Navigating The Intersection Of ABM & Demand Generation In B2B Marketing

Published: May 22, 2024

ABM and demand generation campaigns should go together like peanut butter and jelly — but oftentimes, that’s not the case. Between misaligned teams, different objectives and just an overall misunderstanding of each strategy’s responsibilities, the waters get muddied around the true role of each. At the 2024 B2B Marketing Exchange West, Wes Lieser, an Executive Recruiter from Versique, hosted a panel discussion that featured:

  • Annie Chamberlin, Account-Based Marketing & Experiences at Lumen Technologies;
  • Sam Nohava, VP, Global Marketing at Blue Yonder; and
  • Madeline Maguire, Head of B2B Marketing at Grubhub.

The trio of panelists took the stage to discuss the current ABM/demand generation landscape and provided insights into how their respective companies are leveraging the two strategies and differentiating between them.

Wes Lieser: How does your organization classify the difference between ABM and demand generation?

Anne Chamberlin: At Lumen, we are heavily invested in ABM — specifically, in the large enterprise segment. Everything that we are doing is account-based: We have our target lists, and then we work to capture demand within those specific accounts. There are aspects of the business that do have more traditional demand generation, which are the areas that have a higher volume of customers but lower annual contract values. And in those areas, we look to generate leads and pass those leads off to sales development reps, who will then work on conversion.

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Sam Nohava: I have a team of demand gen and ABM marketers who are specialized by industry, region and function. And within those roles — specifically the field marketing team — they target prospects by demographic, firmographic and intent. Across my entire team, we’ve gone all in on intent; it’s intent-based everything. And the main delineation is that field marketers own industry-and product-driven campaigns, as well as field events. They are the right hand of the sales organization, but their primary focus is to drive at-bats and then disengage once sales takes over. On the ABM side, that team manages 1:1 and 1:few programs, and within that practice, they are engaged throughout the entire buyer’s journey.

Madeline Maguire: At GrubHub, demand generation focuses on 1:many efforts and ABM encompasses the strategies that are targeting a specific list of high value accounts. Within the scope of my organization, I have corporate accounts that are pretty evenly split between demand gen and ABM. The campus side, where we’re trying to sign up higher education campuses, is very heavy on ABM and long sales cycles. However, I also have merchant marketing under my purview, which focuses on the high-value VIP restaurants that we’re trying to sign. Within those accounts, it’s not a traditional content-lead account-based strategy. For that segment, ABM looks very much like turning up with popsicles on a hot day for all the employees that work in the restaurant, which isn’t a scalable approach. So, the difference between demand generation and ABM really depends on how you identify your buyer and then tailoring an approach that works for them.

Lieser: What are some of the common misconceptions between demand gen and ABM?

Nohava: I’ll cover three: The first is that the two functions are siloed and operate independently from one another. The reality is that it’s OK if they’re siloed, but they shouldn’t be; if you’re doing your job correctly as a marketing leader, you should encourage collaboration and partnership for the creation of one demand generation plan. The second misconception is that demand gen isn’t strategic; it’s just spray-and-pray and doesn’t leverage ABM technologies. And the third is that ABM is a silver bullet. My favorite saying is ABM is a strategy, not a tactic, and we should treat it as such.

Maguire: A lot of people also think ABM is just marketing’s responsibility, but it requires tremendous buy-in from every level of the organization up to the leadership. Particularly with the sales team, the moment that you have marketing and sales working in silos, you’re done. ABM needs a near-constant communication and feedback to become successful. If the sellers in the front lines aren’t coming back to their marketing teams and sharing how marketing can tailor content to be as relevant as possible to the targets, ABM is never going to resonate the way that buyers expect in 2024.

Lieser: What are some of the most important factors included in maintaining marketing and sales alignment?

Maguire: The first is being intentional about creating a strong relationship between the two departments: State the intention with the sales leader, and the team will take cues from them on how to respect the other team. You also can’t be afraid to set the example and make sure that when sales teams are celebrating big wins, they’re calling out the marketing team in their success — and vice versa. There also needs to be shared objectives so there’s no sense of competitiveness.

Chamberlin: At Lumen, we have a corporate narrative that the entire company is rallying around, and we’re currently developing commercial plays across sales, marketing and customer success to make sure our go-to-market is cohesive across the customer experience.

Lieser: As you look forward to 2024, what are some key initiatives and objectives that you’re putting forth to propel ABM and demand gen?

Chamberlin: We’re working to shift from product marketing to customer outcome-based marketing, so we’re conducting market research to help re-shape how we go-to-market. The other area that will be a big focus is bringing all of our ABM functions in-house, which requires hitting hard on campaign operations and discipline internally around data and operations so that we can orchestrate all of our different plays appropriately.

Nohava: I’m starting the conversations with leadership to guide our KPIs by function. Currently, my entire team is measured based upon sourced pipeline and sourced revenue. And unfortunately, that’s not fair or indicative of the true value that my teams add, especially in the ABM cases where they are owning and engaging across the entire buyer’s journey. I also want to advocate for more budget and refine our current strategies, as well as ensure we’re in lockstep with sales to meet our goals.

Maguire: We’re very excited about leveraging tech to accelerate pipeline velocity, so we’re looking at a few different options there. Additionally, a lot of our customers are under pressure to do more with less, so now more than ever, it’s really important to make sure that the content that we’re putting out there is relevant, helpful, adds value and speaks to the needs of our customers.

If you’re craving more real-world insights and conversations, B2B Marketing Exchange East is quickly approaching! The agenda’s already chock-full of panels, sessions, keynotes case studies, workshops, campfire sessions and more — make sure to register for the event now to snag tickets while they’re at their lowest price!




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