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.