It’s easy to see why the technology-fueled resurgence of account-based marketing (ABM) is taking hold. B2B marketers are:
- Driving bigger deals, higher close rates, and more revenue
- Winning strategic accounts in specific industries or regions, or with other significance
- Getting higher ROI vs. other marketing strategies
The 2017 State of Account-Based Marketing Study by SiriusDecisions validates this trend in ABM results and adoption:
- 91% of the B2B companies surveyed are realizing higher deal sizes through ABM
- 92% see a higher percentage of closed deals from qualified opportunities for ABM accounts vs. non-ABM accounts
- More B2B marketers are moving from pilot programs to full ABM programs: 62% in 2017 compared to 40% in 2016
- ABM as a percentage of overall marketing budget is increasing
Source: 2017 State of Account-Based Marketing, SiriusDecisions
Simply put, the proven value of ABM is driving more investments within B2B organizations.
Technologies Fueling ABM Growth
So then why haven’t we always been practicing ABM? With the rise of the internet and digital marketing, it was challenging enough to make sense of individual behavior. Now, marketers are empowered with account-centric targeting, personalization, and measurement across their digital channels. Technology is playing a significant role in making ABM scalable in the Engagement Economy.
As marketers dedicate more budget to their ABM programs, the winning marketers are upgrading their marketing technology stacks to help operationalize and optimize their efforts. Let’s explore the key technology trends propelling ABM today and shaping its future.
Source: The State of Engagement, Marketo
Automation Scales ABM and Reduces Risk
Ten years ago, ABM was centered on picking top “whale” accounts and pursuing them via outbound programs and tactics. To execute ABM effectively, marketers only needed to engage with accounts through a handful of channels, but without marketing automation, they could only focus on so many accounts.
Now, marketing automation enables marketers to pursue a blend of ABM strategies at scale. In addition to the top 10, 20 or 50 strategic accounts, marketers can engage all of the sales team’s named accounts, plus the longer tail of target accounts. This allows marketing to partner with sales to create demand in the accounts they’re pursuing, plus mitigate the risk of “putting all your eggs in one basket” by continuing to generate demand among the broader set of target accounts using less expensive channels (and alerting sales to new accounts that are engaged).
Going forward, we’ll see further automation of accounts throughout the customer lifecycle, and more consistent and coordinated engagement of accounts between sales and marketing.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Introduces Intimate Customer Understanding
We’re also witnessing the transformational impact of AI throughout businesses, particularly in marketing. While marketers can get started with ABM with just a list of accounts their sales organization is targeting, AI puts more power in their hands, enabling them to confidently and precisely identify and justify the accounts to pursue.
With AI, marketers can understand their ideal customer profile (ICP) at an incredibly granular level. Savvy marketers are using AI to go beyond industry, revenue, and other firmographics to also analyze their historical sales, technologies accounts have implemented, company news, business clues on social media channels, and more. In other words, AI helps marketers leverage significantly more information from both internal and external sources to draw more precise models of their ideal customer. 6sense, Leadspace, and Mintigo are just a few of the Marketo partners helping marketers gain an intimate understanding of their ICP in this way.
Another area AI is enhancing is engagement. According to our report, The State of Engagement, 72% of marketers are expected to prioritize the use of personalized messages and content to engage with their customers. To that end, nearly 40% of them plan to leverage emerging technologies, such as AI and machine learning, to enhance content used throughout the customer journey.
AI enables marketers to personalize communications in a one-to-one way to and scale personalization beyond rules-based approaches. Marketo ContentAI is an artificial intelligence-powered solution that empowers marketers to personalize their content and offers at this next level. With ContentAI, marketers can predict the content most likely to convert each individual and target that individual across channels.
As the potential of AI for marketers continues to be realized, we’ll see more rules-based ABM activities enhanced by AI to make it easier for marketers to target the right accounts (and people within them), engage accounts across channels and get insights to optimize their programs.
Advanced Analytics Provide Attribution in an ABM Context
Is my ABM strategy working? Only one way to find out—measure its impact on the business. In the past, marketers performed spreadsheet gymnastics to pull together data and create models that showed that impact, or avoided it altogether. With automated attribution reporting, marketers can tie their efforts to opportunities, pipeline and revenue, and that’s even more important in an ABM context.
Here are 3 reasons why:
First, ABM is about partnering with sales to land target accounts. Marketers need to be able to show that the partnership is working.
Second, most marketers have more than one target account list. Attribution reporting will allow you to compare the efforts and results for one account list vs. another so you can optimize your ABM program.
Third, most marketers practice multiple or blended marketing strategies. Marketers running an ABM pilot or practicing a blend of ABM and inbound marketing, for example, need to know which investments are working, so they know how to allocate budget—especially as they are proving out hypotheses or transitioning between strategies.
In the future, expect to see more touchpoints and data brought into attribution models to make them more comprehensive and attribution analytics becoming increasingly easier for marketers to consume.
How Marketers Can Harness This Potential
It’s clear from the results of the SiriusDecisions survey that more marketers are doubling down on their budgets and moving forward on their ABM journey. Regardless of where you are on your journey, you’ll want to make sure you’re always in a position to move ahead.
When it’s time to consider technology, be sure to select an ABM platform that can support your ABM journey now and into the future. That may mean supporting multiple marketing strategies or hybrid strategies that give you the flexibility to adapt and discover what works best for your organization. To keep pace with rapid innovation, be confident this platform will continue to bring new capabilities and efficiencies to ABM.
And finally, look for a platform that can serve as the hub of your ABM technology stack. A single vendor rarely provides all of the technology you need, so the best place to start is with a platform that will give you the essentials for ABM and connect a wide range of technologies to help you grow and adapt over time.
This is how you can best shape your future in account-based marketing. Have other thoughts on where ABM is going or ideas on how to plan for the future? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments section.