What Is Account-Based Marketing and Is It Worth The Hype?

Designed as a collaborative platform for both sales and marketing, it can be effective–especially in B2B.

Marketing automation vendor Marketo recently announced a new platform for Account-Based Marketing, but is the practice all it’s cracked up to be?

Yesterday, marketing automation software maker Marketo announced the release of its new Account-Based Marketing Platform. It’s the first new product to come from Marketo since it went from being publicly traded to a private company acquired by Vista Equity Partners, earlier this year.

The release signifies Marketo’s ambitions to become more than just a tool for demand-gen marketers. The Account-Based Marketing (ABM) solution is designed to be a collaborative platform for both sales and marketing, leading to more focused engagement efforts, a unified customer experience and the use of collective digital insights.

But what exactly is Account-Based Marketing? Put simply, it’s a style of B2B marketing that encourages the targeting of fewer, more valuable accounts, rather than trying to engage as many accounts as possible. The criteria for targeting can range from only focusing on companies that are likely to repeat purchases or only targeting companies within a certain geography. The aim is to go fishing with a harpoon, rather than casting a wide net.

“In theory, ABM doesn’t sound terribly innovative, and it isn’t.”

In theory, ABM doesn’t sound terribly innovative, and it isn’t. The actual practice of ABM has been around for decades, but it’s becoming a buzzword today due to its increased capabilities and potential for success in the digital age.

Digital ABM means that sales and marketing teams can work together by using analytics to identify target accounts, engage them with highly personalized campaigns and accurately measure the results of their efforts. It’s a more focused approach than your typical lead-gen marketing programs which aim to capture as large an audience as possible and funnel leads down to sales, who may not always get the kind of contacts they’re looking for.

Why Account-Based Marketing works well in B2B marketing?

ABM is also based on the premise that within any one company, there are multiple stakeholders who make the final purchase decision, so it is more effective to target all those individuals with relevant content or ads, instead of batch and blast campaigns. For example, if you’re a maker of enterprise software trying to sell to a large automobile company, you want to be able to engage not just the primary decision-maker, but also their colleagues and team members, using content and messaging specific to their company and situation. This can be done by sending them emails or targeting them with a paid search or social ad. The cost for a number of small but targeted ad impressions is minimal, but the high degree of relevance pays off.

According to ITSMA research, 80% of B2B marketers said ABM outperforms other marketing initiatives, while 41% of B2B marketers said they planned to increase spending on ABM in 2016.

While Marketo’s ABM platform offers email and limited web and social engagement solutions, it has access to an ecosystem of partner marketing tools called Launchpoint which expand the user’s omnichannel options. What Marketo does offer is a central hub for orchestrating these engagements and a system of record for looking at combined customer data from both sales and marketing. This is the most essential component of ABM, a unified view of the customer data that allows teams to make decisions on which accounts are going to be targeted.


ABM is best suited for B2B marketers and sales teams that have complex value propositions, and have to deal with long sales cycles and enterprise clients. We can expect to see a lot of ramped-up activity in this space within the next year as the practice becomes more mainstream and the marketing automation providers make it a part of their next innovation cycles.


What Ever Happened To Vine?

It was fun while it lasted. But in the end, six seconds just wasn’t enough.

Vine’s 15 minutes (or rather six seconds) of fame are up.

The Twitter-owned 6-second video messaging app is gone, vanishing from conversations about digital engagement, advertising or content marketing for brands. It wasn’t always like this. Back in 2014, Vine was seen as the video content marketing platform for brands. 38% of brands were using Vine for brand marketing or advertising, while 60% were using or considering using Vine influencers to promote branded content. However, the number of brands using Vine has plummeted to 10% in 2015, and the downward trend continued until Vine’s termination in October 2016.

Vine’s Golden Age

When Vine was acquired by Twitter in 2012, it was freed from the tyranny of having to constantly prove user growth to satisfy the demands of any VC overlords. With no push for a mass audience, there was no incentive to create solutions for advertisers, or even brands who wanted to promote their own content, for example, by paying to get it featured in the recommended Vines feed. This freed up the Vine developer team to do what it did best, which was catering to its weird, obsessive and extremely loyal community of users. All the innovation on the platform was done to make the experience better solely for creators and their audience.

Why Vine Died

A big reason was competition from other apps. It seems that everything Vine could do, some other platform could do better. Instagram has a bigger audience, with a similar video platform that makes it much easier to discover relevant content, and, it’s also done away with limits on video length. YouTube continues to be the place to post (and advertise) longer, in-depth videos, especially for B2B firms. Snapchat owns the field when it comes to personal communication through video, which is what Vine was originally envisioned as. Twitter turned its focus to building the live-video platform Periscope, as its signature investment in video.

“It seems that everything Vine could do, some other platform could do better.”

Vine continued to chug along, catering to its die-hard community of quirky video creators and the teens who adored them. The new breed of Internet “celebrities” it gave birth to continued to churn out highly entertaining content every day, even if that content ended up spread across multiple social media platforms.

But it was apparent that the platform just was not what it used to be. With so many other platforms offering better chances for ad money and the lure of younger, hipper audiences, it’s no surprise that Vine creators weren’t posting as often, or creating as much exclusive content for the platform.

