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Inbound vs. ABM: A Deep Dive into Best Practice

inbound vs abm - inbound marketing digital image

Content marketing strategy is a key component of business success. When it comes to content strategy, both inbound marketing and account-based marketing (ABM) come into play. 

When creating a strategy for the upcoming quarter, there’s usually a choice between the two approaches. Inbound focuses on semi-fictional personas as a target audience, with the intention of guiding the reader through a three-part flywheel. ABM, meanwhile, involves a focus on specific accounts or prospects, with content and strategy personalized to meet the needs of that prospect.  When it comes to the benefits of inbound marketing and ABM, the best results come from incorporating both into your future marketing strategy. 

Inbound Marketing: Attract with Relatable Content

Inbound marketing strategy prioritizes content and presents your company as a thought leader. 

With attracting, converting, and delighting customers as the goal, inbound marketing begins with a carefully designed a content calendar. Posts are formulated to generate interest in readers based on a buyer persona, rather than a target account or business.  A buyer persona is created based on the company’s current clients and represents a somewhat fictional employee that fits the desired criteria for ideal working relationships with other companies. 

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These readers become leads by reading the content and then become qualified leads as they connect with the company behind it. Those leads begin considering solutions and become opportunities - and then customers - when their decision is made. 

From there, the process of fine-tuning these connections is approached differently. Typically, prospects are handed off to the sales department once they become leads. 

Meanwhile, ABM marketing begins with a focus on specific accounts. 

inbound vs abm - funnel

ABM streamlines content to provide value to specific accounts that helps guide them down the sales funnel. The decision to focus on specific accounts and provide resolution to their pain points usually means a shorter period spent in the funnel. 

The inbound approach builds awareness, creates interest, and attracts and nurtures leads. Further, the inbound approach aims to promote consideration of a product and ultimately drive leads to purchase. In other words, inbound marketing: 

  • Puts useful content out there 
  • Draws in potential customers 
  • Collects information on potential leads 

Account-Based Marketing: Finetune the Focus

Account-based marketing pros and cons can be summarized simply: ABM focuses on specific accounts familiar to the company

The process involves a highly targeted growth strategy and prioritizes strategic collaboration between marketing and sales departments. A consistent and personalized buying experience for specific accounts can be a valuable use of time and resources or it can be ineffective if the effort does not produce the desired results. The funnel for ABM begins with target prospects and an effort to attract similar accounts. It advances to the engagement of those groups and nurturing any current relationships, and (ideally) ends with a sale and a new brand advocate. 

ABM reduces some of the delay that is required to see ROI from SEO and content marketing strategies. It also accelerates the period between identification and delight for prospects, facilitating streamlined business decisions from those targeted accounts. 

ABM vs. Inbound: Cohesion Over Competition

Inbound and ABM are less competitive than potential collaborative techniques despite different marketing strategies. Rather than considering the benefits of account-based marketing vs inbound marketing, the most productive approach is to incorporate both to reach your goals. 

When it comes to audiences, inbound marketing has a bigger target, with content written for a specific persona. ABM, however, focuses on specific client accounts. This allows for a more streamlined strategy and a more immediate assessment of ROI. However, it also requires a deep understanding of the buyer. 

With inbound focused on content creation, social media, and SEO, the process involves less human interaction, more upfront work, and sometimes lengthy waiting periods for results. 

At the opposing end of the spectrum, ABM utilizes more time from employees, with an emphasis on more direct interactions. It also requires collaboration across departments and additional time and effort. 

ABM takes foundational content (created to optimize search presence as part of inbound) and further personalizes it. This can be beneficial for companies that operate based on the Pareto Principle and see 80% of their profit from 20% of their client list. ABM means higher profitability in those scenarios. 

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Resource: Learn more about Inbound Marketing Strategies by reading 25 Ways to Increase Brand Awareness with Inbound Marketing.

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ABM + Inbound Marketing | Better Together

Both ABM and inbound marketing strategies are focused on targeted, personalized content. However, optimization of both methods involves approaching ABM via an Inbound strategy. ABM provides the catalyst to accelerate the flywheel but only after a strong inbound foundation is in place. 

ABM prioritizes delighting the right customers through very personalized content - which is specifically created to address a prospect’s pain points. This content can be created through inbound marketing strategy, which also works to address pain points but with a more general audience in mind. 

It’s important to recognize that both approaches focus on delivering a great experience across the entire flywheel. Also, both enable your company to win target accounts, though inbound marketing results take longer. ABM works on a shorter timetable. 

When evaluating account-based marketing vs. inbound marketing, remember the two methods used together can be considered a successful way of moving leads through the funnel in a more timely manner. 

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