Fact or Fiction: 4 Lingering Myths About ABM Debunked

December 2, 2020

Marketing in 2020 presented a unique set of challenges.

As pandemic-related buzzwords like “the new normal” began dominating most marketing messages, many of us struggled to find compelling ways to get in front of audiences.

Collectively, we overwhelmed potential buyers with a surplus of digital content, from virtual events to a seemingly endless stream of webinars.

All those offers forged a great disconnect: The more we pushed, the less interested people became. For many marketers, driving engagement was extremely tough this year.

As we barrel towards 2021, we surveyed over 200 marketers to better understand the new landscape of B2B marketing.

Naturally, we zeroed in on ABM as a key tactic—and we’re debunking some commonly accepted myths to help marketers determine how to best spend their time, budgets, and bandwidth moving forward.

Myth #1: Account-based marketing is just a buzzword

If you think ABM is little more than a passing fad, think again. As business dynamics and buyer behaviors continue to evolve, the ongoing shift has accelerated ABM from buzzword to proven strategy.

Marketing teams don’t just need to embrace digital, they need to craft efficient and flexible campaigns that scale, which is where ABM shines.

The need for scalability was most evident in our survey results around company size.

While most B2B organizations assume they need big budgets or a complex tech stack to see results with ABM, the data tells a different story: Of the companies currently using ABM, almost half (45%) have fewer than 500 employees and nearly a third (32%) have fewer than 100.

The truth is, not only is ABM here to stay, success isn’t limited to the big guys. Marketing teams who managed to thrive during this year’s unusual climate are those that dropped the spray-and-pray approach and instead, seized an account-based strategy to stay competitive.

Myth #2: B2B marketers have been handed a simple, singular definition to ABM

Despite its growing popularity, confusion around ABM remains rampant. For some marketers, it’s all about manual direct mail and branded swag. For others, it conjures memories of expensive dinners and baseball game tickets.

In our survey we found that:

  • 30% of marketing and sales pros cited a handful of varying definitions for ABM
  • 39% of marketing and sales pros cited two to three similar definitions for ABM

Most notably, only 19% of respondents said they’ve seen one consistent definition of ABM across industry influencers and thought leaders—including ABM providers who haven’t done much to clarify the practice.

The solution isn’t necessarily in definitions, but for marketers, the lack of consensus comes with consequences.
While only 16% of respondents said it slowed the procurement of an ABM solution, a whopping 90% said the inconsistency in industry definitions hurt their research and consideration process to varying degrees:

  • 34% of respondents said inconsistency prevented them from adopting an ABM solution
  • 22% of respondents said it stopped them from considering ABM for their business altogether

What could be creating some of this confusion? Of course, each ABM vendor wants to ‘create’ their own unique perspective to win prospects, but we’re not sure that strategy is winning here. Also, the fact that ABM became the acronym (account-based marketing) sets us up for some confusion since it’s really account-based everything. It’s one unified approach across go-to-market teams. 

As we gear up for 2021, we expect the industry will focus less on what ABM is and more on what ABM can do—and we think marketers will be better positioned to embrace it as a viable strategy as a result.

Myth #3: You only need to target a few high-value accounts

The days of small and often manual target account lists are over.

As marketers contend with budget constraints and less than ideal headcounts, expensive and time-consuming tactics aimed only at a few high-value accounts can derail both reach and impact.

In our research, we found that nearly 75% of survey respondents said ABM plays a crucial role in their approach to demand gen. In some cases, it’s replaced demand gen altogether.

When coupled with the finding that 39% of sales and marketing pros manage TALs of more than 1,000 accounts, we’re confident in our belief that marketing teams who use ABM also scale their activities in the process.

With an eye towards scalability, the modern marketer will continue to adopt a comprehensive, multi-touch approach to ABM—using it not only for customer acquisition, but for brand awareness, customer retention, and cross-selling, too.

In today’s landscape, marketers who focus on maximizing reach and impact through targeted digital experiences are the most likely to see the greatest gains.

Myth #4: Focusing on one or two strong channels is enough

It’s not enough to pursue your TAL on one or two previously proven channels.

With the pandemic forcing buyers to spend more time online—and in-person events off the table for the foreseeable future—marketers must continue to find novel ways for their campaigns to capture and maintain attention.

That means taking a cue from 60% of our survey respondents who use at least four channels in their ABM programs. More importantly, it means resisting the urge to batch-and-blast the same message across those channels.

When marketing teams tailor messaging and creative—such as images and headlines—at the role, industry, or account level, they’re more likely to maximize investments in each channel.

Whether that happens via digital advertising (the most popular channel among survey respondents), virtual events, or email, creating different personalization tactics based on account and contact priority enables teams to evolve their targeting efforts as buyers engage with campaigns.

Today’s buyer craves something unique, creative, and tailored to their needs. If your marketing and advertising can evolve with the behavior of your target accounts, you’ll build the incremental buy-in needed to steer them through the decision-making process.

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