From an advertising perspective, Vine didn’t offer any display or native ad options for brands looking to promote their content. The only money it made was through Niche, the agency Twitter acquired in 2015 to broker deals between companies and Vine celebrities who would create custom content to promote brands. However, even this revenue dried up, as brands began to question the real impact of social media influencers, especially when compared to the exorbitant amounts of money they’d been throwing at them.


In the end, Vine simply did not differentiate itself from the competition fast enough. The longer, more flexible video capabilities on Instagram and Snapchat, as well as the optimized advertising features like promotion on Instagram’s “Explore” tab, proved unmatchable by Vine.

Ultimately, the best way to think back on Vine is as a channel for entertainment, nothing more, nothing less. The best way to think of Vine comes from General Manager Hannah Donovan in an interview with Variety; As Donovan put it, “At the end of the day, Vine [was] not a tool. It [was] a toy.”

Learn how to develop a brand innovation strategy that will keep you successful in an ever-changing digital marketplace.


The Six Stages of Digital Transformation

From “business-as-usual” to genuine innovation, uncommon growth comes from following a clear roadmap.

For companies faced with the prospect of “Digital Darwinism,” the hardest part is evaluating what needs to be changed first. In this research report, we’ve created a maturity model that helps companies assess exactly where they are, and where they need to be on the road to digital transformation.

After several years of interviewing those helping to drive digital transformation, we have identified a series of patterns, components, and processes that form a strong foundation for change. We have organized these elements into six distinct stages:

  • Business as Usual
  • Present and Active
  • Formalized
  • Strategic
  • Converged
  • Innovative and Adaptive

Collectively, these phases serve as a digital maturity blueprint to guide purposeful and advantageous digital transformation. Our research of digital transformation is centered on the digital customer experience (DCX) and thus reflects one of many paths toward change. We found that DCX was an important catalyst in driving the evolution of business, in addition to technology and other market factors.

This report introduces each of the six stages as a self-contained phase, offering a narrative and a checklist to guide your journey. While presented in a linear format, our research shows that companies may span multiple stages at once depending on their goals, resources, and overlapping initiatives. Use this framework to validate, benchmark, and map your company’s progress toward digital literacy and leadership, but know that you may find yourself revisiting and overlapping stages throughout program and strategy deployment.

To make this more actionable, we’ve identified six key elements within the organization that must undergo a simultaneous transformation, Analytics, Customer Experience, Governance and Leadership, People and Operations, Technology Integration, Digital Literacy.

By examining the progression of transformation for each of these elements separately, the framework makes it easy for individual stakeholders within the company to focus only on the areas they are managing. For example, a COO could focus on People and Operations, while the CTO can focus on technology, with the CIO focusing on Digital Literacy. By laying out the plan for each department, it becomes much more manageable for a company to execute smaller plans that service the digital transformation effort as a whole.


Transformation efforts require many changes in multiple areas, often happening simultaneously. Even organizations that see themselves as far along in the transformation process need constant audits to progress, making sure each move ladders up to power the growth strategy.

Download the free report.


Key Elements for Building A Content Strategy

We often see teams produce all kinds of content, but with very little sense of which type works best.

If you’re creating content as an organization, chances are you’re creating too much of it. And most of it isn’t really working for you or the customer. According to a report by Sirius Decisions, 60—70% of content produced by B2B companies goes unused, and Forrester found that 87% of B2B marketers say they struggle to produce content that truly engages their buyers.

It’s never been easier to produce high-quality digital content and distribute it at an unprecedented scale to an audience using an endless number of digital platforms. That’s great news for companies who want to engage their audiences and bypass the tyranny of advertising platforms and budgets. But what that does is create immense pressure to produce all of the content, all of the time, with only a vague sense of what’s working and what’s not. As a result, we often see content marketing teams produce all manner of content. Some of it is thought leadership, some of it is entertainment, some of it customer service and some of it is user generated.  But in our research, we found that the companies who excel at content have one major commonality. They pick only one type of content to serve one type of audience.

In our latest research report “Key Elements for Building A Content Strategy,”my co-author Mat Zucker and I found that there are actually five different content strategy archetypes that companies can choose from. These five archetypes are:

Content as Presence: Engaging, entertaining and educational content that serves to establish awareness, health and equity for a brand.

Content as a Window: Content that serves to build trust and loyalty by highlighting the brand’s practices, ethics and values.

Content as Currency: High quality, unique content that helps the customer achieve expertise in a personal or professional aspect of their lives, and as a result consider the brand producing it as an expert, trusted resource.

Content as Community: Content that serves a platform where a niche community for a shared interest, lifestyle or hobby interacts and exchanges peer knowledge.

Content as Support: Educational, service-oriented or product-focused content that gives customers consistent, easily accessible knowledge about items they have purchased and how to use them.

At first glance, it’s extremely tempting for brands to say “We do/should produce all of these!” But in our report, we’re proposing a framework that forces brands to think only of the customer, and which one of these content archetypes is best equipped to serve their need. By choosing one, and only one content archetype, brands can minimize content waste, establish strong criteria for what they will and won’t publish, and truly create the most value for their customers.

“By choosing one, and only one content archetype, brands can minimize content waste.”


