ABM Sick Days: B2B Brands Change Their Budgets, Strategies Due To COVID-19

Budgets for account-based marketing (ABM) programs have fallen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although investment in technology continues to grow, according to Rethinking ABM for the Next Opportunity: 2020 ABM Benchmark Study, a report by the ABM Leadership Alliance in partnership with ITSMA. 

ABM now gets a 27% share of the average B2B marketing budget.

But of the companies polled, 30% decreased their ABM budgets because of COVID-19 last year and 26% decreased them. The remaining 44% report no change. 

Still, the adjusted technology budgets continued to grow, with 51% increasing them, 14% decreasing them and 14% remaining the same. 

For the record, the study defines ABM as “a strategic approach to designing and executing highly-targeted and personalized marketing programs to drive business growth and impact with specific, named accounts.”

But ABM isn’t easy even without the pandemic. The top challenges are:

  • Tracking and measuring ABM results — 37% 
  • Developing campaign assets that are mass customizable to allow scale — 30%
  • Justifying the program assets that are mass customizable to allow scale — 30%
  • Educating sales on the process and value of ABM (e.g., ABM marketers are not event planners) — 30%
  • Personalizing and tailoring our marketing to the key contacts of each account — 21%
  • Keeping up with the demand from the sales team requesting ABM for their accounts — 20% 
  • Hiring ABM marketers with the right experience, skills ad talent — 16%
  • Getting adequate budget to support programs and resources — 15% 
  • Selecting and integrating the martech tools that will best support our ABM programs — 13%
  • Collecting and using account-based data and insight — 12% 



But there are benefits to using ABM — for one, 77% see improvement in relationships, 55% in revenue and 34% in reputation/brand. 

The most experienced firms have seen improvements in metrics in these areas: 

  • Customer brand perception, awareness and knowledge — 52%
  • Pipeline growth — 50%
  • Coverage: number of relationships/new relationships across accounts — 47%
  • Revenue growth — 42% 

All other firms have dramatically lower results. 

Of the technologies, 70% are using email/website/CRM/social platforms.  

And 40%-60% are utilizing analytics, events, advertising, account insights, marketing automation and direct-mail systems.

The top planned investments for 2021 are ABM platform, attribution and reporting, intent, direct mail, content syndication, third-party data and events. 

But the pandemic has complicated things: 42% say it has caused them to change their business objectives, while 54% say it hasn’t.  

Among their new priorities:

  • Growing business with existing accounts — 49%
  • Supporting specific opportunities or deals — 37%
  • Changing perception/strengthening reputation with targeted accounts — 28% 
  • Selling to new accounts — 33%
  • Entering new markets/selling to new types of buyers — 22%

There’s more good news: B2B brands fall into these categories of ABM maturity: 

  • Getting started — 4%
  • Testing and learning — 21%
  • Investing strategically — 43%
  • Changing the culture — 26%
  • Transform and transformed — 5%

The ABM Leadership Alliance And ITSMA surveyed 420 marketers at B2B technology and business services companies in August-September 2020. 




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