One of the biggest reasons there’s a gap between so many sales and marketing teams is that they’re speaking different languages. You’re looking for any way to improve your lead gen capabilities while sales is trying to win accounts.

“Salespeople talk about accounts, they talk about customers… they don’t talk about leads. Salespeople think about how they’re going to win accounts in the first place, then how they’re going to keep and grow those accounts.”Megan Heuer, VP of Research at SiriusDecisions

Account-based marketing (ABM) is supposed to be the great equalizer. It’s the strategy that can replace lead generation and get your team on the same page as sales.

But do we really need to pit one against the other? With the right approach and the right data, your lead gen engine can play an important role in ABM.

The Role of Lead Gen in ABM

There’s a fundamental difference between lead-based and account-based marketing.

Proponents of ABM say that because sales teams want to win accounts, you can’t focus on selling to individual leads in the B2B world. When you look at ABM and lead gen as separate entities, it seems like filling the funnel with high volumes of leads is a recipe for sales inefficiency, low levels of engagement, and sub-par conversion rates.

However, unless you’re focused on one-to-one ABM where you target just a handful of known accounts worth millions of dollars in annual revenue, lead gen should be viewed as one piece of the larger ABM puzzle.

Whether you pursue dozens, hundreds, or thousands of accounts in your ABM practice, it’s important to remember that execution is about communicating with the right contacts.

The average B2B purchase involves 16 unique contacts from both the IT and line-of-business sides of the account. In a perfect world, you could identify all of these contacts on your own and work with sales to start building closer relationships. However, the reality is that filling out an account profile with all the necessary contact information can be a real challenge.

And that’s where lead gen plays its part. The inbound marketing and lead gen tactics that you’ve focused on for years lay the foundation for collecting first-party data that will fuel ABM. Instead of taking those leads and passing them to sales individually, you can focus on mapping contacts to accounts before working with sales to close a deal.

As individual leads show more intent signals, you can get a better understanding of the role they play in the overall purchase decision of a target account. That’s how you get on the same page with sales—not by eliminating lead gen, but by refocusing it for account-based marketing.

However, the data you generate from lead gen tactics won’t always create a complete profile of account contacts. Working with third-party intent data can fill the gaps and help you collect the lead, contact, and account information necessary to close deals.

How Intent Data Turns Leads into ABM Insights

The main concern with lead-based marketing focuses on filling the funnel with as many contacts as possible as opposed to focusing on those that are part of your total addressable market.

Third-party intent data helps you sort through high-volume lead-gen data to determine not just who is in the market for your products and services, but also how they prefer to be sold to and whether or not they fit your target demographics.

By working with the right intent data provider, you can bridge the gap between lead gen and ABM strategy. Third-party providers can take your leads a step further in two key ways:

  • Predictive Intent Signal Scoring: Bringing data science to contact information gives you a more efficient and accurate way to predict how an individual contact and an overall account will move from research to meetings, vendor sorting, and purchase decision. And with a third-party provider, you get the benefit of pulling data from many different web properties to ensure contact information is accurate and diversified.
  • Accurate Firmographic Insights: Firmographic data alone won’t help fuel your ABM practice. However, when it’s part of a package that includes contextual intent data, you can fill out contact profiles that are more valuable to sales.

Intent data is the unifying piece of successful ABM strategies. Traditional lead gen may not fit into the ABM equation on its own but bringing intent data into the fold changes that. Having the right data can make lead generation a critical component of ABM and fuel your ability to work hand-in-hand with sales to close new business.

But working with intent data can be a new challenge for many marketers. If you want to learn more about getting the most out of it, download our free report, Demystifying B2B Purchase Intent Data.