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Account-Based Marketing the Inbound Way

By John McTigueJan 4, 2017

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You're standing at the Pearly Gates waiting your turn, but fear not! You're an inbound marketer. You'll be welcomed with open arms because you provide helpful, interesting content that attracts people to your website and gently persuades them to give up their contact information and eventually become your customer. You never resort to spammy outbound tactics that fill peoples' inboxes with "salesy" garbage. You don't twist arms—you shake hands. You strike up a conversation with the guy waiting in line behind you.

"What did you do for a living?"

"I was an account-based marketer. How about you?"

"Wow, really? I was an inbound marketer. I worked for an agency providing digital marketing for B2B manufacturers."

"Small world. I worked for an agency, too. We focused on B2B manufacturing as well, mostly in the enterprise space, you know, Fortune 500 companies."

"Forgive me for asking, but aren't you a little worried about getting through the Gates?"

"No, not really. I was mean to a cat once, but I doubt that's going to be a deal killer. Why do you ask?"

"Well, account-based marketing, or ABM, is 'old school' outbound sales, isn't it? You're basically cold-calling executives and spamming them by email aren't you?"

"That's a common misconception. It's true that ABM is about identifying your ideal customer, then doing your homework to find them, but the rest can be totally inbound.

"I'll give you an example. Let's say I want to do business with IBM. We've worked with other computer manufacturers before, enjoyed working with them and built a strong, profitable relationship. So my next step is to identify who the right people are to talk to at IBM. I know that there's usually a team assigned to researching and negotiating with vendors, so I look for a VP or Director of Marketing, someone at the same level in Sales, one or two people in Procurement and a couple of people who might report to or influence them. That's my target account team.

"Next, I do some in-depth research on IBM and the people on my target account team. I use LinkedIn and other business databases to dig up as much pertinent information as I can. I'm looking for recent product announcements, position changes, partnerships or sales and marketing initiatives that IBM might need help with. Now I get to work."

"So you haven't called or emailed anyone yet?"

"Nope, I'm staying on the inbound side of the fence until I generate some interest at IBM." 

"How do you do that, reach out directly to specific people through inbound?"

"It's not as hard as it sounds. First, I create blogs, some visual content like an infographic and maybe a video or podcast about a very specific topic that I know will interest the IBM account team. I publish my content on our website and promote it using search engine marketing and paid media ads with messaging and keyword phrases that highlight the benefits to the account team. I even mention IBM, possibly even the people on the team, in my content and social media posts. Companies like IBM are always looking for company mentions on social media and are likely to pass them along to my team members. Once I get their attention and attract them to my website, I can use retargeting strategies to remind them of our content and bring them back for more."

"But don't you need to convert them into leads at some point?"

"Sure, absolutely, but just like any good inbound marketing campaign, it's best to stimulate some non-intrusive engagement first. Get them started reading your blogs, then convert them with even more valuable content, like a whitepaper or webinar. You can personalize everything in the conversion path to enhance conversion rates and influence your account team to ask for more."

"That sounds like an awful lot of effort for a few leads. What about the cost per lead? Won't that be ridiculously high?"

"Well, yes and no. ABM is a different strategy. You're focusing on increasing the chances of working with a specific company with a very high probability of building a successful relationship. You also have a much higher chance of working with them because your marketing strategy is centered on them—it's personal and fits their needs to a T. Successful ABM marketers will set up local events and use direct mail to send their account teams additional helpful content or fun gifts. Once you nurture them into the consideration stage of the sales funnel, you already have a relationship to build on. You know them and they know you by virtue of your personalized content. Once a real conversation starts, there's no qualifying to be done and no guesswork about who you need to talk to. So, from that point of view, it's less risky than pure inbound marketing. The cost per lead might be higher, but close rates, and ultimately revenues, can also be much higher."

"Hmmm, I think I see what you mean. So ABM is really just highly targeted inbound marketing. The difference is in getting really clear about who you want as a customer before you start marketing."

"You got it. Oh, hang on a minute. I'm getting a call."

"Wow, that was IBM. We got the deal!"

"That's awesome! What are you going to do now?"

"Well, I guess I'm needed elsewhere for now at least. Good luck with your journey!"

"Oh yeah, that. Now I'm thinking it might be a little early..."

 Sales Enablement and CRM guide

Photo credit: Chirobocea Nicu

Additional Topics: Inbound Sales
The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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