Account-based marketing tactics are set to account for a growing share of marketing budgets in 2020. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of marketers who are using account-based marketing (ABM) tactics plan to increase their ABM budgets in the coming year, according to a study by Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) and the ABM Leadership Alliance. On average, the ABM-practicing marketers said they dedicated 29% of their budgets to ABM in 2019.

The report, which surveyed 196 marketers from B2B technology and business services companies, found that 71% of the companies saw greater ROI within their ABM efforts compared to their traditional marketing initiatives.

Majority of companies still experimenting with ABM. Of the marketers surveyed, the largest share (43%), fit into ITSMA’s “experimenting” category, meaning they are beyond “exploring” ABM strategies and are now piloting, measuring and refining their approach. ITSMA’s ABM adoption model is made up of four levels: Exploring, Experimenting, Expanding and Embedded.

A total of 73% of the survey participants were either experimenting or expanding — with 30% categorized as “Expanding” or looking to increase account coverage via ABM. Seventeen percent were categorized as “Embedded,” the most evolved stage of ABM adoption (marketers who have evolved their ABM strategy to drive strategic growth for their business).

Most popular ABM tools: Email, website, CRM and social. More than 70% of the respondents said they rely on their website, email marketing, CRM and social to implement ABM campaigns. Most are using analytics, account insights and marketing automation.

Less than 30% are using tools like chat, data management platforms, content activation tools, CDPs or predictive analytics.

What the ABM all-stars are doing. When looking at the most effective ABM programs, the top marketers were more likely to be using analytics, account insights and engagement insights.

The report also found that the top-performing ABM marketers use two or three different ABM programs (either one-to-one, one-to-few or one-to-many). “More companies will try multiple types of ABM in a blended strategy to keep up with demand from their sales and account teams if they started with One-to-One ABM, or to increase their focus on their most important accounts if they started with One-to-Few ABM or One-to-Many ABM,” said Bev Burgess, the senior VP and ABM practice lead for ITSMA.

Of the survey respondents, 63% were currently practicing only one tactic — with the largest share (25%) focused on one-to-few ABM programs. Twenty-two percent were practicing at least two tactics, with the largest share in this group implementing both one-to-one and one-to-few programs.

What’s to come in ABM. More than half (51%) of the marketers surveyed said they plan to blend their ABM approach in the coming year by using more than one type of ABM — adding either one-to-one, one-to-few or one-to-many tactics to their existing program.

Sixty-four percent of marketers said they plan to increase their ABM staff in the coming year. As far as how much businesses plan to increase both their ABM budgets and staff, on average, marketers reported they plan to increase budgets by 21.3% and staff by 19.3%.

When asked where the budget increases will be spent, 21% said they plan on investing in their ABM platform and adding predictive capabilities to their ABM technology stack in the next 12 to 18 months. Only 13% planned to invest in account insights and 12% in engagement insights — even these technologies were most often used by companies with the most effective ABM programs.

Why we care. Of the marketers whose ABM programs were categorized as “Embedded” (those with the most elite ABM efforts per the ITSMA adoption model), 45% reported their ABM initiatives drove revenue growth. Seventy-five percent of the top performers saw significant improvements within their account relationships and 59% saw an improvement in brand reputation.

Burgess says ITSMA has witnessed a sharp rise in interest in account-based marketing for more than five years now, with no signs of it slowing down. Three-quarters of the top performers reported significant improvements within their account relationships, and 59% saw an improvement in brand reputation.

“ABM will continue to influence the way we do our broader marketing too, such as One-to-Few ABM principles shaping vertical marketing and One-to-Many ABM shaping ‘always on’ offering campaigns,” comments Burgess in the benchmark report.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.