Where Does Account-Based Marketing Fit in Your Inbound Strategy
June 22, 2020
By Julia Bye
This blog could have easily been called, “Where Does Inbound Fit into Your ABM strategy?” If you are solely focused on inbound, you may not be giving your high-priority leads the attention they need. If you focus solely on an ABM strategy, then you miss out on nurturing prospects who would make great customers but don’t fit the criteria for one of your tiers.
It may not even be a matter of fitting one strategy into the other, as it is using a combination of strategies to make your marketing strategies beneficial for your organization.
Thus, the creation of account-based inbound marketing (can I trademark that?).
Now, let’s say, for the purpose of this blog, that you have been running an inbound campaign and want to give ABM a try (pro tip: you should). Keep reading to learn how to build an account-based marketing plan that can fit easily into your inbound strategy. First, ask:
Is Sales and Marketing Alignment Happening?
I would argue that any marketing strategy is more effective when the marketing and sales teams work hand in hand, meeting often to discuss what’s working and what’s not working. However, it’s all too easy to execute an inbound marketing strategy without that cross-team communication.
With ABM, sales and marketing alignment becomes even more important. ABM requires a continuous feedback loop to be happening between these teams because they are both targeting the same ideal customer profiles (ICPs) with information and outreach.
How Does Your ICP Differ from Identified Personas?
ICP stands for your “ideal customer profile,” essentially your definition of the perfect customer. Your first step is to work with sales to identify the best targets to go after. This list of targets will make up your tier one, or the group you will spend the most time and money targeting. The companies that make up this group should align with your ideal customer profile.
This is different from inbound marketing because it looks beyond the most engaged lead on the website or even identified personas—in fact, the leads you’re targeting may not have ever been to your website. They are prospects your team would kill to have convert into clients. They may fit one of your personas, but they are a more narrowly focused group than a persona is.
Pro tip: Be realistic about the number of people in your Tier 1 ABM target. If you are new to ABM, you don’t want to go after 500 potential customers. Start with a small group of ten per salesperson to test, and learn what’s working, what’s not, and build your program from there.
What Content Resonates Most with Your ICP?
Once you’ve identified who you are targeting, you should find out where they hang out. For instance, you don’t want to create a bunch of pillar pages worthy of binge reading if your ICP hates reading and prefers podcasts. Before putting all of your eggs into one basket, get to know your ICP.
You may find that you need to test the waters with a few different strategies to be sure (for instance, don’t book a year’s worth of webinars before you know that your persona responds to this type of marketing). Try out different approaches, review the data, and evaluate the ROI.
If you’ve been executing an inbound campaign for a while, can you segment some ICPs already in your system and find what seems to resonate the most with that group?
Just like the inbound marketing methodology, ABM aims to educate and build trust with your potential customers—your ABM tiers are just a much more narrowly focused group of individuals that your team would like to win over.
Once you have an understanding of the platforms and types of information your target ICPs enjoy, evaluate existing content for use in your ABM strategy. Do you have an e-book directed at their industry or their role? Would tweaking an existing piece of content make it a better fit for this audience? The great thing about tweaking and identifying these premium content pieces is that efforts spent on their creation add more resources that can be of value for your inbound efforts as well.
Focus on what you have already and any holes in your marketing content. From there, you’ll be able to work with your sales team to put together an actionable game plan that accounts for both sales and marketing efforts.
Build Out a Plan
The easiest way to lay out an ABM plan is to create a table highlighting what actions are being taken, who is taking them, and when. This will ensure that all of the pieces are working in harmony, like a beautiful orchestra of efforts. This will likely involve some automation and internal notifications between teams.
Here is an example:
The goal here is to hit the ICP in a variety of different ways in order to get them to take the action you want them to take. The end goal doesn’t need to be a webinar or a live event (remember those?), but could be a meeting with the sales team to audit their company or talk about how your business could help. Consider the end goal, and then build the steps that the sales and marketing teams can take to get there.
You will likely promote your webinar as part of your inbound marketing efforts as well, so you’ll want to have solid segmentation to enable different follow-ups for each group. Also, if you’re going the webinar route, consider gating that webinar on your website so it can continue generating leads/contacts for you.
With both ABM and inbound working together harmoniously, you will likely develop a well-run machine over time that keeps a steady stream of leads coming from website conversion, while also aligning marketing with sales to target high-priority prospects. Numbers will be up, sales and marketing will both be happy, and life will be good.
About the author
Julia Bye is a Minneapolis-based Director, Client Strategy for SmartBug Media. With a background in agency marketing, she specializes in lead generation, lead nurturing, sales enablement, and content-based tactics that focus on her client's sales and marketing goals. Read more articles by Julia Bye.