October 2nd, 2017

Inbound Marketing vs Account Based Marketing – Which is Best?

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

Account based marketing (ABM) is really picking up traction right now in the digital marketing sphere. It’s a buzzword in the inbound marketing world and some are arguing it is the “new inbound.” Those folks would argue that focusing marketing energy on specific accounts has more value than on casting a wide net of attraction and nurturing down a sales funnel.

So which is right for you? Which do we suggest? Let’s dive in and find out.

What is Account Based Marketing?

So to step back, what is account based marketing, and is it more effective than an inbound strategy – especially for B2B businesses? Engagio, an ABM marketing software calls it “a strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.”

This makes a lot of sense if you have limited time or money budgets and you’re working in a B2B scenario where you can find targets to go after. But is this really “the next big thing?” Sales people have been doing this for a long time, and this is simply having marketing behave in a similar fashion to sales.

The argument they make is that aligning sales and marketing closer creates better content that is specific to the account you’re seeking to sell to.

How Does it Differ from Inbound?

Inbound marketing, as many of us know, is a more generalized marketing strategy. Instead of speaking directly to a specific account or opportunity we want to go after, it focuses on an archetype or persona.

For example, if you’re a web design agency you might target marketing managers or business owners to your website through content. You may develop multiple personas based on your experiences in the past. Your goal through content is to first attract those businesses. Your content is just custom enough to speak to a wide array of audiences. The difference between that and account based is pretty vast at that point.

You may be attracting a wide audience, and many of the visitors would be unqualified to work with you. However, in ABM, you’re going to only be targeting companies that you want to work with. The content you create will be specific to them and their needs. Your traffic will be lower, but the quality of your leads would be higher.

In the below image it shows the difference in the marketing funnel between Inbound and and Account Based Marketing.

account based marketing funnel

Which One is Best?

If you have a lot of time or budget, the answer is pretty simple, and that is – both. Creating targeted content is always a great idea, but it’s of course time consuming. If you don’t have the budget to do both areas, you have to look at the cost of an acquisition, and what the acquisition’s value is. This will help you determine whether it’s more beneficial to bring in a lot of leads and weed them out through automation and pre-qualification, or to target and market to fewer larger leads.

If your conversion cost is high and it’s eating into your profitability, perhaps it’s time to look into ABM as an alternative method of attracting your next business. You may find that it’s more profitable to find one or two really good clients, than it is 10 of them that aren’t as profitable.

On the flip side, if it isn’t costly to generate leads, casting a wider net to increase your traffic at the attraction stage stands a greater chance of increasing your conversion quantities and making the campaign more profitable for you.

There’s no silver bullet to the perfect sales and marketing strategy. Jumping on a band wagon or trend isn’t always the path to success. Instead, look at your sales history, how did you get your best customers? Then, try to replicate that success in other marketing efforts. Chances are pretty good you’ll be on your way to continued sales growth.

Related Articles