When it comes to generating leads vs. account-based marketing, the buck stop at the CEO. Period.
Innovative B2B marketers and CMOs are rallying behind the idea of account-based marketing (ABM) because it’s a proven strategy to grow revenue. ABM is a new way of getting aligned with sales teams to engage best-fit accounts instead of being focused on BS metrics like marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or the number of people’s badges you scanned at a trade show booth.
That’s why we’re in the midst of the account-based marketing revolution. But is your CEO on board?
In order to fully align your organization for account-based marketing, the CEO needs to be bought in. No matter how much the CMO or the marketing team wants to do ABM, if the CEO isn’t bought into shifting from traditional lead-based metrics, then “account-based whatever” just isn’t happening.
If your company’s CEO still wants to see the number of leads generated thinking it will lead to revenue, then it’s time for a wakeup call.
Why It’s Up to CEOs to Pave the Way with ABM
For decades, B2B SaaS industry leaders have been misguided in their view of marketing as a lead gen machine. It’s also the reason why customer marketing hasn’t been a focus, but we’ll get to that later. First, let’s discuss the factors that have led to B2B CEOs’ heavy focus on leads.
- The inbound marketing movement creating scalable ways to generate leads
- Marketing automation to nurture, grade, and score contacts and prospects
- Content marketing to engage people through thought leadership
All these factors have made B2B marketers look like lead generation machine, which is what they were supposed to be. With the explosion of B2B MarTech, the process looked like this: leads were qualified, then funneled through the sales process to become paying customers.
Now, lead generation made marketers appear to be heroes. A good CMO could demonstrate how a handful of those leads ended up becoming customers. But alas, Forrester found that less than 1% of leads generated ever turn into customers.
This means 99% of the leads created by marketing never see the green that the CEO ultimately cares about. Is this really what the CEO and board want to see? No! Execs want to see the ROI of marketing, or at least they should.
So it really comes down to the CEO, President, and/or executive leadership team to come to an agreement. If leadership says, “I want the marketing team to generate leads” and they are sticking to the MQL, SAL, SQL, metrics, then share that Forrester stat. For every 100 leads generated, only one “might” become a customer.
That’s gotta make some CEOs furious. I hope so.
It’s time to flip that funnel and challenge the status quo.
For the CEOs who care enough about the results beyond following the usual B2B marketing playbook — and those who are willing to try something new with measuring marketing’s metrics — get ready to thrive in 2017 and beyond.
I challenge every CEO out there to do away with MQLs and look only at the number of qualified demos or meetings scheduled. How many of those demos became opportunities? How long did it take for those opportunities to turn until deals? That’s what CEOs should ask their marketing and sales teams.
Marketing and sales need joint accountability and measurement on revenue (not lead) metrics and KPIs. Instead of generating leads, CEOs should think about creating pipeline velocity and the customer experience from “click to close”.
Here’s an example:
The sales team has 200 accounts that are sitting in the pipeline to be closed in next 90 days based on their typical sales cycle. Let’s say it’s the start of a new quarter, and we want those 200 accounts to close by the end of the quarter.
Marketing should review these accounts with sales and the various touchpoints the contacts in those companies have had through the buyer’s journey. Engagement is the name of the game.
Personally, I like to think of engagement for pipeline velocity campaigns as a combination of high/low “tech” and “touch.” Remember the formula for velocity?
Creating energy in a pipeline velocity campaign requires lots of engagement. Direct mail, targeted advertising, email nurtures, personalized videos, hosting events, all these things help to create velocity in pipeline. Let’s engage qualified opportunities instead of spending a ton on SEM/PPC. Your CEO should hopefully be down with that idea.
I know this can be challenging, especially philosophically. No more MQLs. But this is the type of change can only be driven by the CEO as this is a philosophical change.
The buck stops at the CEO. It’s time for the CEO to step in and say, no more inbound vs. outbound, no more sales vs. marketing. Let’s all have one measure of success so we can drive revenue and build the best in class organization.
Want to learn more about executing and measuring an account-based marketing program? Download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing to get a step-by-step guide to getting started with ABM, plus worksheets that will help you plan and execute your ABM program.