The archetypes work as a forcing mechanism for brands to prioritize the kind of content they need to produce. It’s a difficult, often contentions thing to do, but we’ve developed a clear roadmap for companies to follow as they build their unified content strategy. As a result, brands can come out with a central vision for what they want their content to be, a vision that multiple stakeholders in the company can embrace and operate off.

Download our report (at no cost) to find out how leading content producing companies such as REI, Charles Schwab, Nespresso, and General Motors did exactly that, along with a methodology for determining which content strategy archetype is the right one for your brand.


8 Factors of a Successful Digital Transformation Strategy

A closer look at customer experience can reveal whether transformation initiatives are paying off.

“The one constant of change is that it’s always for someone else…except it’s not.”

Today’s customers demand to be recognized across every channel, whether online or offline. They don’t care about which part of the company they are dealing with, to them, there’s only one brand.

Yet, companies continue to give customers a disconnected experience, with sales, service and marketing each working to engage the audience on their own, without coordinating their efforts. It makes customers frustrated, disengaged and disloyal; in fact, one survey found that one-third of Americans consider switching companies after just one poor experience.

“The convergence of technology and behavior is only accelerating, and the butterfly effect it causes is transformative and disruptive.”

The convergence of technology and behavior is only accelerating, and the butterfly effect it causes is transformative and disruptive. Markets are shifting to such an extent that they open the door to innovation with new products, services and ways of doing business becoming the norm as a result.

All of this is (and has been) playing out at the expense or demise of those who continue down a path of business as usual. The need to change is no longer something for everyone else; it is the first step toward one of the most important movements in business evolution today… digital transformation.

Leading Digital Transformation

At Altimeter, a Prophet Company, I have led several research studies on digital transformation. As part of this work, we’ve interviewed many executives who are leading transformation to document the challenges they face, the opportunities they uncover and more so, what it is they do to navigate the complexities of uncertainty, bureaucracy, politics, skepticism, fear, etc., to make progress.

Along the way, we’ve observed a series of patterns that help executives make the case for change, earn support and take the little (and sometimes big) steps that lead to digital transformation.

8 Factors for Successful Digital Transformation

Change always starts with one step and more often than not, I found that zeroing in on the digital customer experience uncovers areas of immediate opportunities to learn, experiment and eliminate existing hurdles and points of friction in the customer journey.

Altimeter’s  “OPPOSITE” framework is an acronym that represents the best practices guiding transformation efforts around the digital customer experience

1. Orientation

Establish a new perspective to drive meaningful change. If your organization is built on the “inside out” model, meaning that it is organized around your internal processes and functions, update to focus on customer needs, wants and priorities

2. People

Understand customer values, expectations and behaviors. This requires digital transformation buy-in at all levels— all employees and leadership— so that the entire organization is aligned with digital goals and strategies.

3. Processes

Assess operational infrastructure and update (or revamp) technologies, processes and policies to support change. Start with the contact center, which is a key platform for delivering great customer experiences, and make it collaborative, unified, and intelligent

4. Objectives

Define the purpose of digital transformation, aligning stakeholders (and shareholders) around the new vision and roadmap. Set goals for your digital transformation— what specific areas do you hope to improve through digital? What kind of metrics are you hoping to achieve? Setting quantifiable KPIs can help ensure that you meet your digital transformation objectives.

5. Structure

Form a dedicated digital experience team with roles/responsibilities/objectives/accountability clearly defined. Ensure the entire team is aware of objectives and processes so that you are centered on purpose.

6. Insights & Intent

Gather data and apply insights toward a strategy to guide digital evolution. Data can help you streamline experiences across customer journeys, no matter how they interact with your brand. Data can also help you evaluate the results— brand relevance, increased revenue, and more— of your digital transformation

7. Technology

Re-evaluate front and back-end systems for seamless, integrated and native customer experiences and, ultimately, employee experiences. Use technology to promote trustworthiness and meet ever-increasing customer expectations. Ensure your content and communications are platform-proof so that algorithm changes do not interfere with customer experiences

8. Execution

Implement, learn and adapt to steer ongoing digital transformation and customer experience work. Evaluate the state of your transformation frequently so you can make adjustments if necessary.

When planning and implementing a digital transformation strategy, keeping “OPPOSITE” in mind can help your organization be successful.


For companies looking to jumpstart their digital transformation efforts, these factors provide a blueprint for stakeholders across the organization to come together, create a shared vision and take the first steps towards thriving in the new digital reality. Change starts with you.

Learn more about creating and implementing a successful digital transformation strategy.


5 Digital Transformation Imperatives

Start with focusing on customers before technology, and then measure what matters most.

Mainstream, established businesses have reached a digital tipping point. After decades of exploiting information technologies to improve the efficiency of their operations and amplify their communications, they must now shift their focus to digital to deliver greater customer value. Leaders face a stark choice: transform digitally on behalf of customers, or risk being abandoned by them for digitally enabled competitors, disruptive market entrants or new digital business innovations.

Digital transformation requires urgent and fundamental change. Success depends on elevating products and services into digitally enabled solutions and customer interactions into engaging, customer-centric experiences. The companies who have done so are reaping the rewards. A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Accenture reports that companies who reach a higher level of digital maturity are 26% more profitable, grow 9% faster and achieve 12% higher market valuations than their industry peers.

