Account-based marketing vs Inbound marketing

By Anders Björklund

Account-based marketing vs Inbound marketing

Imagine how much easier your marketing and sales would be if you knew what specific companies to target and what content would best resonate with them. Perhaps that sounds interesting? We live in a world where inbound marketing (below Inbound) and account-based marketing (below ABM) exist. And, when these work together, desired results usually become a reality. It helps if you do not choose between the two; instead of thinking ABM vs Inbound, you shall execute both inbound and ABM. 

 

You may be familiar with Inbound — presenting content and functionality that provide answers, guidance, proof, and proactive suggestions.

You may also know a bit about ABM. ABM aligns marketing and sales by delivering a consistent, personalised buying experience for prospects. 

To get started, let's begin by defining the two and suggest actions around how to integrate these into your existing sales and marketing mix. 

What is account-based marketing?

ABM is an increasingly used tactic to achieve growth. You align marketing and sales to create a personalised experience for your target accounts, rather than for the individual. 

In ABM, you do not treat potential buyers as an individual entity; instead, you make sure that you plan how to market and sell to all of those potential buyers as one account.

You need to start with aligning sales and marketing to choose a select set of accounts. Then, mutually create a marketing and sales plan that targets each account. This saves time for both marketing and sales and delivers a way more consistent experience for the potential customers in each account.

Companies that are a good fit for using an ABM strategy are those that sell high-value products or services to other businesses, like most B2B-companies.

To align sales and marketing when using ABM encourages you to make more streamlined business decisions. The alignment is the prerequisite for eliminating friction. Also, it saves you time that you would spend trying to sort out the most relevant companies to target, and it speeds up the process of delighting potential customers. 

With ABM, you treat accounts as they were individuals, and you can delight the decision-makers with relevant and personalised content.

ABM is an increasingly preferred strategy for shortening sales cycles, to increase relevance, improve ROI, and to sell to your high-value targets and customers effectively — but how can it be comparable to inbound? 

ABM and Inbound 

ABM enables you to delight your high-value accounts with a focused approach. Inbound attracts customers through valuable and relevant content and functionality — and provides the target groups with what is important to them.

What ABM and Inbound have in common

Both ABM and Inbound requires a deep understanding of your target buyers and companies to inform what content you're creating and how you should deliver it. This increases discoverability and relevance for the target groups.

You can repurpose your content and use the same touchpoints for ABM as you've put into place with Inbound. Often, with ABM, you take that foundational content and personalise it.

Inbound and ABM both focus on delivering a great buying experience across the entire buying process. You shall use ABM to accelerate the inbound foundation you have in place. 

Additionally, ABM and Inbound focus on targeted, personalised content. ABM sharpens on delighting the right potential customers through content created to cater to their challenges, which is a vital function of inbound.

ABM and Inbound help you with the satisfaction and retention of your existing and potential customers. Because ABM focuses on a set of specific accounts, you will get more opportunity to focus on the satisfaction and retention of those customers, which is an essential part of Inbound.

You can also use ABM and Inbound in partnership to elevate your entire plan. Inbound helps you attract the right potential customers, and ABM uses marketing and sales to speed up the process and provide valuable customer experiences. And, both strategies enable you to gain an advantage in winning the desired target customers.

You must approach ABM, the inbound way: Provide valuable and relevant content, functionality, and customer experiences to those high-value companies.

Using ABM and Inbound together will help you to offer a more robust plan. And, the software you choose to support your efforts must allow you to experiment with the creation of campaigns that align with your desired business outcome.

How to do account-based marketing

To ensure that you keep potential customers at the centre of your ABM, you should stick to the principles. Make your ABM the centre around tailoring how and what you communicate with your target companies.

Below I describe the five primary steps to ABM that work with Inbound, and detail how you can manage ABM in a user-friendly way.

Identify

ABM begins with that sales and marketing must identify and select the relevant accounts to target. When the selection and segmentation process begins, data such as company size, annual revenue, locations, number of employees gives you an understanding of the prioritised accounts to target.

You could use your buyer personas to understand the main challenges and needs of your target customers. Then you determine content and touchpoints to approach the target customers.

Expand

When ABM is used in sales, the buying decisions are often made by numerous individuals within the company. ABM helps to establish a relationship with all potential buyers and engage them in their purchase decisions.

At this step, it is crucial to create unique, company-specific content that is interesting for each potential buyer within the targeted company. In the expand step, ensuring to identify and engage with everyone involved in this company's buying decision is crucial to winning a customer.

You must consider the fundamental challenges each of your stakeholders faces to create relevant and compelling content. For example, Finance may be focusing on price and payment terms. In contrast, Operations might focus on user accesses, security, and ease of use. In this context, you should create targeted content and provide possible interactions that match each individual's needs and challenges.

Engage

This is where marketing and sales join forces to engage with stakeholders across various channels. For example, if one of your stakeholders prefers email, then equipping salespeople to reach out to that person with a helpful and relevant message can get a conversation started. This step is mostly about developing relationships with and getting to know all the buyers who will make the final decision.

Advocate

Next, you want to nurture bonds with a few stakeholders who can serve as advocates within the organisation. The modern buyer can tune out information they don't want to hear. So, it's up to marketing and sales to provide value — and to talk about the product when and where it's necessary.

Measure

Reporting frequently at account level can give you data on what works – and what doesn't – to increase relevance over time. 

If you pick the right ABM software, you will be able to report on company revenue, growth, job titles, engagement, and more — on company level.

Get started with your account planning

If you're interested in learning more about account-based marketing, below is a template to get started with your account planning.

 Download the account planning template

Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about what and how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B. Asks a lot of questions, and knows what to do with the answers.
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