Confessions of Former Lead Marketers on Switching to Account-Based Marketing

When it comes to shifting from lead generation — in which marketers produce as many leads as possible before qualifying them later in the process — to account-based marketing, where an organization strategically considers and communicates with prospects, there’s a simple quote to sum it up.

In fact, it can be captured in 11 words:

“It’s the difference between fishing with nets, and fishing with spears.” — Jon Miller

In a recent webinar I did with Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio, and Adam New-Waterson, CMO of LeanData, we came together — after years of spreading the word of lead scoring, service-level agreements (SLAs) and marketing qualified leads (MQLs) — to discuss how technology has allowed us to sell in a better way.

You can watch the full webinar here:

When you’re doing lead-based marketing, you try to catch as many fish as you can at the top of the funnel. It doesn’t matter which fish you catch, as long as you catch enough fish. The whole idea of lead nurturing and lead scoring is to run it through a process to get the good stuff out at the bottom.

It can be really efficient. But what we’ve learned from customers is that there are times where you’re going after a very focused list of target companies, whether you’re going after the enterprise or you have a very limited target market where you’re going after the industry or you’re even trying to market to current customers for expansion. In those cases, fishing with a net doesn’t work, because you can’t wait for the right people from the right companies to swim into your net.

This is why it’s essential to go fishing with a spear. With account-based marketing, you’re getting laser focused on your best-fit prospects, those ideal accounts. The ultimate success of ABM is measured by the boost in the number of accounts that transition from leads to opportunities, and then the number that go from opportunities to closed sales. The final element of ABM is to turn your customers into advocates or “raving fans”.

Account-based marketing is a long-term strategy, and it needs to be thought of in that way. Here are five points to consider:

1. Events still matter — A focused event with the right people is the new black…if you do it right. Not just a tradeshow, but the right show with the right traffic. For the cost of a booth at one wrong show, a company can do a three-city road show that’ll reach the right people.

2. Content remains king — It’s now about creating hyper-targeted account-specific content. A white paper or an e-book about a specific account. It costs less money and produces better results. For example, using email and social media to communicate with the right people, segmented to who a person is and where they are in the buying journey. Custom research not only makes an impression, but it’s the kind of thing that’s shared and forwarded, which makes it especially relevant when seeking “whales.”

3. Education is needed — Just like in 2006 and 2007, when the onset of marketing automation necessitated awareness, it’s now about getting people over the hump that it’s OK to not worry about leads. If you’re properly targeted to an account, you already know who you’re going after. That, too, involves getting the message upstream within your company — letting the sales and executive teams know it’s not just a marketing initiative, but a company initiative.

4. Changing the habits — People will have a hard time letting go of their nets. After all, some will say, I know how to run a webinar. But if the mindset doesn’t change, you’ll wind up trying to catch whales with nets. Letting go of lead-based practices means, for example, losing the urgency to follow up with irrelevant people, simply because they joined a webinar or downloaded an e-book. Irrelevance is wasteful.

5. Rethink your metrics — Though pipeline and revenue are your #1 metrics with account-based marketing, other metrics matter, too. Among them are:

  • Data coverage: Do you have correct contact information for people at your targeted accounts?
  • Awareness: On that list of accounts, do relevant people know who you are?
  • Engagement: Are the right people associated with those accounts spending time with you?
  • Program Impact: What percentage of the people engaged are the right people?
  • Influence: Do your targeted accounts have shorter sales cycles, and better win rates, compared to others?

What else matters when switching from traditional lead generation to account-based marketing? I’d love to hear your success stories

Originally published at on November 13, 2015.