But leaders are struggling to chart a clear digital transformation path and execute it effectively. Most report that their digital investments have disappointed on the bottom line. Sure, they note some successes—a great app here that attracts new users or better data that helps to customize products. But the kind of digital transformation that unleashes new value for the customer? That’s not common.

There are plenty of reasons why companies find moving past the digital tipping point to unleash customer value is slow and difficult. For one, many companies start by delegating too many decisions to digital agencies that may be great at technology but lack customer insight. Or they work with management consultancies whose extensive industry expertise can blind them to breakthrough innovation opportunities on behalf of customers. Too often, the pursuit of digital transformation is not strategic as experts, pundits and agencies act like proverbial kids in a candy store, chasing the next digital fad without a view of what customers need most.

We’ve found that the companies that leverage digital to strengthen their bonds with customers and unlock new sources of growth share five imperatives:

Put Customers Before Technology

When customer insight guides technology, market adoption is faster, margins are greater and the impact on growth is more substantial. Companies must look past the shiny new technology toys to focus on what matters most – insights about customer needs. What are their perceptions? Motivations? Pain points and daily hassles? Harnessing their problems and desires to develop digital solutions and experiences is crucial to being more relevant to customers.

Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, knew it faced increasing competition as more parents shopped through Amazon and children engaged in new media. But it needed a solution that was bigger than just another e-reader. Scholastic partnered with Prophet to find an innovative solution that would be compelling to children, trusted by parents and teachers, and differentiated in the market. The result was an interactive tool called Storia that helps parents and children navigate the world of children’s literature, specifically focusing on a child’s reading level.

Shift the Organization

Leaders can tackle the greatest barrier to digital progress, organization inertia, by arming themselves with the understanding that digital transformation requires embedding new methods and mindsets. In a world where culture eats strategy for lunch, failure to build an organization’s ability to move faster, flexibly, collaboratively, and with more risk-taking is the chief pitfall to avoid in transformation efforts. A digital mindset requires thinking like an entrepreneur while leveraging the assets of an established firm. When companies build digital capabilities, digital becomes a core part of how work gets done. And of course, that positions them to better serve the customer.

Electrolux, a global leader in household and professional appliances, realized it needed a digital transformation if it was to leapfrog the competition and create engaging branded shopper experiences. And that required crafting a culture of experience innovation. Prophet partnered with the CMO and CEO to develop digital executive leadership across the organization, to create digital education summits across the globe and ultimately to create a governance model to drive digital transformation. Together, we developed a new way of working and empowered the entire organization to create differentiating and impactful digital experiences for customers.

Think Strategic, Act Bold

Building urgency is crucial to success but only if it leads toward a destination around more valuable customer relationships. Leaders must chart a path that defines the customer growth opportunities to pursue, the digital moves to make and the tools required to support these efforts. Sequencing the transformation and developing the right pace of digital innovation is a difficult challenge that can only succeed through clear strategic direction combined with a bias for action.

“Building urgency is crucial to success but only if it leads toward a destination around more valuable customer relationships.”

Monsanto knew it needed to transition from being product-focused to customer-centric and turned to Prophet to develop a new grower-focused approach. A robust customer segmentation revealed new opportunities to deliver differentiated value to growers, primarily through tools that would enable farm productivity. Monsanto started to deliver value beyond the product by pairing growers with Monsanto agronomists who provide customized advice for increasing yield. Today, customer-centricity as at the center of the company’s growth strategy, and can be seen through examples like the recent acquisition of a weather company – Climate Corporation – that will use weather data to help farmers optimize productivity.

Start Now, Improve

Transformation cannot wait. Digital moves too fast and is too complex to work on ten-year plans or monolithic, pie-in-the-sky customer engagement platforms. Rapid innovation based on frequent trial, measurement and refinement has proven time and again to work best. A customer-inspired digital strategy puts technology in its proper place, treating tech as a tool to better serve customers, not as an end in itself. When launching and then enhancing MVPs (Minimum Viable Products) becomes standard operating procedure, companies know they are on the right track. Seamlessness is crucial. Every innovation cannot come at the cost of replacing everything a customer already values. When new ways of providing value are integrated with what already works well, customers adopt more rapidly and are far more likely to be satisfied with the end results.

Schneider Electric, a B2B company is transforming to change the way it works throughout its complicated, multi-layered value chain. By providing tools and mechanisms for understanding new customer groups, Prophet is helping Schneider Electric drive demand with electrical contractors and facility managers, while also enabling traditional channel partners with better tools for delivery. Today, customized online portals and mobile tools are enabling contractors around the world to make smarter project decisions, while end customers are empowered to better monitor energy usage through a dashboard called Building Insights.

Measure What Matters

Measures matter when they drive improvements to digital transformation. The key is to link business impact to the work digital investments undertake. Without a clear connection, leaders scale up winners and eliminate losers far too late or never at all. When companies understand the relationships between customer behavior, the motivations that underlie behavior and the impact of behavior on the business, they can rapidly accelerate the pace of digitally enabled growth. In a digital world, it is possible to measure almost everything. So focusing on what really matters and taking action to address what the measures reveal becomes the job of everyone in the company.

