The Great Expectations Of Account-Based Marketing

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CEO of Momentum ITSMA, helping firms develop, embed and enable Account-Based Marketing strategies, and author of The ABM Effect.

For 2024, expectations for account-based marketing are riding at an all-time high. But the landscape is evolving, so it’s crucial to know and understand the dynamics to maximize ROI.

ABM constitutes a substantial portion of B2B marketing investments, and many practitioners witness significant outcomes. Yet, beneath this success there are hurdles that marketing leaders must confront. My company’s latest Global State of ABM Report findings reveal some pivotal focus areas to unlock the full potential of the next generation of ABM.

The Continued Reign Of ABM

For the third consecutive year, ABM has solidified its position as the top priority for B2B marketing. Among companies that have already implemented ABM, almost 30% of their marketing efforts are dedicated to this approach, according to my company’s report. And two-thirds intend to increase their investment this year. For 2024, I see ambitious initiatives from program leaders who are looking to:

• Expand efforts for existing accounts within their programs.

• Allocate additional resources to support ABM.

• Develop new tools and templates to enhance effectiveness.

• Incorporate more technology, including Generative AI.

• Implementing new programs targeting fresh markets, business units and geographies.

• Embrace a blended approach that combines one-to-one, one-to-few, one-to-many and deal-based strategies.

But what are the expectations versus the reality?

On the one hand, most ABM programs are seeing results and ABM is a top performing B2B marketing strategy. But when it comes to significant improvement, there’s a notable gap. Less than a fifth of companies report substantial improvement in revenue measures.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

The return on investment for ABM is stronger than all other traditional B2B marketing initiatives. But research shows that measuring the success of ABM programs is the biggest challenge for marketers. This points to the continuing obstacles many companies face—organizational alignment, culture, skills and tools. There’s no point in starting an account-based strategy to then measure marketing by the number of leads created or pipeline sourced.

Misleading metrics and a maniacal focus on filling the top of the lead funnel are some of the telltale signs that a marketing organization is on the wrong path with ABM.

The Alignment Hangover

Strategic alignment is a recurring challenge—the ongoing quest to sync your ABM efforts with your company’s growth strategy. We’re at a point where ABM is pervasive, and most business leaders now have a sense of what it is and why it’s valuable. But there’s a huge difference between a general blessing and actually driving the organization around a different way to go to market.

Breaking The Stop-Start Cycle

If you don’t break the stop-start cycle, you won’t see the sort of return ABM can deliver. Shifting priorities and organizational changes can create turbulence, and ABM programs end up changing in shape and size—fewer accounts or net new accounts. All this change means a reassessment of strategies, a recalibration of target audiences and a realignment of resources. A marketing organization might need to acquire new capabilities and skill sets, or at least new ways of thinking.

Ways To Win

Right-size your ABM efforts. Assess your ABM efforts against your corporate priorities. Identify whether growth is tied to specific account types, industries or key solution providers. Avoid being driven solely by the number of accounts and focus on your core objectives.

Eliminate roadblocks. Identify and address internal obstacles. Take a step back to evaluate how ready the wider organization is to really drive ABM—many unwittingly hamper their own efforts.

Measure strategically. Consider the substantial volume of data in today’s marketing landscape. Instead of solely concentrating on extensive data points, concentrate on measuring year-over-year revenue growth.

Diving Into Tech

Tech looks to be a massive priority. But it’s not about buying more tools or systems than you know what to do with. The key is utilizing what you already have. The high performers know how to leverage their core tools. They get far greater value from real-time understanding—from knitting together quantitative and qualitative, first party and third party.

When it comes to Generative AI, we need to take care of the foundation, the technology, the data, the analytics and the insight process, to take full advantage of its power. Everyone’s diving in—including your competitors and customers. Research shows that marketing is the second biggest industry to be adopting AI. So, you need to be creative and intelligent in using both your existing tools, platforms and data, and layering on top this whole new capability.

Short-Term And Long-Term Focus

There’s a definite correlation between mature ABM programs and more success. ABM leaders are more mature in their programs. And they’ve been able to get the balance right of long-term requirements and the short-term needs of their business.

Don’t score own goals on live opportunities. Look at what might undermine your buying cycle and make certain those things don’t happen. Collaboration between sales and marketing is essential to identify what you need to safeguard for live opportunities. In a rapidly evolving environment, you need to both capture short term and win in the long term. Find a dynamic way for prioritizing accounts to meet your ABM efforts.

Taking The ABM Team Off The Island

Leaders are orienting more of their marketing towards ABM programs and embedding ABM across the whole of marketing. According to research, two-thirds (66%) of “top performers leverage multiple teams to execute ABM across their organizations, rather than isolating ABM in a single siloed department within marketing.”

I believe that the organizations that will win in 2024 and beyond are those that are able to harness the full power of their marketing organization. Whether it’s strategic programs or motions where you can collaborate with other teams, you need to step toward the idea of “all-in marketing.” It’s no longer enough to co-exist—you’re one team, working toward the same end.


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