The New Approach to Integrated Marketing: Inbound + ABM

In the past, B2B marketers have used separate inbound and outbound marketing strategies to reach different audiences and achieve goals through specific sets of 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 approaches to the marketing and sales processes for opportunities to improve, we’re finding that inbound and ABM actually offer incredible potential as complementary tactics that work towards a common goal. The 2021 B2B Marketing Mix Report shows that not only are these two traditional and traditionally separate strategies still being used, but they’re also being combined to even greater effect.

In this blog, we’re looking at the differences between inbound marketing and account-based marketing and how the two can be combined for superior results than either could achieve alone.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing takes a broad approach to generating leads and sales, focusing on 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 at decision time.

This content includes blogs, articles, eBooks, webinars, podcasts, infographics, and videos that exist to demonstrate your industry knowledge and expertise behind your brand to ultimately convert people into customers.

SEO and digital advertising play major roles in the overall effectiveness of an inbound marketing campaign, as the competition in areas like SERP standings, Google Snippets, and Google Ads is fierce.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing (ABM) has a much tighter focus than inbound. ABM campaigns are carefully targeted, 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 sale, for a specific type of buyer account.

The main benefit is that all the work of sorting out which accounts are the most valuable to you is done 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.

Combining Inbound and ABM

With inbound marketing, we’re hoping 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 account through a highly streamlined sales journey from beginning to end. So, what do they have in common, and how do we combine them?

Inbound and ABM both depend on a genuine understanding of your target audience. All the research that informs 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 also 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 a greater level of convincing. When you run both inbound and ABM strategies side by side, 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 easily 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 both ABM and inbound is to put together a clear picture of your customer base and the best ways to reach them.

  • Think about your ideal clients – the ones who you would do just about anything to grab the attention of and land a deal. Keep this list short and specific.
  • Next, create a list of 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 that fuels 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, which also attract attention and generate leads from the third group. In short, the in-depth information that can be gained from an ABM campaign can be invested right back into inbound strategies.

Inbound and ABM aren’t the only strategies in play for next year, though. Grab your copy of The 2021 B2B Marketing Mix Report and learn more about where marketers are investing their dollars, review data on the top reported B2B marketing objectives and tactics, and gain insight into delivering superior customer engagement through social media.


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