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Do Leads Matter Anymore?

As part of the excitement building around account-based marketing (ABM), there has been a growing school of thought that leads and conventional funnel metrics will become a thing of the past.

While it makes sense that companies adopting ABM will shift their attention away from individuals to look more at the behavior of multiple influencers within an account, I would argue that leads and funnel stages will become more important than ever.

Consider the following trends and elements as part of my argument:

The majority of company execs I talk to who are adopting ABM are still balancing those efforts with conventional demand generation. Even as they are becoming more targeted and efficient in their marketing, most companies still need a flow of new opportunities. Therefore, they don’t feel comfortable banking their entire pipeline on a set list of accounts, and are still looking to uncover new prospects. This reality requires that leads and lead conversion still be a significant part of the marketing conversation.

The transformation to true ABM is going to take some time and there is a lot of work to be done to get that model built out. One of the core elements we hear even sophisticated ABM practitioners struggling with is the process of lead-to-account matching. There are some automated tools can help with this process, but they appear to be in the early days of deployment.  And for this transformation to really work effectively, companies better have their house in order for their current base of leads and understanding where they are in the buying cycle.

Many of the processes that are core to success in demand generation are being translated to ABM practices. For example, where lead scoring is critical to efficiently managing and prioritizing qualified leads, ABM practitioners are now looking to adopt account-based scoring. Again there are new solutions that will assist in this new scoring, but it will require companies to have defined stages and processes for the leads that exist within accounts.

My point to this post is not to rail against the change that is taking place in the B2B marketing world. We intend to play an active role in educating the market on the best practices emerging in ABM through our new ABM in Action publication.

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But, I want to caution practitioners and pundits to be cautious in suggesting that the concept of leads and nurturing are going to disappear. The reality is marketers are still going to need effective strategies for generating leads and engaging those leads across different stages. That foundation will become even more important as marketers now track the engagement of multiple stakeholders at key accounts.

The best practices for managing these changes will be addressed in several sessions during the Lead Lifecycle Series we are hosting next month. The 12 different sessions in the series will address specific approaches to optimize Top of Funnel (ToFu), Middle of Funnel (MoFu) and Bottom of Funnel (BoFu) performance. 

Several sessions in the series will address ABM and offer prescriptive steps for how companies can apply funnel best practices to their account-specific strategies.  Check out the full agenda here and take advantage of the sessions that make the most sense for the areas you are researching.

We will also be addressing the topic of the Lead Lifecycle throughout the month of July, making it the featured topic of our B2B Buzz Twitter chat and including interviews with industry analysts and thought leaders on the DGR site.