The loudest voice in the marketing stratosphere is usually the marketing software vendors. Unfortunately that means a lot of brain cells are often spent on solving a problem that isn’t the most important problem for you, the marketer, to solve.
To witness - the debate on Inbound Marketing vs. Account Based Marketing, or some variation thereof. The HubSpot team literally wrote the book on Inbound Marketing and since then has positioned outbound as the antagonist (or at the very least, a non-performer). This 23 Reasons Inbound Marketing Trumps Outbound Marketing lays out their position, originally published in October 2011.
Engagio has since come along with their Account Based Everything positioning, which is basically: it’s all about aligning around the customer, but it’s more than just marketing it’s about all departments and functions (hence, the “Everything”). The Engagio team, which is the best & brightest from Marketo, have not been shy about knocking Inbound Marketing towards the betterment of ABE or ABM.
You’ll see the phrase “Drunk on Inbound Marketing” suggesting Inbound Marketing is not effective or poorly applied and misused as part of the case for Engagio, in outlets such as Ray Carroll’s “why I joined Engagio” piece to Jon Miller’s talk at B2B MarketingProfs last year.
I have massive respect for Jon & Ray, so this is merely included as background example of the “us vs. them” that has creeped into the Inbound & ABM conversation at times, no knock on them.
I’m here to not only advocate for ABM + Inbound together, as an integrated marketing approach, but bringing five specific ways you can use ABM + Inbound together.
Let’s start by acknowledging that there is a ton of overlap in the fundamentals you need to get right to be successful with inbound marketing or account-based marketing. In both cases your foundation requires:
A tight definition of target audience / persona
An in-depth understanding of how customers’ buy
High quality, relevant content
Close alignment with sales
Significant commitment, to drive sustainable growth
Let’s also debunk the myth that it’s either-or. Because even if the heyday of the Inbound movement, HubSpot still had outbound in their mix. I mean, c’mon, they cold called me on my cell phone in October 2014! Which led me to say this.
I realize that's a little mean but scroll up and remember they built a business on "Outbound" being the bad guy. But it's still part of their marketing mix.
I'm a HUGE fan of HubSpot - both the company and the product - so my Tweet from 2014 was more a reaction to outbound tactic being in conflict with everything they were positioning at the time that inbound was the only marketing strategy.
And if you still aren’t convinced that it's not Inbound or Outbound or ABM only -- it's Integrated -- just search “Outbound Sales Manager” “HubSpot” on LinkedIn.
Yes they had/have one. Good guy too.
So now that we know that Inbound and ABM have a ton in common, and that they aren’t polar opposites never to be mixed, let’s get to it - 5 Ways to get Inbound & Account Based Marketing Working Together.
#1 - Use account-based insights to feed your content strategy
Any criticism of Inbound marketing is rooted in companies misapplying the strategy. If your content is aligned to issues your buyers care about and how you ultimately help them solve those problems, then the buyer interest generated from inbound marketing will be effective.
Companies should develop content that is aligned to target accounts - their problems, challenges and buying questions.
For larger companies, this means that the content team needs to work closely with the account based marketing owner and/or sales team. Interview customers and sales reps to gather this insight. If they are part of the input process for content strategy, then by definition the content produced will be more likely to be utilized with target accounts and in attracting attention from those accounts and similar accounts.
Don’t be this content team (cartoon credit to the great Marketoonist Tom Fishburne).
#2 - Deliver inbound insights to sales reps for target accounts
The simplest thing ever is a natural bridge from inbound to ABM. If you have target accounts engaging on your website, let your sales reps or SDRs who own those accounts know about it.
There have been tools to identify accounts on your website for over a decade - LeadLander was founded in 2004.
There’s a slight tweak though to make this something that will help sales: remove the noise.
However you choose to provide this intelligence to sales - and there are a slew of options from email alerts, to reports, to custom applications - don’t include “general interest” engagement. If a prospect is on your website reading an educational blog, categorize that differently (more of an FYI).
For the real good stuff for sales, identify web pages that align to some level of purchase intent - they are looking at topic XYZ, which probably means they are in the early stages of something brewing at the organization.
If you keep this insight focussed, it will maintain high credibility, and you’ll help motivate the sales team on how to engage in those accounts.
Plus, if the sales team has been proactively prospecting to the account, it will be both satisfying and motivating to them to know that something is going on “on the other side”. And they can tailor their next steps based on topics of interest expressed by the prospects.
#3 - Leverage ABM techniques for inbound follow-up
Taking this one step further, the tactics often associated with ABM (outreach via email, phone, direct mail, online advertising) can be coupled with the identification of accounts engaging on your website through an initial inbound touch.
For website visitors, you can identify the account of that visitor (even if they have been an ‘anonymous’ visitor), and then identify specific contacts aligned to your persona using skills or titles (and informed by the topics of content they viewed).
You can then orchestrate retargeting and outreach aligned to the initial content topics they have consumed.
If you are asking - what’s the difference between this and traditional “remarketing”? Remarketing is limited only to that specific individual and their cookied web browser. This technique would retarget the entire account, based on your ABM strategy of role-based content, and use multiple integrated marketing channels. Because when it comes to driving results - multi channel touches absolutely matter. The more your prospect sees you, the more of an impression, literally, you will make.
#4 - Use ABM to “Ignite Inbound”
Another misnomer of inbound marketing is that it came with a “if you build it, they will come mantra”. Part of inbound marketing or content marketing is engaging with influencers and social media to promote and amplify your content.
I take that one step further to leverage target account advertising to drive engagement to your content.
I view entertaining and relevant advertising, linked to quality content as an extension of inbound marketing. It’s helpful to your buyer if it’s well targeted and contextual. Here’s an example of a Bedrock Data targeted ad (companies with traditionally challenging marketing automation & CRM integration pairings) linking to an interview with a subject expert.
#5 - Sales Enablement for using inbound content in 1:1 account development
Tying it all together by going back to #1, if produced the right way, then the same content you produce for inbound (not all of it, but a sub-set, and individual elements) should be useful for your sales team. Enable sales people to use the content (which remember, they had input in the topics for relevance to prospect) so it can be used on a 1:1 basis for account targeting, people map expansion & opportunity development.
An example of this may be a customer interview snippet where a customer speaks to a specific approach they took to solve a problem, with universal insight. Maybe it’s a video clip, maybe it’s an audio clip, maybe it’s just a call out quote on a graphic. These kind of assets can be leveraged by salespeople in an account targeted approach, just as they are used to provide educational, not product specific content to fuel inbound marketing and SEO.
This is where you get immediate payback on Inbound Marketing.
Interested in this topic?
I recently spoke on this at an Engagio user group and will be discussing live at a HubSpot user group on November 28. Missed it? - Check out the recap here.
Let’s talk about these and other ideas, and how to incorporate both Inbound & ABM in your integrated marketing.