Account-based marketing and inbound marketing have similarities in the volume of target companies that are targeted, the channels used to reach the target accounts, and the level of content personalization. Where the goal of inbound marketing is to generate “leads”, the purpose of ABM is to connect with a specific and qualified list of target companies and nurture those relationships until the opportunity arrives. This means that the choice of channels are completely different, the marketing skills needed are different in some areas, and the collaboration between marketing and sales team is different.
The two different marketing strategies are therefore not mutually exclusive but rather complementary to one another.
The fundamental purpose of account-based marketing (ABM) is to focus the lead generation around specific target companies that has the perfect customer profile, your ideal customer profile. Everything evolves around the ideal customer profile, and so step ONE is always to define who your current ideal customers are and what they look like, in order to find more of them
This means that you have already done the lead qualification, and you can now focus on wheeling them in with content that shows you clearly understand their struggles, and how to solve it, so they can achieve their goals.
The second most noticeable difference is that with account-based marketing, the intent is to reach far fewer accounts, but the accounts with buy a wider range of your products and services, and represent a far higher value than leads from. inbound marketing.
Intentional outreach to target companies is done through outbound channels such as cold calling, cold email, direct mail, and targeted advertising etc.
When to use account based marketing strategy
Account Based Marketing strategy is ideal when:
- There is a shortage of ideal customers in the market
- The type of solution you are offering, is so new that customers in the market are not aware of it and therefore not looking.
- The sales process is complex, long, and involves multiple decision makers. A scenario where Key Account Managers typically operate.
Examples of Account-Based Marketing tactics
- Cold calling
- Targeted Ads (e.g. LinkedIn targeted ads)
- LinkedIn In-mails (LinkedIn Sales Navigator)
- Direct e-mails
- Direct mail (physical mail with product samples or related gifts)
Benefits of ABM strategy
Account-Based Marketing is a B2B lead generation strategy that intentionally reaches out to named and qualified target accounts who’s challenges you understand, with a solution that is exactly what they need, plus it brings the value you know you can deliver, and therefore and excellent match.
A highly targeted and personalized outreach means the rate of ideal customer prospects that will engage with you is higher, and the automated marketing and lead nurturing process will help you identify the prospects who are currently looking. This means the average sales process will be shorter, and the win-rate higher, for target accounts that you have already validated and know is a great fit for your company.
- Higher average size of opportunity (deal size)
- Lower average discount
- Higher win-rate
- Shorter sales cycle
- Ideal customers with higher lifetime value
- Lower request for service and support, and less complaints
Account-Based Marketing is also a great tool to support sales teams with key account managers, as specific content can be distributed to specific contacts and help identify unnamed decision makers within the target account.
Inbound marketing is what most companies use as their B2B marketing tactics as well as B2C marketing. Perhaps because most marketers write about inbound marketing it ends up on every marketing plan and therefore also what is most talked about and something everyone have some experience with.
Inbound marketing focuses on content that speaks to an ideal customer profile and distributed through the channels where your ideal customer base is spending time. Those channels can be search engines, social media platforms, industry specific media websites, YouTube etc. Because the accounts and the contact personas are unnamed, it is not possible to push content directly and therefore the inbound marketing strategy is all about sending the content through the right channels and optimize traffic and content to maximize leads generation.
As inbound marketing leads are unnamed they are not yet qualified leads. Therefor the qualification starts after the prospects converts to a lead, which means they have provided you with their contact information via your website. Once you know their email and company details, the purpose of your marketing automation and lead nurturing, is to qualify the leads and identify those that match your ideal customer profile.
Using an inbound strategy means that there will be a good amount of less than ideal customers which will need to be filtered out in your lead nurturing process to avoid being passed on to the sales team.
Examples of inbound marketing
CHANNELS / Content /
- Content creation SEO
- Videos on YouTube
- Social Media posting
- Advertising SEM, Social Media Advertising
When to use an inbound marketing strategy
Inbound marketing is all about creating and distributing content that will attract visitors to the website and convert them to leads. This works best in a market where there is an abundance of customers, and the market is aware of the type of the solution your company provides.
The Difference Between Account-Based Marketing vs Inbound marketing
Named Target Accounts vs Ideal Customer Profile
Account based marketing and inbound marketing differs in essence in the companies they target, the channels they use to reach them, and the marketing goals that the tracking, reporting, and optimization focus on. And as a final note, there is a major difference in how marketing and sales work together in an ABM vs Inbound marketing strategy context.
Inbound marketing vs Outbound marketing channels
Account-based marketing use outbound channels, such as email, phone, in-person, and social media to connect with specific people within an organization. It’s also common for them to use highly-targeted paid ad campaigns on social media (LinkedIn targeted ads) and search engines (re-marketing advertising) to stay connected until they engage directly on the website, call, or email the sales team.
Inbound marketers resort to content-based strategies to reach their audience. The type of content includes websites, blogs, videos, and is distributed through search engine optimization (Google, YouTube, BING etc.), search engine marketing (Adwords, BING Ads etc.) and social media posting and advertising.
The Level of Personalized Content
The content used for reaching and engaging prospects can be very similar between ABM and inbound marketing, but since the target audience for ABM is far smaller than inbound marketing, the content tends to be far more personalized in an ABM strategy.
There is not necessarily a big difference between ABM and inbound marketing, in what content is created and used, as that can be very similar. But in 1-to-1 or 1-to-few ABM campaigns, the personalization is deeper than what is possible in inbound marketing which seeks to reach a broader prospect base.
How to join Inbound and account-based marketing for a perfect marketing strategy
ABM is an ideal marketing strategy for a company to target large national and international accounts where the ideal customer is easily identified and limited. These accounts are typically those that a Key Account Manager would focus on. The same company could decide to use an inbound marketing strategy to reach a lower segment of the market where the order size and lifetime value of a customer is lower and too costly to reach with an ABM strategy.
Both marketing strategies can easily share the same marketing content, albeit the content would be slightly modified for higher personalization for ABM purposes.
How Marketing & Sales Need To Work Together As One
Any company could benefit from a closer collaboration between marketing teams and sales teams Sales talk to customers and can provide marketing with the specific challenges we help solve, the specific value it generates for the customer, great customer cases and testimonials. The benefit of working together means that sales teams could engage much sooner with prospects and help understand the prospects challenges and speed up the prospects buying journey (our sales cycle). The talk about “marketing is not generating the quality leads they said they would” and “sales is not converting the leads we deliver”, is all together pointless. It is one integrated process and the teams need to work as one.
In ABM it is key that marketing and sales teams work together engage immediately, e.g. via chat, when a contact from their ideal customer prospect is engaging on the website. In an inbound marketing context it is
Marketing should join sales on customer visits
For marketing and sales teams to truely work together starts with actually visiting customers together.
It’s always ideal to have alignment between marketing and sales. However, inbound marketing initiatives commonly move forward without much input from sales or any other department. Account-based marketing can only work with alignment across departments. The more teams involved, the better.