The Marketing Strategist:

Five ABM Predictions for 2020

December 5, 2019

  • Account-based marketing

In 2019, ABM continued to be a force for marketing leaders looking to innovate new solutions, enter new markets, connect with new buyers, and change perceptions with key accounts. With an eye on 2020, ITSMA’s Bev Burgess, SVP & ABM Practice Lead, shared her top five predictions for ABM at a recent ABM Dinner hosted by Agent3 at the Corinthia Hotel in London.

1.  More people will start to adopt ABM as a strategy globally

We’ve seen an incredible rise in interest in ABM since around 2013, and I don’t see any signs of that abating. In the UK, more marketers than ever were at B2B Marketing’s ABM conference this year, many of whom were just at the planning or piloting stage. At ITSMA, we work with more complex, global clients who tend to be further ahead with ABM, but we’re seeing the same wave of interest in our business around the world with continued demand in America and Europe, and growing demand in APAC.

2.  More people will continue to embed ABM as BAU (business as usual)

ABM can generate substantial results quickly, but takes time to develop fully; the most mature programs drive far greater business impact. For those already doing ABM, I think we’ll see it becoming embedded into their marketing strategies with more dedicated resources allocated to it, both in terms of people and budgets. Our latest research (181 companies with the ABMLA) shows that, on average, 29% of marketing budgets are being spent on ABM and 73% of companies expect to increase that figure next year (by an average of 21%).

Why? Well, the same research revealed that today 10% are exploring, 43% piloting, 30% expanding, and 17% embedding a program. Of those with an embedded program, five times as many said they get significantly better results in terms of reputation and pipeline growth than everyone else in the earlier stages, and twice as many said they get significantly better results in terms of relationship outcomes.

ABM will continue to influence the way we do our broader marketing too, such as One-to-Few ABM principles shaping vertical marketing and One-to-Many ABM shaping ‘always on’ offering campaigns.

3.  More people will adopt a blended strategy

People are using ABM almost equally now to grow existing accounts and win new ones, and to a slightly lesser extent to support major deals or change perceptions in an account. Today, 60% have adopted One-to-Few ABM, 50% One-to-One ABM, and 42% One-to-Many ABM.

Most companies are still relying on just one type of ABM, but the most effective programs use two or three. I expect more people will try multiple types of ABM in a blended strategy to keep up with demand from their sales and account teams if they started with One-to-One ABM, or to increase their focus on their most important accounts if they started with One-to-Few ABM or One-to-Many ABM. This is not as straightforward as it sounds, as even the most experienced companies struggle to define the different approaches for each and delivery mechanisms for each one.

4.  ABM will increasingly align with other marketing programs and with sales

Amid the rush to digital, the most effective ABM programs use a balance of online and offline approaches fully integrated across sales and marketing. Our How Executives Engage study shows that execs still rely on offline information sources almost half of the time (46%; but 43% under age 40 and 47% age 40 up).

Our research shows that the tactics rated most effective for each type of ABM this year reflect this omnichannel approach.

Top tactics for three types of ABM

(N=68 for One-to-One ABM, 79 for One-to-Few ABM, and 57 for One-to-Many ABM). Source: ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance, 2019 ABM Benchmark Study, October 2019

Not surprisingly, we’ve started to see more alignment between ABM and other important programs, such as executive engagement and advocacy programs, particularly as teams try to build that trusted advisor status and deploy their execs and SMEs, and scale their programs to cover more accounts.

And there’s an increasing interest from Key Account Management (KAM) communities about ABM. Most ABM programs do a good job working with sales, but there’s substantial room for greater collaboration and a growing awareness from KAMs of how ABM can help them.

5.  Technology will increasingly be adopted to support ABM programs

Our latest survey shows that while more than 70% of people use the basic tools of email, website, CRM, and social media, with around a half to two thirds using analytics, event technology, digital advertising, tech for account insights, marketing automation, and intent data, other technologies are still in the minority.

The best ABM is customer-centric and based on deep insight; we’re still early in tapping tools and data for sustained and high impact success. Top plans for next year include predictive technologies, ABM platforms, business intelligence, and tools for testing and optimization.

We’d love to hear what you think! What are your own predictions for #ABM in 2020?


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