Guest post by Sangram Vajre of Terminus.

If you’re in the B2B marketing or sales industries, then you’ve likely found yourself perusing product reviews and reports at some point in your career, whether you were evaluating a potential purchase using peer reviews on sites like TrustRadius, G2Crowd or seeing how the competition stacked up in the Gartner Magic, Quadrant, Forrester Wave Report or SiriusDecisions. Either way, the experience was probably the same. With a product category in mind — perhaps “marketing automation,” “information security,” or “cloud computing” — you would click through to explore the latest trends and research within those industries.

Here’s what’s interesting: as the co-founder and CMO of an B2B account-based automation company called Terminus, it has quickly come to my attention how little representation there is for the account-based marketing (ABM) industry on these sites. In fact, ABM hardly has a presence at all. I find this particularly surprising given the amount of buzz around account-based marketing and advertising — and the number of players that are currently dominating the ABM landscape, including big names like DemandBase and Bizo.

The thing is, there is a market demand for account-based marketing, and we see it every day (according to Matt Senatore, Research Director at SiriusDecisions, ABM generated enough global search traffic in only 12 months to appear on Google Trends). As the B2B selling landscape continues to evolve, buyers are looking for more customer-centric solutions, and customer-centricity is what account-based marketing is all about. In fact, account-based marketing requires flipping the funnel completely on its head (feel free to join the #FlipMyFunnel revolution) so that the customer comes first, making it the perfect solution for buyers that are looking for ways to better meet their customers’ needs.

“ABM is popular now because it’s come out the reality that marketing is facing,” says Megan Heuer, VP and Group Director at SiriusDecisions. “Very often, the broad-based, contact-led model of demand creation is just not helpful when sales only cares about a defined universe. ABM is the natural evolution of marketing’s ability to align with the reality of sales’ go-to-market models.”

But if the ABM market is becoming more saturated — not only with buyers but also with vendors who are all approaching ABM in their own unique ways — then why hasn’t anyone created the first account-based marketing category yet?

To answer this question, we looked at the evolution of other technology industries, once struggling to get on their feet and now dominant in their fields.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has its roots in the 1960s, when the concept of using a global network to deliver computing resources was born. However, cloud computing for the masses was relatively unachievable until the 90s, when the Internet began to offer more significant bandwidth. It was the arrival of in 1999 that really put cloud computing on the map, by pioneering the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a website.

While it was initially received with some skepticism, we’ve seen an explosion of growth in the SaaS industry since 2000. In fact, IDC predicts that SaaS enterprise applications will be a $50.8 billion market by 2018.

CRM-market-forecastFor a market with humble beginnings, it wasn’t long before “SaaS” and “cloud computing” were household terms (well, at least among businesses), and the category for cloud computing was born.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is a relatively new market, but it’s one that has seen a ton of growth over the past few years (we’re talking 50% year-over-year growth on a regular basis), as you can see in the chart below. However, in 2014, SiriusDecisions conducted a survey that revealed that only 8% of organizations were using marketing automation for their existing customer marketing. If the contrast in those statistics doesn’t speak to the potential that this technology has, then I don’t know what does.

MA Growth1While there was once a point in time where the marketing automation category had yet to be created — and even a few years of uncertainty and consolidations — the market is now dominated by at least five to eight powerful players. We’ll see industry analysts continue to pay attention to the growth in this market as B2B buyers gravitate toward marketing automation solutions to improve their lead generation and increase their ROI.

The Race for Account-Based Marketing Category

And so, we come back to my original question. With account-based marketing showing many of the same signs and growth patterns as familiar industries like cloud computing and marketing automation (high growth, but low penetration), it won’t be long before we see ABM become a category of its own in the minds of analysts and business people alike.

The question is, who will win the race to create it?

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Sangram - Bio Sangram Vajre, co-founder and CMO of Terminus, is a passionate Marketing geek at heart and loves to solve problems, both analytically and creatively. In today’s marketing world, when companies need to rapidly adapt to changing buyer-centric communication, Sangram finds comfort in all things technology to keep pace with this challenge. Over the years, Sangram has amassed invaluable experience from his exposure to startups, consulting, and global companies. Most recently, Sangram headed up Marketing at Pardot, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2013. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangramvajre