5 Common Questions about Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Inbound Marketing

Cecilia Bylund • 14 Jun, 2021

Inbound ABM

In this blog post, we have gathered 5 of the most common questions we get asked around ABM right now. 

1. What is ABM? 

In simple words, ABM is a growth strategy to target high-value companies with relevant content across the right channels. It works by aligning marketing and sales functions to create a personalised experience for target accounts – rather than an individual buyer. Instead of treating each of those buyers as an individual entity, ABM is a strategy that says, "Let's make sure we plan how to market and sell to all of those buyers as one account." 

Customers want to feel important and recognized by brands, and it is exactly why strategies like ABM and personalisation are so effective. Instead of having a list of 400 companies with the same message for a client, we tailor a message for each specific account or several accounts within the same area of business. 

By treating each account individually, the account-based marketing activity can be targeted more accurately to address the audience and is more likely to be considered relevant than untargeted direct marketing activity. It brings Sales and Marketing together as one focused force, using precision and personalisation to target key accounts. For ABM to succeed, a joint working relationship with sales is essential and marketing needs to be measuring and optimizing based on accounts. ABM is a strategy that directs marketing resources to engaging a specific set of target accounts. 

Since you probably are more familiar with inbound, let’s go with the short definition. To learn more about the inbound methodology, check out this blog. The definition of inbound, according to HubSpot is:  

“Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.”

2. What is the difference between Inbound and ABM?

The main difference between ABM and inbound, is that ABM takes the traditional marketing funnel and flips it on its head. Rather than launching a broad campaign targeted to many, ABM targets a specific company. To generalise, you can say that inbound marketing is beneficial for companies in a wide market with a broad range of personas, and ABM works well if your company sells to a more niche market. You can also say that ABM is a strategy, and inbound is more of an approach or tactic. 

The sales funnel 

The two approaches have opposite sales funnels. While the inbound practices start by addressing large audiences and personas. The ABM strategies begin with a clear focus on a set of customer accounts.  

The outcomes 

With the Inbound strategy the quality of the customers might be lower than what you’ve aimed for. You usually get many leads to a low cost. But with ABM, you usually obtain the exact results you are looking for since you are marketing to a specific customer. If we get a lead on a target account, it will be such a great fit meaning we can be less strict in the title of the lead. Also, you can expect the cost per lead to be much higher in your ABM campaigns.  

Collaboration across departments 

While the inbound marketing strategy is created within the marketing department, ABM tactics require a collaboration across all the company’s departments, leveraging all their tools to enhance the highest level of engagement. 

The ROI 

ABM campaigns should have the specific goal of finding, connecting, or engaging to a certain number of contacts per account. For inbound, the goal is normally to get a certain number of MQLs/SQLs from unspecified accounts.  

In comparison with an inbound marketing approach, the ROI of an ABM campaign can be measured easily due to the clear outcomes resulting in sales, closed deals and revenues in your target accounts. The ROI of an inbound campaign can be tricky to measure, and usually it’s a lot of focus on lead gen and SQLs/MQLs.  

Channels  

For ABM, you use multiple channels to come through with your message. The target group is smaller, so one channel is not enough. With inbound, you use fewer channels.  

Insights 

Finally, ABM campaigns need to be built with more account insights because you have such a niche account list. You can be a lot more relevant and use more account insights than for a traditional inbound campaign, where you mainly use persona insights that are usually quite broad.  

3. Should you choose between Inbound and ABM?  

We get asked this a lot. Even if Inbound and ABM are two different things, you don’t have to choose. ABM and Inbound don’t have to be exclusive, you can combine them. In fact, combining the two methods can often yield powerful results. One way of seeing it is to view ABM as a strategy, and inbound as a tactic or approach. 

For example, if you have 300 companies as your target companies, where your company has an overall ABM strategy. You can start to segment accounts depending on how important they are. Let’s say 20 accounts are high priority (for a lot of companies 80% of the revenue comes from 20 accounts). Then you can do ABM one-to-one initiatives for these accounts. For the rest of the accounts, you can do a traditional inbound campaign. ABM and inbound can complement each other. 

