Is account-based marketing on the way out?

Robin Emiliani  /  Feb 05, 2021

If you know us, you know that we love account-based marketing—a marketing approach that targets accounts (rather than individual users) and requires strong collaboration between sales and marketing teams.

We don’t just love it because it’s our wheelhouse, something we’re great at, and have had a good deal of success with (though that’s all true). We also love it because it addresses B2B challenges in a way that other strategies simply don’t.

Like the fact that the average B2B decision has to go through a whopping 16 decision-makers.

And the fact that when sales and marketing don’t work together, it costs companies trillions.

Account-based marketing is the only approach out there that addresses both these challenges head-on. It forces us to look at the big picture of those 16 decision-makers and to align our sales and marketing teams to best serve not just one, but all.

Which is why we raised a collective Catalyst eyebrow when we started to hear whispers that ABM was dying. That it’s too costly. Too complex. Requires too many technologies. And narrows our focus too much.

Were we missing something?

We turned to the numbers to find out.

And based on those numbers, the answer is this:

ABM isn’t going anywhere. (Though it may be getting a facelift.)

Survey says: ABM is still going strong

The most recent surveys and reports we found all say the same thing: ABM still works—and it’s still on a growth trajectory.

In fact, the pandemic seems to have pushed even more marketers to start testing ABM strategies.

In 2019, 23% of companies reported they had no active ABM programs. In 2020, the same survey found that just 5.8% were on the no-ABM train. That’s a pretty substantial positive shift.

So, the rumors of ABM’s demise? We think they’re overblown.

That said…

The way companies use ABM is changing

In 2019, 38% of companies had a customer-focused marketing program. In 2020, that number jumped to 75%.


In just a year, that number doubled.

This is a smart move for a number of reasons. First, as we all know, up-sell and cross-sell hold a lot of revenue potential). And second, 80% of the most successful, mature ABM programs have a customer marketing program of their own.

That’s right: the vast majority of the most successful ABM programs use this strategy.

And if we aren’t learning from what’s working for others in the industry, what are we doing?

It’s also worth noting that ABM budgets survived the ravages of 2020—and we’re guessing this is because companies kept seeing good returns on their investment. While overall marketing budgets took a hit for 40% of companies, ABM budgets held fairly steady, especially for companies with mature ABM programs.

The truth: everything about marketing is changing

The questions we’re asking might be about ABM, but the truth is that 2020 made most of us sit up and ask questions about every facet of our marketing.

What’s holding steady? What’s no longer effective? What’s temporarily shuttered? (In-person events, we’re looking at you.) And what’s going the permanent way of the Dodo?

Companies shifted their strategies last year, and now they’re shifting again. And it’s always worth asking the question: Does what we’re doing still work?

I think we’ll see a lot of companies asking this question in very public ways in 2021—the year that Budweiser, Coke, and Pepsi have opted out of Superbowl ads. And we think it’s worth asking. But for us, the answer on ABM is in: still effective, still growing, still something we’ll be tirelessly perfecting.

Need help figuring out your 2021 marketing strategy? We’d love to hear from you.


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