“Sales and marketing alignment” is more than just a business banality. It actually matters.

How successful can your company really be when the sales and marketing teams are,

  • Talking over one another,
  • Communicating contradictory messages,
  • Targeting different audiences,
  • Or, have goals that are at odds?

Now, imagine the opposite.

Cross-department synchronization starts at the strategic level, lives in digital channels, and is made possible by the quality of the data in your CRM. In the B2B space, sales and marketing alignment has become the key to cutting through the promotional clutter in increasingly noisy industries. The strategy behind coordinating B2B marketing and sales communications is often called “account-based marketing.”

One of the ways sales and marketing teams are using technology to get in sync is by triggering retargeting display ads from outbound emails and directly through a CRM such as Salesforce.

PixelTag CEO, Brian Collins, and COO, Darren Clayton sat down with LeadGenius to discuss how email and database retargeting are helping companies better target prospects at every stage of the buyer journey.

What is “account-based marketing” or “account-based targeting?” How is this different from either simple B2B or B2C sales?

Brian Collins: Account-based targeting is a B2B sales and marketing strategy that targets an organization, rather than an individual.

In the context of advertising, account-based targeting allows you to align your advertising creative with things that you’ve deemed relevant to a particular account.

For instance, if I’m trying to do business with Walmart, and I know that Walmart is interested in one of my products, I want to send Walmart messaging geared for that particular product. To go a step beyond that, I want to then target the people at Walmart who are in a position to make or influence a decision about my product. I also want to speak to them within the context of our relationship. The interactions that make up this relationship – the touch points on my website, the emails, the different contacts at the company, the emails I have sent, the characteristics of the business itself – these are all tracked in your CRM, most commonly Salesforce.

The thing that Salesforce does really well is it gives company-wide visibility into the relationship that you’ve established with a particular account. Using that documented relationship, Salesforce becomes a launching point for a number of different things. We’ve chosen the advertising route, but there are other ways to leverage account-based marketing.

Darren Clayton: Your CRM is about intelligence, right? Keeping track of your accounts and gathering information about them. You collect data on each account for months or even years as you develop a relationship.

That’s really what we’re talking about when we say “account-based marketing” or “account-based targeting” – crafting custom messaging for the data you have on individual accounts in a systematic way.

How does outbound email retargeting work?

Brian: With traditional website retargeting you embed a pixel on your site. When a prospect visits your webpage they get tagged with an advertising campaign. Email retargeting sort of takes that interaction and flips it.

Website retargeting is reactive. Businesses just sit and wait for a prospect to come to them. Email retargeting takes a more proactive approach. You first identify your prospects, and when you email them with an outbound campaign, that pixel will be embedded in the email instead of the website. When the prospect opens the email in a web-based client, or they click through that email, it will result in them getting attached to a campaign serving hyper-targeted ads related back to that email campaign. The prospects are tagged with that ad without necessarily having to visit your website.

With email retargeting and website retargeting, the mechanisms essentially are the same–you’re embedding an invisible pixel within an HTML-formatted environment. But the delivery methods are completely different.

Why is using email as a delivery method for serving a retargeting pixel an advantage?

The advantage of using email is targeting – predetermining your audience to increase relevant traction.

If you put a pixel on your website, it’s going to get hit thousands and thousands of times a day. If you are sending it through email the audience will be considerably smaller–but far more relevant–based on how you build your outbound list. All the recipients share similar characteristics you can message to.

When people go to your website, they could be anybody. They could be people looking for jobs, or students doing research. A large percentage of your impressions will end up being wasted.

Can email retargeting also be used to compliment inbound?

Brian: Absolutely. In order to have a really well-rounded advertising campaign, you’re going to want to do both.

Companies should serve new ad creative at each step of the buyer journey. The campaign – and thus the ad itself – is updated as a customer moves from a cold lead, to a website visitor, to a qualified lead, to an opportunity, and so on. The creative is then determined by website interaction or CRM status.

Retargeting typically lives on the marketing side of a business. How can retargeting an ad enable salespeople to achieve their goals?

Darren: Sales guys have kind of a difficult job. They’re working with a limited number of tools to take a lead and drive new business.

Usually there are only a few ways to communicate with prospects to move them through the sales process: things like phone calls, in-person meetings, and email. Too many interactions through these direct channels results in a type of fatigue both on the sales team and the prospect. Sales reps get tired of calling the same guys and sending the same emails over and over again. The prospect also doesn’t want to be pestered and bothered, especially in direct channels.

Using online retargeting ads with a little automation allows for a continuous soft touchpoint for sales teams. Your message, your call-to-action, can keep on hitting home time and time again, without the sales guy lifting a finger. A well-timed retargeting ad can make someone question their first choice to not reply. Or, you can restate your call-to-action in a separate medium, making the entire interaction a little more memorable, a little more sticky.

Retargeting a prospect from an email or from their Salesforce status is the perfect soft touchpoint for sales guys to have added to their small array of tools.

Brian: Furthermore, the sales team and marketing teams are now more or less in step. Retargeting ads are a marketing tool that a salesperson can also use to their advantage.

Why is sales and marketing alignment so important?

Brian: Sales and marketing have always experienced a fundamental disconnect.

We come from the world of Salesforce consulting, so we understand the pain points a lot of enterprise organizations experience when it comes to CRM.

Marketers run large scale campaigns that are focused on their entire database. Salespeople deal with a small subset of those contacts on a regular basis, and naturally have a better understanding of what they care about.

We want to support the marketers in their ability to correctly and accurately target the contacts and leads within the Salesforce system.

