How to Double Your Pipeline With the Double Funnel

ABM this. Demand gen that.

We’re here to tell you there’s a time and a place for both. And the best B2B marketers are actually running both.

What’s the right mix for your company? 

That’s where the double funnel from TOPO, now Gartner, comes in. 

Let’s take a quick spin through some fundamentals, then we’ll explain what the double funnel is and how you can use it to find — and continually improve — an optimal mix of account-based marketing and demand generation.

Rather watch the video?

Busting out some buzzwords

Marketers have never been known to create buzzwords, right?

Haha, jk, jk.

Here’s the thing, friends. There’s no shared definition for these terms:

  • Account-based marketing
  • Demand generation
  • Account-based strategy

Ask eight different marketers, and you’ll probably get eight different explanations for each of them. But there are some generally accepted principles that we can use to frame this guide and our recommendations.

What is account-based marketing?

ABM is all about identifying and marketing to a specific number of high-value accounts based on their likelihood to have success with your product. In other words, you create a list of target accounts where you have an unfair advantage with your technology differentiation — and therefore a much higher rate of success. 

Identifying these top accounts goes beyond outlining your ideal customer profile. You need to incorporate all kinds of data and intelligence so you really understand who your absolute best prospects are.

Then you take these prospects on a full-funnel journey from high-level thought leadership content (TOFU, anyone?) down to low-level, reasons-to-buy content (the meaty BOFU content). 

ABM is particularly helpful when you have a more complicated sale or set of problems you’re solving, and your average sale price (ASP) is high — which means you’re taking these accounts through the entire journey over months to years.

What is demand generation?

Demand generation is an umbrella term that includes many tactics and activities designed to create demand for your product or category. “Demand” is a desire for a particular commodity. Generating demand is therefore about making your product or category desirable to potential buyers.

With this in mind, we think of demand gen as basically everything you do as a marketer—from making your product better than the competition to making it clear how people can get value from that product.

But the generally accepted definition of demand generation is that it’s the higher-volume, lower-ASP counterpart to account-based marketing.

double funnel demand gen vs abm

And what on earth is account-based experience?

Wanna make things even hairier? We’ve got a third term for you: “account-based experience”. 

Account-based experience (ABX) is the coordination of valuable, relevant experiences, delivered across all functions, to drive engagement and conversion at a targeted set of accounts.

This term has evolved out of the misconception that ABM is primarily a top-of-funnel strategy focused on targeted advertising. If you want to be successful with ABM, you must take a full-funnel approach and stretch right on through to sales. 

So, “account-based experience” is a bit of a dramatic overcorrection to make sure we’re talking about an integrated approach between sales and marketing that includes the entire funnel.

ABM vs. demand generation — which tactics are which?

This is sort of a trick question.

There are some tactics that fit clearly into the demand generation bucket or the ABM bucket:

  • Activities that are geared towards understanding account intent, scoring and prioritizing accounts, and taking individual buyer prospects through a journey skew toward the ABM category.
  • Activities that allow you to capture existing demand using broader, volume-based advertising tactics using your first-party data skew toward the demand gen category.

But what about the rest? 

Most of the activities you’ll do in marketing can be applied to both ABM and demand gen, depending on how they’re used. 

double funnel activities
  • Take events, for example. They can be used to build new relationships (demand gen). But sales may be required to book a certain number of meetings with key accounts during the event (ABM).
  • How about podcasts? Sharing thought leadership through a podcast is generating demand. You can also use your podcast as a way to break into key accounts (invite them on the show!).
  • ROI calculators. If you have the right data to offer people a decent read-out on what it might be like to work with your company (no one wants to hear you’ll save them $8 bajillion per year), this can be a great demand gen tactic. But you can also do some deep research on target accounts to start working through the calculator for them (a personalized cost-savings report is a great conversation starter).
  • Guides, reports, yadda yadda. Got internal data? Publish it a la Gong for demand generation (Gong produces phenomenal, data-driven guides all about improving sales but using AI to weed through real sales calls). You can also pitch a compelling point or two from this amazing guide into a 30-minute conversation with key accounts. 

At the end of the day, you can make almost anything you do in marketing work for any go-to-market — it’s all about how you execute.

Speaking of execution…

Align ABM and demand generation with a double funnel

Okay, so you’ve been doing a bunch of traditional demand generation stuff, and your team has decided to add some account-based marketing.

You nail that account list and start going to town — and then you measure everything the same way you always have. You use the same benchmarks you’re used to from demand gen (e.g. MQLs) to judge how well your ABM programs are going.

Womp, womp.

You’re not alone. Most marketers running account-based programs try to measure them using a traditional lead model.

