Demand Generation vs. ABM



Demand Generation vs. ABM…or Both?


In 2014, I was a speaker at an ITSMA event in California and it was the first time I had been to a B2B marketing event where Account Based Marketing (ABM) was the focus of the event.

At the time, Jon Miller had just started Engagio and Terminus was in its infancy stages. For many of the attendees, this was the first time they had been exposed to ABM and learned of the advantages it can provide. It was a great experience and I felt like I was seeing the beginning of the next wave of B2B marketing unfold.


Account Based Marketing: All the Rage


Here we are now eight years later, and ABM is the big thing. ABM technology is booming, agencies have been started with a sole focus on ABM strategy, organizations have revamped their entire go-to-market strategy to use an ABM approach and yet with all of this, according to the latest research by DemandGen Report, more than half of B2B marketing organizations are still new to the ABM game.


The work that I do with our clients and future clients here at Invado focuses on demand generation strategy. Inevitably, during the course of our work, the conversation turns to discuss should they focus on ABM or demand generation. In short, my reply is a firm yes! Let me explain.


With the boom of ABM, many organizations have come to believe that they have to do ABM or demand generation. The reality is that ABM is demand generation, just in a more focused and refined context. I know this is not always a widely accepted notion but keep on reading and keep an open mind as you look to improve your customer acquisition, retention, and growth approach.


At Invado, we define demand generation as follows:


A strategy developed by marketing and sales that aligns with their buyer(s) at every stage of their purchase path using content and channels that are preferred by their buyer(s).


The biggest highlight I will point to is that demand generation is a marketing AND sales process and discipline. Yes, marketing leads the development of the approach, but without sales buy-in and alignment, your demand generation initiative will fail to produce the desired outcome, which should always be revenue.


With this definition in mind, consider ABM – the same approach defined above focused on a number of defined strategic accounts i.e. one-to-one or as research shows, most often deployed as one-to-few.


Pairing ABM and Demand Generation


I was having this conversation with a customer recently who explained, “we have 50 top accounts that we are going to target, and we need help defining the strategy”. I was glad to hear they were taking this approach, but I then asked, “what is your strategy to reach the thousands of other companies that also align with your ideal customer profile?” From there we began to outline the approach to do a more traditional demand generation program and incorporate ABM principles for the top 50 strategic accounts that had been identified by their sales team. He did not have to choose one or the other, he simply had to define what approach he was going to take to generate demand.


I believe that it is this perceived conflict that has many marketing organizations stuck in advancing their demand generation strategy. This industry held belief that you have to do demand generation or ABM; when in reality, you can and should do both!


One of the most important roles of a modern marketing organization is to produce revenue. And the way this is done is by having a buyer (if it makes you feel better say account) focused demand generation approach. If the approach you choose to prioritize is a refined ABM program or a broad-scale lead-based approach, both should be done with the same desired outcome.


At the end of the day, you are asking the wrong question if you are asking: “ABM or demand generation?” What you should be asking is: “How do we use our marketing dollars to create an always-on, sustainable revenue engine that drives revenue for our organization?”


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Is it ABM or demand generation, the short answer is, yes!


Let me know how you are approaching this in your organization by commenting below. I would be happy to take some time and discuss it with you so you can help your organization meet your revenue goals.


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