For Charles Schwab, determining the most important metrics has been critical. With investors increasingly relying on digital and mobile for both financial transactions and information about investment decisions, it’s created a range of content and digital tools. And it tracks them for engagement and conversion across different channels and investor segments. Thanks to this commitment to its customers and its “Own your tomorrow” positioning, Schwab is earning record sales and profits and outpacing its competitors.


Taken together, these five imperatives are the keys to harnessing digital to fundamentally enhance a company’s core value proposition and create a competitive advantage. Focus on these imperatives yields digitally enabled solutions and experiences that boost buying behaviors, and accelerate financial results.

While digital has been rewriting the rules for growth for years, employees, boards and shareholders are now challenging leaders to chart next-level strategies. Established businesses have more at risk, but those that achieve this transformation combine current strengths with digital dexterity and can achieve uncommon growth.


From IoT to IoC: The Elephant in the Room

People are consuming content not just on phones and laptops, but on wearables, appliances and in cars.

There is an elephant in the room when it comes to the Internet of Things. There is a critical element inherent to just about any IoT application that hardly ever sees the light of day in industry coverage of the topic. Some would say it’s because it’s just not as sexy, it’s a given, or it falls outside of the IoT deployment purview. But they would be wrong.

The role of content in the Internet of Things cannot be understated. By extension, the role of a culture of content has never been more important. In our report, we define and address the institutional imperative to meet the growing internal and external demand for content by fostering an authentic ‘culture of content;’ one that establishes evangelizes, and streamlines how brands use content to express themselves. As brands in every industry embrace how to better leverage sensors to enhance and streamline customer experience across any connected interface, it is content itself that becomes the ever more critical brand unifier.

From IoT to IoC: The Emergence of “Things” as Content Platforms

The Internet of Things introduces an entirely new ecosystem for content– one that historically has been offline, static, perhaps crinkled up and thrown into the trashcan. In the Internet of Things, content (paid, owned, earned media) and product can converge; that is, when [connected] products serve as dynamic content platforms. Here emerges a new channel, for owned, earned, and paid content activations. Enter the Internet of Content.

Products as content platforms are an extension of ‘mobile’ platform proliferation we have seen across smartphones, tablets, wearables, etc. When our cars, our thermostats, our appliances, our homes are connected, they transcend a life of stagnant hardware and become new vehicles through which brands can convey messages, even services. In fact, as connected product lifecycles transform to become enhanced, smarter, and more personalized over time, the content will increasingly define, even evolve how consumers interface with their products.

“We define and address the institutional imperative to meet the growing internal and external demand for content by fostering an authentic ‘culture of content.’”

A more connected world not only serves content more frequently, even in real-time, but it also generates more demand for content. Consumers themselves generate demand for content by interacting with brand properties/infrastructure such as beacons, kiosks, or a connected mirror in a fitting room, for example. The success of augmented reality applications -– agnostic to the platform -– are contingent upon rapid content accessibility, personalization, and integration with other systems. Additionally, products themselves may create more demand for content through automated algorithms or data-informed services, such as product malfunction notifications, troubleshooting guides, support channel options, or suggestions for upsell.

A Connected Brand Experience Requires a Connected View of Content

Many marketers already view content as the ‘atomic particle’ of all marketing, but the Internet of Things ushers in a new era in which content becomes the atomic particle of just about any brand interaction– sales, service, support, R&D, experience. As the Internet of Things gives products, events, even media itself a voice (i.e. a contextual data stream), content becomes the very glue or connective tissue connecting any brand experience across any platform.

Furthermore, as IoT forces historically separate constituencies to partner, even share data, assets, and experiences, content also serves a nuanced role of continuity in recognition. For example, when a shopper walks into a mall, the beacon-triggered notification they receive on their smartphone could be driven by any number of players– brand, manufacturer, telecom provider, the mall itself or holding company, etc. As each player vies for customer engagement, content serves as the cornerstone of brand recognition regardless of dynamic contextual elements such as location, time, or platform.


Ultimately, a culture of content doesn’t just help brands organize around content, it helps crystallize the very brand message; a culmination of stories that convey brand identity. Aligning internal processes, behaviors, and needs to a single brand manifestation will only grow in importance as brands embrace new ways of connecting with customers.


Modern Marketing: The Game Has Changed

“Product, Price, Place and Promotion” are no longer sufficient. Customers want to know about value.

According to Wikipedia, “marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product to customers, for the purpose of selling that product (goods or services.)” But that is what marketing used to be. Today, marketing is about relationship management.

The widespread adoption of social and mobile technologies has empowered consumers. They expect relationships with brands rather than the push-messaging campaigns of yore— and now have a voice to praise or complain. Eric Schmidt said succinctly “bad product reviews trump clever marketing” in a recent presentation:

“The four P’s—Product, Price, Place and Promotion—are no longer sufficient as a way to think about marketing. They are about the content and placement of messaging, rather than an ongoing conversation and relationship with a customer. When customer loyalty can begin well before a purchase is ever made (think Hard Rock or Harley Davidson), marketers have to think beyond communicating value to building customer relationship.”


Relationship Economics

For long-lasting relationships, learn to authentically engage with customers and employees on social channels.

