By Marketers, For Marketers Ep. 8: ABM vs. Demand Gen

Jason Widup

Aug 12, 2021

In this special episode of By Marketers For Marketers, Jason discusses ABM and demand generation with Chris Walker, Founder and CEO at Refine Labs.

Additional panelists for this episode include:


• Alex Mann, Director of Growth and Marketing at Capchase
• Blake Cohlan, Director of Growth Marketing at SupportLogic
• Brandee Sanders, VP of Marketing, Motive Retail

What is the definition of ABM and demand gen?

ABM and demand generation are two of the most common strategies that B2B organizations use to generate leads.

The problem is no one agrees on a standard definition of the two.

Most marketers define demand generation and ABM differently depending on how their company or software vendors define it. And that’s a big problem because it distorts the reality of what’s involved in demand generation and ABM.

The truth is, the definitions of demand generation and ABM are the same regardless of what technologies you use.

Think of demand gen and ABM as subsets of each other rather than two separate things. You can’t have one without the other.

Demand generation involves using paid ads, organic search, or other channels to reach your target audience. Once you’ve done this, ABM allows you to go after the most valuable accounts on your list. It helps you personalize your messaging.

And when done correctly, it leads to better alignment between sales and marketing and improved return on investment.

Are display ads for B2B worth it?

As a B2B marketer, you’ll need to continually experiment with different ABM channels to get the results you want.

Many software vendors recommend using display advertising for ABM, but it’s not a requirement.

The problem with display ads is that it can be challenging to prove their ROI. Yes, they can help you with brand awareness.

They can keep your brand top of mind. But if your goal is to increase conversions among your target accounts, you might be disappointed by the results you see when using display advertising.

ABM lists are typically smaller compared to broader audiences you would use for brand awareness display ads. As a result, an ABM display ad campaign will more often than not have lower click-to-conversion and higher-than-average costs.

Why bloated sales teams make ABM harder

ABM is especially challenging to implement in large companies. The larger the sales team, the more importance is placed on quantity over quality of leads.

This forces marketing teams to focus most of their effort on launching demand generation campaigns at the expense of ABM.

The difference between volume and quality is often the difference between demand generation and ABM. You can only generate a large volume of leads by using a one-to-many demand generation approach.

It’s not possible to do that with ABM, which requires you to focus on lead quality instead of quantity.

Prioritizing a large volume of leads means that marketing teams won’t always be able to put resources towards an ABM strategy. Similarly, focusing too much on ABM might create a situation where the sales team doesn’t have enough leads to hit their goals at the end of the quarter.

A compromise between sales and marketing is always required when developing an ABM program.

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