The 5/57 Problem

Is 98% of Your Marketing Wasted?

What the heck is the 5/57 Problem?

Let’s start with this old  John Wanamaker quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,”.

This is wrong if you are a B2B marketer.

If you operate in a market with long, complex sales cycles and high-value sales, 98% of your marketing may be wasted.

I call this the 5/57 problem

Let me explain.

95% of Your Target Market May Not Be in-market

How often do your prospects replace their software solutions or services firms? A good rule of thumb is every five years. It may be even less often in many markets. So in any given year, only 20% of your target accounts may be considering a switch or a new approach. And in any given quarter, only 5% (a quarter of the 20%) may be in-market.

In the words of Professor John Dawes, at Ehrenberg-Bass, in an article for the LinkedIn B2B Institute called 95:5 rule::

“It might surprise you to learn that up to 95% of business clients are not in the market for many goods and services at any one time. This is a deceptively simple fact, but it has a profound implication for advertising. It means that advertising mostly hits B2B buyers who aren’t going to buy any time soon.”

57% of Buyers Have Already Decided By the Time They Reach Out

In my favorite B2B sales and marketing book, the Challenger Customer, the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), now part of Gartner, surveyed 3000 B2B Buyers. One of their findings is that 57% of buyers have already decided on who they are going with by the time they reach out to any vendor.

If you had not got these buyers’ attention early enough in their process, when they were thinking about the problem and how to solve it, your marketing won’t have had any effect.

This means that 57% of the 5% are not open to hearing from you.


Only 2% of your ICP may be willing to pay attention to your marketing.

Are You a Mindreader Yet?

Companies that have fully embraced ABM can feel smug about this problem.

They have become marketing mindreaders who can pinpoint who is in-market before their competitors and get to buyers early enough in the buyer journey to make an impact.

They use Intent Data. This is like magic when it works well. Intent data used well provides signals on who may be in-market and where they are in the process.

They focus the lion’s share of their marketing on getting the attention of the 5% who are in-market and engaging them with content that helps them in their buying process.

Yeah, But Does it Really Work?


We helped a client get started with intent data, and in the first week, the SDRs identified that a large prospect was in-market for their solution. They reached the person in charge of the buyer collective through an existing relationship. They were unaware of our client, but after hearing their pitch, they included them in their shortlist.

The same company then closed a $2.5 million deal with a large customer thanks partly to identifying high intent early in the process, targeting them with advertising, and then transitioning the opportunity to sales.

This client has started down the road to solving the 5/57 Problem.

We are a little bit obsessed with ABM. Our mission is to help clients deliver better results through more efficient marketing. We want all our clients to become mind readers.

If you are interested and when you are ready, we can help you on your ABM journey. Here are some ways to get started:
  1. Check out more posts like this in the Total Customer Growth Resource Center. It is chock-full of articles, use cases, how-to’s, and ideas to get you started on your ABM journey.
  2. Follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn. I publish videos and articles on ABM, ABX and Total Customer Growth.
  3. Work with me directly. Let’s book a growth session and we can explore ways you can improve your marketing using the latest techniques in account-based marketing.


Adam Turinas

Adam Turinas is a long-time technology marketing leader and entrepreneur. He is the co-author of the Total Customer Growth book and founder of Total Customer Growth LLC. Adam spent two decades marketing for Dell, IBM, Bank of America, and dozens of other major marketers. In 2012 he founded, grew, and eventually sold a healthcare technology software business and then created healthlaunchpad, a leading healthtech marketing firm that teaches clients how to use ABM.