Lead Generation VS Account-Based Marketing — What’s Better? (Lead VS Account)

If you’ve ever used a CRM or tried to research absolutely anything about marketing and sales, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot of confusion regarding the terms “lead” and “account”.

These words seem to be used interchangeably (yours truly is guilty of that as well), or sometimes they mean total opposites depending on the context.

Of course, every company defines their “leads”, “accounts”, “prospects” and “contacts” differently — that’s where the confusion comes from.

What one sales rep might classify as a “lead”, for another would simply be an opportunity.

Some call “accounts” evaluated leads and others use “accounts” to refer to every kind of opportunity.

This might seem like a very trivial issue, however, how you classify your audience might determine how you segment your target.

Target audience segmentation in turn defines how you are going to be reaching out to potential customers.

Let’s see how the UMG team classifies “leads” and “accounts” and what that might mean for your marketing and sales strategy.

What are Leads?

According to Salesforce, a lead is the basic object you create when you receive new contact information in your database. In other words, it is a raw unqualified prospect, an individual that is yet to receive any touchpoints.

The idea is that it doesn’t stay a lead for long — within a few weeks they need to be contacted and qualified, where their status will inevitably change.

It is uncommon to speak of leads in relation to companies. A lead almost always stays alone — it is a single professional working in a relevant company. In this sense, it is much closer to B2C — you are looking to sell to a single person without having to tie them down to a company you want to work with.

This is exactly what most companies seeking lead generation look for — a specific person contact, since after all, business-to-business still sells human-to-human.

Best market segmentation practices when it comes to leads:

  • Job title, function, seniority
  • Behavioral segmentation (social triggers, interests, clicks)
  • Psychographic segmentation (what would a person in this position be feeling, thinking, needing)

What are Accounts?

Essentially, an account is a business or organisation whose information you have in your database and are intending to sell to. There may be multiple leads under the same account, as employees of the same organisation.

Accounts fulfill the “business” part of B2B and in certain aspects, are much easier to organise and target. As a B2B business, you probably have a much better idea of the dream company partner than a human partner.

The best market segmentation practices you can use when it comes to accounts:

  • Location
  • Company size
  • Industry
  • Annual revenue
  • Acquisition rates
  • Funding
  • Technologies used etc.

Which terminology should you use?

The answer to this question depends on the type of service or product you are offering. There are some solutions that are best marketed to specific individuals — and others that are easier to sell to a company.

The average sales cycle and company structure also need to be taken into account. Is your lead the single decision-maker in this niche?

Actually, this kind of scenario is becoming very rare. While in B2C selling the customer almost always decides on their own and the sales cycle is very short, the case for B2B is usually that there’s a team of people that makes decisions.

It is even more common for complex products and solutions and selling on enterprise-level.

According to one study, 86% of marketing and sales professionals claimed their B2B companies had begun using targeted account strategies.

With all said and done, here at the UMG team we have not yet met a company that would not benefit from an account-based targeting and marketing strategy.

So, our suggestion would be to use a hybrid strategy.

Lead AND Account?

That’s right — get the best of both worlds!

Here’s what we do at the UMG when we research the target audience.

In principle, our approach combines the strengths of both leads and accounts (without any of the weaknesses) to produce a target audience list that is entirely relevant. Of course, no 2 companies are the same, so we take a customer-centric approach.

Account-based selling strengths:

  • Ideal Company Profile. As was previously mentioned, when you are selling to businesses, most likely you already have a very good idea of a dream company you’d like to work with. This is what defines account-based selling. You know exactly what kind of company might benefit from your solution.
  • Data reliability. It’s possible to research each company down to a T. While people’s private information is often guarded by privacy laws (especially strict in Europe), a lot of company data is widely publicly available in places like Crunchbase, Zoominfo and Sales Navigator. Moreover, data is no longer inaccurate or messy so it’s possible to create a very detailed picture of any business.

Lead generation strengths:

  • Human touch. As much as we love to navigate potential customers using company data, at the end of the day, we are still speaking to people. So, knowing exactly what the prospect might be struggling with or thinking about will increase your chances of making that sale.

Bottom line

No matter what word you use to describe potential customers in your funnel, think about what that word means for your overall sales and marketing strategy and how you consider your audience.

The way sales are done is changing. More and more companies these days are switching to an account-based sales approach because it’s proving to be more effective. Leads should not be just simply standalone contacts in your database but part of a wider, centralised campaign.

Wanna know how to get started with an account-based approach? Speak to a member of our team here.