Account-Based Marketing: A Look at What's Next

Inbound marketing has proven to be an effective way to drive leads to your business, but what if the majority of your leads aren't converting?

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You worked hard to perfect your content marketing strategy to attract businesses that need your product or service. However, this doesn't always act as a great filter.

This is where account-based marketing comes into the picture. Over the past few years, ABM has grown in popularity. Why? Because businesses are seeing great results when adopting an ABM model into their strategies.

In 2014, we found that nearly 85 percent of marketers saw a higher ROI with ABM strategies compared to other marketing methods. Another 50 percent said the increase was significant.

How significant? According to another survey, account-based marketing generates 200 percent more revenue.

Let's review what ABM looks like today and examine its future outlook.

What Is Account-Based Marketing?

In case you're new to the term, ABM is the use of tactics that allow you to personalize your marketing and sales efforts to increase engagement and conversions with specific accounts.

In a nutshell, it uses highly-targeted campaigns designed to reach specific groups of people. For instance, if you're a digital ad agency that works only with realtors, then you'd create your campaign around the different decision makers in a realty firm.

It's about sales and marketing working together to create resources that target a smaller group of better-qualified prospects.

Why Are Businesses Flocking to ABM?

Group of people working at a table together.

If there's anything you learned over the past decade as a marketer, it's that personalization is the key to conversions. If you can deliver the right message, at the right time, to the right person, then you'll increase user engagement. You do this, and there's no more dealing with a mountain of unqualified leads.

That's exactly what account-based marketing focuses on: dissecting your campaign so that it talks to specific accounts. 

The issue with this approach is that it can quickly increase qualified leads to your business. Why is this a problem? Because if your company isn't equipped with the right tools to take care of that influx, then you'll witness a burnout among staff and you risk losing potential sales.

This is why software automation is crucial to have. You need tools for each stage of your ABM strategy.

Account-Based Marketing Today

The idea of scaling your ABM efforts from 30 to 300 (or even 3,000) was a tough feat a decade ago, but not today.

The tools available now make it possible to do this seamlessly. For instance, you have software that assists with data collection, account selection, personalization, audience management engagement, and sales insights, to name a few.

These tools also make it easier for businesses to adopt account-based marketing strategies. So the question is no longer why do I need to use ABM, but how can I make it work for my business?

Fortunately, it's not tough to learn. In fact, most B2B marketers already have a basic understanding to get started right away (and witness success).

In the past, ABM was about finding your top 100 target accounts and then developing campaigns to target them (ads, landing pages, direct mailers, etc.). Today, it extends beyond this to create detailed buyer personas using buyer fit and intent data. From there, you build landing pages and campaigns to reach those particular prospects.

What's in the Future for Account-Based Marketing?

Efficiency and ease-of-use are likely to be front and center as new technologies develop for the ABM market. We're seeing more marketers shifting their B2B budgets toward ABM. Plus, they're moving past website analytics and personalization toward personalized SEM and SEO.

We'll also see more AI technology emerging that will help with keyword selection to better target accounts. Marketers will also be able to target specific events, such as trade shows and conferences, based on the interests or needs of the targeted accounts.

It's the same with PR. Marketers will be able to find the best publications and content to use to reach their target accounts. This includes finding the right reporters and mediums on which to publish.

Here's a look at some of the emerging trends in ABM.

Everything Will Become Account-Based

Right now, we're seeing marketing adopting the account-based model. Soon, we may see this model applied to other areas of the business, such as sales, customer success, and sales development.

If all departments are aligned in their account-based efforts, then there's a higher chance of leading more prospects through the funnel to conversion and then ensuring customers are happy so that they turn into long-term customers.  

Woman looking at a desktop computer wearing a headset.

It'll be more problematic for larger corporations to integrate an account-based-everything approach. This will require properly aligning key elements, such as account selection, strategy, account planning, data, content, offers, marketing platforms, technology, and metrics. Once it's done right, the results can be quite rewarding.

Intent Data Will Become Essential

Data is everything for marketing experts today, but knowing what data is significant and what isn't is another story. This is why data analytics will grow in importance in the future of ABM.

The type of data marketers will gravitate toward is intent data. This is the fuel that can supercharge your campaign efforts. With this type of data, you'll be able to learn and understand the online behavior of an account. This will identify an account's interest in a particular brand or product, which you can learn by viewing the content they consume or the terms for which they search. This means that marketers will be able to determine when an account is actively considering a relevant product.

How will this help your marketing efforts?

It'll enable you to improve your targeting strategy. For example, you can find new audiences to target that were off your radar. Now, it's important to note that it may take time to see results from this approach. It will require implementation by a marketing team with data and programmatic experts.

The Role of AI in Personalization Will Increase

What're the top digital channels in marketing stacks used by marketers today? You'll find they're nothing unique and you're likely already using them now. According to Marketo's The State of Engagement, the top five digital channels include:

  • Email: 79 percent
  • Website: 60 percent
  • Social Media: 35 percent
  • Chat: 28 percent
  • Mobile Device or App: 25 percent

In ABM, it can become difficult managing all of these channels manually. Automation is the key to scaling your ABM strategies while minimizing risk.

A decade ago, ABM focused on major accounts and pursuing them using outbound strategies. In this time, marketers only needed several channels to target these accounts. Without the use of automation, this limited their ability to scale up.

Today, marketing automation allows you to target a mix of ABM tactics at scale. Plus, you get to pursue dozens of accounts. Marketers can engage both long tail target accounts and named accounts from the sales department.

It creates synergy between marketing and sales. In turn, this helps to reduce risk, since you're targeting broader target accounts using cheaper channels. Then the AI can send alerts to your salespeople when an account engages.

AI will also play a significant role throughout the customer lifecycle going forward. This is because it'll help marketers gain intimate knowledge of their customers, such as ideal customer profiles (ICP), which offer details about accounts on a granular level.

So marketers will be able to extend past typical data, such as revenue, industry, company news, social media channel business clues, and other firmographics. Instead, AI will collect data from internal and external sources to develop precise models of ideal customers.

According to Marketo's report, 72 percent of marketers are prioritizing personalized content and messages for customer engagement. Another 40 percent are planning to use AI and machine learning to develop content throughout the buyer's journey.

ABM Attribution Using Advanced Analytics

As with any form of marketing, experts need to know that the tactics they're using are working. The only way to tell if your ABM strategy is worthy is by using software tools to gather data and offer analytics on the metrics you're tracking. Marketers will then be able to decide what areas of their strategy needs more work.

Now, this will be essential for several reasons:

  1. Sales and marketing must partner to win targeted accounts.
  2. Marketers are targeting more than one account list.
  3. Marketers are using a mix of ABM strategies.

So having the ability to keep an eye on touch points and attribution is critical. We expect to see more AI tools emerging to help marketers meet these initiatives.

One tool you can use today is SmartSuite, which allows you to maintain a clean database for your named accounts.

Preparing for a Data-Centric ABM Future

Artificial intelligence, data collection and management, and automation will be the future of account-based marketing. If you're not already preparing, then you may find yourself out of the loop and falling behind your competitors.

A great place to start is with your current database. Is its data "dirty?" If so, then you're going to need a tool to clean it up. That's no problem. Request a demo of SmartSuite and Break the Cycle of Dirty Data!

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