The Pandemic’s Impact on ABM and Trends through 2022

Marketing naturally defaulted to digital avenues during the pandemic, especially in 2020. It’s easy to see why. With live events and in-person meetings restricted through guidelines, business leaders still needed a way to engage with clients, customers, and partners.

As one of the leading trends in sales, account-based marketing (ABM) was always positioned to adjust to the changes driven by COVID-19. Some of these changes are temporary solutions to restrictions. Still, there are a few industry shifts that business leaders will need to keep track of, to pivot effectively.

Growing existing accounts

Many of the conversations around ABM prioritize landing new accounts. This makes sense – expanding the portfolio is a critical part of a program’s growth. That said, growth also requires a campaign to maintain its current benchmark – which means focusing on existing customers.

This shift to existing accounts makes sense for a couple of reasons, among others. Firstly, the pandemic destabilized traditional markets, so analytics teams have had to work overtime to understand the new landscape. Of course, existing accounts aren’t affected since they’re already a part of operations, making it easier to funnel them for repeat transactions.

Existing accounts also create networking opportunities. By leveraging current ABM relationships, marketing teams can use word of mouth and personal recommendations to source new accounts.

Digital engagement with leads

When lockdown restrictions forced offices to shift to remote working, marketing had to reevaluate communication. Traditional engagement with leads would happen on panels, in meetings and at conferences. Those events were no longer being held in the second half of 2020.

As a result, digital hosting took off. But how significant was this trend? We only need to look at Zoom – a leading web conference platform – to find out.

Zoom hosted 10 million daily meeting participants as of December 31, 2019. The CDC officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic less than three months later, on March 11, 2020.  By April 21, the number of daily meeting participants sat at a staggering 300 million. That works out to 2900% growth in just under four months.

It should be noted that Zoom’s growth relied on several global industries shifting to remote work simultaneously. Still, ABM was a sector that needed to lean on digital communication more than most.

Going forward, remote engagement will still be beneficial in terms of reducing the cost of hosting meetings and centralizing communication to a single platform.

Scaling in digital marketplaces

In the US alone, consumers spent 44% more money on digital retail in 2020 than the previous year. For comparison, 2019 only saw 15% of the same growth. That 44% works out to an estimated $861.12 billion, according to Digital Commerce 360. But what does that mean for account-based marketing?

In short, more consumers and businesses are buying and consuming services online than at any other point in history. While ABM is naturally in conflict with the mass marketing techniques that would capitalize on this growth, it still has its place. More online consumers of software and business services mean more potential accounts to target and engage with.

More importantly, prospective customers aren’t just passing through online marketplaces for the moment – they’re here to stay. A high level of customer retention builds trust between buyers and sellers. With trust comes more opportunities to funnel sales where ABM campaigns need them most.

Prioritizing high-value accounts

Despite the growth in online access to services, not all businesses are able to make the most of this trend. Some companies took a hit in other operations and had to scale back on marketing and sales – to a point.

But while scaling back would be detrimental to mass marketing campaigns, ABM leaders can still rely on the fundamentals of account-based marketing. By trimming down to the accounts that offer the best return on investment (ROI), marketing teams can dedicate the remaining resources to profit-driven engagements.

This won’t always be the case. As the world slowly returns to normal, there will be a time to scale operations up again. However, businesses can at least rely on lean marketing for the time being to drive sales without overextending budgets.

Collaboration with B2B influencers

The following two trends focus on collaboration specifically but in different environments. When it comes to partnering externally, ABM leaders and business-to-business (B2B) influencers are nurturing a mutually beneficial relationship.

B2B influencers have always been attractive accounts to target, but especially in a post-pandemic digital world. Thanks to the size of their audiences, B2B experts offer incredible visibility. Beyond that, their audiences trust them already, so influencers have also become a sort of gatekeeper for quality marketing.

While those factors are attractive to ABM campaigns, there are also benefits going the other way. Account-based marketing can offer B2B influencers a new revenue stream through affiliate programs and other retail partnerships.

As exciting as this trend is, it’s still relatively early in its lifecycle. That isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it creates even more opportunity for early adopters. By monetizing their platforms and driving sales back to the ABM campaign, B2B experts could emerge as the perfect high-value accounts in 2021 and beyond.

Collaboration between marketing and sales teams

ABM has always been the marketing team’s domain. Still, mass downscaling across industries means adjacent departments need to pool their resources to shoulder the burden of creating revenue.

Sales teams have the consumer insights, market data, and infrastructure to create funnels. On the other hand, marketing teams build, execute and manage ABM campaigns. By collaborating, both teams can take a leaner approach to drive high-impact engagements with the best leads.

Quantity-based performance metrics

While ABM has always been about approaching the right customers, priorities are shifting at the board level. With capital tight in many sectors, stakeholders want assurances that ABM programs are justifying their financial investment. As a result, the key performance indicators (KPIs) they want to see are around quantity.

Return on investment will always be the bottom line, but it’s measured differently across an organization. ABM leaders may have to focus on metrics like the number of new accounts, net engagement, and total revenue generated (instead of account-to-revenue ratio).

Account-based marketing can’t afford to fall behind with the world looking to reinvent itself after the pandemic. Thankfully, it has the infrastructure to shift with the times. What ABM will need are leaders who stay in tune with the trends and plan accordingly.

From there, it’s about making the most of the available tools in digital marketing.

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