Inbound marketing was once the crown jewel of all the marketing initiatives you could run, but times are finally changing.
Setting up and perfecting an ABM program is the second greatest priority for B2B marketers in general right now, and that puts it many steps ahead of the inbound programs we now take for granted.
So if ABM is the next big thing, surely it’s here to replace the old ways entirely, right?
ABM is a formidable tool in the hands of a competent marketer, but that doesn’t make inbound marketing any less useful.
The real secret is that it doesn’t have to be a competition.
Inbound marketing and ABM can and should co-exist in the scope of the same marketing department.
They each excel at different things and serve entirely different purposes, and learning to synergize the two can make your company’s sales strategies twice as strong.
Inbound Marketing and ABM: What’s the Difference?
Both inbound marketing and ABM are common techniques that many people still have trouble defining in exact terms. Because of this, it can be hard to figure out what sets them apart from each other.
While there are some similarities between the two techniques, a closer look reveals that they really aren’t much alike after all.
- Pulls contact data from the pool of potential customers in the market.
- Gets leads to come to you.
- Must appeal to a broad range of potential customers.
- Focuses mainly on quantity.
- Lets your content do most of the selling for you.
- Works as a general-purpose tactic.
In contrast, ABM:
- Uses contact data you already have.
- Requires you to reach out to your leads.
- Is aimed specifically at one single potential customer.
- Focuses mainly on quality.
- Requires a lot of active input from marketers and salespeople.
- Is a selective technique that you should only use on your best prospects.
In other words, they are in many ways the exact opposite of each other – they require different set-up tactics and accomplish different goals.
Where they do come together philosophically is in the way that they both prioritize giving your leads something to latch onto that is relevant and valuable to them.
The two techniques both aim to please, they just do it in ways that target opposite ends of the market.
Why They’re Better Together
Now that we’ve established that ABM and inbound marketing are not inherently working against each other, it’s time to examine what they can do when they’re paired together.
In the hands of a skilled marketer, they are perfectly suited to cover each other’s weaknesses.
The first relevant point here is that using both of them ensures that you have a failsafe in place in case of rough times with your ABM program. ABM is an excellent strategical move that promises massive gains for those who can pull it off, but it’s not flawless or foolproof.
Making missteps with it is actually very common and can have a strong impact on its final revenue yield. A startling 80% of companies find that their new ABM initiatives don’t quite reach the levels of achievement that they expected them to at the outset.
This is not to say that ABM programs are unprofitable or that you shouldn’t run one of your own – far from it, as 87% of marketers using it also say that it has outperformed all of their other marketing initiatives in terms of ROI.
It’s simply an indicator of how hard it can be to accurately predict what you’ll get out of this process, especially when you’re new to it. If you throw all your resources behind this idea and it doesn’t pan out as you’d hoped, you risk setting yourself back unnecessarily.
Your ABM yield will likely increase over time as you get a better grasp on the intricacies of the process, but it’s never a good idea to depend exclusively on it to keep your company afloat.
Even if you do manage to pull it off just as you envisioned, though, a company can’t survive on ABM alone – in the long run, no single set of accounts can be counted on to always provide the level of business that you need to sustain your company’s income.
ABM allows you to sell more effectively to high-quality leads that you already have, but it can’t help you to grow and broaden your customer base. While it’s great when a frequent customer makes a large purchase from you, you can’t count on that happening every month.
You need a steady stream of smaller purchases coming in from many different customers so that you have a large, diverse set of revenue streams to count on.
Once again, this doesn’t mean abandoning ABM and all the good things it can do for your company.
What you need to do instead is pair it with a solid lead generation strategy.
Related : How to excel at quality lead generation?
The typical medium-sized company (201-500 employees total) needs somewhere between 101 and 500 new leads each month to hit their sales targets.
Inbound marketing is the best way to get those leads coming to you.
By running some inbound campaigns alongside your ABM efforts, you cover all your bases in terms of closing key deals and keeping a healthy roster of clients.
The contact data you bring in through inbound marketing methods can often eventually be used to create new accounts for your ABM program too, if you ever find yourself in need of more high-value leads to tap into.
Basically, inbound helps you to keep your options open even as you devote the bulk of your focus to the prospects that promise the biggest payoffs.
Where Is ABM Going Next?
As ABM matures as a technique, it will continue to grow and change.
In the relatively near future, ABM will likely become:
- More prevalent
30% of marketers still don’t use ABM in their day-to-day work, but that number is dropping all the time.
Professionals are increasingly recognizing the incredible potential of this technique and more and more of them are becoming eager to try their own hand at it.
In the coming years, there will be very few marketers who aren’t interested in perfecting this practice, making it all the more important that you master it yourself as soon as possible.
- Less costly
As the overall adoption rate for this technique grows, the percentage of the overall marketing budget that each company invests into it is actually falling.
Data from 2018 shows that most marketers are still increasing their ABM budgets; 60% of users reported doing so last year.
However, this is a significant drop from the 82% who reported doing so in 2017. This indicates that people are getting the results they want without necessarily having to put more money out to do it.
- More closely targeted
Business analytics is a roaring industry that is set to be worth $274.3 billion by 2022. The primary thing driving this incredible level of growth is technology’s increasing ability to gather and store more data for less money.
As companies start to take advantage of this capability in greater numbers, they will be able to understand even more about the minutiae of what drives their customers’ buying decisions and use that information to fuel their ABM initiatives. Data quality will be more important than ever as this evolution takes place, though, so be sure to look into data quality management now if you haven’t already.
- More feasible on a smaller scale
Small businesses are currently using ABM in respectable numbers, but they’re still a bit skittish about it and are more likely to still be testing out their programs than to have a solid, settled approach already worked out.
Part of this may be because they worry that ABM will be too expensive for them to carry on using long-term, but it probably also has to do with a dearth of smaller organizations due to the more limited ranges of tools that small companies tend to have at their disposal.
The aforementioned improvements in data collection will soon filter down to the lower levels of the business world too, and once they do, it should be easier for even the most modest companies to try their hand at ABM.
Even with all of these burgeoning developments, though, the one thing you can count on remaining the same between now and then is ABM’s need to be backed up by a healthy inbound marketing program.
Its basic goals will not change and it will still struggle to provide that critical influx of fresh leads. That weakness is something inbound marketing is ideally suited to compensate for.
Keep Your Inbound Marketing and ABM Programs Running Hand in Hand
It’s only natural to be concerned about what the adoption of a new marketing approach might do to the status quo, but in this case, those worries are unfounded.
Without a good inbound strategy in place to support it during its inevitable ups and downs, ABM can never reach its full potential; the two techniques should be partners, not competitors.
Making space in your marketing operations for both an ABM program and a typical inbound setup can allow you to get the best of both worlds and will give your business the best chance at long-term viability.
We have more data-related marketing content in the works for the future, so stay tuned for that sometime soon.
If this article was helpful to you, though, why not join us and your peers in our online marketing community?
When you do, you’ll receive monthly briefs packed with information about what businesses are doing with data right now and how to use the data you’ve got to secure the market advantages you want.
We’re constantly updating our trove of materials, too, so there’s always something new to learn.