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ABM benchmark study shows 77% of B2B marketers have high hopes in targeting key accounts

With more than three quarters of B2B marketers citing success with account based marketing in an ABM benchmark study from ITSMA and DemandBase, the focus now is on blending strategies with different approaches and overcoming data and reporting challenges.

ABM programs now account for 28 per cent of overall marketing budgets, according to the 2018 ABM benchmark study, which was released on Wednesday from Lexington, Mass.-based B2B community ITSMA and DemandBase, a maker of marketing applications. Moreover, 99 per cent said they see greater ROI from ABM programs versus other initiatives. Besides growing within their particular accounts, 66 per cent of those surveyed also cited an increase in customer advocacy such as referrals.

Robert Leavitt, senior vice-president at ITSMA, said the ABM benchmark study also shows that, while it may be a constant topic at conferences and in blogs, there are still many marketers for whom this is relatively new territory.

“There was the notion that this was just for very large companies — we hear that a lot,” Leavitt told B2B News Network. “It takes tIme to figure out how you can make ABM your own. When you do this research, what’s striking is how diverse the programs really are and how dependent they are in your company, your marketing organization, your customer base, your sales organization, your go to market strategy and your martech stack.”

The good news is that for those who get started and stay the course, there are significant long-term results. Eighty per cent of companies that have been doing ABM for three years or more say they’re seeing double the ROI on what they’ve invested, versus 45 per cent who have been at it for under three years.

On the flip side, getting the data to track and report results was the No. 1 challenge highlighted in the ABM benchmark study, by 35 per cent of the sample. Leavitt said these are largely “orchestration challenges” between customer and sales data to understand buying signals and engagement patterns.

“It’s not collecting data — we’re inundated with data,” he said. “It’s figuring out how to guess the signal from the noise and take action — moving from data to insight to action and creating that kind of flow.”

Part of this might be addressed as martech vendors continue to add capabilities to assist with ABM. This could be an opportunity for startups in particular, Leavitt said, who have less legacy application issues to overcome.

The other big takeaway Leavitt pointed to in the ABM benchmark study is a convergence between those firms who have used the approach primarily to acquire new customers and those who have focused on broadening and deepening relationships with existing accounts. As their experience with ABM grows, in other words, Leavitt predicted more experimentation between one-to-one, one-to-few and one-to-many ABM programs.

“Sometimes there’s this sense that it’s quick and easy and there’s only one way to do it — you’ll see these blog posts like, ‘Five easy steps for ABM,’” he said. “The reality is, the people saying those things are talking about different kinds of ABM.”

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Shane Schick
Shane Schickhttp://shaneschick.com
Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.