The truth is that your demand gen efforts and your ABM efforts will probably look wildly different from your demand gen programs in terms of:

  • Volumes
  • Conversion rates
  • Behaviors

So, benchmarking ABM and demand programs against the same metrics doesn’t make any sense. But measuring your ABM against an entirely new set of metrics means you can’t easily compare your performance apples to apples.

This makes it tough to tell a connected story about your go-to-market strategy.

What’s a marketer to do? Never fear, the double funnel is here.

The double funnel can be represented by a pretty simple graphic, but that’s all it took to inspire an epiphany for us.

double funnel graphic
This graphic illustrates how we can start strategizing and measuring ABM right alongside demand gen. 

Thinking about your marketing efforts in terms of the double funnel gets your head in the right place to:

  • Align all of your go-to-markets
  • Measure everything accurately throughout the entire funnel

It’s not sexy. It’s not rocket science. More like simple brilliance.

The double funnel allows you to visualize your ABM and demand gen efforts side-by-side, aligning the account-based funnel with the traditional marketing funnel. Then you can see progress through each side of the funnel stage by stage and easily compare performance.

Note: Your funnel doesn’t have to end at closed-won (in fact, it probably shouldn’t). Closed-won just served as an easy benchmark for us in this double funnel visualization. The best ABM strategies go beyond acquisition right through the rest of the funnel.

A real look at the double funnel

Let’s take a look at how this double funnel comes together with some actual data. These are real benchmarks for high-growth SaaS companies from Gartner, placing ABM performance metrics alongside demand gen metrics. 

Of course, your own data will always be more valuable than benchmarks. These are some of the fastest-growing companies in the world, so don’t get discouraged if your numbers don’t look quite so rosy.

gartner double funnel benchmarks
These are real benchmarks for high-growth SaaS companies from Gartner, placing ABM performance metrics alongside demand gen metrics.

With ABM, our first performance metric is engaged accounts. What counts as engagement?

That’s subjective, but it must be some form of meaningful interest in your products or services.

Impressions, clicks, website visits — those don’t count as meaningful engagement. Instead, look for things like visits to the pricing page, pricing requests, demo requests, etc.

Basically, you want to ask yourself what metrics tell you an account wants to talk to your sales team. Once an account shows engagement, it’s time to start focusing on contacts instead of accounts (you know, the real people that work there). 

Conversely, on the demand gen side, the first performance metric is marketing qualified leads (MQLs). 

At this point, SDRs must qualify both engaged accounts and MQLs. This is the unification point where our double funnel merges into a single funnel — with the same metrics for both ABM and demand gen.

There are a couple of key learnings from this benchmark data:

1. Stick it out beyond engagement. Using ABM is supposed to come with lower volumes, higher conversion rates and higher ASP. However, these benchmarks show conversion to an engaged account, our first ABM performance metric, is actually lower for ABM than demand gen. Some companies see this, get spooked and pull away from ABM before they’re able to realize the benefits. 

But conversion rates to SQL, opportunities, and closed-won deals increase significantly with ABM versus demand gen. The lesson? It’s harder to get engagement with ABM, but once you do, it will pay off.

2. Your balance of ABM vs. demand gen has a big impact on your SDR team. The team only has to work 300 accounts on the ABM side to get to the same amount of revenue as working 2,300 on the demand gen side of the funnel. That’s some serious efficiency, which impacts your budget and ROI. It also means that these SDRs can get really specialized and sophisticated when it comes to bringing these accounts through the funnel.

Dig deeper to improve performance across the board

It’s the side-by-side comparison of the double funnel that provides the real magic — and you can use it to dig even deeper into your performance data than ABM vs. demand gen.

The goal is to directionally understand which levers are working for you within each framework and at each stage of the funnel, then make incremental improvements. 

For example, the following data (examples only, not benchmarks) breaks down volume-based demand gen performance across channels. With this kind of side-by-side breakdown, it’s easy to see where to invest next, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

gartner double funnel example
A side-by-side breakdown makes it easy to see where to invest next, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Say you are totally loaded up on MQLs, but you need to encourage more of them along into the SQL stage. Based on this data, it’s easy to see that you’d want to double down on website and events while ditching the syndication. 

Look at as many slices of your data as possible:

  • Which channels are performing?
  • Are any campaigns knocking it out of the park (or tanking)?
  • What gated content is working best?

Highlight the good stuff, and highlight the bad stuff.

The more slices you can examine, the more mastery you’ll have over your funnel, understanding how everything fits into and contributes to your performance.

But don’t get so hung up on measurement that you neglect the things that can’t be measured. 

