B2B Marketers Now Devote 28% Of Marketing Budgets To ABM, Study Shows

Most B2B marketers believe in account-based marketing (ABM). But it’s still a relatively new practice, according to the 2018 ABM Benchmark study, a report by ITSMA, the marketing community that pioneered the idea in the early 2002; Demandbase; and the ABM Leadership Alliance. 

Of those surveyed, 52% have been implementing ABM for less than one year. In contrast, 32% have had a program for one to two years, and 17% have had a program for three years or more. 

Still, ABM now takes up 28% of the average B2B marketing budget, versus the 15% that it comprised five years ago. And 77% say ABM is important.

The survey sample includes 207 marketers at 190 B2B technology and service companies. Most respondents are based in North America. 

What is ABM? The report provides this definition: It is a “strategic approach to designing and executing highly-targeted, personalized marketing programs and initiatives to drive business growth and impact with specific, named accounts.”

That requires tight integration with sales teams, and tailored communications.

According to the study, 77% say they are deriving 10% or greater ROI from ABM than they are from other marketing efforts, and 45% with three years experience or less say they are achieving more than double the ROI From ABM.

In addition, 66% say their ABM accounts are more likely to provide positive references and advocate for them than other accounts. 

Email appears to lead the list of effective tactics for one-to-few marketing, meaning targeting of small groups or clusters of priority customers. Next are direct mail, custom collateral (videos, podcasts, webinars) and web personalization.

Email also tops the list of effective tactic for one-to-many marketing, followed by reverse IP/targeted digital ads/content retargeting, road shows and events, direct mail, account-based content syndication, and intent data to trigger campaigns and contexts for reps.

However, email doesn’t even place in the top five tactics for one-to-one ABM.

These include one-to-one/face-to-face meetings, executive-to-executive relationship programs, account-specific (bespoke) thought leadership development and dissemination, direct mail and custom collateral/videos/podcasts/webinars. 

Of the firms in the survey, 46% target accounts across multiple tiers, up from 35% in 2017.

What are the biggest challenges to ABM marketing?

  • Getting the data and reports marketers need to track results — 35%
  • Personalizing and tailoring our marketing to the key contacts at each account — 34%
  • Getting adequate budget to support programs and resources —30%
  • Developing campaign assets that are mass-customizable to allow scale — 30% 
  • Educating sales team on the process and value of ABM (e.g., ABM marketers are not event planners) — 26%
  • Keeping up with the demand from the sales team requesting ABM for their accounts — 22%
  • Getting buy-in from sales account teams — 18%

That number skyrockets to 80% of companies with three years or more of ABM experience.

Which platforms do they now have in their ABM tech stacks? The top ones are marketing automation (for lead management/nurturing (71%) and digital advertising and retargeting (66%).

But 32% plan to add predictive analytics to determine best fit, intent, propensity to purchase for account selection. And 29% hope to add website personalization.

The research confirms that “more and more companies are adopting ABM, and getting more sophisticated in their ABM strategies,” states Peter Isaacson, CMO, Demandbase. “But it’s important to remember we’re still in the early days of ABM expansion, and there is a lot more potential for marketers to drive their business results.” 


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