Prophets of Profit 2018: ABM Experts Give Their Predictions & Advice – Part 1
2017 was another big year in Account Based Marketing. In their ABM benchmark report, the ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance found that the percent of B2B marketers that state “ABM delivers a higher ROI than any other types of marketing” has increased to an astounding 87%.
Let me repeat that: 87% of B2B marketers state that ABM delivers a higher ROI than any other types of marketing!
If there’s one thing that this report showed, it was that ABM is here to stay, and the revolution has only just begun. It’s an exciting time right now for B2B marketers, and we could be more thrilled to be on this rocketship with you.
Account Based Marketing Predictions and Advice
The 2017 edition of Engagio’s Prophets of Profit got people talking – the answers our experts gave were educational, insightful and even controversial.
And now we’re going back to the future!
This year, we have an even more exciting edition. In this 2-part post (update: part 2 is now live), we asked the same two questions:
- “What is your predictions for the ABM space in 2018?”
- “What is the best advice you’d give for people to be successful with ABM in 2018?”
So, without further adieu, here is the first half of your Prophets of Profit.
Companies Will Get Left Behind
Vice President, Research at SiriusDecisions
“My prediction for ABM in 2018 is that it will be on its way to becoming the dominant B2B demand creation strategy, and those who don’t get on board will be increasingly left behind. More and more companies are using technology, data and account insights to make smarter choices about the best path to growth. The really good ones are also using that data to develop relevant, audience-centric programs that help buyers make decisions, help customers get better value and help their sellers create better engagement. Companies who remain stuck in the bad old days of b-to-b marketing will see results deteriorate this year because their competition made ABM investments earlier and customers will notice the difference.
My advice for people to succeed in ABM in 2018 is not to forget that account-based marketing is only truly account-based if you do something different or say something different based on who a customer is and what you know about them. There’s a of competition out there for your customers’ attention. What can you do to win more of it? If all you do is better targeting and segmentation, you’ll get part of the benefit of ABM, but greater financial impact will elude you without taking the next step to use account insights to reach your prospects in the most meaningful way.”
President & Chief Strategist, The Bridge Group
“My advice for people to succeed in ABM in 2018 is to stop thinking ABM M=Marketing and start thinking ABR R=Revenue. Any successful strategy is about one thing and the one thing is the cha-ching. A great account-based strategy isn’t just about Marketing doing something differently. It also requires that Sales and Sales Development change the way they interact with buyers. When the entire organization aligns their activities around ABR it brings it all together.”
What an ABM Strategy is NOT
CEO and Cofounder, Engagio
“My prediction is that in 2018, companies will recognize that just buying targeted ads does not represent an ABM strategy. You’re not going to get a senior executive at a large company to engage with you just by showing them an ad. Good ABM isn’t about waiting around to see if someone clicks an ad; it’s about crafting relevant, personalized messages and reaching out to the right personas at the right companies proactively.
My advice for people to succeed in ABM in 2018 is to replace all hype about ABM with actual best practices. In fact, I think we may start seeing a backlash against all the hype. The marketers that succeed are going to get real about what works and what doesn’t, and will focus on actual best practices for ABM, not just why it’s a good idea.”
The Realignment of Talent
CEO at LeadMD
“My prediction for ABM in 2018 is that increased ABM adoption will cause a realignment of talent forming small multidisciplinary teams who are laser focused on target customer lifecycles.
My advice for people to succeed in ABM in 2018 is DO NOT simply pick target accounts from a utopian list of enterprise customers. Target Account lists must be insight driven based not only on similarities to current ‘best buyers; but also, ability to buy in the next 12 mo., level of pain and product fit.”
Focus on the Relationship for Success
CTO at Nudge.ai
“In 2018 ABM efforts in marketing and sales will converge on understanding how well your team is developing the right relationships with the right buyers at each target account. The ability to measure that core element, the relationship, will enable marketers to focus on broadening the engagement at an account, while sales can focus on deepening each relationship. This cooperation will drive the measurable success that ABM strategies need to break out even more.
The most successful people are always the ones who can “skate to where the puck is going”, to borrow a phrase from Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. It’s pretty clear that the successful ABM strategies moving forward are the ones that focus on building relationships with buyers that are meaningful. The ABM efforts focused on automating long sequences of obviously impersonal outreach are not likely the kind of efforts that will succeed. To set oneself up for success, focus on having your organization build real relationships, broader and deeper in the accounts that you’re going after. Focus on measuring those relationships and managing towards their growth. All other efforts should be in service of that goal.”
VP of Marketing at LookBookHQ
“My prediction for ABM in 2018 is more marketers will feel disillusioned by the results of their ABM programs and technology investments and will start rethinking their approaches.
My advice for people to succeed in ABM in 2018 is…don’t put the cart before the horse. Before there can be any marketing, there needs to be highly vetted account selection, deep alignment with sales on goals and success metrics and carefully considered operational and process decisions. ABM is more than just a set of tactical marketing programs. If you want to see the returns, you need to move beyond ad targeting and website personalization.”
The Execution Gap Remains, but Few Will Break the Code and Find Massive Success
CEO at Partners In EXCELLENCE, Sales Author
“I always despise giving these predictions. The ‘Bah Humbug’ side of me says, read my predictions for 2017, 2016, 2015, etc. So I’m doing this mildly protesting, but out of friendship to Brandon and the folks at Engagio. The issue is with ABM and many other sales and marketing issues, we seem to have the same conversation every year. The gap is really our ability execute, learn from it, improve, and adjust. As there are every year, there will be those few that break the code. They will outdistance, outsell, and out-exploit the opportunity ABM presents. They will create more value for the customer, expand their footprint and business because they have earned it. The others will struggle and look for a secret in 2019 predictions, 365 days from now.