Podcasts. Word of mouth. Personal brands.

There are plenty of things that are important to building relationships and trust, but they’re nearly impossible to get a clear read on, performance-wise.

Use measurement as a guide, but make sure you still have the confidence to work on the meaningful things that aren’t measurable.

How to find the right ABM-demand gen balance

Most companies will need to find their own sweet spot when it comes to ABM vs. demand generation. Swinging too far one way or the other can completely tank your performance — and trust within your organization. 

We’ve got a few tips for you if you find your pendulum too far off-center. 

Too heavy on demand?

  1. Use as much data, intelligence and signals as possible to develop a strong ICP.
  2. Develop a small list of target accounts with definite reasons to buy.
  3. Build an MVP ABM program that spans teams, channels and activities to prove out and refine the use case.
  4. Use the double funnel to start hashing out what your split between ABM and demand gen should be.

Too heavy on ABM?

  1. Identify the channels and tactics that your buyers are most likely to respond to.
  2. Get a deep understanding of your prospects’ pain points, and develop messaging that creates urgency around those pain points.
  3. Create content that addresses the pain points.
  4. Test these messages and content by running high volumes of experiments to broad audiences. Determine which drive the highest engagement.
  5. Plug these findings into the double funnel to get a feel for what your ABM-demand gen split should be.

Infighting, anyone? How to address the obstacles

The double funnel is a simple concept, but it can still be difficult to align around. You’re going to face some obstacles. Maybe your boss wants you to go all in 100% on ABM. Maybe the sales and marketing teams are fighting over who gets credit for what. 

The answer is:

  • Get really good at measurement. Measure as many slices of data as possible throughout your funnel, and you’ll be able to offer data-driven responses to everyone’s crazy requests (and demands).
  • Remember that good > perfect. Finding the right mix of ABM and demand gen — as well as all of the other tactics and channels beneath them — will be an iterative process. Create MVPs, get them out there, and learn from them fast. You should be looking for directional improvements rather than the perfect program out of the gates.
  • Unify measures of success. Sales and marketing are on the same team, which means it doesn’t matter who gets credit for what. Unify measures of success between the groups to get everyone working together.
  • Be wary of drastic swings. Letting your pendulum swing too far one way or the other will probably hurt your overall performance. Use the double funnel to keep an eye on balanced efforts and outcomes.

Let’s end with a marketing dad joke:

Why were the B2B marketer’s holiday gifts boring to look at?

Because he only used white paper.

Ba-dum, ching! 😆

B2B Paid Social Benchmarks: What We Learned From $15M in Spend on Facebook and LinkedIn

For demand marketers focused on driving sales and business growth, revenue is the ultimate KPI.

And targeting your audience with paid social media campaigns is one of the best ways to do that.

When you hit the sweet spot of the right audience, right social channel, right ad and right offer, there really isn’t a better advertising medium for B2B.

This B2B Paid Social Benchmark Report will give any B2B company the data, insights, and social media strategies to level up their social media ads.

  1. How to look at the data
  2. LinkedIn vs. Facebook for B2B marketing
  3. What are the best CTAs?
  4. How long should your ad text be?
  5. What works better: images or videos?
  6. Which images work best?
  7. How to set your own benchmarks

So, what’s working in social advertising for B2B marketers?

To find out what’s working, we looked at what’s working for our own customers.

We analyzed actual campaign data from every experiment the Metadata.io platform ran in 2020 to find paid social media benchmarks.

We looked at every data point we have access to, from spend and impressions to clicks and leads to MQLs—then all the way to opportunities and closed deals.

b2b paid social benchmarks metrics

Our customers run the gamut from software to manufacturing to services—each with their own unique demand models. But after analyzing nearly $15M of ad spend, we’ve zeroed in on some of the ways our customers are boosting their LinkedIn and Facebook campaign performance.

The benchmarks and insights in this report are based on straight-up averages across all Metadata customers.

But we’re giving you the raw data so you can slice and dice however you’d like—by industry, annual ad spend and company size.

paid social benchmarks report ranges

As you can see, there’s a huge range from lowest to highest values across the different metrics. That’s because there’s a wide range of differences in our customers and the products they sell.

For example, an $82 CPC could be great for a company that only targets CEOs of maritime engineering companies with a $100k ACV product, but horrible for a company selling task management software to developers for $12/month.

