The Account-Based Revolution: From Origins to AI-Driven Futures

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November 14, 2023

8 mins read

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The Account-Based Revolution: From Origins to AI-Driven Futures

Account-based marketing (ABM) has not only altered the trajectory of B2B marketing; it has fundamentally reshaped the way companies go to market. By fostering a deep alignment between marketing and sales teams, ABM enables businesses to approach their target accounts with the precision and personalization that today’s competitive landscape demands. 

This article will explore ABM’s historical development, look at its current state as highlighted by the October 30, 2023 release of the Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Account-Based Marketing Platforms (in which Demandbase was once again named a Leader), and offer insights into the category’s future direction with artificial intelligence.

A history of ABM

ABM’s roots are traced back to the customer-centric philosophy propounded by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers in their work, “The One to One Future.” In this groundbreaking book, Peppers and Rogers envisioned a future where businesses would move away from mass marketing and instead engage with customers on an individual basis, fostering one-to-one relationships that were both personalized and enduring. This laid the groundwork for what would become account-based marketing (ABM). The term was coined in 2004 by the ITSMA, which originally emphasized the notion of treating each account as its own distinct market — a concept that delivers significant ROI at accounts worth millions of dollars a year.

The success of early 1:1 approaches to ABM caused marketers to seek ways to scale the impact, and practitioners developed additional approaches for 1:Few and 1:Many ABM. These were fueled by technology. In particular, Demandbase was an early pioneer of ABM technology, enabling businesses to identify otherwise unknown accounts on a webpage and use that to focus advertising investments and deliver personalized web experiences.

ABM began to really take off in 2015 with the entrance of new players, including Engagio and Terminus, and has continued to grow in popularity and maturity since then. A key milestone in the maturation of ABM was the strategic merger of Demandbase and Engagio in 2020, combining their strengths to forge the most comprehensive ABM platform to date.

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Beginning in 2022, a new term emerged: account-based experience (ABX). By its very nature, traditional ABM focused on identifying valuable accounts and attempting to engage them, regardless of whether the time was right or if they were interested in hearing from you at all. And that’s exactly the kind of customer experience buyers hate. In contrast, ABX is all about engaging business buyers with relevant messages delivered in a trusted way on the buyer’s terms. At its core, ABX is about using data-driven insights to know where each account is in its buying journey and matching your go-to-market (GTM) accordingly. And, as a side benefit, since it takes the word “marketing” out of the name, ABX is a more inclusive term that represents a complete account-based strategy that drives sales and marketing alignment. 

2022 also saw another trend emerge: the promotion of data and account intelligence from a supportive role to become the bedrock upon which ABM platforms are evaluated and chosen. And this is only being amplified by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), with its voracious hunger for and profound capability to analyze vast data sets. 

The impact of ABM

With all this change, ABM has gone from being an unknown acronym to arguably one of the most successful GTM strategies in history for B2B firms. The most recent annual ABM Benchmark Study from Momentum ITSMA and the ABM Leadership Alliance found that ABM remains the leading priority for B2B marketers and that firms are increasingly allocating budget to ABM initiatives. This investment is yielding tangible business outcomes, driving an 84% growth in pipelines and a 77% increase in revenue, outperforming other marketing strategies. Moreover, 72% of businesses report that ABM delivers a higher ROI than other marketing tactics, and two-thirds acknowledge its pivotal role in enhancing alignment between marketing and sales teams, thereby streamlining their joint efforts towards shared goals.

Today: The maturity of the ABM market

Today’s ABM market is characterized by a level of maturity that reflects both consolidation and standardization. The lines that once distinguished one ABM platform from another have blurred as companies have evolved and core functionalities have become standard. 

The 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Account-Based Marketing Platforms defines account-based marketing (ABM) platforms as software that enables B2B marketing and sales teams to run ABM programs at scale, including account selection, planning, engagement and reporting. Platforms enable the creation of target account lists by unifying first- and third-party data. In addition, platforms may engage audiences by activating channels such as display advertising, social advertising, email and sales engagement, using a mix of native capabilities and integrations. 

