Your destination for ebooks, guides, articles, and videos on marketing strategy and content experience.

Skip to main content

Account Based Marketing vs. Lead Generation: How To Use Both Together

Image on how to balance Account-Based Marketing and Demand Generation

Both inbound and traditional demand generation (with lead generation at its core) have served us well. Like all strategies, though, there comes a point when you can feel maxed out. You’ve saturated the market, you've exhausted your content syndicators’ lists, and you're starting to see diminishing returns. Not only is your ROI plummeting, but your marketing team is nearing burnout from the endless game of keeping up with the competitors.

These are some reasons 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 generation? Heck no! Let's not forget the funnel quite yet.

The two marketing 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 both use ABM and broad-based demand generation to meet your targets this year.

Is account-based marketing the same as demand generation?

No. While account-based marketing and demand generation are both powerful strategies for generating revenue (and generally boosting ROI), they're not the same thing. Account-based marketing is all about reaching out to customers one by one (or in smaller segments) through email marketing or social media, while demand generation is more focused on generating qualified leads and signing up new customers.

In some cases, ABM can serve a demand gen function. For instance, an ABM program can be used to create awareness for a product or service and even get potential buyers interested or excited. It can also help to identify targeted leads or target market segments, and these insights can be used to inform broader demand generation campaigns.

As I'll discuss, though, ultimately these are two strategies that can work together to help you accelerate the buyer's journey and assist with selling.

Demand Generation vs. ABM

So how do account-based marketing and demand-generation marketing differ? Both can be considered outbound marketing approaches, with traditional demand gen the focus is on markets and industries and driving a large number of new leads to the sales team. (Unlike ABM, inbound demand generation is also quite possible.) It’s all about drumming up new business and using fully fleshed-out buyer personas to do so. 

However, with account-based marketing, the focus is on targeting specific named accounts. The objective of this approach is the quality of your accounts instead of the quantity of barely qualified leads. 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). 

Image illustrating the differences between demand gen and ABM

With traditional demand-based marketing, you’re pushing broader offers and messaging via a variety of channels (like emails and social media) to different segments of your audience. With ABM, on the other hand, you’re trying to reach specific accounts with personalized content through a variety of channels meant to capture their attention and engage them further.

How to Use ABM and Demand-Based Marketing Tactics

The classic demand generation marketing model, being so broad, brings leads in at the top of the funnel and nurtures them until they become an opportunity for your sales team.

The issue with this strategy is that eventually the amount of time, money, and resources you need to put into it will eventually outweigh the results. Essentially, you exhaust the market and it can 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. 

Rather than switch teams and go all-in on account-based marketing, however, 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 of the funnel in order to continually bring in new leads. But you’ll also use a more targeted account-based marketing lead generation approach to engage those customers that fit your ideal account profile once they’ve entered the funnel. 

Image of a flipped and traditional marketing funnel shows the buyers journey

Make a Plan to Use Demand- and Account-Based Marketing Lead Generation

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. Carefully selected metrics (a key to any smartly deployed marketing tactic) are the tip of the spear.

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 generation and account-based marketing? 

Image depicting expected spend, results and return on different marketing programs

Source: Engagio

Typically with demand-based marketing generation, you’re spending a lot and seeing a lower return on investment (ROI). 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, 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 businesses and mid-market enterprise, try using a more traditional model. It’s easier to reach smaller businesses using a broad-based approach at the top of the funnel to capture new leads.

As soon as you move upmarket, however, ROI becomes much more important. It gets more and more difficult to convert leads from large enterprises and engage them long enough to achieve 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 account-based marketing 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 teams and partnership teams contribute to a percentage of that pipeline and have those targets outlined in writing before each quarter begins. (Having an agreed upon Northstar Metric or two will ensure alignment.) They'll benefit equally from shortening sales cycles, after all.

Why Not Both? Use What You Have

Since you’re already employing demand generation as part of your go-to-market strategy, use existing programs, like content experiences, as cover while you get started with account-based marketing.

Create a small pilot program and test a few accounts with a more personalized approach.

Implement ABM strategies for one or two segments like large enterprise accounts in the financial services vertical. Focus your efforts on targeting existing programs on specific accounts. If you’re worried you won’t have the budget to bankroll your ABM pilot, simply transfer budget from poorly performing demand gen 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. Some of the based ABM strategies, with the best ROI, emerge when you adapt existing work for high-value accounts.

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. Once you start showing off the value of ABM to both marketing teams and sales teams, you'll have a much easier time coordinating everything.

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. Smart use of analytics or attribution tools, as well as a content experience platform like Uberflip, can help you make informed decisions.

How Does Content Marketing Support ABM Campaigns

Content marketing is key to any account-based marketing strategy. By creating valuable, personalized content that speaks to the interests of your target audience, you can increase engagement with your ABM campaigns and bring them closer to converting. 

Account-based marketing is a proactive approach to sales and marketing. It differs in that demand generation programs are mostly reactive in nature, with the goal of reaching an account as soon as possible and generating leads or opportunities from there. ABM takes a much more strategic approach by targeting specific accounts and building relationships over time.

Combined with a strong content creation program, these two marketing strategies can do wonders for your bottom line, generating new leads by casting a wide net, then accelerating your sales cycle by taking a more targeted approach to high-value accounts.

Whether your focus is ABM or demand generation marketingor, why not both?find out how Uberflip can help take your marketing strategy to the next level by booking a demo today.

About the Author

Christine is an experience-obsessed marketer. She was Uberflip's Director of Content, where creating engaging content experiences for marketers was a challenge she accepted daily. She believes that if you can't attract, engage, and compel that next action with your content, then why bother? She also has a thing for pugs, but who doesn't.

Profile Photo of Christine Otsuka