Having arrived on the ABM scene about 3 years ago, I can remember back to the time when the only companies pursuing Account-Based Marketing strategies were doing it on their own. Agencies, Systems Integrators, and other service providers—who are active in about 50% of all B2B companies, helping them to make effective use of their CRM, Marketing Automation, and related martech investments—were nowhere to be found. My, what a difference 3 years makes!
Today, agencies and marketing solution providers are adding ABM to their list of capabilities daily. Why? Because there’s gold in them ABM hills. Now that ABM is reaching mainstream B2B marketers, most of whom have neither the staff nor the know how to figure it out on their own, there’s a massive need for service providers who know how to do everything from building the ABM strategy to selecting the right technologies to helping transition the company from their old demand gen-centric KPIs to new account-focused ones. And as we’ve seen in past forms of digital transformation (CRM, MAS, etc), the dollars spent on services are frequently much larger than those spent on technology.
So where are all those services dollars going? Judging from what we see with Demandbase’s 40+ agencies and service partners, there are 3 primary buckets of opportunity in today’s ABM ecosystem:
ABM strategy, which incorporates planning, KPI development, organizational change, and often times a multi-step transition from traditional demand gen tactics to modern ABM ones, is a huge growth area. This category of services frequently fills a knowledge gap that most organizations are simply not adequately resourced to address.
For organizations that are truly committed to tapping into the massive business benefits that ABM delivers, there is a growing recognition that a holistic, well-planned, long-term approach is the path to success. And since an effective ABM program incorporates the sales team at every step—from target account selection to development of account-level content—the coordination and alignment challenge extends beyond marketing and into sales. When it’s recognized that the scale of required change is correlated to the scale of the opportunity, it’s increasingly clear that investing in a services partner who can plan and guide that change is a cost-effective ingredient in the recipe for success.
Patrice Greene, President of Inverta, a leading ABM and B2B Marketing strategy firm, shares that “many of our clients are sophisticated B2B marketers, but the shift to ABM requires a different mindset that is difficult to achieve solely with internal resources. By providing a cohesive plan and guidance as a consultant, we’re able to help break down walls and arrive at a level of sales & marketing alignment that is difficult to achieve organically.”
Based on discussions with a myriad of global systems integration and consulting firms, I expect to see massive growth in ABM Strategy practices over the coming quarters.
A second category of services that is thriving in the ABM world is personalization and micro-targeting, where we’re seeing content and creative agencies shine. ABM-savvy agencies have helped their clients to personalize offsite and onsite web experiences based on target account for years, but the more recent ability to target buying committees based on observed intent signals and make AI-based, real-time adjustments to messaging represents a massive new services opportunity.
Angelo Campano, VP of Customer Experience at Ogilvy CommonHealth, notes that “these new technologies allow us to open up new communication paths to hard-to-reach constituents in the healthcare space. The ability to deliver contextual messages to doctors at the point of care through digital channels has never been possible until now, and the ROI they deliver to our clients has allowed us to expand our service offering 3X over the past year.”
Beyond healthcare and into virtually every B2B vertical including technology, FinServ, and manufacturing, service providers are developing hyper-targeted, personalized and coordinated messaging across offsite, onsite, and search in support of their clients’ ABM programs.
The third area of explosive growth for agencies and consulting firms is helping organizations that are just getting started with ABM. With Forrester’s new wave on ABM Platforms, organizations across the B2B landscape are beginning their ABM journeys. But having heard about the perils of jumping in without a plan, wise marketers are looking for service partners who have a proven methodology for showing success early and setting themselves up for scaling that success.
John Common, CEO of Intelligent Demand, shares that “companies don’t need an over-engineered, 100-page methodology. They don’t have 9 months to get started. They need a pragmatic approach that works in their real world with not-enough-time, not-enough-experience, not-enough-budget, imperfect alignment, gaps in their tech stack, dirty data, and weak analytics. That’s why Intelligent Demand developed our Real World ABM Framework, and we’re using it to help teams who are either doing ABM for the first time, or who need to get their struggling ABM program back on track.”
Given the positive outcomes that accrue to successful ABM rollouts, partnering with experienced agencies is proving to be an excellent investment for companies looking to mitigate the risks associated with digital transformation. Accordingly, service providers with tried and true methodologies for getting started will continue to see massive growth in the years ahead.
Are you seeing other areas explode in service of the ABM-focused organization? I’d love to hear from you. If you’re interested in building an ABM practice in one or more of these fast-growth areas, learn about resources available through the Demandbase Partner Program.