Marketing - Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay (Geralt)Demandbase has published the 2020 ABM Market Research Study (registration required). Based on a survey of 900 marketing professionals, it studies what distinguishes the best performing ABM practitioners in B2B marketing. The key finding is that despite better ABM technology, the challenge of measurement and data quality remains the highest concern.

With the survey completed at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, some impact was always likely. 79% of companies have seen pipeline drop moderately or significantly during the crisis. The report is divided into three sections, each of which delivers salient take-outs for the reader. The first section provides some key insights and analysis. The second part dives into the survey results while the third details the demographics.

Peter Isaacson, Chief marketing Officer Demandbase
Peter Isaacson, Chief marketing Officer Demandbase

Peter Isaacson, Chief Marketing Officer, Demandbase commented: “We’re always eager to hear directly from marketers and learn from their experiences. This research reveals a lot about how ABM is fueling growth in the B2B world.

“It reinforced what we’ve believed for a long time now, that the companies that have the proper ABM foundations in place and have been dedicated to the strategy for the long haul enjoy very high levels of success. It also proves the value of such an approach for companies of all sizes.”

ABM is here now, but marketing teams need to improve usage

The report highlights ten key findings:

  1. Early adopters of ABM are getting a return on their investment.
  2. ABM budgets are rising as companies see the success of early programs
  3. Larger companies are now more likely to have adopted ABM.
  4. Companies are strongest in sales and marketing alignment, and weakest in measurement.
  5. Old lead-based habits die hard, making it harder to measure ABM ROI.
  6. Budget is going towards content, alignment, and account selection.
  7. Expansion and net new targets are a top priority, but growth comes equally from existing accounts.
  8. Data quality is holding ABM back from success.
  9. The tools for success are CRM, Marketing Automation, and LinkedIn.
  10. Software and IT companies lead the pack in ABM adoption.

The report then offers predictions based on previous studies as to what will happen in the next ten years. Unsurprisingly, it advocates that an ABM investment will continue to reap dividends as companies look to leverage the solutions. It highlights nine habits that top performers adhere to using their solutions. This section provides the core analysis and is worth reading in full.

The survey results

Only 20% of respondents worked in companies with more than 1,000 employees. 48% of these larger organisations have a full ABM program in place, 23% a pilot program or 20% have plans to start within six months. A total of 91%. The majority of responses 55% were  from companies of between 51-1000 employees. The report does not reveal how many of those mid-sized businesses utilise a full ABM program though, or the break down.

The report then reveals the industry breakdown of companies that have adopted full ABM programs. The top three industries were:

  • Computer software 36.5%
  • Information technology and services 26%
  • Marketing and advertising 19.4%

73% of all respondents came from these three industries. The remaining industry responses were too small to validate. It might have been more interesting to have an equal split of other industries to validate how mature they are. It also isn’t clear what size of companies the respondents are from, something that might have provided a fascinating insight.

ABM maturity

The report delves into the level of maturity of ABM programs, without defining in detail how a company measures that maturity. It found that the biggest challenge for early-stage ABM programs were:

  1. Lack of budget
  2. A lack of ability to execute
  3. Lack of tools/tech

For those companies that have fully adopted ABM, the challenges remain familiar:

  1. Data quality
  2. Lack of budget
  3. Lack of alignment with sales

Companies that adopt ABM are seeing high returns. The indication is that investment does pay off with Direct Mail and Content providing the two best channels to increase pipeline.

Overall there is a huge range of insights within the report. These make it a must-read for B2B marketers across any industry. Findings include:

  • What do companies with a strong ABM program measure?
  • How have companies adopting ABM progressed on the five core parts of ABM
  • Top priorities for ABM in 2020
  • The maturity of measurement of ABM ROI
  • How much budget do companies allocate to ABM

Budgets are increasing for ABM technology. Companies adopting ABM are increasing budget spend by 6% from 33% to 39%. So even though budget constraint remains, marketers are still increasing the budget share of ABM as they see the value in such investment.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

This report is generally well presented with a range of take-outs that many will find interesting. There are a few slightly odd layouts in graphs which need careful review. The authors had a treasure trove of data to analyse and had to make decisions about what to highlight. The report could have compared the results against the size of the organisation and the industry segment. Though for the latter, it would have needed more balanced responses.

The report advocates the use of ABM, not a surprise considering Engagio, recently acquired by Demandbase, was involved in the creation of the report. It also shows that there are levels of maturity that companies go through. What would be useful is if the authors had mapped the responses against the Engagio ABM Maturity model  (registration Required) to understand the state of ABM better. The report is worth a look at for any B2B marketer, especially those reviewing their ABM strategy.


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