Account-Based Marketing

How ABM systems are evolving to meet changing B2B buying behaviors

AI and changes in buyer behavior are driving new trends in account-based marketing and the technology used for it.

B2B marketers have employed account-based marketing (ABM) for some time, but the approach has gained momentum over the past few years and shows no sign of slowing.

ABM strategy is changing because of shifts in buyer preferences, pre-purchase behavior, and more sophisticated technology and data products. These last two enable marketers to analyze behavior, identify in-market audiences and craft experiences for a buying group or its members.

Additionally, the COVID pandemic accelerated fundamental shifts in the B2B buying cycle by forcing events and in-person meetings to go virtual. A survey by the IT Sales and Marketing Association (ITSMA) found 71% of companies increased ABM, with 50% of those surveyed saying they increased ABM staff.

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ABM accounts for 28% of the overall marketing budget for those surveyed.

How B2B buying has changed

For some time, B2B buyers have conducted substantial research online before talking to a salesperson, and the vast amount of information available to buyers has given them an upper hand. The buying cycle has been permanently altered due to the lockdowns and work-from-home trends that intensified during the pandemic.

Fifty-eight percent of marketers said buyers spend more time researching online before making purchase decisions, according to recent research by the Winterberry Group. Nearly half (44%) say peer reviews and user-generated content play a greater role in buyers’ decision-making.

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A shift from a reactive to a proactive marketing approach is working well for many B2B companies.

How vendors are responding to ABM

Many vendors provide everything from all-in-one platforms to enable ABM strategies to adjacent services like data enrichment, identity resolution, analytics, and interaction management/orchestration to B2B marketers ramping up their programs.

The more comprehensive platforms come from B2B mainstays such as Dun & Bradstreet, Salesforce and Marketo, which share the space with a well-established group of independent ABM platforms and data providers, including 6Sense, Integrate, Demandbase, Bombora, RollWorks (a division of NextRoll), N. Rich, Madison Logic, Terminus and ZoomInfo.

We are currently seeing the consolidation of ABM with demand generation. As a result, there is an overlap between the functions of some ABM systems and marketing automation platforms (MAPs). If this continues it may force marketers to choose between technologies in these categories.

Many vendors are developing tools that combine these functions. Demandbase calls its offering a “Smarter GTM,” while Kwanzoo expects a B2B go-to-market suite of tools to become standard — anchored by its Account-Based GTM platform. Madison Logic calls its solution “Journey Acceleration,” and Salesforce expects businesses to align all of their customer-facing activity (marketing, sales and customer service) on the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform.

Meanwhile, Terminus and Dun & Bradstreet are unifying around a CDP.

Wendors are also eager to incorporate the latest must-have technology – artificial intelligence. In these platforms, AI and machine learning are typically used to identify buying groups and find patterns of intent signals for better-understanding prospects. This can improve the targeting and relevance of marketing efforts. More platforms now have recommendation engines that analyze multiple data sources to suggest next-best actions based on account intent and behavior signals.

As AI advances, companies are incorporating features designed to smooth workflows automatically or through suggestions based on usage data. Generative AI is employed to create multiple variations of content, where data signals inform personalization to address the concerns and pain points of the person interacting with the content.

Sales enablement tools are being added to systems to improve communication between B2B sales and marketing teams. These automatically activate sales triggers based on CRM account reporting, and provide lead-to-account mapping, for example. The goal is to streamline the hand-off of leads from marketing to sales, providing salespeople with additional insights as they approach prospects.

Interaction management, or orchestration, is a key feature for many ABM vendors. This means expanding the number of channels the systems can manage. Vendors are building out APIs and increasing the availability of native (out-of-the-box) integrations with CRMs, marketing automation systems, digital ad networks and other ABM data providers.

Additionally, the idea of ABX (account-based experience) is becoming more popular. The word “experience” signifies this encompasses every aspect of a buying group member’s experience with the brand – from awareness to acquisition to retention to upselling to advocacy. This is built on a foundation of data, which allows marketers to understand their prospects and ensure interactions meet their needs.

Account-based marketing (ABM) : A snapshot

What it is. Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts to focus on high-value accounts.

This customer acquisition strategy focuses on delivering promotions — advertising, direct mail, content syndication, etc. — to targeted accounts. Individuals who may be involved in the purchase decision are targeted in a variety of ways, in order to soften the earth for the sales organization.

Why it’s hot. Account-based marketing addresses changes in B2B buyer behavior. Buyers now do extensive online research before contacting sales, a trend that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of marketing’s tasks in an ABM strategy is to make certain its company’s message is reaching potential customers while they are doing their research.

Why we care. Account engagement, win rate, average deal size, and ROI increase after implementing account-based marketing, according to a recent Forrester/SiriusDecisions survey. While B2B marketers benefit from that win rate, ABM vendors are also reaping the benefits as B2B marketers invest in these technologies and apply them to their channels.


This article was written by MarTech and originally published here.



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