AI And Account Based Marketing In A Time Of Disruption

We don’t know how the massive shifts in consumer behavior brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve or endure. But we do know that as our lives change, marketers’ data change. Both the current impact and the future implications may be significant.

I asked Alex Atzberger, CEO of Episerver, a digital experience company, to put the issues in perspective.

Paul Talbot: How is AI holding up? Has the pandemic impacted the quality of data used to feed analytic tools that help marketers create both strategic and tactical scenarios and insights?

Alex Atzberger: There is more data and more need for automation and AI now than ever. Website traffic is up, and digital engagement is way up due to COVID-19.

Business leaders and marketers now need automation and AI to free up “headspace” as they have to deal with so many fires.

Many marketers rely on personalization from AI engines that run in the background so that they can adjust their messaging to our times. AI is a good thing for them right now. They’re able to get data faster, analyze faster and make better decisions.

However, they need to be aware of what has changed.  For example, some of the data inputs may not be as good as before as people work from home and IP addresses are no longer identifying the company someone is with.

Talbot: Given the unknowns we all face, how can marketing strategy be adjusted thoughtfully?

Atzberger: A practitioner’s time horizon for “strategy” shortens dramatically in crisis, and you need to spend more time on it. Planning is done in weeks and months, and you need to be ready to re-plan, especially since you have limited visibility into demand.

It can still be done thoughtfully but needs to adapt to the new situation and requires input from sales, partners and others on what channels and activities are working.  The more real-time you can assess what is working, the better you can adjust and plan for the future.

Talbot: On a similar note, how have coronavirus disruptions altered the landscape of account-based marketing?

Atzberger: It has created massive disruptions. ABM depends on being able to map visitors to accounts. We see companies where that mapping ability has dropped 50% since working from home started.  This is a big challenge.

A lot of the gains in ABM in recent years rests on our ability to target ads, content, direct sales team efforts and look at third-party intent signals. Without a fundamental piece of data, the picture is fuzzy again. It’s like being fitted with a worse prescription of glasses – you just can’t see as clearly.

Talbot: With the soaring numbers of people working from home, how does this impact marketing strategy for the B2B organization?

Atzberger: In a big way. Anything based on account is going to be affected because it’s now more difficult to identify these buyers who are at home and look the same.

Direct mail programs are a big challenge because you can’t really send stuff to their homes, that’s a little creepy. Events are severely impacted too and sponsoring or attending an online version of a big industry trade show just isn’t quite the same thing.

The marketing mix has to shift, your website has to work harder, your emails have to work harder, webinars have to work harder, all these digital channels will need to deliver much more to make up for systemic softness in other areas.

Talbot: Any other insights you’d like to share?

Atzberger: We like to say, “you are what you read.” Rather than relying on IP addresses, you can 1:1 personalize content based on a visitor’s actual site activity.

This is what ABM is all about: to figure out what’s more relevant for a person based on their industry. Now leapfrog that and go to the individual to act on what she’s interested in at that moment. The current crisis might give you the best reason for change.


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