To succeed in ABM in 2018, reflect back to how you originally won the account. Probably it was because you disrupted your customer, you got them to think differently about their business, and you created huge value in helping the customer change. The problem is, after we do this, we fall into a protect and defend mode. While we claim to look at expanding the relationship/revenue, our real focus is on protecting current revenue. Unfortunately, the data (see CEB) tells us exactly the opposite thing happens. So to succeed in ABM, think about what caused you to win in the first place. It was bringing new ideas, new thinking and huge value in improving the customer’s business. It is the best strategy to defend, it is the best strategy to grow.”
Tech Allows the Revenue Team to Focus on Engaging Target Accounts
Head of Customer Lifecycle at AdRoll
“My prediction for 2018 is as data becomes more commoditized and readily accessible, things like account insights, predictive analytics, and personalized content will all be built into ABM tech of the future. CRMs and marketing automation platforms are honestly empty engines that need loads of quality, up-to-date, standardized data in order to properly run. I expect relevant data for ABM will be readily available in all platforms, allowing the revenue team to focus on engaging and servicing their target accounts and customers rather than spending time trying to cleanse and prepare data.
My advice for people to succeed in ABM in 2018 is to test quickly and continue to iterate. You may find that a executive dinner in one city has low attendance but that doesn’t mean to cut executive dinners out of your plan completely. Every region and every account will have a slightly different set of needs and the nature of ABM requires you to listen to what your targets need and plan accordingly.”
It’s About Programs and Campaigns
Chief Analyst & Cofoudner at TOPO
“My prediction for ABM in 2018 is the market is entering the execution phase. Last year, I predicted 2017 would be the year of ROI. I was right in one respect, there were a lot more successful use cases (aka ROI). In some respects I was wrong in that my prediction implied that there would be widespread Account-based programs. I would argue that 2015-2016 was “talk”, 2017 was foundational work (ICP, alignment) and test programs, and now 2018 is about programs and campaigns.Here is a perfect example, one of our customers spent 6 months generating agreement on the target list, the roles and responsibilities, etc. They finally launched an account-based program against 100 key target accounts and achieved an opportunity rate of 22% (22 opportunities against 100 accounts). Because of this early success, they are receiving the resources they need to 7-8X the scope of the program. Time to go.
My advice for people to succeed in ABM in 2018 is to get the “right” buy-in from sales. What do I mean? If I have learned one thing in watching account-based programs from the last two years – program success is predicated on sales saying “if you get us into these accounts, we got it”. That’s it. If sales would rather have an owner of a parakeet shop because they are “BANT” than a meeting at a target account, the you are going to fail.”
Emphasis Will be on the Role of Research in ABM
President and Cofounder at Inverta
“My prediction for ABM in 2018 is that more organizations will put emphasis on the role of research in their ABM programs. In 2017 we saw a lot of organizations plunging into ABM and buying technology to execute tactics across channels. While technology plays a large role in ABM strategy, technology itself is not a strategy. Many organizations will step back to figure out where ABM fits in their overall growth strategy and then move forward with programs that are designed leveraging insights delivered from research and data.
ABM is all about understating your target audience and you can’t do that without investing some form of research – be that traditional research or more data-driven approaches to delivering insight. In addition we’ll continue to see sales and marketing transcend the term “alignment” and truly operate in a collaborative way to make ABM successful. Last but not least – we’ll continue to see technology play a large role in ABM programs. Adtech, martech, and salestech will continue to cross pollinate in an ABM world and for that reason we call it “revtech” ß you heard it here first?”
Going Deep but also Providing Coverage
Senior Vice President at ITSMA
“My prediction for ABM in 2018 is a growing focus on moving to a blended strategy, with companies going beyond their initial approaches to create a more balanced program with highly customized One-to-One ABM to go deep with their most strategic accounts and more lightly personalized One-to-Few and One-to-Many ABM to provide broader coverage across the next few tiers.
My advice for people to succeed in ABM in 2018 is spend twice as much time on the up-front preparation. Dig deeper into how your clients, prospects, and competitors are succeeding (or not) in their markets, how your sales teams are actually selling, and how your own firm is (and isn’t) providing real value. Take the time to create truly differentiated value propositions before getting into external communications, content, and campaigns.”
More Owners of an Account Centric Strategy
CEO at Marvel Marketers
“I predict in 2018, leaders will take a step back, and think of ABM less as a reactive pivot in their organization, but more so as a additional tool in their strategic tool kit. I think the challenges will continue to be in the measurement of success, as most tools which excelled in managing demand generation fall short in measuring the ROI of ABM activities. Within organizations there will definitely be more direct owners of an Account Centric strategy, and Marketing and Sales will absolutely be working closer together if ABM is to be successful.
My advice for people to succeed in ABM is 2018 is to make sure you have someone accountable for orchestrating and driving the strategy in your organization. Having each person add an Account Centric layer to their day job , will leave your Strategy homeless and nearly impossible to evaluate properly.”
Roadmapping Social Proximity
CEO, Sales for Life, Author
“My prediction for ABM in 2018 is that it will finally force companies to rethink their territory and account selection for each seller. Companies are awakening to the value of roadmapping their internal Social Proximity for resourcing the account, not just wallet-share selection of accounts.”
Stay tuned for part 2, where we hear expert predictions from more Prophets of Profit, such as Todd Berkowitz, Sangram Vajre, Meagen Eisenberg, Matt Heinz, Scott Brinker, and more!
What’s your prediction for Account Based Marketing in 2018?
What’s your advice for people who want to see results?