I’ve been researching the topic of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and find that 57% of businesses plan to invest in ABM software in the next 1-3 years. Business marketers in every industry must add ABM functionality to their marketing tech stack because their buyers only want communications relevant to their current business issues.
The ABM process is actually a long-established marketing/sales methodology in business services companies, where success depends so much on personal empathy and the relationship. So, they research the interests and needs of their target audiences and provide that “market intelligence” to their sellers or account managers.
The advent of digital marketing, tooled by technology advances in website and data analytics, now allows all B2B businesses to do ABM by leveraging collected behavioral and profile data on companies (accounts) or even individual buying decision-makers. ABM software enables marketers to channel personalized content to potential buyers. But first and foremost, ABM is a strategy and is applicable to all marketing channels.
ABM is currently the most-used promotional acronym by marketing software vendors with well over 90 software vendors claiming to provide ABM-specific functionality. There are probably several dozen more with no ABM claims but also being used by B2B companies to market to specific accounts with target-market segmentation and content personalization. Still, I estimate the software market at around $750 million in 2019 with a current annual growth rate of some 12%.
The term ABM is actually a misnomer, it should be Account Based Marketing and Selling (ABMS). The ABM process will only succeed if marketing collaborates with its sales counterparts to select the target accounts; share the important contact data; coordinate content distribution and distribute intent alerts. My survey found the second most important driver for ABM investment to be “enable sales to better understand their customers”. Some interview respondents pointed out that they have always done ABS but this is now supported better by their ABM project.
My prediction is that the current mire of confusingly-positioned vendors will converge to a couple of dozen platform providers supporting all, or most, of the ABM-related processes such as account and contacts selection; analytics and insights, content personalization, customer engagement orchestration, and performance assessment. Many survey respondents reported deploying two, three or even four ABM vendors, with integration an issue. 30% plan to migrate to a more suitable system, unusually large compared to other vendor selection matrix surveys.
As usual, I will publish a Vendor Selection Matrix showing the ratings for the 20 most cited ABM vendors across our survey of 1500 practitioners. That will be on October 8th. The top ten vendors rated by the respondents are (all listed alphabetically): 6sense, Demandbase, Engagio, Kwanzoo, InsideView, Jabmo, Madison Logic, Adobe (Marketo), MRP, and Zoominfo. In positions 11 thru 20 are vendors Agent3, D&B Datavision, Lattice Engine, LinkedIn, Radius, RollWorks, TechTarget, Terminus, Triblio, and True Influence
In 2019, I still get people asking me “Didn’t you write that Death of the B2B Salesman report?” Actually, I didn’t, I was just one of the editors. The author of that Forrester Research report was my old colleague Andy Hoar, who was covering eCommerce. I just leveraged his research in a keynote speech to provoke my audience of 500+ sales enablement professionals at the conference I was moderating. That was in 2015 and, well, it certainly succeeded! Back then, my colleagues and I had established the need for the discipline of sales enablement within B2B organizations and the conference was used to discuss the role, responsibilities and technologies. For my latest thinking on the role of B2B sellers, feel free to listen to this webinar, which was broadcast just last Fall.
It’s been great fun to revisit this topic recently and catch up with all the leading software vendors as well as many business practitioners. But I’ve moved the goalposts a little in my new research report because I don’t think that sales people (definitely not their management) will want to have that many different systems running on their devices.
Marketers want a system to distribute content to sellers at the same time as Sales-Ops is focused on on-demand coaching plus supporting the day-to-day operational processes that sellers must endure. Ultimately, these solutions will be combined into one robust set of sophisticated tools, on the seller’s device of choice, in order to engage productively with their knowledgeable prospects and buyers. I therefore see Sales Engagement Management as one of the fastest growing Martech markets and 48% of 1500 business executives we interviewed will be investing for the first time in this area of software automation near term.
Now, because the market is in its early-adopter phase and many of the users tended to buy from the first vendor that called, the survey may not accurately reflect the current offerings of all vendors. Some of the early leaders, with somewhat-satisfied customers, are no longer the innovators; while newer vendors, but with smaller reputations, are encroaching rapidly.
Indeed, the one thing I noticed in my briefings, and this is confirmed in the scores allocated by the 1500 practitioners we surveyed, is that it’s difficult to separate vendors from each other at first glance. I had to dig very deeply at each briefing to find out exactly which customer types were being targeted, and with which value proposition. This is typical of a market in rapid growth, where the RFP process is only just starting to be applied, and where a high close-rate means that marketing concepts like thought leadership or value-based story telling have not yet taken hold.
Anyway, the report is now published and below is a table which lists the highlight statements for each of the vendor scorecards I wrote for the vendors with the 10 best aggregate scores.
Always keeping you informed! Peter