How Genuine Communication and Engagement in Social Media Helps Businesses Grow Relationships With Employees and  Customers While Improving the Bottom Line

Social technologies have always been about people and relationships, yet in recent years we seem to have lost our way, blurring the lines between social media and CRM as we treat these engagement platforms like mass marketing automation tools. The answer to unlocking the potential of business connections has been right under our noses all along: authentically engage with customers, prospects, and employees on social channels to cultivate long-lasting relationships that result in true business ROI.

For our latest report, Altimeter Group partnered with LinkedIn to study the importance of relationship-building among the most socially engaged companies on LinkedIn. By using social technologies to improve relationships, businesses witness incredible results. Download the full report here.

Why we studied relationship economics

In late 2013, Gallup released its latest survey that measures international employee satisfaction and found that only 13% of workers feel engaged by their jobs. 63%, are not engaged, and 24% are actively disengaged.

What is relationship economics?

Relationship economics dictates that when businesses value people, experiences, and aspirations, they reap benefits measured in profitability, loyalty, and advocacy. Without relationship economics, companies will lose a significant edge to those that do actively invest in employee and customer communication and engagement on social platforms such as LinkedIn.

Companies that invest in relationship economics on social platforms find that employees are more engaged, more likely to stay and refer great talent, are more competitive and optimistic, and more likely to increase business and sales opportunities.

Socially engaged companies are more likely to drive greater lead generation, cultivate innovation, and yield top talent.

Companies must become digitally savvy to compete for customers and top talent. Companies that are social engaged realize the following business-level benefits:

  • 40% more likely to be perceived as more competitive
  • 57% more likely to get increased sales leads
  • 58% more likely to attract top talent

Investing in relationship economics can represent the difference between engaged and disengaged employees.

Socially engaged employees are more optimistic, inspired, connected, and tenured:

  • 27% more likely to feel optimistic about their companies’ future
  • 20% more likely to feel inspired
  • 20% more likely to stay at their companies
  • 15% more likely to connect to co-workers beyond their core teams

“Without relationship economics, companies will lose a significant edge to those that do actively invest in employee and customer communication.”


In a relationship economy, leadership must “walk the walk” on social channels in order for others to follow.

Executives at social engaged companies are:

  • 52% more likely to actively create, curate and share content
  • 50% more likely to actively encourage employee use of professional social media
  • 37% more likely to be active in building relationships using professional social media

More about LinkedIn’s “Top 25 Socially Engaged Companies”

To demonstrate social engagement and transformation, LinkedIn released its list of the top 25 socially engaged companies in July 2014. This list showcases companies that effectively use social media to improve engagement and relationships with customers and employees via efforts in content marketing, employee engagement, talent and recruitment, and sales.

Read the Full Report

Learn more about how relationship economics can impact your business by downloading the full report, “Relationship Economics: How genuine communication and engagement in social media helps businesses grow relationships with employees and customers while improving the bottom line.”


The Digital Marketing Suite

Advanced companies need integrated tools to succeed in digital business. Suites are the solution.

As companies become advanced in social and digital business, they require consolidated technology instead of point solutions

Adobe Marketing Summit and Oracle OpenWorld both took place recently. It’s another month until Dreamforce, but I expect similar announcements to be made there. These giants are all building “suites” for cross-channel customer engagement through a series of acquisitions and integration with their existing offerings (see Figure 1). Among the pieces, each has bought social media monitoring and management tools, as well as marketing automation players. Having a complete social offering is a big part of this, but it’s also about integrating social with other customer engagement channels for the best data, targeting, and contextualization. The result: a technology suite that goes beyond just social, designed to entice CMOs with one-stop shopping convenience. Figure 1: How Three Companies Are Creating Digital Marketing Suites

Social media monitoringSalesforce Marketing Cloud (Radian6)Adobe Social (Adobe SocialAnalytics)Oracle SRM (Collective Intellect)
Social media managementSalesforce Marketing Cloud (Buddy Media)Adobe Social (Efficient Frontier / Context Optional)Oracle SRM (Vitrue & Involver)
Social media advertisingSalesforce Marketing Cloud ( Media Optimizer (Efficient Frontier)N/A for now; on product roadmap
Marketing automation & multi-channel targetingSalesforce ExactTargetAdobe Campaign (Neolane)Oracle Eloqua
Analytics & insightsSalesforce Marketing Cloud (Radian6)Adobe Analytics (Omniture)Oracle SRM and OBIEE (Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition)
Content marketingNo internal component, but integration (e.g. Kapost)Experience Manager & Creative CloudCompendium
Enterprise social networkChatterN/A, although has built collaboration into Marketing CloudOracle Social Network
Data & CRMSalesforceNo CRM, but has Omniture DataWarehouse and data connectors into partner solutionsOracle Database (plus Siebel), Oracle Sales Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, Oracle Commerce

It should go without saying that this chart is not an exact comparison and that line item “components” vary in complexity. The degree of integration also varies.

Advanced companies need integrated tools to succeed in digital business

These suites are finding an audience ready for a better option. Focused on social business for a moment, brands are getting increasingly advanced, yet they continue to use point solutions in different departments and channels for monitoring, management, optimization, and analytics. In a typical example, one of our clients uses Radian6 for monitoring, Vitrue for social content publishing, Cotweet for customer care, and Adobe Analytics (formerly Omniture) for web analytics.