According to the report, the core capabilities of an ABM platform today include:


  • Account-level intent data (proprietary and/or licensed)
  • Campaign orchestration and activation across channels
  • Account measurement and analytics


  • Target account list creation and management
  • Native user experience for ad campaign orchestration
  • Sales alerts and insights based on engagement
  • Integrations with CRM, B2B marketing automation, and sales systems


  • Predictive analytics (customer profile fit, propensity to buy)
  • Attribution modeling
  • Customer data and account insights (firmographics, technographics, psychographics)

The future of ABM and AI

As we look to the future, we believe ABM platforms will evolve into full AI-powered go-to-market (GTM) platforms that will not only harmonize the lead-based and account-based approaches but will also centralize the concept of buying groups in their operational framework.

This evolution stems from the realization that B2B buying decisions are seldom made by lone individuals or entire accounts. Instead, they are the result of a consensus among a buying group comprising diverse roles — decision-makers, influencers, gatekeepers, and end-users — each with a unique contribution to the final decision. This will lead to a reorientation from targeting individual leads (MQLs) or accounts (MQAs) to B2B buying groups (qualified buying groups, QBGs). Just as in the classic story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, leads are too narrow, accounts are too broad, but buying groups are “just right.” But unlike today, where managing buying groups is riddled with guesswork and manual effort, future AI-driven GTM platforms will operationalize the process by sifting through extensive data points to generate dynamic B2B buying groups, pinpoint their members, assign roles and personas, understand how they influence one another, and suggest new contacts.

A GTM platform will also incorporate increasingly sophisticated AI to pave the way for “self-driving go-to-market” strategies. In this advanced setup, the user’s role evolves to defining the objectives and constraints, much like setting the destination and speed on an autopilot system. The AI then takes over, using its learning algorithms to identify the optimal customer segments, tailor the messaging, and select the most effective channels for interaction. It not only executes these actions but also monitors the outcomes, analyzes the performance data, and iteratively refines its approach. This continuous loop allows for a dynamic and self-learning customer journey, with human oversight ensuring alignment with overarching business goals and maintaining the quality of customer engagement.

In short, the future of ABM is intricately linked to the rise of B2B buying groups and the integration of AI, transforming ABM from a marketing strategy to a cornerstone of sophisticated, data-driven platforms that span all aspects of go-to-market, from marketing to sales and beyond. These platforms will offer a holistic approach to engaging with buying groups, streamlining the process of identifying and closing opportunities, and ensuring that every interaction is informed, relevant, and impactful.


As we take stock of ABM’s past and peer into its future, we are reminded of its profound influence on B2B marketing. The methodology has transitioned from a niche discipline to a cornerstone of B2B go-to-market, offering granular insights, precise targeting, and enhanced customer experiences. Its trajectory points toward deeper integration with all aspects of go-to-market and increased predictive capabilities — elements poised to elevate B2B interactions to unprecedented levels.

Demandbase is proud of our central role in ABM’s evolution and our continuous commitment to shaping its future, and we’re proud to be recognized as a Leader in the Gartner® Magic Quadrant™, as well as being named a Gartner Peer Insights™ Customers’ Choice for ABM earlier this year. To learn more about why Demandbase is recognized as a Leader and get complimentary access to read the full Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for ABM Platforms report, click here.

Gartner Notices & Disclaimers

Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Account-Based Marketing Platforms, Ray Pun, Christy Ferguson, Jeff Goldberg, Julian Poulter, Jenifer Silverstein, 30 October 2023

Gartner, Voice of the Customer for Account-Based Marketing Platforms, Peer Contributors, 28 June 2023

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, MAGIC QUADRANT and PEER INSIGHTS are registered trademarks of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates and are used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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Jon Miller

Former CMO, Demandbase

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