Engagio recently released its ABM Outlook Survey 2018 report, focusing on the strategies, organizational structure and measurement processes organizations are using as they implement ABM. The survey also looked to identify the key challenges respondents were facing, including the primary concern: getting organizational buy-in to fully embrace ABM. Let’s look at some of the key trends outlined in the survey and identify some takeaways that will allow your organization to strengthen your ABM strategy.

ABM Strategy

Not surprisingly, most respondents (65%) are splitting their overarching marketing strategy between traditional demand generation and ABM. Just under a quarter of respondents said that their ABM programs were well underway or advanced, but half of the audience said that their efforts have just begun. ABM spend is currently around 20% of the total marketing budget. However, it’s exciting to see that spending is jumping to nearly 30% of total spend heading into 2019. In a lot of ways, this makes complete sense. For many, 2018 served as a year in which many organizations piloted ABM initiatives to help define their strategy and approach, with plans to extend those programs in the coming year.

Organizational Structure to Support ABM

While the benefits of ABM have been well documented over the last few years, organizational structure within most marketing teams has yet to be optimized. In most cases, the CMO or VP of Marketing ‘owns’ ABM, but it touches nearly every function within the team. Over time, I expect to see more organizations unifying Marketing and Sales Operations into one department to further strengthen the staffing model necessary to support ABM, particularly in the areas of data management, account tiering and enablement of more personalization.

ABM Adoption – Where are Marketers Making Strides?

When asked to rate their organization’s sophistication in key areas, the top three answers were:

  • Sales and Marketing alignment
  • Establishing an account foundation
  • Running ABM plays

Overall, these three areas make a lot of sense and should serve as the foundation of ABM. Not surprisingly, organizations rated their ability to measure the impact of their ABM programs as the function that had the lowest level of sophistication. Just like with traditional demand generation, marketers want to ultimately understand their impact on the pipeline, but ABM presents a number of challenges. Chief among them is the challenge of unifying data from a program that for many teams consists of multiple systems that aren’t integrated.

Key Challenges Moving Forward

Respondents in the survey mentioned two primary challenges that need to be addressed in order for them to realize the full value of an ABM-centric approach: getting necessary organizational buy-in and having the ability to execute. While there is some correlation between these two challenges, they ultimately impact the marketing team in different ways.

Having the necessary buy-in really boils down to being able to build the appropriate business case to support the investment necessary to be successful. Teams struggling in this area should fully embrace the notion of developing an ABM pilot as a first step in which the budgetary investment represents a fraction of the overall spend and aims to utilize as much of the existing tech stack and team resources as possible. This should also include the ability to represent how incremental investments would impact the program. For example, if a pilot is focused on 5-10 accounts within an organization’s Tier 1 accounts, what would the impact be if resources were allocated to run ABM programs for the top 25?

For the organizations struggling with the ability to execute, the focus of their efforts should be on maximizing how they can do the most with the team they have. Let’s face it: marketers love to embrace the latest and greatest…the newest shiny object. And ABM is really the holy grail. It allows marketers to build out their MarTech stack and explore new strategies. But savvy marketing teams know that the secret to early (and sustained) success – ultimately the foundation of a solid ABM program – lies in data.

A strong Marketing Ops function that can establish the appropriate lead management, segmentation and data enrichment strategies empowers teams to run more effective ABM plays that will result in the type of engagement that shows that this strategy works. More technologies are coming online every year to support ABM, and these will continue to help organizations scale. But a data-first strategy managed by a strong Marketing Ops function will ultimately provide the strongest return for your ABM program.