Where Account-Based Marketing Stands in 2018

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Account-based marketing was one of the most significant trends in B2B marketing in 2018. It has been the primary focus of numerous conferences and webinars, and the subject of dozens of articles and blog posts. ABM was also addressed in several research studies during 2018, and with less than two  months remaining in the year, I think it’s appropriate to look at where ABM stands, as revealed by the 2018 research findings.

ABM Adoption

With a few exceptions, the research findings show that ABM has been adopted by a majority of B2B companies. For example:

ABM Maturity
The research also shows that most companies are still in the early stages of using ABM. For example:
  • In the 2018 ABM Benchmark Study by ITSMA and the ABM Leadership Alliance, 84% of survey respondents said they have been using ABM for two years or less. Fifty-four percent said less than one year.
  • Fifty-two percent of survey respondents reported using ABM for one year or less. (Demand Gen Report ABM Benchmark Survey)
  • Forty-five percent of survey respondents said they had “just started” their ABM program. (Engagio ABM Outlook Survey)
ROI from ABM
The 2018 research revealed a widespread perception that ABM produces a better return on investment than other approaches to marketing. For example:
  • Forty-five percent of survey respondents said the ROI from their ABM program is more than double the ROI from other marketing efforts. (ITSMA ABM Benchmark Study)
  • In the Account-Based Marketing ROI Research Report by Lenati, 44% of survey respondents described the ROI from ABM (compared to other marketing initiatives) as “much higher,” and another 37% said the ROI from ABM is “somewhat higher.”
ABM and Traditional Demand Generation
Most companies appear to be using a combination of ABM and “traditional” demand generation marketing.
  • Fifty-five percent of survey respondents said they use a mix of both ABM and traditional demand generation. (Engagio ABM Outlook Survey)
  • Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said that between 25% and 75% of their total marketing is ABM. (Bizible State of Pipeline Marketing survey)
ABM Budgets
The 2018 research reveals that companies are committing significant financial resources to their ABM efforts. For example:
  • Survey respondents reported that approximately 28% of their total marketing budget is or will be devoted to ABM. (Mean) (ITSMA ABM Benchmark Study)
  • Survey respondents said that 29% of their total marketing budget would be dedicated to ABM in 2018. (Average) (Engagio ABM Outlook Survey)
Emerging Trends in 2018
One of the emerging trends in ABM this year appears to be that a growing number of companies are implementing more than one “variety” of account-based marketing. Most ABM thought leaders and experienced practitioners recognize three types of ABM – one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many. In the ITSMA/ABM Leadership Alliance 2018 ABM Benchmark Study, 46% of the survey respondents reported using more than one type of ABM, up from 35% in the 2017 edition of the study.
In addition, this research found that one-to-few ABM has become the most popular type of ABM. In the 2018 study, 60% of the survey respondents reported using one-to-few ABM, compared to 56% using one-to-one ABM, and 52% using one-to-many ABM.

How Will ABM Evolve in 2019?

Earlier this year, Gartner argued that the term “content marketing” will soon become obsolete. I believe something similar may happen with account-based marketing, although the process isn’t likely to be completed next year.

More specifically, I think the lines between one-to-few/one-to-many ABM and “traditional” demand generation will continue to blur, and that these forms of ABM will become just “the way marketing is done” by many B2B companies. The exception – if there is one – will be companies that focus on very broad markets (such as, for example, SMBs or a combination of SMBs and consumers).

I would also suggest that one-to-one ABM will be assimilated into the larger practice of strategic account management, and that ABM marketers will function as members of account management teams that also include representatives from sales, business development, and customer success/customer service.

Image courtesy of Richard Matthews via Flickr CC.

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