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Understanding the Distinction Between Account Based Marketing and Demand Generation Strategies

Demand generation has been the darling of marketing initiatives for the past couple of years but there’s another approach that’s getting a lot of attention these days. Account-based marketing (ABM) is not new but it is a strong player in lots of marketing circles for its hefty benefits.

Account Based Marketing and Demand Gen: What's the Difference?

So, how are the two marketing tactics defined and how does a marketer know which one to use when? We like to describe it as fishing with a spear (account-based marketing) or fishing with a net (demand generation marketing). 

Account-based marketing works to build relationships and demand gen focuses on getting leads. Each of these approaches has merit but your business objectives and ability to support them will help determine feasibility for you.

Demand generation captures as many leads as possible

A demand generation strategy focuses on generating new leads from individuals at a target company. Typically the individuals are decision makers and influencers at certain levels within the company. Usually the targeted individuals have higher levels within the company, someone with decision making responsibilities and those who are in positions to influence the other two types of people.

Leads that come in from widespread, multichannel approaches are measured and scored based on predetermined metrics of a marketing qualified lead (MQL). It’s important to remember that leads will be at different stages of the buying journey. Lead responses are also captured in the company’s CRM or marketing automation system.

Demand Generation Sales Funnel
Demand Generation Sales Funnel

Each lead is nurtured throughout the process, generating even more demand for the product or solution. Marketing will eventually hand off the lead to Sales once the MQL number is high enough. Marketing will consider the campaign a success if it reaches an acceptable MQL. And in most cases, Marketing and Sales will work independently on the lead.

Marketing and Sales need to work together with ABM

 Account-based marketing takes the opposite approach from the “fishing with a net” style of lead generation. ABM is like “fishing with a spear” in that marketers target very specific, targeted accounts.  These targets are important because they have been identified as potential buyers and long-term customers.

 Focusing on these targeted accounts helps to shorten sales cycles, boost revenue and improve the customer experience through personalised engagements. Savvy companies utilise ABM because it helps them get bigger revenue, faster. The relationship building ideally continues for the long term with sales opportunities that only increase as the relationship matures. And the sales cycle is dramatically decreased because of the nurturing of the relationship.

Account based Marketing Funnel
Account based Marketing Funnel

Marketing and Sales work together in ABM so that customers are nurtured properly and messaging is consistent in all communications. Gone are the days when Sales thought it owned the customer relationship. Each group has something to offer and it’s magic when the goals are met by mutual cooperation.

Lead Gen or ABM: Which will it be?

Which approach you take to increase sales and revenue will be determined by your business objectives and the support available within your organisation. Sometimes a wide net of a campaign will serve your need to just create awareness. And perhaps your small business can’t accommodate the need to align Sales and Marketing. 

But before you make a decision, review the basics of each:


  • Customises messages and asset to be account specific

  • Focuses on an account as a whole unit

  • Processes input from several people in the organisation to determine proclivity to purchase

  • Extensive collaboration between Sales and Marketing

  • Nurtures account for long-term relationship

Demand Generation

  • Input from multiple channels

  • Focuses on single buyer

  • Creates persona specific content

  • Gauges individual’s interest

  • Primary relationship with Sales

  • Prospects fall into various tracks based on customer journey

It may look as if ABM should be your go-to strategy, no question. But Demand Generation does have its place, especially when used as a complementary tactic. It all goes back to that fishing analogy. Demand Generation uses a big net to capture as many leads as possible. Some of them will be keepers but most of them need to be thrown back because they’re not potential buyers for various reasons. 

In contrast, ABM takes a more direct approach as in spear fishing. The target is known, it’s within reach and a skilled pro can bring it home. Both approaches have value but marketers need to be clear on their goals and have the appropriate back-up to reel in the customers.


How to drive profit from Account-Based Marketing

How to drive profit from Account-Based Marketing

The main reason why ABM has caught the imagination of the marketing community is simple: it’s proven to deliver results. With it comes the ability to deliver more meaningful and relevant messages that are tailored to a precise audience. But then you already knew that. What you possibly don’t know so well are the key factors behind a successful ABM programme, or the main pitfalls to avoid. At least until you opened this ebook…


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