Both inbound and traditional demand generation have served us well. But, like any strategy, there comes a point when you’re seemingly maxed out. You’ve saturated the market, exhausted your content syndicators’ lists, and you start to see diminishing returns.
That’s why account-based marketing has come into its prime.
Taking a targeted approach has been heralded by marketers and influencers as a pipeline savior, an ROI amplifier, and an overall powerhouse strategy. But is the answer really to go all in on ABM and abandon poor old demand gen? Heck no! At least not yet! ;)
The two strategies are like sisters, cut from the same cloth. And while they may take separate paths, they both ultimately ladder up to the same goals—pipeline and revenue. So let’s take a look at how you can use both ABM and broad-based demand generation to meet your targets this year.
Demand Generation vs. Account-Based Marketing
So how do these two strategies differ? While both are outbound marketing approaches, with traditional demand generation the focus is on markets and industries and driving a large quantity of leads to the sales team. It’s all about drumming up new business and leveraging fully fleshed-out buyer personas to do so.
However, with account-based marketing the focus is on targeting specific named accounts, so the objective of this approach is quality accounts over quantity. Rather than pushing for a high volume of leads, marketers adopting an ABM approach want to “land and expand” the bigger fish who match their ideal account profile (IAP).
With traditional demand generation, you’re pushing offers via a variety of channels to different segments of your audience. With ABM you’re trying to reach specific accounts with personalized content through a variety of channels meant to capture their attention and engage them further.
Taking a Blended Approach
The classic demand gen model, being broad-based, brings leads in at the top of the funnel and nurtures them until they become an opportunity. The issue with this strategy is that eventually the input of time, money, and resources will eventually outweigh the output as you exhaust the market. And it will seem nearly impossible for you to hit your pipeline number. Once the quality drops and you reach a state of diminishing returns, it’s time to switch gears and double down on fit and quality.
But rather than switch teams and go all-in on ABM, smart marketers will opt for a blended approach. What that means is you won’t stop using demand channels and programs that are working for you at the top in order to continually bring in new leads. But you’ll use a more targeted ABM approach to engage those leads that fit your ideal account profile once they’ve entered the funnel.
Planning Makes Perfect
There’s no perfect answer to what balance of ABM and demand generation you should employ, but a good start is understanding your revenue goals, what pipeline is required, and what your conversion rates are.
You’ll also want to think about your program goals. What are you expecting the budget to be and how much revenue can you expect from demand gen and ABM?
Typically with demand generation, you’re spending a lot and seeing a lower return on investment. But for ABM, the more personalized your campaigns and approach, the greater return you’ll see. If you can calculate roughly what return you expect on your efforts then you can start to map out where your budget and resources should be allocated.
An easy place to start is with segments. If your product services small business, mid-market, and enterprise, try using a more traditional model for small business. It’s easier to reach small businesses using a broad-based approach at the top of the funnel.
As soon as you move upmarket it gets more and more difficult to convert leads from large enterprises and engage them long enough to sales-ready status. A large buying committee and long sales cycles all contribute to the need for a more targeted approach for these accounts. So it’s here where you may want to begin applying ABM tactics from programmatic to 1:1.
Finally, while you, the marketer, might have pipeline targets you need to meet, you shouldn’t shoulder all the responsibility. Ensure that both your sales and partnership teams contribute to a percentage of that pipeline and have those targets outlined in writing before each quarter begins.
Use What You Have
Since you’re already employing demand generation as part of your go-to-market strategy, use existing programs as cover while you get started with ABM.
Create a small pilot program and test a few accounts. Implement ABM for one or two segments like large enterprise accounts in the financial services vertical. Focus your efforts on targeting existing programs on specific accounts and, if you’re worried you won’t have the budget to bankroll your ABM pilot, simply transfer budget from poorly performing demand generation programs.
Beyond that, leverage your current team and look at current programs. Consider how you’re currently appealing to broad demographics and how you can tweak existing programs for account-based plays for the right accounts.
And, don’t forget, regularly communicating with sales about account interactions and plays will allow you to coordinate efforts, present a united front, and provide the best experience possible for your top-tier accounts.
Finally, follow the results. If you see high returns from your 1:1 approach, double down on it. Need to scale? Invest in technology and tools to help you get there. A blended approach can be the key to continued growth and sustained success.