demand generation, account management and the sales team. The audience team identifies the appropriate audiences and what’s going to resonate with those audiences. We dive into the data to see what will resonate and work with the editorial team to come up with the right topics and different types of content that will resonate. The customer solutions group develops new content if we need it, an account manager oversees the entire program, walks the client through the timeline and makes sure we are on track, and our lead generation/demand generation team is setting up the landing pages, setting up scheduling and writing marketing copy. It’s a pretty involved process.  

Connectiv: What does a publisher need to be prepared for if they want to offer ABM?

Witte: Be prepared to wrangle their first party data and have a platform or solution that allows them to do that. If you have no control, you can’t make data actionable and you’ll fail, point blank. From our perspective it’s about core interests and targeting them effectively as possible. Our users should be getting stuff they like or are engaged with. From an advertiser’s perspective, it’s about efficiency. Be prepared to invest in technology, that’s the reality. We use Lytics for our data and they're great. We also invested in our marketing, content and ad-serving platforms. The other thing you’ve got to be willing to do is apply the manpower to get these programs done. I talk to groups in Connectiv who say ‘we have three salespeople.’ That won’t work. There is a lot of hand-holding and consultation. You can pick and choose the clients you offer this to or or outsource to someone like Demandbase who won’t have that robust third party data set but will give you a platform. If you’re not willing to invest in the technologies or the people, you won’t be successful. 

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.