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5 min read

Account-based Marketing vs Inbound Marketing: Which Marketing Strategy is Best?

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There’s plenty of opinion around the advantages and disadvantages of account-based marketing (ABM) vs inbound marketing. But in reality you shouldn’t dismiss either approach – it makes far more sense to use the two in combination. Because both strategies are necessary if you want to grow your business predictably.


In this post we’ll look at what we mean by account-based marketing and inbound marketing. Then assess how they can work together to create a successful, unified marketing effort.

Inbound marketing: the foundation for ABM

Inbound marketing provides you with an initial point of contact with your potential customers. This ‘one to many’ approach is the first step in your efforts towards lead generation. By placing targeted content in the right places online, prospects are captured at the top of the sales funnel. Hopefully ready to be converted and fed into databases and CRMs.

To help make the concept of inbound marketing clear, we can use a fishing analogy:

Inbound marketing casts a wide ‘net’ to capture lots of ‘fishes’ (prospects). Marketers target company sectors or demographics they deem the most likely to buy their products and services with the aim of bringing in lots of relevant traffic. This is done via a combination of channels including organic SEO, social media and paid advertising.

If done correctly, this traffic will comprise a broad fit of companies ready to convert into leads. As a rough guide, a benchmark rate of conversion for a landing page is, according to IMPACT

“Around 2.35%. The top 25% sites are converting at 5.3% and above, while the top 10% are looking at 11.45% and above”

However your rate of conversion will depend on your industry, product or service and target audience.

Leads are then generally handed to sales to convert into customers. Then it’s a case of providing the customer with an optimum experience – with the aim of turning them into advocates.

What is account-based marketing?

Account-based marketing (ABM) in contrast to inbound marketing, focuses singularly on key accounts in an attempt to build a relationship with them. It is a highly personalised strategy that treats customers or clients like a ‘market of one’.

To use the fishing analogy again ABM is like fishing with a ‘spear’ rather than a ‘net’. The aim is to connect with high net worth customers on a 1 to 1 basis. The accounts targeted will likely come from the top 10% of potentially high revenue accounts in your CRM. These are the ‘dream accounts’ to win – in landing them you will significantly add to your bottom line.

"Develop a "good fit" matrix by analysing your current database of customers and ask yourself who generates the most revenue."
                                                                           - AskDME Power tip

ABM relies on inbound marketing

Implementation of a successful account-based marketing strategy relies on the heavy work done by inbound marketing. ABM can only kick in once lead generation has taken place.

Before you implement an ABM strategy, you must address the basics:

● Find a technology vendor ( it’s essential that you can work with and extract valuable data)
● Align marketing with sales and make sure senior execs are on board
● Select high-value accounts
● Carry out intensive research so you can identify tone of voice and channels
● Create content that aligns with the appropriate touch points on your target account’s buyer journey.

Via systems like HubSpot and Engagio you can start understanding your buyer personas in detail. Once the appropriate mature buyer personas are identified both sales and marketing should now work together to convert these key decision makers. Sales and marketing should ‘hang out’ where key stakeholders do e.g. on LinkedIn, Twitter etc.

Using tools including LinkedIn Insights you can monitor content and track conversations in a target account’s company and industry. In that way you can find out if they’re experiencing problems with a competitor. If you successfully promote yourself as an authority and trusted figure you stand a good chance that they will come across to you.

Get you business ahead of your competition by embracing ABM

Although ABM offers such targeted growth opportunities and high return on investment. B2B business is slow to pick up on it, either remaining firmly entrenched in their traditional outbound approaches or still coming to terms with inbound marketing. This presents a huge opportunity for those businesses who spend the time to plan out and execute an ABM strategy. According to October 2019 research by ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance

“Most B2B’s have not implemented a mature ABM program where they can drive strategic growth”

This is despite the fact that marketers agree that ABM outweighs inbound marketing in terms of the revenues generated. 88% claim to have seen an improvement in conversion rates.


The key takeaway when it comes to account-based marketing vs inbound marketing is to realise that each strategy compliments the other. You need a good solid inbound strategy to underpin your lead generation efforts and a focused ABM strategy to target key high-profit accounts.

Inbound marketing provides a funnel full of leads from which to pinpoint target ABM accounts.

ABM can then take up the baton and (via close collaboration with sales and marketing) work towards bringing about the highest rates of ROI from those accounts.

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