dandelion fluff flying - make a wish
PHOTO: Saad Chaudhry

It’s no secret that I’m fanatical about ABM — and I’m not alone. In fact, according to research by marketing association ITSMA, 87 percent of B2B marketers have agreed ABM delivers a higher ROI than other marketing activities. I don’t know how you feel, but I find that outrageous and inspiring.

As we move forward into 2019, it’s always good to take a moment to reflect on what’s transpired in the past year and what we want to do differently in the year ahead. So it got me thinking — here is my ABM wish list for this year.

1. ABM Is Seen as its own Discipline

If you’re like many marketers, you’ve probably bought into ABM’s power by now. But I want to see ABM’s role in marketing take the stronghold it deserves as a discipline in its own right.

Remember back when marketing automation was just beginning to take hold? Some businesses dabbled in it, others gave it a real effort. But after time, it became its own specialized discipline. It’s time for ABM to make that same leap.

And some businesses are already perceiving it this way. If you were one of the companies that previously had a small team (say, under five folks) handling your ABM, I’d expect that number to grow before the end of this year to an entire department of over 10 dedicated to the discipline. That’s what we ultimately need to see more of, because it shows the value of ABM, and the strategy getting what it deserves in terms of manpower and belief.

Related Article: Stop Talking and Start Doing: What it Really Takes to Excel With ABM

2. Engagement Becomes the De Facto Metric to Determine Best-Fit Accounts

In the utopian future in my mind, leads are gone. Kaput. Obliterated. Can we all imagine that world for a minute?

Maybe the next year won’t bring the complete demise of leads (although I’ll keep hoping), but I do foresee the emphasis within measurement switching from leads to engagement across the board. So, this begs the question: How do you properly measure engagement?

Well, there’s the old engagement and the new engagement. Old: How much traffic comes to our site? How many people are seeing our ads? New: Are the right people coming to our site from the right accounts that our sales and marketing teams are focused on? Are the right people seeing our ads, clicking on them and spending more time on our website on the specific pages we want them to?

The old version of engagement was built around generic messaging, while modern-day engagement is all about one-to-one campaigns. Instead of the former, think about what it looks like (and feels like) to be the recipient of a very specific ad that takes you to a very specific related page of content. You wouldn’t know it as the casual ad viewer we’re hypothetically discussing, there would be a custom retargeting pixel on that page, so even retargeting would be one-to-one. In other words, the campaigns of the future are going to provide specific messages and get seen by the people within your best-fit target accounts. Can you just imagine the power of that? It’s already happening.

3. Marketing Uses Data to Forecast How Many Deals Will Close

I expect marketing to really dig into forecasting this year. Based on the intelligence they have, they can forecast the number of deals expected to be won in a given quarter. And they can also figure out how many accounts are engaging, how many people within each of those are engaging, whether they spike on those accounts or not — and much more.

This will up the ante for companies, giving them data-driven forecasts based on engagement data, rather than having to wait on sales to provide forecasts that are less accurate.

Related Article: How to Deliver Credible Marketing Pipeline Forecasts

4. Marketing Creates the Lists of Target Accounts, Contributes to Sales Hires

What? Yes, you read that right. I see 2019 as the prime time for sales and marketing to not only be aligned, but to be blurring their lines more than ever before. This is already starting to happen, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Marketing should actually be responsible for helping sales figure out who to hire and when, which is something they were never capable of doing before ABM. But by using data and intent to figure out the likelihood of deals closed (as mentioned right before this), marketing can realistically weigh in on where — and when — to hire the next set of salespeople. That’s giving marketing a lot of influence, and it’s well-earned.

5. Sales Teams Stop Prospecting Entirely

Emails and calls will live on (until a new technology takes their place), but using those channels for prospecting has largely become a waste of everyone’s time. Only a small percentage of leads turn into customers. So instead of sales focusing on those leads that will likely never become customers, they need to switch their focus to future customers, based on engagement data.

And the data makes a strong case for this. Right now, salespeople spend less than 40 percent of their time actually selling. If you can transfer their time spent on non-sales activities to connecting with best-fit accounts, you’ll drastically increase your win rate and begin accelerating deals faster.

If you could chop off a full month from the time it takes to close a deal, just by getting in front of future customers at the right time (and essentially regain a full month per year for every salesperson), think of all your team could accomplish. No more prospecting. Let’s acknowledge it for what it was, and move on.

Related Article: Account-Based Marketing: Digging Into Facts, Uprooting Myths

The Future Belongs to Brave Marketers

So, those are my wishes for ABM in 2019. I foresee a strong year ahead, with a lot of learning and growing — and even more winning.

I’ll leave you with some words from T.S. Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” We’ve made great strides in 2018, but now it’s time to move forward into 2019 in anticipation and excitement about all that’s to come.

From my perspective, the future belongs to brave marketers who are fearless and ready to challenge the status quo … to those who are ready to go beyond their "party line" and not just demand a seat at the table, but actually get invited to be at the table so they can help drive the business forward exponentially. Here’s to those marketers, and to new — and improved — beginnings.