Account-based marketing (ABM) helps bridge the gap between marketing and sales teams, aligning overall business goals throughout the entire customer acquisition process. According to HubSpot, nearly 70% of brands leveraged an account-based marketing approach in 2020, with the top two ABM tactics focused on researching accounts and identifying target contacts.
It’s clear that ABM is an important strategy for B2B brands and one that’s evolving as approaches, technologies, and tactics mature. With this in mind, we took a deep dive into the state of ABM for 2021 and gathered the 9 most important statistics relevant to 2021. We used data from top ABM players including HubSpot, Demandbase, Terminus, and Forrester.
#1: Revenue (not leads) is the #1 metric tracked when measuring the effectiveness of ABM.
HubSpot, Demandbase, and Terminus independently found that revenue was the most common metric tracked when measuring ABM success. 67% of the 900 respondents in Demandbase’s survey said they tracked revenue, while HubSpot respondents noted that the most common measurement of success for ABM among B2B respondents is revenue won. Other top ABM metrics tracked, per Demandbase, were MQLs, pipelines created, account engagement, meetings set, target account pipeline and win rate.
#2: Higher team involvement in ABM programs is connected to a stronger ROI.
ABM works best when everyone plays the game. Demandbase respondents who reported that 61% of their teams were involved in ABM realized an ROI of at least 2X, versus companies with 39% team involvement who saw lower ROIs. Greater team involvement was also associated with greater ABM program maturity. This suggests that ABM programs are more effective when companies take a whole-team approach that gets more stakeholders involved in orchestrating and managing an ABM strategy.
#3: Content is the top ABM-related investment for organizations.
Half of respondents in the Demandbase survey said the area they planned to invest in most was content, followed by sales & marketing (46%) and target account selection (43%). It’s clear that content, as a foundation for an ABM approach, is king but personalized content is a key driver of success according to according to 56% of marketers in a recent Forrester survey.
#4: Lack of budget is the biggest challenge to executing early stage ABM programs.
Per Demandbase, nearly 43% of the 309 respondents who were in the early stages of executing an ABM program indicated that lack of budget was their biggest challenge for 2020. We note this stat with the caveat the survey was conducted early in the year, just when pandemic-related shutdowns and business disruptions were impacting organizations around the globe. In response, many companies reduced their marketing budgets which likely impacted early-stage ABM programs the most.
Source: Demandbase ABM Market Research Study
#5: ABM success relies on data quality.
A top takeaway from the Demandbase survey was that data quality is a major obstacle to achieving ABM success, with 32% of respondents noting data quality as a challenge for executing early-stage ABM programs. Improving data quality was among the top three planned investments for respondents. High ABM performers tackle data quality challenges head on, listing this as one of their top priorities when executing an ABM program.
#5: More B2B verticals are embracing ABM strategies.
Data from Terminus, one of the founding players in the ABM platform space, revealed an increase in verticals who embraced ABM in 2020 versus 2019. The top vertical is unchanged (Technology & Software), but verticals like Business Services, Manufacturing, Construction, and Healthcare are all using ABM in some capacity. The following chart from the Terminus report illustrates the breakdown of verticals from just over 300 respondents:
Source: Terminus State of ABM 2020
#6: COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of ABM in 2020.
One of the main findings in the Terminus survey was a sharp increase in the adoption of ABM programs in 2020 versus 2019. Just over 94% of respondents said they had an ABM program in place versus 77% in 2019. Of these, 8% of respondents indicated they were still at the early stages of ABM program development (e.g., an experimental pilot phase) versus 79% who were in early to middle stages.
#7: ABM is more about generating business and driving revenue than capturing leads.
It’s a revenue-based world out there and the focus on ABM strategies clarifies this (see stat #1, above). Terminus data found that 90% of late maturity ABM programs focused on new business generation as a top goal over customer retention and pipeline acceleration. New business generation was also the #1 goal for early and middle maturity programs, though the percentage wasn’t quite as high for either.
#8: Companies with mature ABM programs attribute most of their revenue to ABM.
The Terminus study is interesting in that it broke down the program maturity of respondents. Maturity levels ranged from pilot to late maturity. Companies with late maturity programs said they derived 73% of their revenue from ABM versus companies just starting out (e.g., pilot and early maturity) who derived 18% and 30% of revenue from their ABM programs respectively. In fact, the more mature the ABM program, the more revenue was attributed to the program, as the following graph illustrates:
Source: Terminus State of ABM 2020
#9: Seasoned ABM marketers are applying ABM strategies to customer expansion and retention.
Historically, ABM programs have been focused on new business/acquisition, pipeline acceleration, and lead generation. But that’s changing. We leave you with one final (and very interesting) stat from the Terminus report. Companies with late maturity programs list customer retention as the second most important ABM program goal for 2020, followed only by new business acceleration. This is a stark contrast to companies earlier along the ABM maturity scale who are focused on goals like new business generation, pipeline acceleration and lead generation—all of which occur early in the sales cycle.
The outlook for ABM is bright
ABM programs surged in popularity in 2020, with more companies across more verticals opting for ABM over traditional inbound approaches that tend to focus on leads. This was likely a result of a key lead generation and pipeline management channel disappearing overnight (in-person events).
Companies with mature ABM programs clearly understand their value in driving revenue, fostering customer retention, generating new business, and upselling/crosselling to existing customers. They attribute the lion’s share of revenue to ABM and have no problem allocating larger chunks of the marketing budget to fund ABM tactics, technology, and strategies.
For companies who are still considering ABM, or those who are in the early stages of creating an ABM approach, our parting advice is to focus on revenue, not leads, as a key performance metric. To this end, we leave you with one final stat: only 9% of companies with late maturity programs listed lead generation as a KPI for their ABM program in 2020 versus 19% in 2019. The value of lead generation as a KPI is clearly diminishing, as per the companies that understand how to implement and orchestrate successful ABM programs. This will be important for companies to consider as they plan their ABM approach going into the second half of 2021 and beyond.