How Teams Are Confusing ABM with Targeted Demand Gen

Despite marketers saying that spray and pray is “dead”, we find that it is alive and kicking, just in a different form. Now it’s more targeted. But teams are still spraying content and messaging to their ICP masses and hoping that it would stick instead of aligning with their future and existing customers. This is happening because many teams are following the advice of firms like Jon Russo’s B2B Fusion and retrofitting ABM into existing systems and processes. They’re not changing sales, marketing and customer success team motions. These firms and the CMOs that hire them are confusing ABM with targeted demand gen.

We find that most programs are just a more targeted “demand gen” and “digital advertising” function with technologies that can be found in the Forrester New Wave for ABM Platforms. Corrina Owens (Senior ABM Manager for Gong) mentioned on one of our podcasts that these ABM platforms have diluted the market on what ABM is about. Their big selling point is the targeted advertising approach — and it has become the norm, where many have forgotten the principles of ABM. She says that we need to take a “less is more” approach where we focus less on demand gen and focus more on “less” accounts at any given time and giving those accounts and the human buyers inside those accounts hyper, personal attention. The problem is many cannot differentiate between a targeted demand gen motion and an ABM motion. In the podcast below, Kristina discusses the difference between ABM and demand gen.

Here Are the 8 Differences Between ABM and Targeted Demand Gen That Kristina Jaramillo Discusses During This Podcast:

  1. ABM cannot be retrofitted. If you retrofit ABM then you’re not changing sales, marketing and customer success motions, interactions and experiences. This means you’re just marketing and selling “to” and “at” accounts. ABM is about improving account experiences across the buying journey and customer lifecycle. By retrofitting, you allow ABM to become all about campaigns and a bunch of tactics (retargeted ads, emails, Outreach campaigns etc.) to build the pipeline. Even though there is a huge gap between pipeline numbers and revenue, the focus remains on getting leads into the pipeline. There is little focus on how we will influence buying decisions along the complete buyer’s journey.  ABM should be about how leadership, sales, marketing, revenue, sales enablement, customer success and product teams together will hit the numbers the business needs to get to the next level. It should be a business strategy that focuses how the teams will fix business challenges that are tied to the fundamentals of revenue: win rates, deal sizes, sales velocity, stage progression, sales cycle time, retention, ARR, margin growth, and expansion. It should be about improving sales motions, the interactions GTM teams are having with tier 1 accounts (the 20% of accounts that can deliver 80% of today’s and tomorrow’s revenue growth) and the experiences the teams are delivering. This goes beyond building a pipeline and using ABM to reach as many prospects as possible within our ICP.


  1. Demand gen is campaign-based and focused on educating the market and shaping the category vs. ABM where you speak to specific accounts and specific moments. ABM is about understanding large, named accounts, their strategic priorities, their unconsidered gaps, and impacts. You think about how you’re going to nurture the named account from a sales, marketing, product, and customer success perspective and think about the health of the account. You think about each interaction across the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle.


  1. As Jeff Pedowitz mentioned in another ABM Done Right, ABM is about building customer lifetime value vs Demand gen where you are stuck at the top of the funnel where you are trying to be a thought leader. Unlike demand gen, ABM has the greatest impact at the middle and bottom of the funnel and with existing accounts.


  1. While Demand gen fixes pipeline issues, ABM should not be about sourcing the pipeline, and marketing-sourced revenue as the relationship should have already begun. It’s about influencing revenue and not the way that marketers traditionally looked at it. We should be looking at things like… Did the deal close faster? Is the sales cycle shorter? Is the deal larger? Did we change buying behaviors so accounts are more profitable? Did we grow margins? Are we able to go upmarket and convert more tier 1 accounts? But marketers are not paying attention to the fundamentals of revenue.


  1. ABM should not be about campaigns. If you talk about doing ABM campaigns then you’re simply doing targeted demand gen, account-based advertising, or account-based gifting with platforms like Alyce, Sendoso, and Reachdesk. Demand gen functions are more automation, less humanization, and less personal relevance that does not work with accounts that are stuck in status quo and those that have not prioritized action.


  1. ABM is not something that is done in pockets like demand gen. In an ABM Done Right Podcast, Jillian Gartner shared how Conduent was doing account-based gifting, account-based advertising, and account-based prospecting but they weren’t providing an integrated account experience where digital and non-digital interactions were layered in a way that it moves accounts forward.


  1. Demand gen is pursuit-led, and it prioritizes the company’s agenda over the recipient’s needs while ABM is customer-led. Demand gen is about getting your message into the recipient’s ears while ABM is about solving the recipient’s specific problems while showing their unconsidered gaps and the impact on their strategic vision. This means that value props should be designed for individual account needs and not what’s available in the stable to sell. Value props should be custom designed to the unique opportunity in each account which means we need to go beyond persona pain points that most demand gen programs focus on. The essence of Personal ABM is to speak “to” and “with” the human buyers inside the accounts that you want to win, protect, and expand. But as Carrie Kelly mentioned during an #ABM Done Right Podcast, sales and marketing teams often speak “at” accounts and “at” people as teams continue to focus on persona pain points vs. account-specific gaps and impacts across the organization. This is happening because sales and marketing teams do not have a fundamental understanding of what’s happening in the target organization and with the human buyers and influencers that are working together within the cohort to determine what is best for the organization going forward. This is why they are losing the “selling conversations” in their buyers’ minds.


  1. Demand gen motions tend to lead to hand-offs vs. handshakes between sales, marketing, and account teams. While they may be aligned in the beginning, there is no account-based enablement and the teams do not work together to multithread, win the internal conversations that sales and marketing teams are not part of, and get to the close. This is why teams are challenged with accounts going dark after sales engagement.

Here Are the Additional Relevant ABM Resources That Kristina Mentions During This Podcast:


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