Do Your ABM and Demand Strategies Coexist?

Here’s how to make the most of these complementary marketing programs.

Back in 2019, LinkedIn surveyed some 800 B2B marketers globally and found that well over half of them (56%) are using account-based marketing in their current business operations. And over 80% of those surveyed said they plan to boost their budget for Account-Based Marketing over the next year. 

And that’s because ABM has a lot of benefits. It forces marketing and sales to more tightly align, prioritizes high-value accounts, and relies heavily on personalization — all of which combine to produce higher win rates and larger deals

But this blog post isn’t about why you should be doing ABM. It’s about how you do it better, and how your ABM strategy should co-exist with, and more importantly complement, your targeted demand generation strategy.

Most B2B companies with a mature marketing program should be running account-based marketing and targeted demand generation in parallel. Each has its strengths, and — together — can be part of a highly effective marketing effort that builds your pipeline in distinct ways. 

In this blog, I’ll cover the key similarities and differences between a lead-based and an account-based approach to marketing, and explore how marketers can leverage both to create new opportunities for sales. I’ll also share a readiness checklist that will help you get started with ABM, if you haven’t already.

Lead- versus account-based approach to marketing

ABM requires a fundamental shift in both thinking and processes from the traditional leads-based approach. ABM is developing truly integrated campaigns and collaborating with sales, which means being in lockstep alignment. 

With ABM, you’re not scoring and qualifying individual leads and handing them off to sales. Rather, it requires developing a deep understanding of your targeted account(s) — known as your “buying center” or “demand unit”. These targeted accounts still need to be qualified based on the right activity or criteria that you’ve established. And because you need to qualify the entire “center,” the qualification process in account-based initiatives tends to move slower. Companies with long sales cycles with larger ACVs (average contract value), typically have more prospects in the buying center, thus requiring qualification before handing a marketing qualified account (MQA) off to sales.

Demand generation, by contrast, is a lead-based approach that generally casts a wider marketing net. You’re still targeting prospects by personas, industries, and job functions. But your funnel is lead-based rather than account-based, and the lead hand-off from marketing to sales is more linear. Creating multi-channel campaigns will depend on budget, time, and tech stack, but the more surgical your program, the better quality leads that marketing can pass to sales.

The big difference between targeted demand gen (TDG) and ABM, is that TDG taps into existing technology and existing lead management processes to segment, personalize, and execute campaigns.

One of the biggest challenges marketers face is how to operationalize both of these strategies so they co-exist rather than complicate. Too often, we see marketing teams create separate processes that end up becoming too unwieldy to manage, especially as the business grows. 

The goal should be to operationalize both your ABM and targeted demand gen initiatives within the confines of the tools and technologies you currently use so they can work for you as your needs scale. Here are some tips to help do that.

Key similarities between ABM and targeted demand gen

Account-based market and demand generation share many similarities. For both endeavors, you’ll need a clear strategy, goals, and KPIs. 

ABM focuses more on engagement, bubbling up marketing qualified accounts, and account reach. Targeted demand generation will focus on traditional metrics like lead scoring and MQLs. 

Here are 6 best practices shared by both marketing approaches: 

  1. Creation of ideal customer profile
  2. Built out buyer personas
  3. Clearly defined buyer stages 
  4. Clean data
  5. Alignment between sales and marketing
  6. Full-funnel content that spans your buyer’s journey

What does ABM readiness look like?

ABM requires a significant amount of time and resources to execute well so it’s important to be realistic about what it takes to invest in these changes. 

Ask these questions as you consider your organization’s readiness for ABM: 

  • What’s our appetite for change? 
  • Do we have the budget for change? 
  • What’s my/our ability to train other teams in a new way of doing business? 
  • Do we have a clear understanding of our ICP? 
  • What is our average contract value and average sales cycle?
  • Do we have a clear understanding of what personas are part of our buying center?
  • What does our content look like? Do we have the right content to support an ABM initiative?
  • Do we have the tech stack to support ABM versus targeted demand campaigns? 
    • Examples include lead-to-account matching, sales enablement, intent data, programmatic solution, account-based scoring, and direct mail tools (these are important for lead-based programs as well, but are critical for ABM). 
  • Can we support a truly integrated approach between sales and marketing?

The value of complementary strategies

ABM requires a deep dive to review processes, SLAs, terminology, and tech stack. While ABM can pay huge dividends, that doesn’t mean it should replace your targeted demand generation efforts. 
You can (and should) be doing ABM and demand generation in tandem. These two distinct marketing strategies together contribute to a well-rounded and robust marketing program that fires on all cylinders.

Is your marketing team ABM ready? Learn what you need for successful account-based engagement. Use this checklist to help you get started.