Flipping the Funnel: Account-Based Marketing Puts Customers First, Not Channels

Editor’s Note: This post was originally featured on OpenView Labs in September 2015.

As modern B2B marketers, we’re lucky enough to be witnessing some of the most dramatic shifts in marketing strategies and technologies in a very long time. One of the most pivotal changes of our time has been the departure from a traditional sales and marketing funnel where leads come in the top and follow a linear path from awareness to purchase.

Lead-Based-B2B-Sales-Funnel

This traditional approach bears one primary goal in mind: to capture as many leads as possible at the top of the funnel and drop them into the sea of marketing and sales communications. The new account-based marketing movement quite literally flips that funnel on its head.

The new B2B marketing and sales funnel #FlipMyFunnel

The new B2B marketing and sales funnel

Account-based marketing starts with identifying your best-fit customers. While a lead generation model based on the traditional funnel might begin by selecting a set of channels, a more logical first step is to identify a set of potential customers first. In a marketing landscape that is increasingly focused on the customer’s needs, not the marketer’s, why start anywhere else?

Finding the Best Fit

Let’s use a simple analogy. Say you’re going fishing and you’re hoping to catch a few trout. You can throw a giant net into the water and catch a number of fish at once, but those fish may or may not be trout. Conversely, you can specifically identify the trout you’re after and reel ’em in from there. As Engagio CEO Jon Miller says, account-based marketing is like fishing with spears.

Account-based marketing: fishing for the right customers

Now, in the world of fishing, those extraneous fish you caught in your net might not be such a bad thing. You can throw them back in the water or keep them as a bonus. But step into the shoes of a B2B marketer, and those fish just become clutter in your database — and quite frankly, a waste of your time and money.

Now, let’s go back to our flipped funnel. With your best-fit customers identified up front, it’s much easier to allocate resources and budget where they’re going to be most effective. Armed with the knowledge of your customers’ pain points, motivations, and interests, you can target them on the channels they’re already using with messaging that’s been developed specifically for them.

It All Starts with Sales

Don’t worry; I’m not talking about money right off the bat. I’m referring to the conversation with your sales team and other key stakeholders that needs to happen for account-based marketing to be truly effective. As Craig Rosenberg, Co-Founder and Chief Analyst at TOPO, wrote on his blog, “Account-based marketing requires a truly coordinated effort between sales, sales development, marketing, and executive staff.”

B2B sales & marketing must target best-fit potential customers

Once you’ve identified your target accounts and started building up your marketing stack to supplement the efforts of your sales reps, you’re ready to move on to the next stage of account-based marketing: account expansion. Want to learn more? Download The Beginner’s Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing now.

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