In the past, B2B marketers have used separate inbound and outbound marketing strategies to reach different audiences and achieve goals through specific tactics. Today’s robust suite of tech tools and platforms, such as LinkedIn and programmatic advertising, has allowed marketers to evolve traditional outbound marketing methods, such as cold calling, into carefully curated account-based approaches.
As we routinely step back to reassess our marketing and sales processes to improve opportunities, we find that inbound marketing and account-based marketing offer incredible potential as complementary tactics that work towards a common goal. These traditional strategies are two of the trending tactics that B2B marketers are currently using, and combining them can result in even more impactful marketing.
Discover the differences between inbound and account-based marketing and how to combine them for superior results.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing takes a broad approach to generate leads and sales, attracting as many customers as possible through high-quality content and experiences that are intuitive, valuable, and tailored to the user’s needs. Inbound marketing content revolves around the buyer’s journey. It answers peoples’ questions at every stage, including awareness, consideration, and decision, making your company their trusted source for information, and, hopefully, their chosen partner.
Examples of Inbound Marketing
This content includes blogs, articles, eBooks, webinars, podcasts, infographics, and videos that establish thought leadership in your industry and ultimately convert prospects into customers.
What is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-based marketing (ABM) has a much tighter focus than inbound. ABM campaigns are carefully targeted and thoroughly planned growth strategies where marketing and sales teams work together to develop customized, streamlined experiences for individual accounts. With this strategy, marketing and sales have a plan that describes the entire journey, from prospect to purchase, for a specific type of buyer.
The main benefit is that you do all the work sorting out the most valuable accounts upfront, allowing marketing and sales to create highly optimized and streamlined processes that speed up the buyer’s journey for those accounts. The success of an ABM campaign is highly dependent on the markets and audiences in question and is especially effective in high-value B2B sales journeys.
Examples of Account-Based Marketing
There are several tactics marketers use when it comes to ABM campaigns. These highly-focused strategies need to emphasize personalized content sent to specific high-value groups or individuals. Here are a few of the most common and effective ABM approaches:
Personalized Email Campaigns
Targeted emails are often highly effective but require a certain finesse, requiring personalization without coming off as intrusive and keeping things conversational, relevant, and to the point.
Social Media Ads
Targeted ads on platforms like LinkedIn can deliver advertising tailored to a specific audience, increasing the likelihood of interaction and raising awareness with a potential high-value prospect.
Personalized Content and Landing Pages
Creating content and landing pages designed specifically to resonate with high-value audiences increases the appeal and helps boost engagement.
What’s the Difference Between ABM and Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing relies on a broad approach, typically higher quality leads, whereas account-based marketing is more focused on ideal target personas, targeting a limited audience through personalization. Subsequently, the interactions between sales and marketing and the metrics you’ll use to determine success will be different with ABM.
Audience and Approach
Inbound marketing strategies are geared toward a broad target audience, grabbing as many prospects as possible by casting a wide net with exciting and informative content. ABM focuses on specific high-value audiences, delivering personalized messages and content your ideal customer finds most interesting.
Synergy Between Marketing and Sales
Inbound marketing requires a general understanding of your audience and provides sales teams with potential leads without requiring much input from them. On the other hand, ABM relies on data acquired by sales teams to identify high-value audiences and tailor content to their interests, requiring more collaboration between sales and marketing.
While inbound marketing metrics focus on conversions, leads, and revenue, the individualized approach to ABM requires looking at engagement, clickthrough, and open rates to measure campaign success.
Can Inbound Marketing and ABM be Used Together?
With inbound marketing, you aim to grab as much attention as possible through quality content, develop brand recognition and loyalty, and generate more leads. With ABM, we’re creating a focused sales and marketing process designed to take a specific type of customer through a highly streamlined sales journey from beginning to end. So, what do they have in common, and how do we combine them?
Inbound marketing and ABM both depend on a genuine understanding of your target audience. All the data that inform your buyer personas, keywords, content topics, channels of communication, and how you evolve your products, services, and capabilities to meet the changing needs of your buyers are foundational to each.
They both take a highly thoughtful approach to the customer experience – one that revolves around expertise and a humanized business partnership with highly targeted content. By developing content that works with both strategies, you can cast a wide net that generates brand awareness and leads while also offering value to your ABM clients who may need greater convincing. When you run both inbound and ABM strategies, you can double dip on all the content, resources, and customer experiences you create, delivering more value for the time and money you invest into your marketing plan.
Another way inbound marketing and ABM pair well is in the ability to leverage your efforts in attracting customers (SEO, content, keyword research) to help quickly identify and transition those key B2B clients to a more curated, account-based approach. This method can dramatically speed up the sales process for those extra-valuable accounts, compared to relying entirely on an organic inbound process.
Develop, Launch, and Manage Your Hybrid ABM and Inbound Marketing Strategy
The first step in implementing a combined strategy that includes ABM and inbound marketing is to create a clear picture of your customer base and the best ways to reach them.
- Think about your ideal clients – the ones you’d do almost anything to grab their attention and land a deal. Keep this list short and specific.
- Next, list all the accounts that fit that ideal client profile and include specific company details and contacts.
- Finally, create another list that explores the attributes, behaviors, and commonalities within your target audience.
With these separate lists clearly defined, marketing and sales can easily collaborate to generate compelling content and messaging informed by each group. Analyzing your ABM clients in list one provides clear insights into the unique needs and pain points of business leaders and stakeholders, helping marketers refine their content and language and develop more effective marketing and sales materials, attracting attention and generating leads from the third group. In short, the in-depth information gained from an ABM campaign can be invested right back into inbound strategies.
Determining Which Marketing Approach is Right For You
Choosing between inbound marketing, ABM, or a combination of the two can be difficult. And all three options have their benefits. Some companies may find that one works better for them, however. For example, large companies with the potential for thousands of customers or a wide array of offerings may benefit from inbound marketing more than ABM. On the other hand, smaller businesses, specialized businesses with custom offerings, or those looking to increase customer retention rather than lead generation may benefit more from ABM. And when you want to improve your client relationships while also growing leads, combining these tactics is ideal.
Inbound marketing and ABM aren’t the only effective strategies at your disposal, though. Download our latest B2B Marketing Mix Report to learn more about where marketers invest their dollars, review data on the top reported B2B marketing objectives and tactics, and gain insight into delivering superior customer engagement through social media.
And if you’re still unsure whether inbound marketing, ABM, or a combination of the two will work best for your business, Sagefrog can help. Get in touch with our team of expert marketers!