Everything You Think You Know About Leads Is Wrong

Partner Content

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Picture this: it’s 2005. In marketing, the ‘lead’ was king.

Back then, cloud-based technologies were just becoming mainstream, and tracking leads was the easiest way to measure marketing success. But, according to Forrester, less than 1% of leads turned into sales.

By 2015, this trend began to wane as we witnessed the rise of Account-Based Marketing. The lead was king in 2005, but are we still comfortable using the “easiest way” we came up with more than 15 years ago?

It’s Time to Abandon Our Obsession With Leads

Now, in 2021, more organizations are shifting towards an ABM program, and we’re seeing marketing and sales departments work closer together.

In 2019, Terminus’ State of ABM survey found that 23% of organizations had no ABM program of any kind. In 2020, that number dropped significantly to just 5.8%.

We’re noticing that mature ABM programs, not lead generation, have become the dominant source of revenue for organizations. In fact, only 10% of surveyed organizations even view leads as one of their top three performance indicators.

The truth? You can hit all of your goals without generating a single lead.

So if Not Leads, Then What?

Instead, measure awareness, opportunity creation, pipeline progression, and customer expansion. The four pillars of ABM programs do this, and as you’re reviewing your plans and transforming your success metrics, ask yourself these questions:

  • Awareness: How many people are you actually reaching in your target account list? How many are engaged by ads, website visits, or interacting with your content? 
  • Opportunity creation: How many of your target accounts are surging or showing buying signals? How many opportunities were you able to create? How much pipeline has been generated?
  • Pipeline progression: How long are your target accounts in each opportunity stage, and what’s the average sales cycle length? More importantly, what’s your win rate?
  • Customer expansion: How many of your customers are up for renewal in the next few months? What’s your churn rate? How many expansion opportunities have you created?

Pipeline Is Tops

Creating highly personalized campaigns with unique content will help reach your carefully crafted account lists.

Remember, alignment between marketing and sales is a key factor in improving your #1 metric: pipeline.

As you proactively help your sales team understand your account strategy, they’ll be able to watch for surging accounts to create opportunities.

Are Your Executives Still in Love with Leads?

That’s okay! You can convince your C-suite without crushing their romance with leads. Changing a deep-rooted concept like lead-chasing is never easy.

Here’s what to say to help your cause:

  • “We can be more efficient at acquiring opportunities with ABM than with leads.”
  • “We’re not stopping the lead train. We just won’t have to rely on them if we shift towards ABM.”
  • “Could you imagine if Competitor X had a better ABM program than us? We’d be late to the game.”
  • “You always stress that our customer experience is important. ABM will give them the best possible experience.”

Beyond that, you’ll need dedication from your team. Consider assigning one or two specific people to kick off your ABM program. Having people solely focused on ABM success is a smart way to prevent your organization from backsliding into its old, lead-oriented habits.

Once executives begin to see your metrics, they’ll more than warm up to the idea that, in 2021, ABM and pipeline are king.