In 2020, marketers needed to adapt and pivot. Companies embracing Account Base Marketing (ABM) were able to make the necessary changes more quickly than most. Seven out of ten ABM marketers reported an improvement in relationships with B2B customers and 55% reported improvements in sales.
The lessons learned during 2020 are shaping many of the ABM trends and ABM strategies for 2021.
5 ABM Marketing Trends for 2021
As marketers outline their ABM strategy for 2021, here are five account based marketing trends to consider.
- Great personalization
- B2B influencers
- Omnichannel communications
- Sales teams taking the lead
- Tactile marketing
Some companies are taking their ABM strategy to extreme levels of personalization.
Here’s an example. A company targeting executives at T-Mobile for their business used social engineering to learn about the decision-makers. When they learned that John Legere, T-Mobile’s CEO at the time, was a huge Batman fan, they produced a comic book version of their presentation.
A cloud software provider worked with its marketing agency and used its ABM tools to contact prospects that had completed a product demo but did not sign up for their service. Marketing focused on the final steps prospects need to take to get started. Closing rates improved by 41% with the target group.
Along with its marketing consultant, a data warehousing company created a huge library of educational content so they had the right marketing tool for B2B buyers at any stage of the customer journey. At any one time, the company is running 500 concurrent individualized ABM sequences for decision-makers to nurture them with relevant content. This ABM strategy allows sales teams to personalize messaging to individuals while already having relevant content to move them to the next stage.
Account based marketing users are also personalizing their approach in other ways. Using B2B influences has become an effective strategy. By partnering with thought leaders in various industries, companies can get featured in high-profile places that may be more likely to be seen by prospects.
By partnering with experts in the target industry, you receive either an implied endorsement or an actual endorsement. Paid relationships, including affiliate networks, are increasing in 2021.
ABM marketers have adapted to the way B2B buyers are communicating. That requires the ability to communicate across multiple channels. Engaging leads may start with one-on-one communication, such as an email campaign, but marketers today are also leveraging other channels to magnify the impact.
For example, companies are combining personalized emails with aggressive social media campaigns. One company went so far as to target individual prospects by tagging them on their social media and featuring company executives in their social campaigns.
Most advertising and marketing works through reach and frequency. You must reach the right audience with the right message, but you also have to deliver the messaging often enough to grab an increased share of mind. AMB allows you to nurture prospects to improve the frequency and establish trust. By aligning their messaging across multiple channels, companies can improve the odds that prospects will see and remember their message.
The right tech stack can bring together data points across all of your communication channels to track engagement and further personalize your marketing.
Sales Teams Taking the Lead
While sales teams have always played a role in the marketing arena to varying degrees, sales teams are now today playing an even more active role in ABM. Rather than relying on marketing teams for lead generation and ABM account selection, sales teams are choosing prospects for ABM targeting.
This top-down approach helps create a better alignment between sales and marketing and closer interaction between teams to create the content and messaging.
There’s often still a disconnect between sales and marketing. Despite focused efforts, only 7% of sales teams believe the leads they get from marketing are high-quality leads. Yet 85% of marketers believe their marketing strategy is effective. We’ve got work to do.
Another B2B ABM trend that’s gaining traction in 2021 is the use of tactile marketing. What is tactile marketing, you might ask? It’s augmenting campaigns with things that can be touched or experienced and aid in memory and conversions.
For example, a cybersecurity company used thermographic ink to drive home the point about how most IT threats go undetected. As part of the nurturing process, high-value prospects received a box and a blacklight flashlight. Only by using the flashlight could prospects say a message about how IT teams miss threats that they don’t see.
5 ABM Marketing Strategies for 2021
ITSMA, along with the ABM Leadership Alliance, surveyed more than 400 marketers at B2B tech and business service companies. Based on the results, they recommended five priorities for ABM marketers in 2021.
- Accelerate agile
- Deepen account insight
- Strengthen sales collaboration
- Building a blended strategy
- Focus on ROI
If 2020 taught us anything, it was that we need to be able to shift prioritize quickly and pivot whenever necessary. In 2021, marketers must make agile a key part of their ABM strategy. The ability to shift focus and messaging is crucial in light of the continued disruption.
Strategies will include:
- Testing of new tactics and strategies
- Shifting account priorities with coverage models
- Using AMB to enter new markets and engage new buyers
Deepen Account Insight
In an uncertain environment, deep insight into accounts is more important than ever. It’s this insight that allows sales and marketing teams to shift priorities to remain aligned with their prospects’ business goals.
Marketers will focus heavily on data-driven strategies:
- Account insight
- Buyer intent
- Business intelligence (BI)
- Predictive analytics
Strengthen Sales Collaboration
The best ABM programs have a strong collaboration between sales and marketing already. During the pandemic, both areas had to shift rapidly to working differently with prospects — both in messaging and communication.
In 2021, collaboration adds emphasis on:
- Closely aligning the sales coverage model for revenue generation with ABM campaigns
- Increased collaboration between marketing and sales
- Sales taking the lead in identifying high-value prospects
Building a Blended Strategy
There are three types of ABM models that companies are commonly using: programmatic ABM, ABM Lite, and strategic ABM.
The reason why people go after previous customers, is they know your brand and have experienced your offering (for better or for worse!). This means there’s less education you need to do on who you are and more on why they should come back.
- Programmatic ABM focuses on segmenting audiences and distributing marketing to a large group of prospects (one to many).
- ABM lite narrows the list of prospects to those most likely to convert (one to a few).
- Strategic ABM focuses on one-to-one accounts with highly personalized campaigns.
All three types of ABM strategies can be effective, but the most successful marketers should create a blended strategy using elements of each type of ABM program. By balancing the depth of coverage across different groups of priority accounts, marketers can increase demand generation and drive accounts from programmatic to ABM lite to strategic.
Focus on ROI
Measuring the impact of your ABM campaigns and continuous optimization should be part of your best practices by now. However, your most important metric should be focused on ROI. While open rates, clickthrough rates, and engagement are important to know, it’s most important to understand how these metrics impact conversion rates.
Best practices should include:
- Tracking through the entire B2B customer lifecycle
- Analysis of metrics in relation to ROI
- Regular review and optimization
Your ABM Strategy
Every company and situation is unique, so your ABM strategy may be different than these. Whatever approach you take, know that your account-based marketing is crucial to achieving your revenue goals. 87% of account-based marketers say that ABM initiatives outperform every other marketing investment in their companies.
If you could use a hand with your ABM Strategy or execution, ask us for a free consult to talk through your challenges and generate some ideas.