ABM v Lead Generation: Choosing a Strategy that Fits You

31st August 2022

As a hybrid agency/consultancy, we like to help clients with the why as well as the how. With ABM, often that means starting from the beginning: the decision to start down the ABM path, stick to lead generation, or do both.

But first we need to agree on what we mean by ABM vs. lead generation. While that sounds basic, it’s not—thanks to our industry. We agencies like to come up with our own terms and define them from our unique point of view.

So, to stay true to that self-admitted flaw we’ll share our definition of ABM:

ABM is a strategy in which sales and marketing coordinate efforts on a specific set of target accounts. Together, sales and marketing gather insights and craft individual messages for each account to address their specific needs.

Compare that to our definition of lead generation:

Lead generation is the process of attracting target prospects and nurturing them into qualified sales opportunities with purchase intent.

It’s tempting to say: “If I’m casting lines and waiting for unknowns to drop into the funnel, I’m doing lead generation. If my efforts are more targeted, I’m doing ABM.”

But it’s not that simple. Tight targeting is used in some of the best lead generation programs—often using tools we associate with ABM, like Demandbase. And an otherwise strong ABM program without sales and marketing orchestration (a real-time coordinated touchpoint strategy rather than an SQL hand-off) may just be an expensive lead generation campaign.

Once we’re clear on definitions we work through the ABM/lead generation decision. The client’s offering makeup is the first guide. ABM makes sense when a company has at least one high-involvement, high-touch, high-priced packaged offering—designed for enterprise targets. Lead generation is a better fit for lower touch, lower priced offerings pointed at a broader market. Of course, many companies have a mix of both types of offerings, and both strategies can be employed. The trick to the latter approach is having the scale and planning to give each program the proper investment and attention…

…which brings up the other decision factors: resources and buy-in. ABM can make all kinds of sense on paper, but without the mandatories it will fail. Similarly, a lead generation program needs some core elements to succeed. Use the checklists below as a guide.

ABM Requirements:

  • Real support and accountability from the C-Suite, Marketing, Marketing Operations, and—especially—Sales
  • Shared, transparent KPIs
  • Tools and methods appropriate to your program’s scale. Consider: account selection and targeting, experience platforms, marketing automation, personalization, predictive analytics, CRM and measurement
  • An ideal customer profile (ICP) and identification of target accounts
  • High value offers and content, designed to be personalized at the account level—and at the individual level for one-to-one ABM

Lead Generation Requirements:

  • Similar cross-functional support, accountability and KPI transparency, but without the level of orchestration of an ABM program
  • Audience understanding—think personas
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Lead scoring strategy and clear MQL/SQL definitions that are agreed to by all stakeholders
  • Strong offers and content that fit a segment well—designed to personalize at scale
  • Lead nurture program to move leads through the funnel
  • Tools designed for scale—some are the same categories as ABM, like marketing automation, CRM and measurement, but the requirements will change

It’s important to recognize where your organization falls in relation to each program’s requirements, so you can choose a program that will set you up for success.

Looking for more guidance? Download our ABM Toolkit today.

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