7 Trends That Powered Account-Based Marketing in 2016

By Lora Kratchounova, Scratch Marketing + Media

The roots of account-based marketing, or ABM, stretch back almost 20 years. However, it has only become a white-hot topic within the last few. The catalyst for the rapid ascension of ABM to the top of the B2B marketing food chain has been the wild proliferation of technology tools that enable the varying requisite ABM capabilities.

In 2016 we observed the onset of “the Golden Age of ABM” among enterprise, mid-sized and high-growth companies. Seven distinct trends in technology and business that heralded ABM’s rise to prominence will continue to shape B2B marketing in 2017 and beyond.

1. ABM has been gaining crucial traction among executive leadership.

In its annual State of Account-Based Marketing report, SiriusDecisions revealed that more than 70 percent of B2B companies are now focused on driving ABM programs. This is compared to only 20 percent in 2015. The approach is heavily utilized by the high-growth and enterprise companies, while the mid- and small-sized players are yet to catch up.

As ABM requires internal realignment of sales and marketing from individual silos into a single cohesive unit with shared objectives, it will only take root within organizations that implement the strategy with a top-down approach. While marketers believe that ABM delivers higher ROI than other marketing approaches (as reported by ITSMA), marketing and sales alignment is a pleasant by-product. As ABM’s reputation continues to strengthen among executive leadership, we expect steadily increasing interest in account-based programs over the next few years.

2. The ABM tech stack continues to mature.

While the ABM momentum continues to grow and new technology players emerge, an essential technology stack for ABM continues to mature. Now ABM allows marketers to identify, segment and target companies with the highest propensity to buy, personalize the content, and orchestrate delivery through the appropriate content and channel mix.

“We’re finally getting the tools and credit we deserve and it’s all thanks to the marketing technology revolution, especially marketing operations.”

– Dave Rigotti, Head of Marketing at Bizible

Among the growing number of ABM solutions available, Scratch Marketing + Media has identified the following ones as key to addressing the goals of account-based marketing:

  • Account selection and intent data: Avention, Bombora, Spiderbook
  • Account and lead data enrichment: ZoomInfo, DiscoverOrg
  • Delivery of personalized messages in channel: Marketo, Engagio, Acuity, Adroll, Terminus
  • End-to-end platforms: DemandBase, Madison Logic

3. New tools keep arriving while old tools keep evolving to fill different ABM niches.

The market of ABM solutions keeps evolving, with emerging platforms like Lead Genius attracting impressive investment into their ABM capabilities. In the meantime, the now-traditional LinkedIn, Salesforce and Marketo are working hard on developing new functionalities to respond to the needs of the B2B market. In 2016, Salesforce and Marketo introduced their ABM solutions. The objective of both platforms is to help align sales and marketing, expand the reach, and target key accounts effectively within a single platform. LinkedIn announced its new Account Targeting Tool that promises to bring better targeting and more content personalization.

4. Predictive analytics has become a crucial platform for ABM.

Any successful ABM program starts with identifying the right accounts. According to Radius, the emergence of the essential ABM stack and the changing landscape of B2B purchasing process are calling for advanced methods of prospect targeting. The wealth of internal and external data from the company’s CRM and marketing automation has helped predictive tools earn wide acceptance over the course of this past year. Predictive scoring tools were included “as the most common use case” in Gartner’s 2015 Hype Cycle for Customer Analytic Applications report, while the 2016 report revealed that “predictive segmentation and demand generation have quickly gained traction, fueled by the rise of account-based marketing.“ Infer, Mintigo, Leadspace, Lattice Engines and Radius are among Scratch Marketing + Media’s top predictive technology picks available on the market today.

5. Startups and small businesses alike are looking to make ABM work for them.

Account-based marketing has been a long-time favorite among enterprise companies. The recent case study by Terminus shows, however, that small-sized businesses have successfully adopted ABM as part of their marketing mix to accelerate and streamline growth.

ABM does not require a particular minimum spend, and its tech stack can be utilized based on the needs and the budget of the company. Companies with a great number of leads have long favored an account-oriented integrated approach, irrespective of the size. For small to medium businesses and startups, ABM is becoming essential in expanding their reach and utilizing their scarce resources effectively.

6. While many companies continue to strive for leadership in the ABM market, no clear leader has emerged.

In April 2016, Demandbase launched the ABM Leadership Alliance, uniting the technology and data vendors striving for leadership in the market. The group originally consisted of experts from a variety of vendors: Bizible, Demandbase, Get Smart Content, LookBookHQ, Optimizely, Oracle Marketing Cloud, and Radius; it has added a few more since then. The Alliance’s mission is “to educate B2B marketers about developing and deploying ABM strategy, including how to create an effective technology stack to scale and automate ABM efforts.”

Another ABM movement among marketers is #FlipMyFunnel. Created in 2015 by the B2B marketing practitioner Sangram Vajre, it was a response to the inefficiencies of the traditional lead-based funnel.

While both movements identify some of the key ABM players in today’s market, it would be misleading to suggest that a clear leader among ABM vendors and practitioners has been identified. As the popularity of ABM continues to catch on, the market is still budding with new entrants that are yet to stake a claim in the B2B space.

7. The ABM ecosystem continues to evolve.

ABM vendors have been actively looking for ways to integrate and/or partner to create end-to-end ABM solutions. The partnerships between Infer and InsightSquare, Leadspace and Marketo, Oceanos and Salesforce ABM cloud, as well as the acquisition of Spiderbook by DemandBase, are just a few examples of how the ABM ecosystem has changed in 2016.

Amongst all the ABM solutions on the market, finding a perfect fit for your company might seem like an overwhelming task. After all, ABM is not a one-size-fits-all strategy  —  it requires a custom approach that matches the unique needs of the organization.

As ABM capabilities, technologies and best practices continue to evolve, companies considering embarking on the ABM journey but unsure where to start should seek a trusted partner to design and deploy account-based initiatives rather than going it alone. Together, you will be able to navigate the ins and outs of the program, effectively allocate resources and drive more value for your customers and prospects. If you are looking to connect with a trusted marketing advisor, come visit us at www.scratchmm.com.

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