In ABM By The Numbers

ABM IS A PRIORITY among marketers, and spending is on track to increase this year as more marketers adopt a focused account-based approach and find success. According to ITSMA’s 2017 Services Marketing Budget Allocations and Trends survey, one-third of marketers cited ABM in their list of top priorities. However, brand, lead gen and lead management, and marketing performance management still rank higher than ABM among those priorities.

A majority of marketers plan to increase spending on ABM and dedicate significant share of overall budget to ABM.

“High-growth companies are more likely to prioritize ABM. It’s more important and impactful for the leaders.” Rob Leavitt, ITSMA

According to the survey, 46% of marketers are currently using an ABM strategy, while 26% are not planning to implement it in the next one to two years. In addition, of marketers practicing ABM, 57% said they’ve increased spending in 2017, and—on average—they expect to spend 17% of their total budgets on ABM this year, more than double the 8% dedicated to ABM two years ago, and a marked increase compared with 13% last year.

The ITSMA survey polled 46 marketer respondents with budget authority—primarily from ITSMA member organizations—in December 2016 and January 2017.


There were significant differences between leaders and laggards in terms of ABM strategy and investment. Close to half (48%) of growth leaders said ABM is a top priority, while just 20% of laggards cited it, which implies a connection between ABM and overall performance.

“It’s a pretty clear divide,” said Rob Leavitt, SVP of ITSMA. “High-growth companies are more likely to prioritize ABM.”

Changes in ABM program staffing and spending were also revealed in the study, with marketers trying to do more with existing resources. When ITSMA asked marketers how they anticipate the components of ABM spend changing in 2017, 56% said they are increasing program spending on events and content creation. In terms of staffing, just 33% said they have increased dedicated staff assigned to accounts, with the majority (67%) working with existing staff levels.

“No one is cutting,” Leavitt said. “What we’re seeing is that they’re spending a little bit more program dollars on events, briefings and content sponsorships, and they’re trying to do more with essentially the same staffing.”

Different forms of ABM are also beginning to merge. Eighty-four percent of marketers are practicing what ITSMA defines as “strategic ABM,” 84% practice “ABM Lite” and 53% have incorporated programmatic ABM.

Leavitt said many marketers start with strategic ABM. “They typically see very significant returns, so they want to scale it. That’s when they move to the ABM Lite approach, while programmatic tends to come from a different part of the organization.” He added that more recently they have “seen companies start with a programmatic approach, where they work with [companies] like Demandbase,” and then move to the other two. “They’re all starting to converge, and now marketers have to figure out how to manage it all.”

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