What’s next for account-based marketing?

Peter Isaacson, CMO at Demandbase, examines the past, present and future of account-based marketing

Nashville is known for its great barbeque. But last month, ribs weren’t the main conversation topic. Thousands of people gathered to talk about B2B marketing at the annual SiriusDecisions Summit. And this year, everyone was talking about account-based marketing (ABM). ABM has been recognized by B2B marketing professionals since the early 1990s, but it’s just now seeing notable pick up from industry leaders. So why now? How has a marketing strategy that’s been around for the last couple of decades only now becoming a point of regular conversation and action for B2B marketers? To know how ABM came to be and grasp where it’s heading, we need to first look at where it all started.

Driving growth of ABM

ABM was first developed as a basic analog tactic, used for targeting about 50 accounts at a time. The challenge of scaling up ABM strategies to reach 500 or even 5000 target accounts was enough to make marketers break out in a cold sweat. Fortunately, several technological advancements, from IP identification to account insights at scale, have opened the door for marketers to successfully deploy ABM strategies and reap the benefits. In fact, a recent SiriusDecisions study revealed 62 percent of companies polled said they have the skills needed to be successful with ABM, compared to 53 percent in 2015. In addition to technological advancements, market demand has also increased for ABM strategies, helping drive adoption. B2B marketers have also voiced frustration in their inability to reach the most relevant prospects when they are still making buying decisions. In fact, a 2016 Wakefield survey commissioned by Demandbase found more than 50 percent of respondents said the biggest objective of their ABM strategy was to engage target accounts effectively.

How ABM is bringing quality to the B2B marketing game

Traditional B2B marketing and basic ABM have always been focused on attracting, engaging, converting and measuring your progress against your target accounts. Today, B2B marketers who are executing high-performing ABM strategies are extending this to include account identification and buyer-specific insights to close these high-value accounts. Target account identification at scale means you can use machine learning and AI to identify companies that are likely to buy, including those that are already considering your products and services. You also can determine the right buyers and individuals within those accounts. But that’s not all. The core premise of ABM has always been to identify specific insights for your target companies. With that in mind, more and more marketers are recognizing that they can’t just send their sales team MQLs and cross their fingers for closed business. They need to do as much as they can to ensure they know the target account insights, who the buying team is, what their interests are, what they are talking about, etc. By delivering contextual insights to sales teams, they help them become strategic account executives who have an intimate understanding of both accounts and the people within those accounts. That is when the high quality sales conversations occur.

It’s a natural evolution from where we started in the 1990s to now. B2B marketers are becoming more accountable for larger portions of the sales cycle and no longer does it end at the MQL. Delivering top line results becomes 10 times greater when the marketing team can truly empower the sales team with the right accounts, the right people and the right messages. Marketers talk a lot about ‘getting a seat at the table’ but, by making a greater business impact, we are finally starting to deserve it.