The balancing act between traditional demand generation and ABM strategies continues to make waves in B2B marketing. In fact, research from Demand Gen Report shows that 58% of B2B marketers are focused on a blend of ABM and demand gen initiatives.
The lines between demand gen and ABM are so heavily blurred that experts such as Danny Nail, Head of Account-Based Engagement at Microsoft, go as far to say that a 1:many ABM approach is more of a targeted demand gen tactic than true ABM. Demand generation and ABM can and do coexist in modern B2B, as both use the same tactics to reach different goals. But according to Nail, ABM heavily relies on the information demand gen teams are feeding them to find new accounts to engage.
“They operate separately, but can work together,” said Nail. “The best thing that the two groups could do together is understand each other’s data and messaging, and partner with each other when marketing to similar accounts. However, 1:1 ABM is not the same as 1:many targeted marketing, and the two teams need to understand how to not inhibit each other’s processes.”
B2B organizations are looking for new ways to effectively combine their ABM and demand gen strategies, generating new qualified leads for the funnel and strengthening account-based engagement through shared datasets. Organizations are also working closely to maintain consistent messaging across channels and build content that is malleable for various marketing goals.
Sharing Data For Consistent Messaging & Segmentation
With demand generation and ABM tactics both relying on different approaches to target and engage prospects, marketing teams must consider the messaging they send out to the market.
For example, MadKudu adopted a multi-pronged approach to its lead generation, adapting its lead scoring models for broader and more precise marketing that contains messaging that is uniform across the whole company. This allows its demand gen team to share leads relevant to the ABM team’s ideal customer profile (ICP) for targeted engagement, while the ABM team can share non-specific leads that fit the demand gen team’s personas for broader messaging.
“I'm always thinking about how I can get in front of key accounts while generating general leads,” said Jacover. “What are those valuable touch points and which ones are we not thinking about? Our tool helps us segment to see the individuals that are a good fit, a very good fit or not so much. And then we can use that for segmentation, and divide them between ABM and demand gen.”
Furthermore, Breezy Beaumont, Head of Growth Marketing at product-led revenue platform Correlated, explained that internal data is critical to identifying leads and new accounts, which helps Correlated’s ABM and Demand Gen teams accurately differentiate between a qualified lead or a key account.
Beaumont explained that both teams at Correlated leverage the company’s website, CRM and product data to segment leads for laser-focused or broad engagement. This allows the teams to maintain consistent messaging in 1:few ABM programs and enhance broader marketing campaigns with slight adjustments on the fly.
“Correlated ties all of its product and buyer data together, and then puts it into the places where we can use it,” Beaumont continued. “This allows us to see all of our data sources together for an enriched view of our buyers, which helps us qualify new leads or accounts and divide the data between teams. There isn’t a contact conversion system in place; it’s just one organized cohort in a single database.”
Operating In The Same Channels To Identify New Accounts & Leads
Blending ABM and demand gen requires an understanding of the channels internal teams use in their strategies and where their messaging may potentially overlap.
According to Beaumont, most teams often operate in the same social channels, which are typically where prospects openly share their pain points. Beaumont explained that ABM and demand gen teams can work together and leverage that information to identify potential buyers and determine which form of engagement would be best suited to meet them.
Correlated, for example, uses Slack communities to identify buyers’ needs and pain points, responding to posts in real-time to gather buyer data and feed it into its database. At this point, the company’s demand gen and ABM teams work in tandem to create content that engages with audiences based on overarching pain points or on a 1:1 level.
“My philosophy for demand gen, ABM or just reaching out to folks in general is always to just go where your customers are,” said Beaumont. “We have our list, our ICP and now we're proactively reaching out to buyers saying, ‘Hey, we know that we can add a lot of value to your team.’ Both teams are finding them in these Slack channels and collaborating to find the best ways to engage them.”
To ensure that communication resonates with audiences, Jacover suggested both teams align on each other’s goals to identify key points of contact. MadKudu’s multi-pronged approach to ABM and demand gen helped the company improve its lead differentiation operations on LinkedIn, with both ABM and Demand Gen teams setting standards as what qualifies as an account and what qualifies as a lead. This allows both teams to then build targeted ads for specific leads or accounts based on their LinkedIn posts and the type of engagement they are actively seeking.
“For ABM and demand gen, those channels can be the same; it's just about the approach on those channels,” said Jacover. “It’s a two-pronged approach on LinkedIn, and both teams have defined tactics that are much different from one another. However, this allows demand gen and ABM to problem solve together and build the best strategy for reaching specific people within these channels.”
Although traditional demand gen and ABM are considered two separate strategies, the benefits to blending some of their operations cannot be ignored. Both ABM and demand gen teams can collaborate to help simplify the lead/account identification process while creating consistent, omnichannel experiences.
“ABM and demand gen can coexist, and they both have a place,” said Nail. “If you don't combine your demand gen, you're not filling your funnel. But if you don't focus on your best accounts, you're not doing the best you can for them. Both need to be there, and as long as the messaging is same, they can definitely work together.”