Guest post by Jon Miller, CEO and Co-Founder of Engagio

B2B marketers work in an environment that is constantly evolving: technology is changing how buyers interact with brands and best practices are moving targets. Lead-based marketing has been a popular strategy for some time, as marketers react to the digital marketplace’s effect on their sales funnels, but there’s a (relatively) new kid in town: account-based marketing.

Of course there never has been, and never will be, a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. Every industry, niche, business, and target audience has its own needs, pain points, and tools. So let’s explore some key differences between lead-based and account-based marketing so you can decide which is best for your brand or business.

1. Vanity Metrics vs Target Account Influence

Most lead-based marketing metrics look good on paper, but don’t impress the executive team and don’t impact the business’ bottom line:

  • Clicks and Page Views—Lead based marketing tends to put a high value on these numbers because it means we’ve created content that people are looking at. What those numbers don’t tell us is if those buyers are the right people from the right companies.
  • Conversions—A conversion can be defined as any potential action. It’s nice when users fill out forms and/or download content, but if the conversions are coming from non-target accounts, it could be a sign you are unfocused and are actually wasting money.
  • Leads—I can buy a list of leads, or join a LinkedIn Group, or import my contacts to a spreadsheet. The number of leads, alone, doesn’t mean anything to the bottom line. What matters is whether we have relationships with the people and accounts that matter.

Account based marketing, on the other hand, is about quality, not quantity.

“If you believe ABM success is measured only on lead volume … think again. ABM is about influence.”—Megan Heuer, SiriusDecisions

ABM is a long-term strategy, so we balance the need for incremental progress checks with the need to measure metrics that actually tell us if our efforts are driving meaningful engagement with target accounts. Productive ABM metrics, then, include coverage, awareness, engagement, reach, and influence. These considerations focus on efforts that lead to improved ROI, but also help monitor the progress of our strategies before the next big account closes.

2. More Leads vs Better Leads

Lead-based marketing sends loosely targeted messages to broad categories of a target audience, drawing in lots of individual leads that may or may not be right for your brand. ABM creates a ‘market of one’ at each account, and sends strategic messages to the team members you most want to reach.

With lead-based marketing you might get more leads, but they are probably not the right leads. ABM allows you to convert highly-prized targets through more purposeful outreach to build sustainable, long-lasting relationships. Quality wins over quantity every time, and ABM-driven accounts are bigger, better, and faster.

3. Satisfied Customers vs Raving Fans

Hopefully a random lead that eventually becomes a client is satisfied with his or her experience, but in a lead-based marketing environment it takes continued nurturing to turn that client into a brand advocate.

Account-based marketing, however, invests in high-potential clients up-front with targeted and hyper-personal messages. By the time a big account is closed, the account based marketer has earned not just one satisfied customer, but a whole team of brand advocates who have been impressed by consistently relevant messages and interactions.

4. Small Sales vs Big Deals

Because lead-based marketing draws in leads from all sorts of levels and companies, sales tend to be individual, unconnected, and smaller—as opposed to account-based deals that proactively reach out to the right executives at the right companies. In fact, Demandbase found that the average contract value for targeted accounts was 40% higher for mid-market and 35% higher for enterprise accounts.

Account-based marketing also guides the expansion of accounts with existing customers. Because the account-based team is intimately familiar with each client—its industry, team, pain points, competition, etc.—and because that client has already had a very valuable experience with the brand, that company can more easily orchestrate continued sales with existing clients.

5. Sales and Marketing Silos vs Sales and Marketing Alignment

Lead-based marketing was born out of a traditional corporate organization that puts marketing on one floor and sales on another. Marketing generates and nurtures leads, and eventually passes them on to sales.

Account-based marketing has evolved in a digital marketplace where buyers control their own buying cycles, and personalized interactions are expected. In an ABM strategy, marketing needs strategies that sales has been using for decades, and sales needs marketing to truly engage buyers.

“70% of ABM users report that their sales and marketing organizations are mostly or completely aligned, compared to 51 percent for non-ABM users.”—Account Based Marketing Adoption report, September 2015

ABM brings marketing and sales departments together to share insights and strategies that everyone can use to close big wins, which is why it isn’t really account-based marketing as much as it is account-based everything.

Account Based Everything is the Next Evolution of B2B Marketing

Bottom line? You can catch a lot of fish (and turtles and ocean garbage, etc.) with a net, but if you want the big one, you need a more targeted approach.

And this targeted approach is catching on:

  • 97% of practice leaders, marketers, and business development executives said that ABM offered a higher ROI than other marketing methods, with 38% calling it “much higher.”
  • 92% of companies term ABM a, “B2B marketing must-have.”

Account based everything uses highly targeted communications to catch better leads, and coordinates all of your strategies and resources for bigger wins. That may be why many marketers consider an account-based approach the natural next step in the evolution of B2B marketing.


  • Lead vs ABM sounds alot like “shotgun vs rifle” but critical to first understand prospect segmentation in order to serve up what makes their workday/worklife easier, better, more productive. Getting there relies on a “secret sauce”, a carefully crafted (read “research based”) marketing and content strategy that includes profiles as well as personas (Ardath Albee) to develop highly relevant, valuable and timely content. This is really nothing new, just finally getting proper scrutiny and formalization so it can be shared as a best practice and I’m glad to see it. Too much wasted marketing and ad budget taints the industry and practitioners; you’ll know it’s working when sales understands marketing isn’t doing “fluffy stuff”.

    • Jon Miller

      Excellent points Craig. In many ways, there’s nothing all that new here — it’s the same 1:1 marketing and selling strategies that have worked for years, but now with technology to help make it more scalable.