We also want to support the sales reps by adding relevant soft touches when they are actively engaged with a prospect.

As technology improves and the relationship between consumers and brands evolve, prospects are beginning to expect that a company can listen to them and understand them on a deeper level. The companies that are able to understand the customer succeed, and the ones who don’t are seen as out of touch — in which case, they are not able to establish as strong a relationship.

Darren: Business is all about relationships. It’s about intelligently positioning your brand in the customer’s mind. The way companies are doing that today is through personalization.

What are some examples of data points or statuses in Salesforce that your existing clients have found particularly helpful for initiating retargeting or email campaigns?

Brian: You can get a lot of value out of the lead status. This may indicate where a prospect is in the funnel – whether they’re a new lead or a qualified lead.

Industry, is also a good data point. Your messaging to prospects in the retail industry will be different than those in software or finance.

Revenue can be used to send out VIP offers or other cross-selling opportunities to the highest-earning accounts.

Company size is another. We can send SMBs different messaging than enterprises.

Location is relevant in a lot of B2C scenarios. Many businesses have special promotions or just different ways of doing business based on whether the prospect is in California versus Texas, for example.

A growing solar panel manufacturer may only service a certain number of states. Inbound leads from the serviceable states will be automatically routed to your sales team. Inbound leads from non-serviceable states could be served retargeting ads and nurturing emails to keep the company top-of-mind until the service is available in their area.

When it comes down to it, any data point in your CRM can be used to trigger ad creative.

How does bidding work with account-based retargeting?

Darren: As you know, retargeting is all impression based. Online display ad networks also favor pixels with more audience members.

The audiences for email retargeting are much smaller than the websites out there and take time to build. To combat the networks favoring larger audiences, we bid higher for the ads. Ironically, this results in a more efficient dollar-for-dollar spend because the audience is hyper-targeted and more likely to convert.

How large an audience do you need to get started with outbound retargeting?

Brian: For outbound we generally set the bar at about 10,000 emails per month. Now this could be 10,000 individual contacts that you email once, or maybe 1,000 contacts that you email 10 times over the course of that month. There’s a few different ways that you can split it. Generally our most successful engagements begin there. As the audience builds over time you will start getting increasingly better placement and the better rates.

As you mentioned, many companies out there are already using website retargeting. How does email and database retargeting interact with other retargeting services?

Brian: From what we’ve seen, the other retargeting players put a strong emphasis on website retargeting, mostly to support a B2C use case.

PixelTag focuses on the convergence of CRM, email, and advertising, specifically in the context of B2B relationships. We’ve seen a huge need for this among B2B marketers, who often find your typical website retargeting strategy to be a bit rigid. Being able to flip that interaction and proactively target your CRM database–that’s where PixelTag offers real value.

When we first started, people were like, “You know, there are other retargeting companies out there,” and we said, “That’s cool—this is a big space and there is room to coexist.”

The world of online advertising is becoming more understandable and accessible for the average marketer. PixelTag is iterating on the standard approach, specifically for B2B marketers.

How does database retargeting fit into the larger marketing and sales stack?

Brian: The cool thing about email retargeting is that it piggybacks off multiple established marketing and sales activities—targeted display ads, tagged via conversations that are already happening.

For instance, if you have an existing outbound email campaign, we can complement that campaign by inserting a pixel there. When you reps communicate directly with prospects, we can tag those emails. You have people visiting a specific landing page, we can associate a unique pixel with that creative.

Taking it one step further and including the CRM, you unlock a wealth of additional value from data you already own, with both sales and marketing acting together as potential beneficiaries.

Essentially we aim to facilitate a larger symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing efforts, rather than replace anyone’s existing processes.

Where do you envision this technology, or the industry in general, heading in the next year?

Darren: The early days of advertising were all about mass marketing; let’s reach everybody all the time with the same message.

A little bit later people said, “Oh, wait. Let’s narrow our focus and do some segmented marketing. Let’s target industries and specific demographics.”

The way we see it, this narrowing of focus is going to continue. It’s going to get all the way down to individual, personalized advertising, even in the B2B space.

The technology is at a point where this is more or less possible, and the end users–the consumers–are getting more and more comfortable with that. I don’t think people are quite ready for it — although, they could be pretty thrilled by it.

Brian: To that end, PixelTag is working toward the real time personalization of websites. In this scenario an individual who has been cookied can have a different experience compared to people coming onto a website for the first time.

Salesforce another CRM is the hub for an account-based strategy. How important is data accuracy? Do you have any thoughts or advice for people who are building out and investing in their CRM on how to make sure that database is functional so these other tools can be used to their maximum potential?

Brian: We have some strong opinions there. Coming from the Salesforce consulting side of things, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Data hygiene is crucial, and one must take into consideration how that data is being manipulated by salespeople, marketers, external systems, etc. Clean data should be the number one goal if you’re trying to effectively use that database that you’ve invested so much money and time in.

Conceivably, salespeople have been updating records with best practices in mind, but unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

That being said, there are certain checks you can put in place within the system from a technical point of view to validate and aggregate data. There are deduplication tools, that kind of stuff. But really, those things just correct bad behavior that salespeople have already learned.

The best thing to do is continually encourage best practices and correct any obvious data errors before they happen. Anything to help input your data correctly the first time, so you don’t have to go back, make corrections, and be a burden to yourself and to the poor marketer who’s trying to just advertise to these folks.

Darren: Data can be your friend or your enemy. Sales and marketing efforts are only limited by the quality of your data.