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Abacus aims to find missing data in marketing expenses

By combing CRM data, Abacus looks to provide finance teams with a clearer picture on costs accrued during marketing campaigns and events.

Turning an opportunity into a sale is a difficult and costly task for sales and marketing teams. Beyond the act of searching and locating leads and opportunities, there are extensive campaigns, dinners and events to eventually turn that lead into a new customer.

Sales and marketing expenses can also get lost in the data, preventing managers and admins from receiving a comprehensive view on the return on investment for campaigns and events.

"Ultimately, the goal is finding out how many dollars does $1 of travel and entertainment and other costs earn us when tracking down a customer," said Matt Horn, director of finance for Yieldbot, a New York-based advertising technology company that digitally places advertisements for its customers in real time.

Yieldbot has been using Abacus Labs Inc., a New York-based expense management company, for about two years -- around the same time Yieldbot adopted Salesforce as its CRM provider.

Abacus recently announced integration with Salesforce, allowing for more insight into sales and marketing expenses. It also allows executives like Horn to dig into the expenses accrued on various campaigns and sales trips, which increases ROI and provides better insight for future campaigns.

"The data will be pointing toward more specific opportunities and pinpoint exactly the ROI we're making in terms of client spending," Horn said. "We'll get a fine-tuned view toward tracking how the dollars out are affecting the dollars in."

The data will be pointing toward more specific opportunities and pinpoint exactly the ROI we're making in terms of client spending.
Matt Horndirector of finance for Yieldbot

Abacus' aim is to eliminate the need for expense reports, freeing up more time for employees and the finance teams.

"Imagine, as an employee, that instead of having to manually submit expense reports, Abacus could take all the sources of data -- receipts from emails, your CRM data, your corporate and personal credit cards -- and use that, as well as previous expensing behavior, to suggest precompleted expenses," said Omar Qari, cofounder and CEO of Abacus.

Abacus takes into consideration previous expense reports and uses that data and expense policies programmed into the software to automatically approve certain expenses. So, if a sales rep goes on a business trip to secure new clients, expenses accrued can be put into two categories: one for automatic approval and another for anomalies -- expenses that appear unique or don't have previous examples.

There are also some expenses that still require manual entry, which Abacus is currently working on automating.

"For more complex cases, we're continuing to look for more data sources to plug into," Qari said. "It's a constant challenge of where can we find more data sources to automate this process."

Abacus isn't the only expense-reporting software on the market to make sales, marketing and finance teams' lives easier. Others include Expensify, Nintex Forms and Concur. Several companies, including Concur, FinancialForce and Journey, all have expense applications built on the Salesforce AppExchange.

But with its recent integration with Salesforce, Abacus is hoping to take the insight it provides to a new level. By combining employee expenses with data from marketing campaigns and events, sales and marketing managers can receive a clear view of all the money going into certain leads and projects.

"In the past, finance teams would find it very difficult to associate the expenses they were incurring in relation to a specific opportunity or marketing campaign," Qari said. "Many companies would just focus on the large-ticket items; however, all these other expenses could equal up to 50% of the expenses, and that data would be lost inside expense reports."

Before the integration with Salesforce, finance, sales and marketing managers would manually create an expense field and export data from Salesforce, but it proved to be a time-consuming endeavor.

"I was previously managing a physical, manual tag list for our customers, and I would consolidate the list, so we have a big agency called MediaVest that we work with that has many subsidiaries," Horn said. "I couldn't manually manage each subsidiary on its own, so I just put a MediaVest tag on it. Then, a salesperson would enter information about spending a couple hundred dollars on a team for dinner, and I wouldn't know if it was MediaVest in Chicago or a smaller branch.

"Now, with that information plugged into Salesforce, it gives us a better idea of how the expenses are tying into our pipeline," Horn said. "The data is now less strenuous to get to and more hyperfocused in a way that's beneficial to us."

At this time, Salesforce is the only CRM in which Abacus is integrated, but Qari said there are talks with other CRM companies to do something similar. He wouldn't provide specific companies. Qari said he also hopes to take the Salesforce integration even deeper and provide insight for management and executive levels.

"Now that we have the data in Abacus, the next iteration is to have Abacus building custom objects inside of Salesforce," Qari said. "So, the sales team can push that data back into Salesforce, so even the VP of sales can see in real time what costs are generated to lead to deals."

Horn said he believes Yieldbot will gain a clearer picture on the ROI of sales and marketing expenses in a couple of months, once several sales cycles have completed.

"I think the advantage moving forward will be that this data is much more accurate and the data will be pointing toward more specific opportunities," Horn said. "It's already been effecting with whom we'll go out and spend money on."

Pricing for Abacus is $9 per monthly active user for teams with less than 50 people. For larger teams, employees must opt for the professional plan, and it's an annual commitment that can be more than $9 per monthly user, depending on the customer's needs. The Salesforce integration is only included in the professional plan.

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