This time of year always gives us an opportunity to look back on the past 12 months and document our achievements (and assess where we fell short). At the same time, it presents us with the chance to set a vision for the coming year. For account-based marketers, 2018 was an incredibly productive year; more and more B2B organizations reaped the benefits of a more focused effort on the accounts that matter most. So that begs the question: what should be the key considerations for ABM teams as they set their sights on the coming year and beyond?
Each year, SiriusDecisions publishes planning assumptions research to help our clients better prepare for the coming year. For 2019, we encourage companies to incorporate five key areas into their planning discussions to optimize their ABM programs. These represent the key priorities ABM leaders must address to effectively design and operationalize ABM programs.
- ABM strategy, goals and alignment evolution. ABM has become more prevalent, so we think the natural evolution is the development of ABM cross-functional teams to support high-value accounts. These teams will include representatives from the core sales team and ABM marketers, of course, but will also expand to include other key functional contributors such as portfolio and product marketing, marketing communications, field marketers, BDR/SDR teams and operational contributors.
- ABM infrastructure evolution. The lifeblood of any ABM program is the availability of account data and insights to fuel highly relevant ABM activities. This is increasingly delivered via a robust technology stack to help with account data management and execution. These days, it seems like everyone is an ABM vendor. We think much of the evolution of ABM infrastructure will be centered around the consolidation of disparate ABM technologies as we move into 2019. This will force B2B companies to become keenly aware of how the vendors they select to be part of their ABM stack will fare in the coming years. It’s critical for B2B organizations to start the discussions around infrastructure needs with an understanding of their objectives and requirements before investing in particular technologies.
- ABM planning and execution evolution. Successful ABM programs are looking at account activity more holistically versus traditional individual lead scoring. SiriusDecisions introduced the concept of the Demand Unit Waterfall to provide clients with a more accurate representation of account activity. This differentiated view of engagement scoring at the account level is fit for purpose for ABM and will continue to make a significant difference for ABM teams in 2019 and beyond.
- ABM measurement evolution. The area of measurement has been one of the most popular topics for SiriusDecisions’ ABM clients over the past year. We expect this conversation to continue throughout 2019, as ABM marketers home in on the metrics that matter for ABM programs. However, after the right metrics are identified, there is still work to be done. We see ABM measurement evolving to focus more on how marketers can tell compelling stories about the impact of ABM. We need to look deeper at the metrics, aggregating them to deliver more meaningful reporting that’s customized by the audience.
- ABM team design evolution. Organizations have increasingly begun to see the value in developing ABM centers of excellence. We think the next area of evolution for ABM team design will focus on one particular functional area: field marketing. For too long, this critical resource has been an afterthought in the ABM process, but this will change as we move into 2019. Field marketers have the key position of being closest to the customer (and to the sales organization); ignore them at your own peril. We encourage our clients to take a longer view. They should embed field marketers earlier in the ABM process and invest in these critical resources by providing ongoing training to enhance their capabilities to support key ABM processes.
It’s an exciting time for ABM. Companies across the globe, in all sizes and in a wide range of industries, are seeing the benefits of taking a more strategic approach to their high-value accounts. We believe B2B organizations should focus on the five key considerations discussed above and embed them in internal planning discussions for the coming year. Whether you’re just starting your ABM journey or are looking to turn your good ABM program into an award-winner, these evolutionary considerations can help guide you toward success.