21% expected increase in current ABM budgets demonstrate it is now a mainstream B2B technology
ITSMA, the B2B marketing leadership community that pioneered Account-Based Marketing (ABM) in the early 2000s, and the ABM Leadership Alliance, of which ABM leader Demandbase is a founding member, released their latest research report, ‘Moving to ABM Maturity: 2019 ABM Benchmark Study.’ This third annual study found that ABM continues to generate greater business outcomes from top customers and prospects than other types of B2B marketing and that the most mature ABM programs are even more effective.
According to the study, the positive business outcomes of successful ABM programs are clear: 71% of companies that invest in ABM report that their return on investment is somewhat or significantly higher than traditional marketing programs.
Building on program success, the report shows that ABM spend continues to grow. Companies that have already implemented an ABM strategy now dedicate almost one third (29%) of their entire marketing budget to ABM. Almost three quarters (73%) of those same companies are planning to spend more on ABM in 2020, with an average increase of 21% to their ABM budgets. Overall, the study showed an average 15% increase in ABM spending next year, highlighting how ABM has solidified its position as a mainstream, go-to strategy for B2B companies.
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According to the research, marketers planning to expand their ABM programs will focus on fine-tuning the buyer experience for their most important customers and prospects. These marketers cited adding tactics and activities for current accounts in their programs and expanding to cover more accounts as their top two priorities to increase the impact of ABM.
The study also highlights the hallmarks of the most effective ABM programs, including the critical areas of technology investment and sales alignment. Companies with the most effective ABM strategies are much more likely to have invested in technologies for analytics (69%), account insights (67%) and engagement insights (56%). And while only 27% of respondents reported using predictive technologies, 22% said they plan to add this functionality to their ABM technology stack in the next 12 to 18 months.
“The research from ITSMA and the ABM Leadership Alliance confirms what Demandbase has seen in the market over the past couple of years – ABM strategies are getting more sophisticated, which is influencing more significant business outcomes,” said Peter Isaacson, CMO at Demandbase. “In a hyper competitive landscape, B2B marketers have recognized that they can’t afford to delay the implementation of ABM any longer. The dramatic increase in both budgets and adoption demonstrate that ABM continues to become a mainstream business strategy.”
While the study points to the growing maturity of ABM as a strategic marketing discipline, many marketers do experience challenges that prevent them from reaching the full potential of ABM in their organizations. Respondents listed their top five ABM challenges as:
- Personalizing and tailoring their marketing to the key contacts at each account
- Tracking and measuring ABM results
- Getting an adequate budget to support programs and resources
- Developing campaign assets that are mass customizable to allow scale
- Educating sales on the process and value of ABM
Further findings suggest that a frequently missing element in ABM campaigns, which exacerbates these common challenges, is proving the success and value of ABM internally. Nearly half of companies (45%) said they do not currently measure the ROI of ABM. With ABM accounting for improvements in engagement with target accounts (92%), new account relationships (86%) and pipeline growth (83%), marketers should be focused on making the business outcomes visible to the organization.
The report highlights five key ways that marketers can accelerate their ABM maturity and impact in 2020:
- Practice patience; maturity takes time: ABM can generate substantial results quickly but takes time to develop fully; the most mature programs drive far greater business impact
- Strengthen sales alignment: The most effective ABM programs are closely aligned with sales coverage models, with ABM marketers working hand-in-hand with inside sales
- Invest in insight: The best ABM is customer-centric and based on deep insight; most companies are still at the early stage of tapping tools and data for sustained and high impact success
- Master multichannel: Amid the rush to digital, the most effective ABM programs continue to use a balance of online and offline approaches, fully integrated across sales and marketing
- Build a blended strategy: Most companies still rely on just one type of ABM, but the most effective programs use two or three approaches: One-to-One, One-to-Few and One-to-Many.
“The ultimate goal for ABM leaders in 2020 should be moving ABM from a dedicated marketing practice to a fully integrated corporate initiative that’s central to the growth strategy of the organization and influences how the company goes to market,” said Rob Leavitt, SVP at ITSMA. “ABM has clearly gained mainstream acceptance in B2B marketing already; the next step for even greater business impact is gaining full collaboration and support across top business and sales leadership.”
The ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance Account-Based Marketing Benchmarking Study is based on online survey data from 196 B2B marketers active in ABM as well as a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with leading ABM practitioners.
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