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B2B marketers’ use of account-based marketing (ABM) is growing, but many see the possibilities of failure owing due to executional flaws. So what’s needed to drive success with ABM programs? A new report from Dun & Bradstreet (DnB) [download page] delves in, based on a survey of 250 B2B professionals.

Interestingly enough, technology emerges as the least critical factor for driving ABM success – or at least it was cited as being critical by the fewest respondents.

Instead, alignment with sales was the most oft-cited success factor. It was followed closely by identifying target accounts and the ability to measure success.

There are indications that each of these success factors is proving to be a challenge, though. In a survey released earlier this year, respondents said that alignment with sales and attribution of marketing efforts to revenue were the most challenging aspects of account-based marketing. A more recent study also indicated that respondents were having trouble measuring the impact of their ABM efforts. And a majority (56%) of respondents to this latest survey said that it’s “very” or “extremely” difficult to align sales and marketing data about companies and contacts when executing programs across multiple channels.

Indeed, identifying and targeting specific accounts requires high-quality data, and there are problems there, too. While 88% of B2B marketers surveyed by DnB believe data quality is important to executing an ABM strategy, only 51% are confident in the current quality of their sales and marketing data. That includes just 11% who are extremely confident, and is down from three-quarters expressing some confidence last year.

The study suggests that lack of confidence in data is holding back further use of ABM. While there are reports of ABM’s growth, research also shows that some are struggling to get buy-in for these efforts. And in the DnB study, relatively few (38%) report that ABM is part of their go-to-market strategy.

How Do Sellers Target Buyers?

Quality data positively impacts a number of activities, per the report, including campaign execution, personalized content and messaging, and sales prospecting and closing.

Targeting is also another area to clearly benefit from quality data. Currently, around 6 in 10 respondents are confident in their ability to create a list for a campaign that accurately reflects their target audience, per the report, and about half are confident in the ability to segment that list.

The top way by which B2B sellers target B2B buyers is by geography (71%), with a majority also targeting by industry/vertical (59%). Half target buyers by account (50%) and by online activity (48%), with fewer (41%) using company size as part of their criteria.

As the analysts note, segmentation can reveal patterns of behavior that lead to new opportunities, with analytics providing “further evidence of new opportunities beyond the traditional view of your target audience.” Here again there appears to be room for growth: only half said that they’re currently using analytics to drive market prioritization and identification, down from 70% last year.

The full report is available for download here.

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