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

Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt from The #FlipMyFunnel eBook from Terminus.

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


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.


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 — that may or may not be trout — or you can specifically identify the trout you’re after and reel it in from there.


Now, in the world of fishing, those extraneous fish caught in your net might not be such a bad thing, 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.

Let’s go back to our 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 using with messaging that’s been developed specifically for them.

78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. (Demand Metric)

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 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.”


Let’s use the example of a healthcare company that’s trying to sell to both employers and brokers. A conversation with the sales team can reveal a specific geographic area that the company is trying to gain a foothold in, a target company size, and a list of potential employers and brokers to start with. Since these are two different audiences, the marketing team can use sales intelligence to dive deeper into the specific messages that might resonate with each audience, given their pain points.


Technology Can Help

42% of salespeople don’t feel like they have the right information before calling prospects. (CSO Insights)

Once you’ve started identifying your best-fit customers with the help of sales, actually finding them might seem like a daunting task. However, there are plenty of technology platforms designed to do exactly that. Let’s take a look at a few of the potential technologies that might make up your “marketing stack” in this first stage of the flipped funnel.

  • SalesLoft is a prospecting platform and a great tool for salespeople to build lists of sales leads. Run internet searches, capture social data, and save contact information using their Prospector tool. You can also sync that data with your marketing automation or CRM platform.
  • Similarly, Salesforce’s Data.com has a prospecting tool that gives salespeople access to millions of high-quality profiles and contacts, as well as the information you need to engage with them.
  • RingLead’s platform helps sales reps source new contacts that meet your target companies and personas. RingLead mines live web information in real time (called profiling) to provide reps with a vast amount of actionable, accurate data.
  • LinkedIn Navigator is a sales tool for social selling. Since LinkedIn is already a prospecting tool of choice for sales reps, their Navigator tool can easily complement a reps’ existing workflow. Locate the right prospects with ease, receive tailored recommendations, save leads, follow updates, and begin building a trusting relationship right from the start.

It’s worth noting that while these prospecting tools can provide a lot of powerful data, they should not be used to generate lists for email purposes without the recipient’s permission. The preferred way to use this information — and the way that adheres to best practices — is to place it in the hands of sales reps to reach out via phone, then add the recipients to email programs only once contact has been made. However, in the case of account-based marketing, account-based advertising campaigns can be run simultaneously with these initial sales conversations.

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 step two: Expansion.


Sangram Vajre
Sangram Vajre
Co-founder and CMO

Sangram Vajre has quickly built a reputation as one of the leading minds in B2B marketing. Before co-founding Terminus, a SaaS platform for account-based marketing, Sangram led the marketing team at Pardot through its acquisition by ExactTarget and then Salesforce. He’s the author of Account-Based Marketing For Dummies and is the mastermind behind #FlipMyFunnel. Follow Sangram on Twitter @SangramVajre.
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