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Adobe announced on September 20, 2018, a definitive agreement to acquire Marketo, a leading B2B marketing platform, for $4.75bn. Adobe has established itself at the heart of B2C marketing, providing content creation tools, marketing automation, and, more broadly, customer experience management. The acquisition of Marketo significantly boosts Adobe's B2B credentials and expands the remit for Adobe Experience Cloud to support high value and long sales cycles through intelligent lead nurturing and account-based marketing (ABM) environments.

Relevance is the name of the ABM game

In the Ovum report A Fusion of ABM, CSM, and Omnichannel in B2B Markets – A Synergistic Combination for Growth,we argued that while most of the focus for customer experience management had been with the consumer in mind, the fundamental principles underlying successful omnichannel engagement were just as valid in the B2B world, but manifested differently. The old funnel approach to sales, where leads are generated by a clever marketing campaign and then tossed over the wall for sales to close, lost its efficacy some time ago. Unlike many consumer purchases, high-value products or services in a B2B environment involve multiple individuals performing different roles. A network of relationships is at play at any given moment, and successful salespeople know this. ITSMA developed the idea of ABM back in 1994, defining it as "treating individual accounts as a market." According to Bev Burgess, senior vice president at ITSMA, ABM is founded on four principles:

  • Client centricity and insight – Sales and marketing collaborate to help customers solve their business challenges, rather than try to push products or solutions. This demands a deeper level of insight to help frame the right solutions to support the customer's business goals.

  • Working together – It's a partnership between marketing and sales, not an ad hoc collaboration.

  • Beyond revenue – ABM objectives focus on customer lifetime value supported by corporate reputation and building relationships, not just revenue performance.

  • Personal touch – Tailored programs and campaigns are devised based on market, account, and individual buyer insights. Marketing and sales develop personalized content to create interest and nurture engagement.

This is very much Marketo territory. Once fully absorbed into the Adobe Experience Cloud and taking advantage of a unified data platform and AI, it will improve the ability to orchestrate relevance throughout the complex buying cycle.

Marketo's 500+ partners allied to Adobe's ecosystem of ISVs and delivery partners will make this a compelling proposition. The Open Data Initiative, which was announced at Microsoft Ignite in September and is supported by Adobe, Microsoft, and SAP, should add a layer of reassurance to B2B companies seeking to develop an effective ABM capability and a customer experience that can match the best omnichannel-delivered consumer experience.


Further reading

A Fusion of ABM, CSM, and Omnichannel in B2B Markets – A Synergistic Combination for Growth, INT001-000019 (February 2018)

"Adobe's announced acquisition of Magento Commerce signals a broader remit for Experience Cloud," INT001-000063 (May 2018)

Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting a Customer Engagement Platform, 2018–19, INT001-000088 (August 2018)


Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst, Customer Engagement Practice

[email protected]