As a side note, no matter what campaign you run, it’s hard to make them so good that you only need one strategy. You should always test and do multiple types. If you only do one campaign, it’s hard to understand if it’s working if you have nothing to compare it with.  

Another question you should ask yourself, if you have started with ABM is if you really are doing an ABM campaign or if it is just a niched inbound campaign.  Many of our clients think they are doing ABM, but really, they are just doing two different inbound campaigns.  

4. How do you succeed with ABM? 

There are several factors that will determine your ABM success. We have listed the most important. 

Investment 

ABM involves at least sales and marketing, (but preferably all your departments should be engaged). It takes a lot of resources and budget, and you must be prepared that the investment will be big if you want to succeed. The fewer accounts you have, the bigger your investment will be. You need to plan for this investment, and you should not be surprised about the costs 3 months into an ABM project.  

We are sorry to break it to you, but ABM is pretty much about re-inventing the wheel for all your target accounts.

Start with the sales side   

When you have the budget in control, you should start with the sales side of ABM before marketing begins. You should start with the account research phase and understand the account’s buying process. How can you enter these accounts? How should you reach the decision maker? Is it via an influencer, what role does the influencer have? And of course, you need different strategies depending on if your goal is to expand an existing account or acquire a new account.  

What about content?  

Your ABM content strategy is dependent on your target accounts and your capacity. Ideally, you would create content for a specific persona at a specific target account (like an IT manager at IKEA). But realistically it’s too time consuming. You should prioritize writing content for your buyer persona, then you will be able to group them together with similar personas at another target account and then you can create content for smaller segments.  

For some of your accounts, it might be worth having a one-to-one strategy where you map out the most relevant persona at a specific account and create content for that specific group.  

We also get asked the question if you should gate or not gate your content, we would say that if your primary goal is to expand within existing accounts, you don’t have to worry about gating all your content. But you should keep in mind that even if you gate or don’t gate your content, you will need a conversion point and not only “free trial” or “contact us here”, otherwise your lead generation engine will suffer. 

5. Can you give some ABM activity examples?

An ABM activity can be extremely different depending on budget, need and target group. There are thousands of ideas of what you can do. Everything from sending a cake with your dream account’s target persona’s favourite pet printed, to ordering an orchestra and make them perform outside someone’s office.  
 
But we have listed some of the activities that we have seen giving ROI in an ABM campaign. A bit boring compared to the orchestra, but boring can also be effective.   

  • Account mapping
    If you want more clients or want to expand within existing accounts. This will give you a better understanding of your target accounts and market. The most effective way to do account mapping is by telemarketing. This is a great activity to kick off an ABM campaign.  

  • Social selling
    Social selling is when your salespeople use social media to find and engage with potential leads. They can provide value to leads by sharing helpful content for the entire buying process until a lead is ready to buy. With social selling, your sales team can deliver their social presence to drive awareness and convert top prospects into customers. Make sure to invest time in making one or more influencers! 

  • Lead generation
    Lead generation activities are an important part of your ABM campaign. This includes content creation such as: blog posts, case studies, eBooks, survey reports, infographics, videos, etc. You can also do webinars, events, courses, and education. 
  • Pillar pages
    Pillar pages are micro webpages that can gather all your content assets for one campaign. Here you can collect links to your eBook, webinar, case study and blog post. A pillar page is also very effective for a retargeting purpose.   
  • MQL conversion campaigns
    Here you can do longer nurture flows and sequences that are segmented for certain personas on certain accounts.  

  • LinkedIn ads
    Our absolute favourite advertisement tool for ABM is LinkedIn. The targeting options you have here are unique, and even if it is expensive, it will most likely provide ROI. One problem can be that your target group must be larger than 300 contacts, and if you want to do one-to-one advertisement to an account in one specific country, it might be tricky to get your target groups in order. One tip is to work with company name and job function, instead of titles, that way your target group will be bigger. 
     

If you want to learn more about ABM or inbound, we are happy to discuss! Book a meeting with us here.  

 

Recent Posts

Want to know more? Get in touch!