From peak to productivity: ABM through the lens of Gartner’s Hype Cycle

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Published Jul 01, 2024 | Written by Osian Barnes
From peak to productivity: ABM through the lens of Gartner’s Hype Cycle


Account-based marketing has charted a fascinating trajectory through the stages of Gartner’s Hype Cycle since its first appearance in 2017. From hitting the Peak of Inflated Expectations early to its now steady ascent towards the Plateau of Productivity, ABM has become an essential strategy for B2B marketing, with emerging trends showing it's far from obsoletion.

Tracing ABM’s journey through the Hype Cycle

Although ABM as a concept has existed since the 1990s, the term was first coined in 2004. Interest only started piquing around 2013 when it generated enough global search traffic to appear on Google Trends for that year; then, four years later, in 2017, it made its first appearance on Gartner's Digital Marketing Hype Cycle, right atop the Peak of Inflated Expectations.

Moving into 2018, it was already starting to decline into the Trough of Disillusionment, somewhat reflecting a general sentiment that “ABM is just another term for sales getting their act together and doing what they’re supposed to." In 2019, the Hype Cycle switched the term to “Account-Based Marketing Platforms,” probably due to dedicated ABM platforms evolving their capabilities and seeing increased adoption as a result of their undeniable impact on ABM workflow efficiency. 

When 2022 rolled around, we saw ABM resurrect itself and start climbing the Slope of Enlightenment, steadily en route to the Plateau of Productivity as its adoption became increasingly widespread and it started to augment its value in the B2B space. 

Today, sales and marketing teams have account-based marketing down to an art as one of a myriad of tactics available to help them drive growth—or at least they should. With the dawn of Industry 5.0 on the horizon, technology-driven trends offer enhanced opportunities to get the most out of digital marketing, especially ABM.

ABM's journey through the Gartner Hype Cycle 2017-2022

ABM according to Gartner: How to ride the Slope of Enlightenment

The truth is that ABM is a fantastic approach for companies with long lead times and deals that are sizeable or unusually tricky to land, such as those in the contract manufacturing industry. With the intelligent use of ABM, B2B manufacturing companies can accelerate the sales cycle and sustainably increase ROI.

A 2023 study revealed that 87% of B2B marketers reported that the ROI of ABM initiatives outperforms other marketing investments.

With this in mind, you won’t be disappointed by ABM if you approach it in the right way and are realistic about what it can do for you. To capitalise on your ABM efforts in 2024 and beyond, consider Gartner’s top ABM trends, leveraging technology to stay ahead of the curve and successfully ride the wave to ABM becoming every sales team's go-to growth strategy.

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1. Play nice; plan well

Total alignment between your sales and marketing function is key to making ABM work. There will need to be honesty and transparency on both sides. Sales need to be clear about the accounts they want to win and their ability to do so. They need to share everything they know about the selected target accounts and admit to gaps in their knowledge. In the same way, marketing needs to be upfront about what collateral they can create and their ability to work the necessary channels to achieve the right results.

You are then going to need to plan meticulously and together. The teams should agree on the accounts (or companies) they will target–using intent data–and their reasons for doing so. When the target organisations are chosen, you must understand how the buying cycle works for them. What are the needs of these specific companies? What are the sales opportunities and when do they fall? Who are the gatekeepers and influencers and who are the decision makers? Who, ultimately, holds the purse strings?

These individuals on the target account buying committees are the personas to start with, but they will eventually become known to you as people, and you will need to treat them as such. What social channels do they use? Where and when are they most active online? What makes them tick?

While technology can assist you with these tasks, they are, first and foremost, collaborative and human tasks. After all, you need to figure out a complex web of personal and business relationships that govern a decision-making process.

2. If ABM is the door to opportunity, intent data is the key

Honing focus to a few high-value target accounts is ABM 101, yet identifying the best-fit accounts can still prove challenging, no matter how much sales and marketing put their heads together. Enter intent data. 

Intent data boosts ABM visibility by detecting purchase activity across online sources prospects use when conducting research ahead of purchasing. This makes it easier to identify and build audiences for your ABM campaigns from companies that are actually interested in solutions like yours and are, therefore, more likely to convert.