How to look at the data

  1. Click through rate (CTR): CTR is an early indicator of the relevance and appeal of your campaign to your target audience. It’s best to look at this when you’re experimenting with several ads, creative, etc., and want to quickly optimize those with the most initial engagement. A CTR of 0.60% to 1% is considered good.
  2. Cost per click (CPC): CPC is another early indicator of efficiency, and you can use it to compare one program against another. You’ll optimize to this metric if you’re running a brand campaign, while you’ll optimize to CPL for lead gen. What we consider to be a good CPC is relative, but for well-targeted social campaigns with relevant offers, it should be below $10.
  3. Cost per lead (CPL): CPL measures the efficiency of your campaign. How much can you spend to generate a qualified lead and convert that lead to a customer? A good CPL is different for every company and should be based on your unit economics. For example, if my average selling price is $1M vs. $100k, I can likely afford to spend more per lead.
  4. Cost per opportunity (CPO): CPO is another measure of efficiency that you can use to start looking at the ROI of your marketing spend. If you know the opportunity dollar value, and your cost per opportunity, you’ll have a good sense of ROI. A good CPO is different for every company and should be based on your unit economics.

LinkedIn vs. Facebook for B2B marketing

We already know what you’re thinking: My audience isn’t on Facebook.

But your customers don’t build walls around their professional and personal lives—you have to meet them where they are. With more than 2 billion users worldwide, including 74% in the US who check in daily, Facebook could potentially get a boat-load of high-quality, high-earning eyeballs on your B2B campaigns—if you can target them.

That said, there are differences between running Facebook ads and Linkedin ads that impact your campaign planning.

Key differences

Although the averages may tilt to one platform, there are definitely positive and efficient use cases across both. It just depends on who you are, who your audience is, and the types of offers you run.

b2b paid social benchmarks key differences

Cost per lead

Generally, CPLs are 10-50% lower on Facebook—but not always. Some of our customers actually get lower CPLs on LinkedIn. For example, for some personas and in some countries, Facebook is simply used much less, meaning there’s a larger audience on LinkedIn.

More inventory means lower prices. There are also some offers, like demo requests aimed at a retargeting audience, that can be more efficient on LinkedIn.

Lead quality

When it comes to lead quality we don’t see a big difference between LinkedIn and Facebook. But (shameless plug ahead!) this is primarily because of how we build audiences in these two ad channels using the Metadata platform.

We can use standard firmographic and job title targeting across LinkedIn and Facebook, targeting the same people without using lookalike audiences or personal-interest targeting.

What are the best calls to action?

What do you want your audience to do when they see your ad? The answer to this question—your CTA—is one of the most critical parts of any ad. It’s also one of the easiest things to experiment with. You can duplicate an entire campaign and just change the CTA.

So test it early to see which brings the highest CTR or lowest CPC and then use that one going forward.

b2b paid benchmarks linkedin cta data

Most-used CTAs for brand awareness

Nearly 80% of our customers used “Learn More” for brand awareness, making it most popular by far. It makes sense since it sounds like the least commitment.

Most-used CTAs for lead generation

46% also used “Learn More” for lead gen—but be careful to set clear expectations. It could feel like “bait and switch” if you make people fill out a form.

paid social benchmarks ctr range

These are straight averages across all Metadata customers. The range of CTRs are from 0.10% to 2.55%. The range of CPLs are from $0.57 to $1,175. The range of CPCs are $0.29 to $81.92.

“Learn More” has the highest clickthrough rate on LinkedIn—but also the highest CPL. So if your goal is demand gen, but you optimize only for engagement, you’ll pay a lot more.

“Register” on the other hand, is one of the least used CTAs but also carries the lowest CPL, making it a budget-friendly option for webinars or events where people have to register.

On Facebook: ‘Learn More’ & Download’ give the best bang for the buck

Facebook gives you four CTA options for image and video feed ads: Learn More, Download, Sign-Up, and Apply Now. But Apply Now barely gets used.

b2b paid social benchmarks facebook ctas

Here’s what we found were the most used CTAs for brand awareness and lead generation:

On Facebook, the most popular CTAs also happen to have the lowest price tag. “Learn More” is most efficient, with the highest CTR and a CPL on-par with “Download.”

It’s interesting how “Learn More” performs differently on Facebook vs. LinkedIn. For example, on Facebook “Learn More” has an average CPL of $98.90, while the same CTA on LinkedIn has a CPL that’s nearly double at $180.89 and is most expensive.

“Apply Now” really only makes sense in special cases—like job postings and association memberships—so it’s not surprising that our customers rarely use it. It also had the highest CPC and CPL and the lowest CTR.

paid social benchmarks facebook ctr range

How long should your ad text be?

In this category, we saw notable differences between LinkedIn and Facebook.

Why?

Well, for one thing, each platform allows a different maximum number of characters. LinkedIn is 300 while Facebook is 63,206!

