Thursday, August 25, 2016

ABM Vendor Guide: State-Based Flows to Orchestrate Account Treatments

Next up in this series on ABM sub-functions described in the Raab Guide to ABM Vendors: State-Based Flows.

ABM Process
System Function
Number of Vendors
Identify Target Accounts
Assemble Data
External Data
Select Targets
Target Scoring
Plan Interactions
Assemble Messages
Customized Messages
Select Messages
State-Based Flows
Execute Interactions
Deliver Messages
Analyze Results
Result Analysis

Your first reaction that may well be, What the heck is a State-Based Flow?  That's no accident.  I chose an unfamiliar term because I didn’t want people to assume it meant something it doesn’t. The Guide states:

Vendors in this category can automatically send different messages to the same contact in response to behaviors or data changes. Messages often relate to buying stages but may also reflect interests or job function. Messages may also be tied to a specific situation such as a flurry of Web site visits or a lack of contacts at a target account. Flows may also trigger actions other than messages, such as alerting a sales person. Actions are generally completed through a separate execution system. Movement may mean reaching different steps in a single campaign or entering a different campaign. Either approach can be effective. What really matters is that movement occurs automatically and that messages change as a result.

In other words, the essence of state-based flows is the system defines a set of conditions (i.e. states) that accounts or contacts can be in, tracks them as they move from one condition to the next, and sends different messages for each condition. This is roughly similar to campaign management except that campaign entry rules are usually defined independently, so customers don’t automatically flow from campaign to campaign in the way that they flow from state to state. (Another way to look at it: customers can be in several campaigns at once but only in one customer state at a time.) Customers in multi-step campaigns do move from one stage to the next, but they usually progress in only one direction, whereas people can move in and out of the same state multiple times. Journey orchestration engines manage a type of state-based flow, but they build the flow on a customer journey framework, which is an additional condition I’m not imposing here.

This may be more hair-splitting than necessary. My goal in defining this sub-function was mostly to distinguish systems where users manually assign people to messages (meaning that the messages won’t change unless the user reassigns them) from systems that automatically adjust the messages based on behaviors or new data. This adjustment is the very heart of managing relationships, or what I usually call the decision layer in my data / decision / delivery model.

Speaking of hair-splitting, you may notice that I’m being a little inconsistent in referring to message recipients as accounts, customers, contacts, individuals, or people. A true ABM system works at the account level but messages may be delivered to accounts (IP-based ad targeting), known individuals (email), or anonymous individuals (cookie- or device-based targeting, although sometimes these are associated with known individuals). Because of this, different systems work at different levels. The ideal is for message selection to consider both the state of the account and the state of the individual within the account.

As with the Customized Message category I described yesterday, vendors who qualify for State-Based Flows fall into two broad groups: those whose primary function is cross-channel message orchestration (Engagio, MRP, YesPath, ZenIQ, Mintigo*) and those that do flow management to support delivery of messages in a single channel (Evergage, GetSmartContent, Kwanzoo, Terminus, Triblio). Marketers who are looking for a primary tool to manage account relationships will be most interested in the first group.

Differentiators to consider with this group include:

  • orchestrates activities at account level (doesn't treat each lead independently)
  • assigns Web site visitors to segments during each visit using current data
  • automated models to classify content, define segments, and select best content per segment
  • automated models to assign contacts to personas and select best content per persona
  • automated models to recommend best actions per account
  • present sets of content in sequence or all at once
  • continue same experience over time across different channels
  • prioritization to ensure highest value message is always presented
  • accounts can be in multiple programs simultaneously
  • contacts can be limited to one program at a time
  • limit number of messages sent to each contact within a specified time period
As you no doubt realize, this is the area that most directly overlaps with marketing automation and journey orchestration systems that are not ABM specialists.  They key feature to watch out for when evaluating those systems for ABM programs is the abillity to work at the account level.  That was not part of many older marketing automation systems, although several vendors have now retrofitted their products to support to some degree.
* via its Predictive Campaign integration with Eloqua

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