Most Still Stuck on First Base in Account-Based Marketing


Account-based marketing is becoming to B2B companies what one-to-one marketing is to B2C enterprises, and it is challenging industrial marketers with the same steep learning curve. A survey of more than 500 B2B marketers by Demand Metric, on behalf of the Account Based Marketing Consortium, revealed a wide range in sophistication level among adopters of account-based marketing (ABM).

At the forefront is a small group of elite practitioners (18%) who attribute revenue increases as high as 25% to ABM. At the bottom of the learning curve are 32% who say the practice has either had a negative impact on their top lines or that they are uncertain. In the middle are the remaining 50% who said they think ABM is having a favorable effect, but they haven’t been able to measure it.

Laggards in the ABM process tend to stumble right out of the starting gate. Eighty percent of high-maturity users said that selecting which accounts to follow was a major element of their programs, compared to only 19% of mid-range and 49% of low-range practitioners. The lower-performing segments tended to approach the new technology with an old-school mind-set, saying they “look for companies we like” in setting parameters or try to replicate their current account coverage. More than half of the pacesetter companies said they employed technology like predictive analytics to identify high-value targets.

Strategies among the elite and the mediocre differed widely. Six out of 10 mature users said they used ABM both to prospect for new customers and to upsell existing ones. But 62% of the least mature users and 82% of the mid-range said the technology’s chief mission was customer acquisition.

That mind-set played out in stark black and white contrast when marketers were asked how they set about creating account profiles for the system. Seventy-seven percent of the group in the middle and 41% at the low end said their marketing teams created one profile used to define all target accounts. That technique was used by a mere 3% of elite users, more than half of whom reported that profile-setting was a collaborative sales and marketing effort calling upon CRM systems and other technologies.

When it came to the types of content used in account-based marketing, the lesser performers revealed their apprenticeship status. Eight of 10 mid-range and four of 10 low-range companies reported using the same set of content with all accounts. The majority of the top-range players, however, said they created different versions to serve specific account segments.

The lesser performers suffer from problems in conception and execution as regards ABM, said Demand Metric analysts. Low-maturity users may have jumped onto the ABM bandwagon before they knew where they were driving it. They may be “doing the right thing for the wrong reasons,” cautioned the analysts. The huge group in the middle, they concluded, are beginning to sense the direction in which they need to head, but need to perfect their execution.

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