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Webinars and ABM: Bringing Marketing and Sales Together

November 7th, 2017 Nani Jansen

This is a guest post from Nani Jansen, Director of Marketing Operations at Demandbase.

What does your sales team think about your webinar marketing program? Do they see the sales leads you send them as a valuable source of contacts, or just more noise? Are the sales-qualified leads you send them converting, or are they just sucking up time?

If you can’t answer these basic questions, you’re not alone. Even with all the high-tech tools to gather data and drive the sales pipeline, the disconnect between sales and marketing is only growing. 50% of marketing leads never get follow-up. Even in companies where they do, it’s often seen as a just a distraction and a timesuck for the sales team, who simply don’t have a lot of faith in their marketing leads. On the marketing side of the equation, things are no better. As far as a lot of marketers concerned, if they’ve generated leads or driven pipeline, they’ve done their job — what the sales department does with those leads is the sales department’s problem.

It’s not always an issue. Some companies can just drive the marketing pipeline and let sales take care of themselves. But if you’re in B2B, or a niche where sales plays an outside role, you might need an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach to heal the rift between sales and marketing.

Sales and marketing leads: The root of the problem

The big problem is that marketing and sales have different views of what matters, and how to talk about it. On a basic level, they speak very different languages. Marketers are looking at signs of engagement with content. They’ll talk about a lot of “rates” — clickthrough, email opens, conversions, webinar registration and attendance. Lead generation is an end in itself, as is nurturing marketing leads.

On the sales side, they’re interested in accounts and opportunities. Driving the sales pipeline means upselling accounts and creating new opportunities to close the deal. Sales leads — even good ones — only matter as much as the results they generate.

That different language is matched by very different success metrics. A marketer can succeed by boosting SEO, increasing registration and attendance, or getting a higher CTR — it’s a numbers game based largely on how users interact with content. They also look to turn marketing leads into better leads, which in theory should create opportunities for sales. However, if the marketing department is creating its own metrics of what constitutes successful lead nurturing, they may not actually be driving good sales leads.

And things get even worse when marketing tries to solve the problem by just driving more marketing and sales leads. If sales already sees your leads as questionable, piling more on could just devalue them further in the eyes of sales. The sales department is concerned with building relationships and revenue. 10,000 new MQLs won’t matter to them, unless they’re getting the opportunities they need with the right clients.

Account-Based Marketing

As a leading ABM platform, Demandbase sees fantastic results in B2B industries that depend on good client management. ABM works by uniting sales and marketing around the accounts that are most likely to convert. Instead of an organizations to “drive leads,” marketing is there to support sales, by targeting the accounts and sectors that matter. That doesn’t mean you can’t do SEO, or nurture low-priority leads — both those have a place in ABM. What it means is changing your priorities to creating custom content around sales opportunities, and tweaking your metrics to support the goals of your sales team.

ABM and webinar marketing

Marketers find ABM easy to understand when it comes to creating custom content. If you’re going after Company X because your sales team really wants them as a client, of course you’d want to customize your messaging to their needs. Many marketers already do this to some extent — for example, with customized emails to Company X decision-makers or extensive segmentation and regional targeting. But does ABM apply to a broad-based awareness tactic like webinar marketing? Shouldn’t you just focus on factors like lead generation, lead nurturing, and thought leadership the same way you always have?

But ABM actually can make webinar marketing a lot more effective, by tying your webinars to outcomes. It becomes less about driving big registration gains, and more about using your marketing pipeline to drive sales opportunities around the accounts they find valuable. That means prioritizing interaction with certain clients, letting sales know when you get a bite, and arming them with the content they need to make the most of a particular client’s registration. If the CFO of Company X registers for a webinar, what messaging should you use to contact them? If they attend, what messaging will help sales turn that opportunity into a meeting? If they don’t attend, what kind of follow-up email will help drive them down the sales pipeline?

Marketing and sales, together at last

It’s easy for sales and marketing to step on each other’s toes and even view each other as adversaries, but at the end of the day, where all on the same team. By directing your metrics, content, and promotion strategy towards common goals, ABM can help that team win!