Plus enterprise social networks and customer communities are disconnected. The result is disparate sets of data being compared in Excel, mixed levels of communication and collaboration, and lost insights. The emerging need for more integrated solutions has been anticipated by Salesforce, Oracle, and Adobe, who are now assembling Digital Marketing Suites.

Best-in-class point solutions dominate today, but change is coming

Although point solutions can’t fully address the needs of an advanced social business, they are often best-in-class—because the promise of the Digital Marketing Suite has yet to be fulfilled. When advising clients on monitoring tools or SMMS today, we often end up recommending point solutions. This is based on specific client requirements, which vary, but it’s not often that one of the “giants” makes it to the very top of a shortlist. With SMMS for example, the offerings are good but not typically best for the client. And overall, the benefits of a suite aren’t compelling enough today—but over the coming 12-18 months, they will be.

“The promise of the Digital Marketing Suite has yet to be fulfilled.”

The future is suites—or irrelevance

Not only will there be consolidation in terms of technology coalescing into larger suites, but the marketplace will also go through the natural evolution and consolidation as the landscape matures. For social marketing vendors determined to stay independent, there is only one option: to raise money to scale into suites themselves by buying or quickly building missing components like monitoring, optimization, and analytics. Several SMMS vendors like Hootsuite, Sprinklr, Spredfast, and HearSay Social have raised significant rounds of financing to build scale.

They are embedded and tough to replace, and integration-enabling APIs may extend the timeline, but over time that will not be enough to support so many players. Consolidation or exits are an inevitable outcome, as it has been in previous technology spaces. A few of the other SMMS vendors have already folded, like Awareness Inc. and Syncapse. This left their customers high and dry and needing to start the search for vital tools all over again. That has been another reason why some companies are looking to the big players—simple staying power.

What does the future look like with Digital Marketing Suites?

Beyond the obvious benefits of integration, like fewer tools and logins, and platform security that come from an integrated suite, there are four impending changes that marketers should watch closely:

1. Internal and external social networking on a single platform

In SMMS, collaboration features are mostly limited to basic workflow (tag, flag, annotate, route). Yet as social permeates an organization, the need for internal communication through Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) becomes necessary to plan and react to external engagement. Adobe has already made a push to bring greater collaboration into its new Marketing Cloud offering, although it does not have an ESN product of its own. Salesforce will undoubtedly integrate Chatter into future offerings of its own Marketing Cloud, while Oracle is embedding Oracle Social Network into the social publishing workflow for collaboration. Companies with installed ESNs are also eager to tap and evolve internal employee engagement and direct it toward external conversations for purposes like providing customer support and employee advocacy.

2. Company-wide utility—this is not just for one department

Most SMMS address one or two departments’ needs well, yet we found that companies today are likely to have up to 13 departments involved in social. Social customer support may require the features familiar to a call center, whereas marketing may require a content repository and an editorial calendar that includes earned media. Because each department has different use cases and metrics, these suites are looking to address the needs of many departments rather than just the one or few primarily addressed today. Marketing is central, but other stakeholders are increasingly being involved.

3. Customer relevance and targeting (Social CRM)

Speaking of sharing nicely across departments, the growing need for a common view of customers’ social profiles and social behavior data is also driving a move to suites. Several SMMS vendors have focused on customer identification and targeting from the outset—but few integrate well with marketing automation and enterprise CRM systems in order to know and target customers based not only on social data, but all available customer data.

To take an example, Walmart allows Facebook fans to Like local stores, then shows them items specific to that store, based on comparative local prices and even the local weather. By integrating (in this case, location) data, the relevance of its content is increased. For now, customers remain mostly anonymous, so only certain layers of relevance may be applied at any given time (geography, demographics, psychographics, socialgraphics, mobilegraphics, brand affinity, loyalty program, etc.). So far, the local Walmart pages have little engagement, since they still feel impersonal compared with other local businesses.

Eventually, though, companies will have a single customer view, connecting these layers of relevance for contextual, personalized messaging for individual customers and prospects. This has been a long-term promise and the customer journey keeps getting more complex, but Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle have all been especially focused on this of late.

4. Bigger sticker price and IT involvement

The average enterprise deal size for SMMS has steadily increased over the past few years, rising from $76k last year to deal sizes of what we typically see today in the $100-150k range. This reflects a growing ability to spend on social software where there is perceived value.

These larger Digital Marketing Suites will naturally be even more expensive, but as social is integrated, an independent social business technology budget will be a challenge for most marketing organizations that are still just beginning to build out their social business capabilities. Also, because these suites are larger in scale and require greater care to be “plugged in” correctly, marketers will need IT to be more involved than it has been in decisions like SMMS, which marketing departments have in some cases been able to buy and install on their own.

P.S. Digital Marketing Suite seems like a good name for now, but this goes not only beyond social but even beyond marketing. While Adobe and Salesforce each have their “Marketing Cloud,” Oracle has its “Social Relationship Management,” which is department-agnostic, but of course, focuses on Social (Oracle Eloqua is referred to separately for now). So what is this called, really, and does it change over time?


While there are still plenty of best-in-class point solutions, more companies are offering a full suite of solutions. And it’s about time. Advanced companies need more integrated tools, so they can better navigate complexities. The future is either suites–or irrelevance.


Four Disruption Themes for Business

Our research pinpoints 30 disruptions and 15 trends. These are the four to focus on right now.

