Findings Show B2B Marketers Achieving Better Results as They Get More Sophisticated in their ABM Strategies
ITSMA, the B2B marketing leadership community that pioneered Account-Based Marketing (ABM) in the early 2000s, and ABM leader Demandbase, released, in collaboration with the ABM Leadership Alliance (ABMLA), a research study titled ‘2018 ABM Benchmark Study’. The study found that 77 percent of B2B marketers believe ABM has driven greater success for their target accounts. ABM programs now account for more than a quarter of total marketing budgets, and ABM principles are influencing the way B2B firms go to market overall.
B2B marketers are deploying more sophisticated ABM strategies, as 46 percent target accounts across multiple tiers, up from 35 percent in 2017. These tiers include One-to-One, One-to-Few, and One-to-Many. However, the research also indicates that ABM is still relatively new to most marketers, as 52 percent of respondents have implemented ABM for less than a year.
According to the research, ABM is fast becoming business as usual for B2B marketing organizations such as SAS, DXC Technology, and Fujitsu, with marketers reporting their ABM programs now account for 28 percent of their overall marketing budget. Investment in ABM is being driven by the value companies are receiving from their programs for revenue and beyond.
Marketers cite substantially greater ROI from their ABM programs compared to traditional marketing, which increases as companies gain experience. Overall, the study found that 99 percent of marketers get a greater ROI from their ABM programs than all other types of marketing programs. 45 percent of respondents with less than three years of ABM experience in their organizations are seeing at least double the ROI from ABM. That number skyrockets to 80 percent of companies with three years or more ABM experience.
Companies also experience higher levels of customer advocacy and innovation. Specifically, 66 percent of marketers said their ABM accounts are more likely to provide positive references and advocate for them than other accounts.
It doesn’t come as a surprise, therefore, that many marketers cited the backing of their C-suite to invest in ABM. However, while marketing and business leaders clearly believe the potential of ABM, understanding how best to implement and expand programs remains a challenge for many marketers.
Respondents listed their top five challenges in getting started with the strategy as:
- Getting the data and reports needed to track results (35 percent)
- Personalizing and tailoring marketing to the key contacts at each account (34 percent)
- Developing campaign assets that are mass customizable (30 percent)
- Getting adequate budget to support programs and resources (30 percent)
- Educating sales on the process and value of ABM (26 percent)
“As the ABM category continues to explode, this research confirms the same trends that we are seeing in the market – that more and more companies are adopting ABM, and getting more sophisticated in their ABM strategies,” said Peter Isaacson, CMO, Demandbase. “But it’s important to remember we’re still in the early days of ABM expansion, and there is a lot more potential for marketers to drive their business results.”
As companies look toward 2019, the study highlights eight specific initiatives marketers should consider implementing to increase ABM impact and further elevate their programs as key contributors to corporate growth:
- Leveraging technology to support account-based approaches
- Increasing impact within each of the three types of ABM: One-to-One, One-to-Few, and One-to-Many
- Moving to a blended strategy with more than one type of ABM to scale programs, optimize investment and achieve greater key business outcomes
- Balancing coverage of new and existing accounts to use ABM for all of your accounts
- Getting the metrics right to focus on quality and prove success
- Investing in teams to ensure across a set of marketing resources the team has mastered the full complement of required skills to fulfill this different way of marketing
- Mastering storytelling to create relevant, compelling messaging and content at scale
- Orchestrating across different departments within the organization including continuing to strengthen the essential partnership with sales
“It’s encouraging to see so many marketers investing in ABM and beginning to reap substantial rewards,” said Rob Leavitt, SVP at ITSMA. “The focus is now shifting from why companies should implement an account-based approach to how marketing, sales, and business leaders can collaborate to ensure maximum benefit from this strategic discipline. Our hope is that B2B companies of all industries and sizes will look carefully at how they can further optimize their ABM programs in 2019 and beyond.”
The ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance Account-Based Marketing Benchmarking Survey questioned 207 B2B marketers at 190 ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance member companies via a web-based survey and qualitative interviews.