What I Took Away From B2B Marketing’s 2019 ABM Conference

Melissa Hernandez 14th November 2019 ABM Programs, B2B Campaigns

Last week, I went to B2B Marketing’s annual ABM Conference. It was a day for B2B marketing professionals to share their experiences of executing ABM strategies. From the conversations, it was clear that “true ABM” is still relatively new and immature, but that the key to success in the future is sharing our experiences and lessons now.

Businesses have been doing ABM-style marketing for a while. It’s the concept of focusing marketing resource and budget on small groups of high-value potential customers and designing personalised campaigns around them. However, true ABM goes one step further, providing more definition and guidance around what ‘small groups’ are and what level of ‘personalisation’ they should have.

ABM gets you to think about planning campaigns at each level of the ‘ABM triangle’…

One-to-one … the most personalised campaign where you focus on one specific high-value account.

One-to-few … clustering groups of similar accounts so you can deliver a campaign that’s targeted to their group needs.

One-to-many … this level is what most marketers have been doing for a while – targeting certain job titles in certain industries, just with a bit more time spent understanding those industries and roles.

The statistics

At the beginning of the day, B2B Marketing’s Head of Content, Mary-Ann Baldwin, spoke about some of the findings from their ABM research report — including adoption maturity, costs and return on investment (ROI).

ABM maturity:

  • 37% of marketing professionals are at stage one: understanding
  • 24% of marketing professionals are at stage two: preparing
  • 29% of marketing professionals are at stage three: delivering
  • 5% of marketing professionals are at stage four: upscaling
  • 5% of marketing professionals are at stage five: perfecting

ABM costs:

  • The average set up cost for ABM strategies is £11,600
  • The average cost of executing a one to one programme is £10-50k per account
  • The average cost of executing a one to few programme is £30-50k per account
  • The average cost of executing a one to many programme is £50-100k per annum
  • In 2017, on average, 30% of marketing budgets were spent on ABM
  • In 2018, on average, 32% of marketing budgets were spent on ABM

ABM ROI:

  • On average, it took 12 months for businesses to see a return on investment
  • On average, the USA saw returns on investment after 9.8 months
  • On average, the UK saw returns on investment after 13.3 months

The statistics spoke volumes regarding a theme that would become even more evident throughout the day: As a defined strategy, true ABM is still something relatively new for B2B marketers.

The six-step process

Throughout the day there were talks about everything ABM-related, from MarTech to mishaps, pilot programmes to processes. However, everyone agreed that a solid framework is the first step to getting the ball rolling. Here’s an example:

  1. Scoping the programme

This is the start of the process and it’s all about two things: agreeing on the objectives and deciding how you’re going to select the accounts. For example, working out criteria for account qualification and identifying what information you have access to that can help you decide who should be part of the programme.

  1. Researching and selecting the accounts

The second stage is about choosing the right accounts. Depending on what information you have access to, this could (and ideally should) comprise first and third-party data. Each potential account should go through a scoring process, ideally using an objective scoring matrix. The best accounts are considered based on three overarching criteria:

  • How likely they are to buy from you
  • How in-market they are for your services
  • What the potential deal size is

It’s important that before you embark on this stage, you make sure the data you’re using to score the accounts is clean. If it’s not, it will skew your results. This is especially important with one-to-one or one-to-few campaigns, otherwise, you’ll waste time and money.

  1. Planning and defining an overall strategy

Once you’ve selected the accounts, the next step is to dive deeper into each one you’ve chosen. To do this, you further explore firstly the pain points of the business and relevant decision-makers and secondly the opportunities for the business and relevant decision-makers. At this stage, it’s important to remain objective and not to consider how your products relate to either.

  1. Personalising each plan

Now it’s time to identify your value proposition for each account—how your product/service answers the needs and/or opportunities you identified in the previous stage. Once this is done, campaign plans can be built. At a minimum, you should have a campaign plan for the account, but the best campaigns have specific sub-campaigns for the top decision-makers.

  1. Executing each plan

60-80% of the ABM journey is hidden. It’s only now that you begin producing assets. This usually happens around six weeks into the process.

  1. Monitoring and measuring

As identified in the previous section, the average B2B business sees an ROI in ABM after 12 months.

This can be difficult for senior leadership teams to understand – they often expect a much quicker ROI from marketing campaigns – so it’s recommended you collect feedback from everyone involved in the process to demonstrate the intangible value. Incorporate direct feedback from sales teams on the ground – do they feel they are engaging in more informed conversations? Do they feel opportunities with target accounts getting warmer? Are they experiencing a better reception in pitches and prospect engagements?

Often a significant by-product of ABM campaigns is the establishment of better, more strategic relationships between sales and marketing teams.

2020 is set to be an interesting year for ABM

Leaving the ABM conference venue in Bishopsgate, I couldn’t help but think that 2020 should prove a very interesting year for ABM.

I realise every year over the past five years has been earmarked as the ‘year of ABM’. However, there are now lots of proven case studies out there which detail pathways to success for ABM that you can replicate. There has also never been more tools and technologies to support ABM execution whatever your budget, company size or audience.

In 2020, it’s about leveraging those proven strategies and the tools available to structure your marketing strategy so that it has a strong focus on “true ABM” which is already delivering incredible results for B2B companies.

Melissa Hernandez

Melissa Hernandez

Account Manager