Our data shows that longer ads have the best clickthrough on Facebook vs. shorter ads on LinkedIn. Same thing for CPL—longer ads have lower CPL on Facebook.

Less is more for LinkedIn ads

b2b paid social benchmarks linkedin ad text

For both brand awareness and lead gen campaigns, you can see that the most common text length tends to be more than 100 characters: 140-150 characters seems to be the sweet spot for brand awareness campaigns.

But that length doesn’t even crack the top-10 lowest CPCs.

paid social benchmarks text data

The tendency is to write longer text, but using fewer words generally yields better performance, especially for CPL campaigns.

Longer ads fare better on Facebook

b2b paid social benchmarks facebook text data

On Facebook, where people tend to hang out on weekends or in their spare time, longer ads generally more clicks compared to LinkedIn. They also have some of the lowest CPLs.

Put it in action

Here are some real examples of longer ad text in Facebook that each had >1.5% CTR:

Example 1: “In traditional script-based tools, such as Selenium, object selection is typically pretty obtuse. In this white paper, we explore why this is a problem and show how smart object selection increases effective test coverage by an order of magnitude.”

Example 2: “Many businesses are adopting more work-from-home processes, so moving your IT infrastructure may be a “must-do” right now. If you’re looking for an option for your on-premises #IT #infrastructure, move to our #datacenters. Act now for discount offers!”

Example 3: “How do you exceed your demand gen goals for the rest of 2020? Even if you blew away the first quarter, how do you make sure you are thinking next level? In this “ask me anything” format, you’ll have demand gen and marketing technology experts addressing a curated selection of your burning questions about revOps, demand gen and marketing automation strategy.”

Images vs videos

While CPCs for videos are a bit lower than images, by most other metrics images outperform videos for our customers. This is a smaller sample of data, only from LinkedIn, and only from the last 4 months of the year after we started offering video.

paid social benchmarks images vs videos

When does it make sense to use video?

Based on the survey we ran at the end of 2020, we know more than 70% of you are planning to use more video in 2021. But videos take a lot more time and money to produce than images. So before going all-in, make sure video is really the best format for the type of content you want to create. Like when you want to showcase your company culture or grab attention right away.

How long should your video be?

Curious about the ideal video length for paid social campaigns? So are we! And
although we originally planned to include this in our trends analysis, we didn’t have enough data to be statistically significant. That said, 30 seconds should be the absolute max length for any video used in
your campaigns. We typically recommend between 6-15 seconds.

Which images performed best?

We also looked at which images performed best and found that ads with high clickthrough and low cost per lead had a few things in common:

  1. Photos with real people
  2. Recognizable partner mentions
  3. Personalization

Use photos of REAL people

Real people humanize a B2B brand and are a common feature of ads that got the highest CTRs and lowest CPLs, especially on Facebook.

paid social benchmarks snapwire example
Snapwire brings the human element into their ad which reinforces their message.

Try partner mentions

Don’t be afraid to be a name-dropper—people click on images with names they know.

paid social benchmarks cohley example
Cohley adds a subtle placement of a CVS basket into their ad.

Personalize your images

Relevance always wins. Images with the highest CTR on LinkedIn featured names prospects immediately recognize—either their own companies or other well-known brands.

paid social benchmarks the intersect group example
The Intersect Group adds personalization to this ad targeted at Christus Health prospects.

How to set your own benchmarks

We’ve shared a lot of data here. Like we said up-front, this data looks at averages across all of our customers, but we’re also giving you access to the actual raw data—so you can dig in and pull insights that are most relevant to your business.


Run your own data Customer Performance Dashboard

What works best

It’s interesting to see what’s worked best in the past. Even better is using that data as a starting point for the winning plays we’ll run next.

1. Double down on LinkedIn

Based on our customer survey, we know most of you are planning to double down on LinkedIn and video. (We’d start with LinkedIn.)

You’re also looking to personalize your marketing. We hope that means more than just name-dropping your target accounts and bringing in more humor and empathy. Don’t just personalize; make it personal.

2. Tear down this gate!

We’re all hoping to see more ungated content. This is something we’re betting on ourselves. But be ready to set expectations: your landing page hits and your volume metrics will go down, but deal cycles should move faster. Just make sure you and the “front office” are on the same page.

3. Test, test, test

As we’ve noted before, “what works” is changing faster than ever. The campaign that failed three weeks ago may work today. The evergreen campaign that’s worked for two years could stop working next week.

So as B2B marketers we’re constantly testing, refining, testing some more.

And while the data we shared in this report focuses on top-of-funnel metrics like CTR, CPC and CPL, you also have to look at lower-funnel performance and connect the dots to real ROI: pipeline, closed business, revenue.