There’s a common misconception in marketing that you can only use one strategy at a time, but in reality, a comprehensive demand generation strategy includes a large variety of tactics and strategies working together.
Inbound marketing and account-based marketing (ABM) in particular are often seen as at odds, since ABM is typically classified as an outbound approach, but ABM can be done in an inbound way.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a strategy that focuses on attracting, engaging and delighting high-fit prospective customers through means of contextually-relevant and personalized content.
Inbound tactics include:
- Organic search
- Email marketing
- Blogging and content marketing
- Social media
- Highly targeted pay-per-clicks ads
Inbound focuses on attracting individuals at a company and then getting buy-in from the rest of the company through those individuals.
The inbound methodology rose to popularity in the early 2010s and has gotten more sophisticated with the evolution of technology. Data analytics tools and smart content have allowed for increasingly customized buyer experiences well before leads are passed to sales.
What is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-based marketing (ABM) flips the inbound approach and targets specific companies instead. You might have specific contacts in mind, but the initial point of contact is less specific with an ABM approach since the main goal is to make progress converting the company itself.
Sometimes ABM is written off as costly and hard to measure ROI for because it’s associated with tactics like sending gifts by direct mail. However, effective ABM is done in a much more targeted manner.
ABM tactics include:
- Direct mail
- Custom audiences & retargeting
- Pay-per-click ads running through ABM tools like Terminus
- Smart content on your website & emails
- Custom messaging
- Direct interactions on social media
- Social selling
- Mentioning and linking to target accounts in your content
- Events marketing
ABM efforts are typically done by BDRs and sales reps since they’re one-to-one communications as opposed to the one-to-many communications sent out by marketers.
Taking an Inbound Approach to Your Account-Based Strategy
If your version of ABM involves sending random gifts to businesses without fully looking into how much they can benefit from your offer, then it is at odds with inbound marketing. However, ABM can be done in a personalized, contextually-relevant, timely way that aligns with the inbound methodology. The two strategies can complement each other well and coexist. It’s doesn’t have to be a choose one or the other, account based marketing vs inbound marketing, situation.
While you technically are sourcing leads in an outbound way, identifying target accounts is different than buying an email list. You’re narrowing your search by industry, company size, location and other factors so you’re only reaching out to companies that can benefit from your product or service.
A core tenet of the inbound methodology is to add value before you extract value, and as long as your ABM efforts are guided by that tenet, you can do ABM in an inbound way.
Additionally, ABM can be incorporated into your inbound efforts too. For example, when working on blog posts, you can use target accounts as examples and then link to them. Then on social, you can tag the company when you promote the blog and use it as a starting point to build rapport.
The “best” marketing strategy for your business is one that contains a healthy mix of tactics that complement each other. Utilizing multiple tactics also decreases risk for you because if one tactic decreases its effectivity, the other tactics can compensate.
The bottom line is that ABM can be personalized and contextually-relevant and inbound marketing can be specifically targeted to individual accounts. Each strategy is more effective when they’re used together.