Lessons Learned At Our Inbound to ABM Event

Written by Gordon Hunter

Mar 3 2017

Inbound to ABM: our event roundup, key takeaways and recommendations for adopting the optimum inbound to ABM model.

Takeaways from Inbound to ABM

As you may have heard from… well, just about everybody; ABM is hot right now - and a ‘must do’ strategy for those marketing in the enterprise space. 

For that reason, we hosted our first event of this year - inbound to ABM, where I spoke to a specially invited audience of B2B marketers about the move towards ABM, and our view of the optimum inbound to ABM model.

Taking place aboard the Sunborn Yacht Hotel, London, two presentations and a Q&A set the tone for the event:

  • The first presentation was given by myself and illustrated some of the latest B2B marketing and lead generation strategies; exploring how inbound campaigns can evolve into Account-Based Marketing (ABM) plans.
  • The second presentation was given by inbound coach Steve Vaughan of HubSpot, discussing how the buyer’s journey has moved online, and how inbound marketing works to adapt to that change.

Below are the key takeaways and themes discussed, which enterprise marketers should know and use to inform their strategies.

Why ABM? Understanding the Rise of ABM, and its Alignment With Inbound

At its core, ABM is a strategic approach that combines targeted, insight-led marketing with sales to increase mindshare, strengthen relationships, and drive growth in specific new and existing accounts.

With the potential to drive stronger, more valuable relationships and enhance retention; is it is any surprise that ABM is in demand?

In my presentation, I started by looking at the market trends that are driving demand for ABM:

  • 80% say ABM outperforms other B2B tactics - ITSMA
  • 41% of B2B marketers globally plan to increase spending on ABM this year - eMarketer
  • 84% believe that ABM provides significant benefits for retaining and expanding current client relationships - SiriusDecisions
  • Companies are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing are in sync - Marketo
  • And they generate 208% more revenue for their marketing efforts - Marketo


That’s all very impressive.

By comparison, traditional lead generation tactics (including inbound marketing) are on their own no longer delivering the same impact; particularly in the enterprise space where the landscape has changed. Now, marketing challenges demand a more strategic approach to address factors such as:

  • The increasing complexity of multiple offerings – a hybrid of products, people and services
  • The size and complexity of enterprise organisations
  • The number of people across different business functions involved in the buying cycle

Clearly the landscape is complex.

But where ‘vendor complexity + customer complexity = a challenge’ in traditional processes, this is where ABM can deliver the greatest impact.

customer vendor complexity.png

The sweet spot for ABM is where complexity meets complexity and this is where it deliver the greatest impact.

As B2B marketers this means we must all start thinking beyond leads.

Today, if you want to win bigger deals and transform customer relationships, you have to start thinking more like your customer; using sales insight to intimately understand what buyers need, have and want to know, then developing bespoke propositions and content-driven campaigns that will land with impact.

So what does this mean for the future of inbound marketing? What’s inbound’s relationship to ABM?

Well to begin with, we don’t think it’s an ‘either/ or’ choice. Instead, an optimum mix of both strategies is required.

If you’re marketing in the enterprise space we believe inbound and ABM each play an important role and work at different stages on the same customer journey. To succeed, you need to know how to leverage the benefits of both strategies at the right time.

Inbound and ABM each play an important role and work at different stages on the same customer journey. To succeed, you need to know how to leverage the benefits of both at the right time.

Marketers should think of inbound not only as a lead generation engine, but as a nurture pool for strategic accounts of the future. Organisations who do this, will be well positioned to scale up to ABM.

How Can I Implement ABM For My Enterprise Organisation?

The good news? You don’t need to completely change your channels and programmes to start with Account-Based Marketing - as our inbound to ABM model shows:

  • In the inbound to ABM model above, inbound continues to be where all of your transactional one-to-many type generic marketing happens.
  • It’s also your lead generation engine, with leads being created, qualified and either handed off to sales, or held in nurture.
  • But now, it’s also the point at which you can start applying an appropriate ABM approach; depending on the number of accounts in your programme.
  • From there, you’ll notice that the focus is increasingly on targeted engagement, with more personalised content offers, as we move toward strategic ABM.

We typically see ABM being executed in one of two ways, depending on the number of accounts in an organisation’s programme:

  • Inbound to ABM (or a ‘one to a few’ approach) works by grouping accounts with common values, like challenges, business motivations and even vertical markets. An ABM programme is then developed to work across all of those accounts with a small amount of personalisation. An Inbound to ABM approach is also associated with a degree of automation, allowing B2B marketers to make the process less resource intensive.
  • Strategic ABM (or a ‘one to one’ approach) is resource intensive, so reserved for targeting strategic accounts. This approach focuses on treating each customer as a market of one. In a Strategic ABM strategy we would develop bespoke propositions and messaging for that unique customer and each decision making group, based on a deep methodical understanding of their business and challenges.

ABM metrics to measure

Looking at the return that an effective ABM programme can deliver, here are some metrics you should be measuring:

  • Audience growth
  • Customer perception
  • Sales and marketing alignment
  • Engagement with customers earlier in the sales cycle
  • Accelerated time to pipeline
  • Revenue growth
  • Business won

Aligning Inbound and ABM

On a practical note, you may be wondering how to decide which accounts should be in which part of your marketing stack.

This brings us neatly back to inbound, as in an inbound/ ABM partnership, inbound helps to overcome one of the biggest challenges of starting an effective ABM programme – account selection.

It can be hard to align separate sales and marketing agendas when it comes to deciding which accounts are right for ABM and which will provide the best return. However, by using inbound to identify propensity signals from customers demonstrating the highest levels of engagement, the ABM account selection process can be made clearer and less subjective.

Inbound + ABM = The Way Forward In B2B Marketing

While ABM is a hot strategy right now, inbound is still massively important for B2B marketers; whether used in its own right or as a springboard to effective ABM programmes.

This is why we see an inbound to ABM approach as the way forward in B2B marketing. 

You’ll see our agency positioning over the coming weeks start to reflect this and it’s something we’re excited to discuss with you in more detail and understanding how we can help you apply it to your own business models to start adding value immediately:

Inbound to ABM Event deck.014.jpeg

B2B Marketing Zone