Around this time every year, a rash of articles pop up predicting various upcoming business trends. And it makes sense. The end of year is a natural time — budget, planning, and pace wise — to reflect on the year gone by and plan for a more prosperous year ahead.
This year, we’re jumping on the bandwagon. Not because the marketing industry needs yet another 2018 trends article, but because what we’re talking about is the opposite of a trend.
Account-based marketing (ABM) — last year’s buzzword, hot topic, and trending hashtag — is 2018’s norm.
Why ABM Works
ABM is the perfect solution for today’s information-fatigued consumer. It shifts the focus from sharing a broad message with a big number of people, to sharing a tailored message with a specific person.
In a world where we have longer work days and shorter attention spans than ever before, consumers want brands to make their lives easier by providing personalized offers that fit. The younger the consumer, the bigger that desire becomes — 53 percent of GenXers and 68 percent of millennials said they’d gladly exchange more data for more personalization.
It’s also the perfect solution for marketers. Generating quality leads and traffic is the number one challenge B2B markers face. And the reality is, we’ve been casting too wide of a net. Marketers who adopt an ABM approach work backwards, taking a closer look at their best customer to then define and personalize experience for their top prospects.
ABM Predictions for 2018
ABM is a marketing strategy is a no-brainer, creating better experiences for both the consumer and for you. As adoption of a flipped funnel increases, here are a few ways we can expect the industry to change.
1. Communities will be the new influencers
Influencers dominated ABM marketing discussions in 2017. In 2018, we’ll start to see brands building communities that bring their customers together around a shared mission, with the brand powering, but not dominating the conversation.
These digital, social groups will create a network of influence that will drive purchasing decisions. Many, if not most, will live on Facebook, which rolled out new tools late in 2017 to better support group admins. And ABM marketers will be able to use the conversations occurring in such communities to better understand their customers and further hone their strategies.
2. AI will take over initial customer education, so do it well
By 2020, chatbots are expected to power 85 percent of customer service interactions — we’ll talk more with bots than we do with our spouses. AI-powered chatbots will play an increased role in lead interactions in the coming year as well.
While initial discovery conversations previously happened via email or phone call, in 2018, more leads will learn about products and services via bot. Marketers will need to “teach” their bots the ABM approach — making it possible for AI to have the personalized, persona-driven approach to marketing conversations that we know converts.
3. ABM tech stacks will grow and refine
The marketing technology landscape grew by more than 40 percent in 2017, with more than 5,000 tools now on the market. One of the challenges of such growth has been the creation of Frankensteined tech stacks hobbled together from a variety of tools that don’t always play nicely together.
In 2018, ABM pros will have to get smarter about their tech stacks, and this refinement will be bolstered by the movement of more tech-savvy millennials into senior management roles. Marketing automation software will remain at the center of ABM tech-solutions and more tools will be added as the market grows. But marketers will turn a keener eye to solutions that are specialized to their industry, tailored to individual pain points, and easily integrated with the tools they use in the rest of the department and across the organization.
4. Location-data will help ABM find its way
We’ve already discussed how consumers are willing to part with personal data in return for personalized offers. What’s more personalized than placing a needed product or service right in front of you?
Location-data employs the massive amounts of data gathered from mobile-phone usage to help brands gain a greater understanding of their customers. In 2018, account-based marketers will need to lean more heavily into location data to create a stronger picture of their buyer’s habits as well as the impact their marketing strategies on behavior.
5. You’ll have to repeat yourself — a lot
ABM helps us get messages in front of the right people, but even the right people don’t buy right away. Ninety-seven percent of consumers leave an ecommerce site after the first visit without making a purchase.
We all rely on reminders to get things done, and your leads are no different. Remarketing ads, which show your site visitors the products they were interested in or offer a special deal for a return visit, are that reminder. Account-based marketers have already adopted remarketing, but in 2018, it’s importance will grow, as will the need to remarket across a wide-variety of channels in order to meet consumers where they are.
Some articles popping up this time of year might list ABM as a 2018 marketing trend. It’s not. ABM is marketing in 2018. What will be different are the strategies, channels, and messages we use to better reach that perfect persona.
Taylor Burke is a writer for TechnologyAdvice, covering marketing and sales. She’s passionate about helping brands become more authentic, transparent, and connected with their audiences.
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