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You Don’t Have to Fully Embrace ABM to Reap Some of the Benefits

By Todd Berkowitz | December 13, 2016 | 2 Comments

Demand and Lead GenerationABM

Account-Based Marketing (or ABM for short) is all the rage these days. It comes up in more than half of my inquiries as of late and it’s certainly on the radar for 2017 for many more clients. Julian Poulter and I will be publishing several detailed notes in Q1 featuring best practices and real-world results from technology providers who have been utilizing ABM strategies for a year or more. But as I will tell anyone who listens (and many who don’t), ABM isn’t something to take lightly. It can be a radical shift in the way a tech company goes to market and it entails a lot of work and requires alignment not only between sales and marketing, but also with the executive team and even the board. So the internal dynamics may not be right for every company to think about employing ABM in 2017.

But even if you can’t lean heavily into ABM for a while, that doesn’t mean you can’t employ some ABM-like strategies and reap some of the potential benefits, as long as you are willing to think a little bit outside of the box. Most ABM programs start with account selection or identification, meaning you pick the accounts you want to include in the program. No account selection, no ABM program right? Well, not so fast.

One of the key tenets of ABM (and potentially the scariest for demand gen leaders and CMOs) is that you have to think about the world from the perspective of an account, rather than a lead. That means that your follow-up and outreach for inbound leads also potentially changes. In an ABM world, MQLs become far less important. You may choose to not have an SDR call someone with a high-engagement score because you are looking at the entire account or conversely, you may choose to call someone that has a lower engagement score because you know other people from that account are engaged and you want to invite that person to a personalized event.

But there is nothing that says you can’t do the same thing with a traditional demand gen (meaning non-ABM) program. I have a new research note called “Tech Go-to-Market: Contact Strategies Need to be Viewed Through an Account-Centric (Rather Than Lead-Centric Lens” (registration required) around that specific topic. Most significant B2B purchases are purchased by a team of people, not an individual, but traditional lead scoring strategies (and the associated outreach) are based on the individual. We ran a couple of surveys over the summer. One was for buyers of B2B technology (we’ve published lots of notes from this data), but another one was targeted towards technology marketers. One question asked about how often they utilized various contact strategies and the next question asked them how often closed deals (the metric that is the most important) resulted from those different contact strategies. See the graphic below.

Outreach Methods Used by Sales: Frequency of Use Versus Success


I wasn’t surprised to see that providers use a mix of different outreach methods from both an inbound and outbound perspective. But what I was surprised to see (especially from an inbound standpoint) was that there wasn’t a noticeable difference in terms of their success rate when it came to closing deals. I just assumed that people who raised their hands or hit MQL status would be more likely to end up closing than suspect or cold leads. But that wasn’t the case. This is likely one of the reasons that many providers adopted predictive lead scoring tools. Although no one would argue that lead scoring isn’t an improvement over simply throwing every lead “over the wall” to sales, it also has some serious drawbacks.

In that research note, I talk about a lot of different options to improve the contact strategies. They primarily revolve around improving situational awareness of the account from a readiness, relationships and rules perspective. They are all critical, but the readiness aspect is the one that is easiest to identify and is most important in this context. You can use predictive analytics or various data types (demographic, firmographic or technographic) to help determine readiness. An SDR can do this manually or that data can be appended to the lead record. But account-level situational awareness rather than lead-level scoring should dictate the contact strategies.

Yes, this is taking a page out of the ABM playbook. In the ABM world, this process happens before the campaigns start because the same data and tools is used to drive account selection. In a traditional demand generation effort, you just apply it once a lead comes in and use it to drive the outreach and follow-up.

You may be skeptical, but I encourage you to try it in a limited way. Pick 10 or 20% of your leads for Q1 and simply try it out. You can probably get a free trial from one of the data providers or do a free proof-of-concept with one of the predictive vendors. See how it goes and then you can figure out if it makes sense to more completely change the strategy.

The rest of the note also says some other really interesting data from those two surveys. I’ll talk more about those data points in future blog posts.

Leave a Comment


  • Jim says:

    Great post!
    I don’t know if your research above took this into consideration, but one mistake I see being made over and over again, is the manner in which attribution is being measured from closed sales in CRM. In SFDC for example, you can’t create an opportunity without a contact attached to it. Too often, sales ops teams are not requiring their reps to ensure that all the stakeholders and influencers are attached to the opportunity, in addition to the initial lead that the opp was created from. This is CRITICAL b/c it allows marketers to measure their efforts against the entire buying committee (account) and NOT just that one Lead. In B2B, as we well know, there are numerous activities where marketing has an influence throughout the initial sales cycle and beyond. Too many Sales Ops teams and, frankly, management ignore this incredibly important metric. Done properly, this can have a great impact on measuring the success of your ABM initiative.
    – Jim

    • Todd Berkowitz says:

      Jim- I didn’t address it, but it’s something Julian and I will be covering in our ABM research that mentioned in Q1. We have a whole note planned around metrics and reporting. But as we’re doing a lot of interviews for that research (several of them are DemandBase customers), it’s something we are hearing. This is part of what ideally gets done before you start a program and it’s one more reason to go with a pilot before rolling out at scale. There has to be clear alignment between sales, marketing and even the exec team about the responsibilities for the reps around entering data.