Account-Based Marketing (ABM): Let’s Move From Cacophony To Euphony

In the spring of 2015, we began to hear a curious cacophony around ABM. ABM stands for “account-based marketing,” a marketing concept that’s been around for decades. All of a sudden, it was being used in reams of promotional copy distributed by marketing consultancies, data service providers, and software automation vendors alike.

Marketing-led prophesies can sometimes be self-fulfilling. So now, B2B marketers everywhere are busy researching, launching, and conducting ABM initiatives — ostensibly to engage prospects at target accounts with personalized messaging, content, and offers. And as a growing number of product vendors, service providers, and event organizers enter this gold rush, B2B marketers are in danger of falling for the “fool’s gold” of unrealistic revenue windfalls and investment returns.

It is time to take stock and sieve this topic more effectively. The musicians among us would prefer to hear more harmony than discord. But the truth is that ABM means different things to different people; our recent survey of 120 B2B marketers on their strategies and tactics shows that:

“73% agreed that ABM is a term that lacks specific meaning and is used inconsistently today.”

The same survey showed that four out of five found ABM effectiveness falls short of their expectations.  So much for 18 months of marketing spend by all those vendors! 

Forrester’s research, in comparison, can be somewhat boring: We have long been talking about the age of the customer, the need for customer obsession, and post-digital marketing — and, of course, we tell our B2B marketing clients that customer obsession should be account-based if that aligns with their business strategy.

We do not make markets; we observe and provide insights about them, so we have been quiet on ABM in that respect.  

This summer, in response to many inquiries about “this thing called ABM,” we did extensive research into scores of existing ABM projects. This research actually took longer than anticipated because of the chaos that we found.

Now we are ready to publish these reports. The first one came out today (the rest will appear over the next weeks):

1.      Laura Ramos: “Retro Yet Revolutionary: Demystifying Account-Based Marketing

2.      Mary Shea: “ABM Puts Marketing And Sales Into The Same Orbit

3.      Allison Snow and Steve Casey: “Vendor Landscape: Account-Based Marketing

4.      Lori Wizdo: “ABM Will Elevate, Not Eclipse, L2RM"

In her report, Laura demonstrates that aligning marketing and sales around customer-obsessed strategies will be ABM’s ultimate legacy (see below). Mary discusses the impact of ABM on the sales force and concludes that collaboration, discipline, and a science-based approach will lead to success. Lori shows how ABM can improve lead-to-revenue management and that ABM and L2RM are not mutually exclusive.

The landscape research was really interesting. Allison and Steve found 36 vendors that describe themselves as ABM vendors. We used our ABM definition to position these vendors and indicate their potential usefulness to a marketing organization. However, many organizations may not have to buy anything at all for their first ABM initiative; it is more than likely that they already have automation in place that they can deploy. We also call out the fact that there are other potentially useful solutions that haven’t (yet) incorporated the ABM moniker into their marketing messaging.   

 

We all conclude unanimously that ABM isn’t really a technology nor is it the “next big thing.” And it definitely isn’t the new and only way of doing marketing from now on. Read our reports and/or come to our Forum, where Laura will be presenting on this, to hear more.

Always keeping you informed! Peter

Comments

ABM as hot as we think?

Peter–appreciate the analysis and look forward to the rolling thunder of reporting to help bring clarity to ABM.

Many analysts/thought leaders have been proclaiming the popularity ABM. And while the number of analyst inquiries can't lie, one portrayal of the popularity use by many is a screenshot of the 'up and to the right' Google Trends chart showing the number of searches increasing for "account based marketing". However, what is not shown is the module just below that chart–the search locations. Searches on the topic are completely isolated to California and New York–see screen capture here http://bit.ly/2cUGtPZ

Id welcome your opinion on why this is such a dramatic isolation and when ABM will become mainstream?

Reply

Hi John,
Thanks for your comment and questions. I discussed this with Laura.
Why the dramatic isolation? Most of the chatter and social hype is being driven by tech vendors and smaller technology early adopters who reside in those two big cities. Also great locations for conferences!!

When mainstream? Our Tech Radar, published earlier this year, says "3 to 5 years".

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