A lot has changed in the realm of B2B marketing with the introduction of Account-Based Marketing (ABM). Some marketers are asking themselves whether they should invest more heavily in an ABM strategy, wondering if they should switch to ABM from a more established inbound approach.
At first glance, ABM and inbound seem completely different, almost antithetical to each other in how they talk and their methodologies.
- How they talk – while inbound marketers talk about letting the demand find you, ABMers talk about generating demand and reaching more target stakeholders to drive growth, a more outbound-heavy strategy.
- The choice in methodology – inbound marketers chose the flywheel model, a circular way to represent growth. Account-based marketers, on the other hand, use the funnel analogy, adding stages anterior to the ubiquitous sales funnel as a way to measure growth. SiriusDecision coined the demand unit waterfall for ABM a couple of years ago, but it’s basically a funnel in disguise with new account-based stages.
However, it’s not a question of this or that. Despite what it seems, the two strategies are fundamentally aligned and can be used to support one another. In an attempt to celebrate National Donut Day, let’s look at it like this – the flywheel is essentially the demand unit waterfall in the shape of a donut! Rather than choose between ABM and inbound, Inbound marketers should really seek to harness the power of ABM. Here me out.
What does the flywheel stand for?
Hubspot’s newest marketing model, the flywheel, enables companies to look at growth in a more comprehensive way. The model centers around the idea of building an inbound business strategy that puts customers above all else.
The flywheel is comprised of three categories: attract, engage, and delight. Leveraging a holistic inbound strategy, companies are able to align their teams so that they attract, engage, and delight prospects and customers alike. This helps create an amazing experience throughout the entire customer journey. The idea is to attract new customers and retain existing ones to fuel growth.
It takes more than one team to implement the flywheel methodology:
- Marketers leverage ads, social media and create content to attract prospects
- Sales reps use email marketing, lead management, and marketing automation tools to drive engagement
- Client success managers apply smart content tools and conversion inboxes to retain and renew.
But at each stage, no team is alone in the journey. Marketers help feed sales valuable buyer insights, sales furthers their relationship with prospects as they become customers, and client success helps shape the marketing strategy, giving them insight into the most prominent pain points their solutions solve and where customers are most delighted/find the most value. All that to say, the actions of each team need to feed off each other.
Fundamentally, the flywheel says that in order to grow a business, one has to build lasting relationships, meaning that all customer-facing department should work on attracting, engaging, and delighting prospects and existing customers to create brand trust. And we all know that brand equity can be extremely invaluable, just ask Apple, Google, and Amazon, whose brands are valued at hundreds of billions of dollars.
Behind the Flywheel is a Funnel
To all the account-based marketers out there, does any of this unified growth talk sound familiar? At its core, the flywheel and the demand unit waterfall were both created in the same spirit of customer centricity. Both models promote marketing, sales, and client success alignment. Both focus on the holistic customer life cycle, unify campaigns to create a seamless purchase journey, and realign the entire company towards the same objectives.
Tactically, initiating an ABM strategy can boost inbound efficiency. Account-based marketing comes in multiple forms from 1:1 account targeting to 1:FEW and 1:MANY segment-based targeting. A 1:MANY ABM strategy is really just an efficient and effective inbound strategy.
Let’s look at 1:MANY ABM and inbound further to breakdown a few fundamental principles they both share.
- Know Your Customers – in order to delight your customers, you need to have a good grasp on their needs and wants. Today, account-based technology allows businesses to track the digital footprint of all visitors on their site, which means they can start to understand potential customers early in the purchase journey. Inbound marketers can use ABM insights to their advantage when crafting web messaging and email content.
- Unify Marketing & Sales Messaging – it is extremely critical for both the sales and marketing teams to work together cohesively in guiding potential customers through the purchase journey. You don’t want to send mixed messages, leaving the prospect confused and frustrated. Inbound marketers should be aware of what sales reps are offering, and the two teams can work towards coordinating their campaigns. It’s about having harmonious alignment between the two departments.
- Provide A Personalized Touch – an essential building block to a successful account-based marketing program is creating consistent, relevant messaging across every stage of the purchase journey i.e. highly targeted, personalized content. ABM audience management allows inbound marketers to put relevant content and messaging in front of each target segment. They can create dynamic account clusters, filtered by common firmographic and behavioral attributes. These segments often contain thousands of accounts that all share key attributes, so marketers can strategize on their top challenges and needs. Because ABM technology can identify accounts and sort them into the right segments upon first visit, even direct and organic traffic can receive segment-specific web personalizations.
So are you see it now? Does the flywheel look a bit more like a demand unit waterfall in the shape of a donut? Better yet, can you see how ABM can amplify your inbound marketing approach?
Account-based marketing is about unifying all aspects of the flywheel, from attracting new prospects to engaging and delighting customers. As an inbound marketer, you don’t have to completely disregard your current strategy in order to adopt ABM. Leveraging account-based targeting and personalization tactics alongside your inbound strategy will only fuel better engagement from those who will most benefit from your services. The two approaches work hand in hand, building off one another to drive customer-centric growth.