The New State of Account-Based Marketing

November 11, 2014 Debbie Margulies

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Survey_Cover_Image_reducedAccount based marketing (ABM) evolved in the 1990’s as an alternative to mass marketing to help marketers and sales people concentrate on penetrating the accounts which best fit your business’ focus. The strategy facilitates a better view of the entire customer lifecycle for groups of target decision makers. By realizing the potential upside of ABM, large companies like HP and Xerox have paved the way for ABM best practices along with the success to help companies grow quickly.

In addition to account-centric marketing strategies, companies have also tried organizing their teams by geography, industry, revenue, # of employees, role or department. No matter the selection, setting up sales and marketing for lead generation nirvana has always been a complicated debate.

Should we survey B2B marketing & sales pros?

My comrades at LeanData and I had an inclination that ABM and target account selling strategies were on the rise for B2B companies. A resurgence of sorts. The big questions though were — how much, where are people getting value, and what are they struggling with.

We addressed our curiosity by sending out a survey to approx. 8,500 individuals and received over 200 responses in a couple of days. Here’s what we immediately observed:

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We found the results super interesting. Only 14% of B2B companies stated that they weren’t using or planning to use account based marketing. However, for companies greater than $10M in revenue, we saw that 9 out of 10 were utilizing ABM. Additionally, we found that over 57% of B2B companies have been implementing account based marketing and sales strategies for more than a year. When it came to focus, only 5% stated they were less focused than a year ago, while 95% stated they were equally or more focused than 1 year ago. And, in terms of priority, 80% stated that ABM is a high or medium priority with 41% stating it was a high priority.

We also asked about challenges. And, those were certainly visible as well. The top 2 challenges businesses encounter with account based marketing are an inconsistent understanding of ABM (33%) across business units, and obtaining the right resources (30%) to set up, market, and maintain ABM programs. Here’s the list of top challenges we uncovered:

challenges
Overcoming and living with these challenges is par for the course. For those of you just embarking on account based marketing, don’t fret. There’s lots of innovative methods out there to blow-thru these obstacles.

But, what about the payoff? Yup, there’s plenty of benefits that we were able to confirm with our survey. We also saw that the top benefits were valued differently depending on company size.

  • Larger companies (annual revenue above $100 million) are focused on optimizing their marketing programs for their targeted accounts and upselling existing customers.
  • For those with revenue over $250 million annually, their primary focus is more on upsell and meeting large revenue targets.
  • For companies with less than $100 million annual revenue, the priority is around sales and marketing alignment as well as more effective and harmonious planning.

 

So why’s ABM picking up momentum now?

We certainly seem like we’re in the midst of a resurgence for account based marketing. One theory has to do with the flurry of adoption for marketing automation platforms, which are being seamlessly integrated into sales force automation systems like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, or Oracle CRM. This combination has given sales and marketing a new opportunity to come together on one continuous platform. Secondly, ABM encourages agreement between sales and marketing on a finite target market based on ideal account criteria. Thirdly, while marketing has done an amazing job in upping lead volume across new channels, marketing is being asked to make sure leads are generated in target accounts, otherwise the program investments are considered a waste. With these 3 forces taking shape, it’s easy to see that ABM is garnering popularity.

As noted by our survey responders, account based marketing is helping B2B sales and marketing pros collaborate on customer upsells, higher conversion rates of leads to opportunities, and more effective budget allocation to marketing programs. What’s been your experience with account based marketing? And, what challenges do you need to overcome at your company?

For more info on the survey, check out:

Complete Survey Results
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