What’s Working in ABM: 4 B2B Marketing Trends in 2021

September 1, 2021 Dania McDermott

Account-based marketing is trending up.

But as a growing number of teams embrace ABM to get the most ROI from their marketing, a significant portion still need help figuring it all out.

What’s Working in ABM: 4 B2B Marketing Trends in 2021

That’s what we found when we partnered with Ascend2 to survey 138 B2B marketers: Almost a quarter (22 percent) reported great success from their ABM strategy while almost three-quarters (72 percent) said their programs still need optimization.

The way we see it, ABM is working, but there’s still room for improvement.

To see how your team stacks up, here’s what’s trending in ABM.

1. Acquisition and expansion are equally important

The number one strategic objective for survey participants is creating new opportunities for sales. This isn’t exactly surprising, but what is noteworthy is how many ABM marketers also prioritize existing customers.

While nearly half of survey respondents (48 percent) cited creating new pipeline as a top priority, almost the same number (46 percent) said generating revenue is their key objective.

To put that in perspective, only 26 percent of respondents said increasing deal size is a primary focus — a data point that suggests it’s not all about the money, it’s also about fit.

By applying an account-based approach to customer expansion, B2B marketers can deliver targeted, personalized solutions to problems that make customers more likely to stick around.

2. Investments are up, but securing budgets could come with some challenges

Anyone who’s iffy about what ABM can help them achieve should follow the money: Our survey revealed that a whopping 60 percent of B2B organizations plan to increase the total budget dedicated to account-based initiatives in the year ahead.

If that’s not compelling enough, 37 percent report their ABM budgets will remain the same.

These findings indicate that B2B marketers (and the organizations they work for) are confident that ABM can help them maximize effectiveness, increase win rates, and shorten deal cycles.

There’s just one catch: Securing the budget needed to reap those rewards can still present a challenge — at least for 28 percent of survey respondents.

What’s an ABM marketer to do?

First, make sure you’re not under any illusions about the costs associated with ABM — it’s not a play that only works for big teams with mega-budgets.

Look for vendors that offer various pricing models, especially those that allow you to “test drive” ABM and scale your initiatives in the future. You can also use machine learning to ‘right-size’ your TAL, choosing which accounts deserve more budget over others. 

Second, marketers who can demonstrate the value of ABM in terms the C-suite cares about stand a much better chance at earning more investment. To do that — and to optimize your strategy — identify which metrics allow you to best measure and present its success.

For our respondents, almost 60 percent of marketers find measuring the revenue generated from target accounts is crucial to measuring overall ABM performance. MQLs and target account engagement are also important at 38 and 36 percent respectively.

3. Dedicated ABM managers aren’t necessary

Some organizations believe ABM only works for big companies that can afford to appoint dedicated resources to account-based initiatives.

In reality, many organizations that use ABM do so without an ABM-specific role or department. For these scrappy marketers, it’s not so much about having a specialty as it is about driving effective collaboration.

After all, building and implementing an ABM strategy will inevitably involve resources from at least two departments — but where are most B2B companies placing the overall management of their programs?

According to our survey, the majority of B2B marketers (29 percent) report their organizations have a digital marketing role or department that governs ABM initiatives and execution. Not an ABM role or department, but a general marketing one.

Aligning marketing and sales efforts to boost ABM potential

Getting on the same page with sales starts with working from the same agreed-upon target account list.

From there, you need the right technology integrations in place so that sales can “do ABM” in their day-to-day CRM dash. Funneling intent and engagement data to your sales team is also important — it enables reps to identify which accounts to prioritize first.

Lastly, if you’re not aligned on metrics, prioritize that ASAP. 

4. Identifying the right target accounts is crucial to success

Though their tactics may differ, all successful ABM programs share one thing in common: Each started with a target account list.

Yet despite the undeniable importance of identifying the right accounts, many ABM marketers still struggle to build target account lists (TAL) with confidence.

In our survey, we learned that identifying target accounts is the most common challenge (36 percent) when executing an ABM program.

Laying the foundation for a successful ABM program

Building a target account list you can feel good about requires access to the right data, both static and dynamic. You’ll also need to build a strong ICP that translates into a prioritized TAL and pinpoints key audiences to execute against.

Start with your ideal customer profile (ICP). Think about your best customers and what they have in common:

  • Company size
  • Industry
  • Annual revenue
  • Geography
  • Technology used

Once you’ve identified the patterns among your customers, use these attributes to develop your named account list. With the right tools, strategy, and tactics in place, your team will be better positioned to target those “unknown” high-fit accounts most likely to close in no time.


About the Author

Dania McDermott

Dania McDermott is a freelance content marketer who writes for B2B SaaS companies.

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