By Alejandra Melara

As we head into 2021 and start working on our marketing plan for Q1, it’s important to look at historical data and industry benchmarks around our selected go-to-market strategy for the upcoming year.  

This will allow us to not only understand customers’ past behavior but also make predictions around their future decision-making process and guide our marketing decisions and strategies

We’re starting our “Biggest Shifts Happening in Marketing Strategy Heading Into 2021” series around the most common marketing strategies marketers focus on on a regular basis: account-based marketing (ABM), customer advocacy, inbound marketing, and demand generation. 

We’ll kick off the series with ABM. In this blog, we’ll discuss the latest benchmarks and the top ABM priorities for 2021 that marketers should focus on.

Ready to deliver valuable, relevant content and nurture targeted relationships  with ABM? Check out this guide.

Let’s first take a look at the top strategies used by ABM marketers this past year.
 

A Look Back to 2020

A recent study conducted by ITSMA and the ABM Leadership Alliance shows some pretty interesting highlights and benchmarks around ABM strategy and tactics, budget, account selection, and metrics. 

Here’s are a few of the insights discovered:

  • There’s a clear spread between the three types of ABM: one to one, one to few, and one to many. The majority of programs focused on one type only.
  • Twelve percent of companies are doing a blended ABM strategy. Out of that 12 percent, a minority is doing two or even three of the approaches at the same time.
  • Overall strategic objectives are balanced between new and existing accounts, with existing accounts being the top priority for marketers. 

ABM Priorities

The Effects of COVID-19

The study also examined the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on ABM strategy in 2020. Of the marketers interviewed, 44 percent said there was no change in their budget despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and 26 percent even said they increased their budget since the pandemic.

The study also revealed that 54 percent of those using ABM said they had not changed their objectives since the pandemic while 42 percent said they did. Some of these changes in strategy were:

  • Focusing on existing accounts
  • Supporting specific and existing deals in the pipeline
  • Changing perception with targeted accounts

In addition, ABM leaders said they had started working much more closely with their sales team since the onset of the pandemic.

Top Challenges 

Because most ABM programs are still in early development with marketers exploring or experimenting, it isn’t without its challenges. Among the top challenges marketers currently face are tracking and measuring ABM results and justifying the program’s cost and proving ROI. Only 67 percent of marketers are measuring ABM’s return on investment and of those who are, 77 percent of them are seeing a significantly higher ROI than that of traditional marketing.

Other big challenges ABM marketers face include creating customizable and personalized content and effectively utilizing associated technology. Organizations are still in the early stages when it comes to the technology and MarTech stack they are using with only 40-60 percent using marketing automation.

The most effective ABM programs are significantly more likely to use:

  • Account and prospect insights
  • Data management
  • Business intelligence
  • Content activation 

These programs are also looking to invest in ABM platform, attribution and reporting tools, lead-to-account matching, and chat platforms.

Now, the part you were looking forward to.. In the next section, we’ll disclose essential insights and direction for ABM program leaders and practitioners gearing up for 2021.

Looking to 2021 

Thinking about what’s ahead of us, here’s what the data tells us ABM marketers should focus on:

1. Personalize content on a modular approach based on core themes.

Rather than trying to create individual assets that cover every different kind of account, identify core themes and think how you can personalize content in a structured way—for example, industry-based or role-based versions.

2. Focus on guidance and collaboration. Executive-level buyers are looking for:

ABM Collaboration

  • New ideas for post-pandemic growth
  • Relevant thought leadership to drive engagement
  • High-touch interactive approaches, which are essential with the dramatic shift to digital
  • Sales to take a more consultative role

3. Focus on current accounts in your ABM program.

Go deeper into your current accounts. Do more with more. Create more tailored and personalized content, more targeted ads, and so on.

4. Use technology and automation.

If you’re looking to invest in any MarTech and leverage the use of your technology, focus on tools that will allow you to:

  • Discover account and prospect insights
  • Manage data 
  • Leverage business intelligence
  • Perform content activation 

Pro tip: Your budget and resources are a precious asset that needs to be spent wisely. Think about the tools that will allow you to put more relevant content in front of the customer more efficiently and how you can make it feel more personable.

5. Put a stronger ABM focus on major defined sales opportunities and current deals.

Think about the deals that are already in your pipeline and focus on those accounts. This is what the data is telling us, but you should focus both on leveraging existing opportunities and adding new prospects.
 

6. Adopt a blended ABM strategy.

Here are a few of the most impactful and effective tactics for each type of ABM:



The graph above is colored coded to show that some of these tactics work across the board, such as webinars, paid social, and email marketing. 

7. Train marketers to increase ABM knowledge and develop new tools and templates to facilitate reuse and best practice sharing.

This is especially important when it comes to sales enablement. Sales folks should not be creating their own content. Make sure you prepare and equip your sales team with the right content for each account. 

Conclusion

Throughout this post, we’ve discussed how people have pivoted their program and the ABM priorities for 2021 marketers should focus on. . Remember that ABM is all about “breadth and depth.” Go deep (personalized) into as many accounts as you can. 

Thinking about the next steps in your ABM program, reach out to our experts and we’ll be happy to work with you and share a comprehensive plan for rolling out ABM at your organization.

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Alejandra Melara

About the author

Alejandra Melara is a Marketing Manager based out of El Salvador, Central America. Ale is our very first LATAM employee. She's worked remotely for the past 5 years and she's had different roles in sales and marketing. In her free time, she works on creating educational videos around digital marketing for her "InboundNomad" social accounts where she promotes traveling the world while being a full-time marketer. Read more articles by Alejandra Melara.

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