Forrester’s Survey Data Reveals Difficult Truths About Many Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Programs

Every two years, Forrester conducts a State Of ABM Survey. In 2022, 155 marketing professionals in B2B organizations across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific provided us with a detailed look at their ABM programs. The rich data set that resulted provided insights on the ABM deployment type (or types) in motion; the top goals for the ABM program; headcount; what technologies and resources teams have access to; and the current and desired future state of convergence between the ABM and demand programs.

Forrester analysts looked for trends in this survey data. My colleagues segmented the respondents into groups based on common attributes and found that 26% were only loosely practicing ABM, if at all. We labeled the ABM programs that these individuals were managing “non-ABM initiatives.”

There are many reasons why ABM programs don’t align with best practices. First and foremost, they require a significant investment of time, resources, and effort. The results can be well worth that investment, but ABM isn’t the right fit for every organization.

How To Recognize A Troubled ABM Initiative

Non-ABM initiatives generally start with a knowledge gap. The sponsor (if one exists) fails to invest in the training needed to gain a deep understanding of best practices, and this contributes to an inability to build a sound strategy.

Non-ABM initiatives are typically challenged by a limited budget and resources, insufficient access to data and insights, low and/or improper uses of technology, siloed teams, and an inability to support multiple channels in campaigns. They attempt to cover an unrealistically high number of accounts, despite not having the budget, human resources, or technology to do so, and to top it all off, they fail to identify and invest in best-fit accounts.

Because these “ABM programs” are built on a rocky foundation, they have a hard time getting executive sponsorship, buy-in from sales, and more budget. Teams then cut corners and skip best practices in the fight for survival. This becomes a vicious cycle.

To make up for deficiencies, these groups tend to use the little budget that they can uncover to buy technology and/or bring in an agency, hoping to find a silver bullet to plug critical gaps. More often than not, these programs implode, damaging the reputation of the individuals involved and ABM as a discipline.

Avoid An ABM Catastrophe By Committing To Best Practices

These non-ABM initiatives sound less than ideal, don’t they? There are plenty of steps you can take to do ABM right, such as:

      • Assess your readiness for ABM before getting started.
      • Ensure that your ABM strategy is in place before making technology purchase decisions.
      • Use the ABM implementation roadmap to plot your route.
      • Secure executive sponsorship from sales and marketing leadership.

There Is Hope: There Are Multiple Paths to Build ABM Programs On Solid Ground

So if 26% of the survey respondents appeared to be practicing ABM in name only, what about the remaining 74%? These respondents had varying degrees of maturity in their programs, but those programs were all recognizable as ABM. Many could be considered best in class.

Interested in learning more? Attend my session, How Most ABM Programs Run Today & How You Can Do It Better, at B2BMX in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Tuesday, February 28. I’ll cover the different ways that ABM is being practiced today and offer recommendations on how to tighten up your ABM efforts. Hope to see you there.