How ABM Fared in 2018
By Lauren Dichter, Marketing Consultant for Heinz Marketing
In 2018, less than 25% of total survey respondents were confident their ABM programs were effective, while over half of the group of survey respondents with advanced ABM programs were genuinely confident in their programs’ ability to drive revenue! Which begs the question, where do ABM practitioners find the most success, and, perhaps more importantly, what steps are they taking to get there?
To find out, Terminus and Heinz Marketing teamed up in late 2018 to conduct a survey of 211 B2B sales and marketing professionals who are currently running ABM programs in their organizations.
Trends in ABM
Through this effort, we uncovered the specific aspects of ABM that gained momentum, remained the same, or lost momentum in 2018 as compared to previous years. Various elements of ABM in 2018 are organized below into these 3 categories:
- Measuring and reporting the performance of their ABM program is the biggest challenge standing in the way of success in 2018, whereas last year, organizations were most concerned with the length of time it took to see their results and how to get started with ABM in the first place.
- Although industry and annual revenue are still the most commonly used criteria in building target account lists, 2018 showed there is an opportunity for companies to utilize more advanced techniques moving forward, like predictive and intent signals and engagement data.
Remained the Same
- In 2018, new business/acquisition (73.5%) and pipeline acceleration (62.1%) reigned supreme as the top goals of most ABM programs, as they always have.
- No matter how advanced your ABM program is in its implementation, respondents still utilize industry/verticals or annual revenue the most in building their target account lists.
- Organizations are shifting how they invest in account-based marketing. In previous years’ reports, a large percentage of respondents indicated their ABM budgets were increasing year over year. While the trend still continued in 2018, that number dipped from 82% to 60%.
- This slow-down in ABM investment is supported by a separate set of findings: From 2017 to 2018, the percentage of marketing leaders who reported being interested in building out their companies’ ABM tech stacks in the upcoming year dipped from 83% to just over 50%. This significant 52.6% of advanced program practitioners responded that they intend to consolidate their martech stacks into fewer, more robust solutions, suggesting there were too many siloed tools when ABM was more of a “project”. Now that it’s becoming part of the mainstream GTM process, the tools are being consolidated and the focus is evolving toward scalable, integrated capabilities versus tactical tools.
- Regardless, companies are still increasing ABM investments, but the 2018 numbers indicate many may be past the initial investment phase, and are instead focused on maturing and optimizing their programs.
- While it has never been the top goal of most ABM programs, in 2018, lead generation lost importance in comparison to previous years.
Understanding how ABM characteristics and priorities have shifted in recent years allows marketing and sales leaders everywhere to lay the foundation for future ABM success. These survey results paint a picture of what’s been working well and what hasn’t; they are meant to guide sales and marketing teams as they decide what kind of ABM program is best for their company.
All in all, the 2018 insights indicate the majority of companies currently practicing ABM are still in the early stages of implementation, while some are established and operating. Furthermore, about 9% believe their ABM programs have reached an advanced level. This small percentage of respondents from companies operating with the most advanced ABM programs differ from companies operating younger programs in that they:
- Are more poised to take target account selection to the next level by using predictive analytics, intent signals, and engagement data
- Have high confidence in the effectiveness of their ABM programs
- Are less focused on sales and marketing alignment as a top goal, since sales and marketing are already tightly aligned and sharing the responsibility of target account selection
- Intend to consolidate their tech stacks into fewer, more robust solutions instead of adding additional technology in 2019.
- Give less importance to the following KPIs…
- Account engagement rate
- Sales demos/initial sales calls
- Account penetration
As you ruminate on these findings, think about your own company’s sales and marketing strategy. Are you using ABM? How far along is the program? What next steps could you take to improve the effectiveness of your account-based marketing? Why are you paying attention to certain KPIs over others?
In 2019, ABM will no doubt evolve from where it was in 2018. Will you keep up with the shifting standards?
What Comes Next?