January 15, 2024

Account-Based Marketing Is No Longer Trendy (And Why That’s a Good Thing)

Justin Keller
Justin Keller

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This piece is brought to you by Terminus VP of Marketing, Justin Keller. Terminus is a best-in-class ABM platform and community that empowers B2B marketers to be heroes in their organizations.

Earlier this year, Terminus released our fourth annual State of ABM Report. The report tells a crystal clear story of why ABM is firmly in mature territory, why marketers are increasingly confident in their programs, and how marketers can connect marketing activities with revenue generation.

If you work in the fast-paced marketing world though, chances are you don’t have time to digest all the graphs and postulate what it means for you. So, I break down my four hottest takes from the report so you don’t have to

Account-Based Marketing is Here to Stay (And That’s Great!)

In 2017, 81% of companies said they were practicing ABM. The hype machine was at maximum volume, and lots of people thought, “if I just buy an ABM tool or two, all my revenue challenges will be solved.” Then the stark realization that great technology does not an account-based program make. There’s a lot of work that goes into an account-based transformation that many weren’t prepared for.

In 2018, that number fell off a cliff and dropped to just 61%. Skip to today, and we’re at just over 2/3rds of companies actively practicing ABM.

With a modest increase of 6% of companies practicing ABM this year, we’re starting to see stability, indicating that companies understand what goes into this paradigm change.

Will we ever see 100% of companies practicing ABM? Trick question. The answer is yes, but we won’t call it “ABM” anymore. As marketing teams compete in increasingly crowded spaces with finite resources, a lot of what we call “ABM” will become synonymous with just “marketing.” Practitioners and vendors alike are now on the other side of the trendiness curve; it’s just a matter of time before we stop calling it “ABM.”

Brand is Back on the Menu

It’s so refreshing to hear marketers talking about building great brands again. For the past 15 years, we all got numbers-obsessed and took our eye off the ball and focused on quick, direct response campaigns that helped in the short run, but did nothing to benefit brands. But hooray for data, which now shows us that while direct response campaigns work in the short term, brand marketing efforts have a higher ROI in the long term.

Marketing leaders can now feel confident in focusing on their brand– just not too much. We found a 60/40 split between brand and direct response yields the highest return. But for most CMOs, spending more time creating and telling stories and less time in CRMs and pivot tables is welcome news!

Your Competitors Are Winning Bigger, Faster

If you’re dabbling with the concept of reorganizing your team and reallocating your budget for named-account programs, we salute you. Get to work though, because if your competitors have a sturdy, proven-out account-based program, they’re generating more than twice the pipeline you are. Unless you’re climbing up the ABM maturity curve quickly, you’re sure to be outpaced, and the gulf between you and your competitors will get wider and wider.

More Budget Is Going to ABM (but Still Not Enough)

This year we found that 50% of all companies are dedicating over 75% of their budget to ABM efforts. This signals a bigger investment in raw headcount and not just more tech and bigger ad budgets, which is precisely what we want to see. When we saw the huge drop in ABM activities in 2018, it was because people weren’t ready for the transformation that ABM represented.

Aligning outbound teams to marketing, building new dashboards with data-sharing frameworks to keep sales and marketing in lockstep, and reorienting demand generation’s day-to-day activities are all some of the significant, uncomfortable shifts that companies are going to have to go through. Now that we see an increased investment in headcount, companies are figuring out how to make ABM a top priority, and staffing appropriately to support their new marketing programs.

If ABM is synonymous with B2B marketing, shouldn’t all budget be ABM budget? If we continue to treat ABM separate from our other marketing activities, it will hold all companies back because it will feel like a disparate marketing motion and not a foundational commitment to being better at marketing.

It’s been about 15 years since marketing automation became the standard tool for B2B marketers. In my view, not a tremendous amount has changed in that time. It feels great to be a B2B marketer right now because– finally– massive shifts are happening in the way we do our thing. Whether or not every B2B marketer wants to take part in that sea change is up to them. However, they risk being left behind their bolder and braver contemporaries who are going through this modern marketing transformation.

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