Should I Prioritize ABM Tactics Ahead of Demand Generation?

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Companies who shift their marketing to a more ABM-focused strategy mostly do so in transition from a broader, more traditional, funnel-based approach.  But what if you’re starting from square one? 

Say you’re a start-up, or a company that’s simply never done much demand generation, and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) makes strategic sense based on your solution and target market.  Do you plunge headfirst into focused ABM activity exclusively?  Or do you start with broader demand gen and then add more and more ABM tactics to the mix over time?

There are three reasons why I believe strongly that it makes sense for any company to always have some level of broader, funnel-based demand generation in play, even if you’re building that demand generation engine from scratch and your ultimate goal is an ABM-centric approach.

One, it’s the rare company that can adopt an ABM model exclusively.  As Forrester reported earlier this year, 96 percent of marketers believe ABM to be a strategy that coexists with other marketing approaches.  Lori Wizdo, Forrester VP, wrote: “Rather than replacing conventional processes and technologies, ABM augments traditional demand generation …”  Simply put, ABM is not an all or nothing proposition.

Two, most companies can benefit from a tiered approach to ABM that incorporates some element of broader demand generation.  Typically, those tiers look something like the following:

* Tier 1 (One to One) – Highly personalized, “white glove” outreach to key accounts
* Tier 2 (One to Few) – Personalized and segmented outreach to key industries or other target groups
* Tier 3 (One to Many) – Broader demand generation to the wider market

Three, in most instances, and in our experience, it makes more sense to begin with broader demand generation (Tier 3, in the example above) and roll in account-based activity over time.  This has mainly to do with 1) speed to market, and 2) learning what works and what doesn’t.

First, broader demand generation requires less by way of personalization and other customization, so a little creative work or content development goes a long way and allows you to be in market more quickly.  This serves to generate at least some level of lead generation and account engagement while you build out your ABM strategy and the associated assets.

Lastly, the highly measurable nature of demand generation means that you’ll gain valuable learnings, quickly, that you can leverage and apply to ABM.  An organization with a more mature demand generation strategy, one that is simply migrating to ABM, has already learned which messages and content resonate best with different personas or industries.  New marketers don’t have that luxury.  Getting into market more quickly, even with a broader approach, means your ABM investment will yield higher returns in the long term.

Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

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