2020 ABM Research Study Industry report highlights ABM ROI, priorities for 2021 and key success factors

Editor: Alexander Stark

The partnership of organizations leading the marketing industry with ABM insights and resources, ABM Leadership Alliance, announces key findings from its 2020 ABM research study. Conducted in partnership with Itsma, “Rethinking ABM for the Next Opportunity” is the fourth annual ABM benchmark study from the two organizations.

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The 2020 ABM research study “Rethinking ABM for the Next Opportunity” highlights ABM ROI, priorities for 2021 and key success factors.
The 2020 ABM research study “Rethinking ABM for the Next Opportunity” highlights ABM ROI, priorities for 2021 and key success factors.
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Based on survey data from more than 400 marketers at B2B technology and business services companies such as Adobe, Dell Technologies, Infosys and more, along with in-depth interviews with 24 leading ABM practitioners, ABM Leadership Alliance and Itsma conducted the 2020 ABM Research Study. This year’s report shines a light on how the many disruptions of 2020 impacted account-based marketers, as well as how they adjusted and recovered. The report findings reveal that despite 56 % of respondents’ ABM budgets experiencing change in 2020, organizations saw measurable business improvement in relationships (71 %), revenue (55 %) and reputation/brand (34 %) thanks to ABM.

One of the most compelling takeaways in this year’s report was the identification of five strategic guidelines for ABM practitioners to adopt in order to accelerate success next year and beyond:

  • Strengthen sales collaboration: The marketers most successful with ABM work significantly more closely with sales, although the majority of organizations still have work to do to respond to challenges in 2021.
  • Build a blended strategy: One type of ABM – one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many – is not necessarily more effective than another, but the most successful programs use more than one, and 29 % of the highest yielding programs use all three types. In 2021, 48 % plan to adopt a blended approach with at least two styles.
  • Invest in metrics: 73 % of the highest performing organizations measure ABM ROI, with top metrics generally focusing on the three Rs: revenue, relationships and reputation.
  • Accelerate agility: The most effective ABM programs in 2020 moved faster than the rest in shifting focus to different industries and account clusters, and introducing new tactics such as smaller, account-focused interactive virtual meetings and events.
  • Deepen account insight: Due to the pace of change and navigating uncertainty, organizations put a stronger premium on account-level research and insight, with the best results coming from companies that invest more into direct account insights, intent, engagement, predictive and data management.

“Even during the tremendous disruptions of 2020, ABM continues to prove its value as an essential strategy for B2B growth,” says Rob Leavitt, SVP, Consulting at Itsma. One of the standout findings was that 76 % of respondents reported seeing higher ROI with ABM than with other types of marketing. According to Leavitt, this speaks to the real potential of Account-Based Marketing and it was no surprise that companies are investing even more in ABM now as they look to the continued uncertainty of 2021.

Most companies are still early in leveraging specialized tools to support their programs, but they intend to become more mature with this in 2021. Top planned investments for the year include ABM platforms, attribution and reporting, intent, direct mail, content syndication, third party data and events.

While 44 % of respondents’ ABM budgets experienced no change in 2020, 30 % felt a decrease and 26 % saw an increase. Survey participants indicated, on average, that 27 % of their 2021 marketing budget is earmarked for ABM. Organizations saw noteworthy, measurable business improvement in 2020 due to ABM in the following areas: relationships (71 %), revenue (55 %) and reputation/brand (34 %).

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