Tools and tech considerations for an optimal ABM strategy

By Kelly Zonderwyk, Phoenix Phimmasene, Lyndsay Martin, and Derek Smith
Feb 8, 2024

Utilities can take their account-based marketing (ABM) efforts deeper when they consider tools and technology to support the personalized strategy.

In the rapidly evolving business, environmental, and marketing landscape, tools and technology are front and center. One strategy gaining substantial traction among marketers is account-based marketing (ABM). At its core, ABM is about identifying priority business customers and delivering hyper-targeted personalization along their journey with you.

ABM amplifies a familiar concept: the right time, right place, right message. It focuses marketing and outreach resources on a specific set of target businesses identified to help you meet your goals on time and within budget. And it delivers the desired experiences to business decision-makers of personalization.

Depending on the scale of your utility’s ABM strategy, a variety of tools and technology are available today to meet these growing demands. This article provides an overview of key tools and technology that can support your ABM efforts across the entire engagement funnel—offering utilities benefits like cost-effectiveness, quicker participation, and enhanced relationships with key customers.

Why ABM is a game-changer for utilities

There's a heightened need for utility companies to stand out and offer personalized solutions to business customers. While ABM strategies are deployed across business-to-business (B2B) industries, the utility sector faces unique challenges, including:

  • Data quality issues.
  • Complex and lengthy participation journeys.
  • Fragmented systems and vendors.

Although ABM has been around since the early 2000s, utility interest started to accelerate in the last few years. Many factors have emerged to fuel this need, such as harder program goals; tighter budgets; market saturation among the largest, managed accounts; and great accountability to measure marketing return on investment (ROI).

These hurdles have prompted a focus on the "missing middle" or "untapped, harder-to-reach" segments—the space between the smaller and the largest businesses. However, the transition is not straightforward, given that some utilities suffer from an outdated structure of data management. And, historically, utility account data primarily centered on meter measurements and bill payments, which overlooks other essential details about business firmographics and decision-maker personas.

While utilities now collect more data, it often enters a vast data lake. The key challenge is transforming this data into actionable intelligence tailored to specific business targets. That is why it is important to consider your tools and technology in terms of your data-driven approach, which should include:

The latest Energy news, explained.

Subscribe to get insights, commentary, and forecasts in your inbox.

ABM tools article graphic image

The power of tools in account-based marketing

With business customers of all types and sizes, each with distinct energy goals and needs, a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy simply no longer works. ABM offers a solution for coordinating efforts between marketing and outreach teams. By adopting a data-driven approach, utilities can leverage tools and technologies to target and engage with the right audience, ensuring that marketing efforts yield maximum ROI.

The potential value of ABM lies in the priority of turning data into personalized, actionable insights. When supported by specialized software solutions and marketing automation, ABM transforms into a powerful strategic framework for utility companies. From data enrichment and account targeting to personalized messaging, content creation, and campaign measurement, an endless number of B2B tools and technology can support any or all stages of an engagement funnel.

While a myriad of available tools can enable utilities to broaden their reach and provide personalized, engaging experiences, technology alone will not get the job done. Data upon data, tool upon tool, will only further clutter the current landscape of what utilities know about their business customers and how they reach them. The customer experience must be at the core of the strategy—along with a well-defined strategy, the right content, and well-timed offers. ABM provides exactly that kind of strategic framework for the greatest return on your investment and deeper relationships with business customers.

It is important to set the expectation that ABM is a walk-before-you-run, pilot-then-scale approach. Once gaps in knowledge and delivery are identified through the strategic planning process, then tools and technology can be evaluated for how they may support.

Because the utility landscape is so unique, it’s important to conduct research and gather insights from your industry peers as you begin to explore your options. Further, talk with subject matter experts who have experience implementing programs and marketing specifically to utility business customers—you’ll want these unique insights to inform your choices. With this knowledge, begin to set your evaluation criteria, rating the tools around factors such as:

  • Integration capabilities with existing tools.
  • Segmentation opportunities on various firmographic and persona details.
  • Ability to weight/score contacts on their distinct actions.
  • Adherence to privacy policies and mitigation of security risks.
  • Frequency of data and system updates.
  • Visualization of the data for the variety of roles on your team (outreach, marketing, program).
  • Cost effectiveness for the size of your market and goals.

Harnessing data-driven insights and marketing technology for ABM success

As ABM grows and scales, it must keep pace with the world of marketing technology (“MarTech”). And when you can integrate these tools for faster, real-time insights, it can amplify your ABM strategy and transform your customer engagement because they enable a greater alignment between your outreach and marketing teams.

We’ve outlined below our picks for key MarTech components for ABM. It’s important to note that while many utilities may be using some or even all of these today, the true power of the tools is leveraged when they are fully integrated as a MarTech stack.

The role of marketing automation

Features of marketing automation tools
  • Track activities: Keep tabs on a prospect’s movements.
  • Visitor insights: Monitor who's browsing and what they're interested in.
  • Lead grading: Score leads for the best fit.
  • Nurturing: Cultivate and grow potential leads.
  • Custom pages: Easily create landing pages and forms.
  • Lead scoring: Prioritize leads based on potential value.
  • Intent data: Data signals showing customer interest on specific topics.

Marketing automation tools are software solutions designed to automate and optimize marketing tasks and workflows. For utility companies, these tools provide a seamless way to reach customers with automated marketing messages across multiple channels—ensuring relevant messaging, whether it's about new service offerings or energy-saving tips. Once the short list of key targets is identified, you can nurture them through an automated customer journey using a marketing automation platform.

In the utility sector, how you use marketing automation tools to fuel an ABM approach can impact campaign success. When combined with marketing technology, ABM can significantly enhance outreach effectiveness. This synergy between sales, marketing, and IT is pivotal for utility companies to achieve campaign success.

When used in tandem with ABM, a marketing automation tool can supercharge your marketing and outreach strategy, allowing for personalization and ensuring marketing and outreach teams operate in sync. For utility companies, this means more effective campaigns, better customer engagement, and heightened business success.

Unlocking the full potential of ABM for utilities

Utility companies need more than generic marketing and outreach in a dynamic landscape where every customer touchpoint matters. ABM stands tall as the answer, but its true data-driven power shines with the right tools, the right technology, and the right partners.

As the utility sector prepares for a marketing renaissance, diving deep into ABM tools and strategies with an experienced team in the space can pave the way for more meaningful connections, optimized ROI, and a future where marketing speaks directly to the heart of each customer's needs.

Meet the authors
  1. Kelly Zonderwyk, Director of Commercial Energy Marketing and Outreach

    With nearly 20 years of experience, Kelly designs and delivers award-winning energy efficiency programs and marketing campaigns for utility programs and local governments. View bio

  2. Phoenix Phimmasene, Marketing Account Director
  3. Lyndsay Martin, B2B Marketing Senior Data Specialist
  4. Derek Smith, Marketing Specialist
File Under