But intent data can drive the entire funnel, not just the top. According to Gartner, intent data allows you to:

  • Expand your prospects list to include relevant prospects that better match your ideal customer profile.
  • Track priority leads ready to buy and target them with personalised communications.
  • Analyse competitors and adapt strategies in real-time, using intent data gleaned from account-based intelligence tools and ABM platforms.
  • Spot existing customers at risk of churning and use their intent data signals to find the best way to retain them.
  • Identify upsell of cross-sell opportunities with existing customers investigating other purchase options.

Get deliberate with your ABM platform, CRM and account intelligence tools and make sure the data you’re gathering from these tools clearly demonstrates what your prospects are looking for, the problem they’re trying to solve, and where they are in their journey to committing to a solution.

3. Get personal - hyper-personal, in fact

ABM’s laser-focused approach means generic, catch-all marketing messages don’t cut it. Instead, it’s about delivering value at every touchpoint based on deep insights into individual needs and pain points, creating a hyper-personalised experience. 

However, marketing personalisation is more than a series of mail-merged emails with a vague mention of having been at the same event with a prospect once. In fact, there is a real art to creating personalised ABM content effectively. 

Specialists recommend name-checking target companies and prospects within specific pieces like blog posts or online magazine articles. This doesn't mean shoe-horning people’s names into your content but using their success stories, interests and specialisms to show you recognise and respect their expertise.

With personalised collateral like this, getting a prospect's attention is much easier. Social media listening teams in large organisations may even pick up on it and deliver it back to the individuals involved; interruptive marketing delivered by your prospects' own teams.

Great account-based marketing is about creating experiential moments where the boundaries between outbound and inbound become blurred, your prospect is meaningfully positioned as the hero of the story, and one channel can really build on another's success.

4. Work smarter, not harder

Executing an ABM strategy takes a lot of work, but with AI-driven tools, you can work smarter, not harder. This goes beyond using marketing automation to take mundane, repetitive tasks off your hands to combining AI with your data tools for more strategic insights. Analysing vast amounts of data to identify patterns and behaviours can really drive the efficiency of your ABM campaigns, empowering you to direct your resources more effectively and engage your target accounts more precisely.

Assess the AI product landscape to identify tools that offer advanced analytics, predictive modelling, and automated workflows. Gartner then recommends a quick-win approach by experimenting with AI-based solutions that provide immediate insights into buyer behaviour or predictive lead scoring to swiftly adjust your ABM tactics for better short-term results. 

As AI evolves, commit to training and upskilling alongside its development so you're primed to adopt new, better tools without suffering a steep learning curve.

5. Think full funnel

In the past, ABM campaigns focused almost exclusively on top-of-the-funnel activities, but good ABM isn’t just about bringing prospects into the funnel; it’s about guiding them through it most efficiently and effectively. 

As mentioned, intent data insights can prove very useful for nurturing prospects through the funnel and even beyond that once they’re loyal customers. But the trick here is to assess how impactful your ABM efforts are across the funnel, from lead generation to closing. 

Gartner recommends collecting inputs from other cross-functional teams like customer success and finance to identify metrics that are important for their measurement of success (including lead-to-customer conversion rates, average deal size, and customer lifetime value) so you can work towards a 360-degree view of your ABM program performance.

With this full picture in mind, consider whether your program is flexible and responsive, whether your content is genuinely relevant for the individual or personas you are focused on, and whether you have a good mix of inbound and outbound techniques to meet prospects where they are in the funnel, from the time they’re identified as an opportunity to once they're a loyal customer worth retaining.


ABM's journey through Gartner's Hype Cycle underscores the dynamic nature of digital marketing strategies and their impact on B2B growth. As ABM climbs towards the Plateau of Productivity and becomes customary to marketing practice, it presents unparalleled opportunities for sales and marketing teams to achieve alignment, harness intent data, and create hyper-personalised ABM experiences. 

Embracing the latest trends and technologies and maintaining a strategic approach will ensure that ABM becomes a steadfast cornerstone of successful B2B marketing efforts, driving sustainable growth and long-term success as the world embraces an ever-technologically advanced future.

Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated in June 2024 for relevance and accuracy.

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Published by Osian Barnes July 1, 2024
Osian Barnes