The Surprising State of ABM in 2020

Drumroll, please. . . .
The 2020 ABM Market Research Study from Demandbase is here.
Nearly 900 professionals from Marketing to Sales, CS to the c-suite, participated in this annual study to understand the state of Account-Based Marketing at organizations of all sizes. The results detail the adoption, performance, and challenges of an account-based approach in 2020.
This year’s report digs further into what separates the best companies from the rest of the pack. We analyzed the performance of mature account-based programs that have been in place for some time and uncovered the behavior that drives the strongest ROI.


What’s in the 2020 report?

  • 7 habits of mature ABM teams with high ABM ROI
  • Lessons from early adopters with full ABM programs in place
  • Top challenges, tactics, tools, and more from nearly 900 of your peers
  • 3 places high-performing companies are investing more in this year
  • The biggest thing holding organizations back from ABM success


No Surprise: Investment Is Rising in ABM

Our previous studies from 2018 and 2019 showed ABM to be a top priority for B2B teams seeking:

  • Internal alignment between Marketing and Sales
  • Greater efficiency from marketing investment
  • Scalable revenue creation

The findings from our 2020 survey maintain this fact; we saw an increase in investment and budget allocation as firms see strong results from an account-based approach. Budgets dedicated to ABM increased by 40 percent year over year, from 20 percent in 2019 to 28 percent in 2020.

The ABM metrics tracked by companies with strong and weak ROI.

Full and early-stage ABM programs are getting more budget dollars in 2020.Surprisingly Stalled: Measurement and Data Quality

What’s surprising, however, is what hasn’t changed. Today, firms struggle with the same challenges as last year (2019) and the year before (2018): measurement and data quality.

(Every Marketing operations practitioner reading this is likely nodding in vehement agreement.)

Why is measuring ABM proving to be so difficult for firms? In part, it could be due to an overreliance on lead-based metrics making it difficult to measure the effectiveness of an account-based approach.

Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) was found to be the second most common metric tracked in this year’s study (revenue was #1). Only 29 percent of firms are measuring Marketing-qualified accounts (MQAs), and the vast majority (57 percent) haven’t even started to measure.

When we compared companies seeing high ROI with ABM versus those seeing lower ROI, here’s what we found:

The ABM metrics tracked by companies with strong and weak ROI.

As the adoption of this mission-critical discipline continues its steady climb, it’s clear that to move the needle, B2B firms need to prioritize measurement and the quality of the data that fuels their ABM programs.

I hope our 2021 report demonstrates progress in closing this gap.


A Note About This Study and COVID-19

We closed our survey in April 2020, just when all businesses were beginning to feel the effects of the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 has altered a number of perspectives in this survey, including budget, headcount, and prioritization.

We made the decision to publish the full results of our study to honor our commitment to those who took the survey, and to maintain the year over year reporting that we set out to accomplish. It represents a snapshot in time, as all surveys do.

“ABM programs have been shown to result in significant improvements in pipeline growth. If economic uncertainty continues, these programs should remain a core element of the Marketing strategy.” – Todd Berkowitz, Practice Vice President, Gartner

While COVID-19 and a looming recession are affecting B2B organizations’ ability to drive sustained growth, it’s our hope that an account-based approach will actually help B2B firms in the following ways:

  • Focus your limited resources (budget, time, and personnel) on those companies most likely to do business with you.
  • Target the people and accounts you already know, enabling you to spend less money on demand gen campaigns to generate new names.
  • Maximize efficiency by orchestrating Sales/Marketing campaigns that work together to create the best buyer experience.

For more on the topic, read Six Strategies for B2B Marketing During Uncertain Times, in Forbes.


Thank you to our partners—Bombora, Drift, Metadata, Outreach, PFL, and Uberflip—for collaborating with us on the creation of this industry report.
Download your copy of the 2020 ABM Market Research Survey for all the juicy details.

Thought Leader, B2B Marketing & Sales Strategy

I possess extensive experience helping organizations create and orchestrate strategic programs that help to retain customers and power sales execution. I'm passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. I enjoy reading, playing hockey, and most outdoor sports. Check me out on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with me on LinkedIn at