Account-Based Marketing

Marketers, Are You a Shark or Whale in the Marketing Ecosystem?

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Welcome to Shark Week! This week, people from all over the world are tuning into content programming dedicated to—yep, you guessed it—sharks. This follows the well-timed release of The Shallows, a movie about a lone surfer’s survival attempts against a shark attack.

With the fascination surrounding these mysterious creatures of the sea, I’d like to draw some parallels from the underwater ecosystem to our very own marketing ecosystem. After all, as marketers, it’s in our genes to keep abreast of and ride the wave of (pun intended) trending topics.

So, how are marketers like the giants of the ocean—sharks and whales? The similarity lies in our “feeding” habits. Sharks find a specific target and then spend time hunting it down, similar to account-based marketing (ABM), in which an organization identifies a number of target accounts and dedicates sales and marketing resources to penetrate and close them. On the other hand, whales, specifically baleen whales, swim with their mouths open, taking in large amounts of water that contain tiny creatures. This is evocative of the traditional demand generation approach, with broad-reaching techniques that focus on generating and engaging a large number of qualified leads based on their attributes to move them further down the funnel and eventually close them.

Ultimately, whether you’re most like a shark or whale will depend on your objectives and nature of your business. In fact, both species are critical to the ecosystem, just like most B2B organizations need an optimal mix of both broad-reaching and targeted strategies to achieve their different goals.

Let’s take a look at three differences between sharks and whales, and how they can help guide your marketing strategy:

1. Inbound vs. Outbound

Whales eat by swimming with their mouths open toward their prey. Both food and water enter their mouths, and they squeeze out the water out through their baleen. Similarly, with a broad-based marketing approach, marketers use different campaigns to generate leads, including a variety of inbound tactics such as paid advertising, SEO, and webinars, which are then filtered by scoring systems based on desirable attributes determined by audience personas.

On the other hand, when a shark is hungry, it uses its different senses to hunt down its prey, rather than waiting for the prey to flow through its mouth. Just like sharks, marketers employing an account-based marketing approach use different signals to identify their targets and directly market to them. These might be the “big fish” accounts—accounts that are likely to results in large deals, or accounts that fit specific parameters like company size, industry, technologies used, etc. In ABM, since the focus is on a specific set of accounts, marketing efforts are outbound and personalized, tailoring specific content to those targets. Some examples include direct mail, database emails, and calling campaigns. In ABM, there is a smaller need for filtering since that has been done during the account selection phase, although leads are still scored based on their decision-making ability and other factors.

2. Different Success Metrics

At the end of the day, both sharks and whales need to eat to survive, just like the end goal for both ABM and broad-based marketing is to generate revenue. However, while whales need to consume large numbers of fish, squid, and other tiny creatures like plankton to survive, sharks are more attracted to fewer, larger creatures.

The interim goals and success metrics for marketers can be different as well, based on the approach they use. Marketers who use a broad-based marketing approach may measure lead quantity and quality, marketing qualified leads (MQLs), sales qualified leads (SQLs), and opportunities created. Whereas, ABM marketers may prioritize meetings, average selling prices (ASPs), win rate, velocity, and account penetration metrics. This is because the broad-based marketing funnel is different from the ABM funnel, which is flipped—the stages in the former revolving around awareness, interest, consideration, and purchase and the latter comprising of identify, expand, engage, and advocate.

3. Different Tools

While most sharks are equipped with rows and rows of sharp teeth and jaws that can unhinge to extend their reach while attacking, some breeds of whales don’t even have teeth. What they do have, however, are baleen plates that act as a filter to squeeze out water and other unwanted materials.

Comparably, to survive in today’s competitive landscape, you need the right technology platforms and tools to automate, score, personalize, measure, and optimize your campaigns. However, there are specific tools that you need to implement and carry out ABM effectively. Account-based marketing software, whether from a specific vendor or within a complete marketing automation platform, like Marketo’s, enable both marketing and sales teams to get a 360-degree account-level view and aggregate the engagement and actions of leads within a specific account. Broad-based marketing tools, which may be one in the same with the right solution, generally have a lead-level view, enabling marketers to assess and score leads based on multiple demographic and behavioral data.

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but the key to reeling them in lies in your marketing strategy. Whether you choose to be a shark or whale or a hybrid of both depends on your goals. At the end of the day, one thing is for certain—your customer is the king of the sea. And while this does not apply to the unsuspecting and ill-fated prey of sharks and whales, prioritizing customer experience above all else is an essential practice to be successful.

What other similarities do you see between marketers and sharks or whales? Share your observations in the comments below!