If you think social was disruptive, it was really just the beginning. Altimeter’s research team recently convened for our annual research offsite and found over 30 disruptions and 15 trends that have emerged. These disruptions and trends will affect consumers, business, government, the global economy; with accelerating speed, frequency and impact.

Four Major Business Disruptions Emerge – Business Leaders Must Prepare.

Out of these disruptions and trends, Altimeter identified four major themes that will be disruptive to business. Below is a preview of Altimeter’s four business disruption themes, with a definition and short description of each. In the coming weeks, we’ll publish a short report explaining these themes in more detail.

Everything Digital: An increasingly digital landscape – including data, devices, platforms and experiences – that will envelop consumers and businesses.

Everything Digital is the increasingly digital environment that depends on an evolving ecosystem of interoperable data, devices, platforms – experienced by people and business. It’s larger than the scope of Internet of Things, as it’s pervasive or ambient – not defined only by networked sensors and objects, but including capabilities such as airborne power grids or wireless power everywhere. Everything Digital serves as the backdrop for our next three themes.

Me-cosystem: The ecosystem that revolves around “me,” our data, and technologies that will deliver more relevant, useful, and engaging experiences using our data.

Wearable devices, near-field communications, or gesture-based recognition are just a few of the technologies that will make up an organic user interface for our lives, not just a single digital touchpoint. Digital experiences will be multiplied by new screen types, and virtual or augmented reality. Individuals who participate will benefit from contextualized digital experiences, in exchange for giving up personal data.

Digital Economies: New economic models caused by the digital democratization of production, distribution, and consumption.

Supply chains become consumption chains in this new economy as consumers become direct participants in production and distribution. Open source, social, and mobile platforms allow consumers to connect with each other, usurping traditional roles and relationships between buyers, sellers, and marketplaces. Do-it-yourself technologies such as 3D printing and replicators will accelerate this shift, while even currency becomes distributed and peer-to-peer-based. In this new economy, value shifts towards digital reputation and influence, digital goods and services; even data itself. The downside? An increasing divide between digital “haves” and the digital “have-nots.”

Dynamic Organization: In today’s digital landscape, dynamic organizations must develop new business models and ways of working to remain relevant, and viable.

Business leaders grapple with an onslaught of new technologies that result in shifting customer and employee expectations. It’s not enough to keep pace with change. To succeed, dynamic organizations must cultivate a culture, mindset, and infrastructure that enables flexibility and adaptability; the most pioneering will act as adaptive, mutable “ad-hocracies.”

Altimeter’s Disruption Database

Below are the 30 digital disruptions and 15 digital trends, which were used as the starting ground of our analysis.



3-D Printing and Replicators App Economy Artificial Intelligence (AI) Augmented Reality (Google Glass) Automated Life (Cars, Homes, Driving, etc.) Automated Robots Bio-Engineering Biometric Authentication (Voice/audio, fingerprint, body/eyescan, gesture, olfactory user interface Content Marketing Digital/Social TV vs. “Second Screen” Emerging Hand Held Devices / Platforms (Android, Tablet, Phablet) Gamification Gesture/Voice-Based Interface/Navigation / “Human as Interface” Hacking/Social Engineering and Information Security Haptic Surfaces (Slippery, wet, textured through electrical currents) Healthcare – Data and Predictive Analytics Human-Piloted Drones Hyper-Local Technology / Mobile Location / Indoor Mapping Internet of Nanoparticles (Embedded in bloodstream) MicroMedia Video Mobile Advertising Mobile Payments Native Advertising Natural Language Processing Near Field Communications Open Source / Open Data / Open Innovation Peer-Based Currency / Soical Currency (BitCoin) Proximity Based Communications Social Engagement Automation (Robots Respond on Twitter) Social Network Analysis, Graphing, and Data Science Social Technologies Touch Permeates Digital/Surfaces: TVs, Touch Advertising Virtual Reality / Immersive 3D Experiences Wearable / Embedded Technology Wireless Power / Electricity

Big Data Collaborative Economy Connected Workplace Customer Experience Design/Architecture and Integration Data Convergence/Customer Intelligence Data vs Creative in the Org: New Decision Process Digital Ethnography or Customer Journey Mapping Digital Influence and Advocacy Evolution of the Center of Excellence Generation C Hypertargeting Internet of Things or Internet of Everything Intrapreneurship, Innovation Culture, and Innovation Hubs Pervasive Computing Porous Workplace Privacy: Standardization and Regulation (“Beware of Little Brother”) Quantified Self or Human API The Digital Journey and Understanding Digital Signals The Maker Movement The Neuroscience of Digital Interactions

“These disruptions and trends will affect consumers, business, government, the global economy; with accelerating speed, frequency and impact.”


Please Share Your Comments and Insights with Us.

There’s more to come – we’ll be sharing additional insights such as
1) top questions for businesses to ask,
2) who’s disrupted and who benefits, and
3) enabling technologies. In the meantime, we’re soliciting your comments as part of our Open Research model.

Please share our themes with others, and help us answer these questions:

  • What other business disruptions or trends are you seeing? Please add to this Google form and we’ll provide proper attribution.
  • Which of these four business disruption themes impact your business now?
  • How is your business responding to these themes, or the related disruptions and trends?