Why Inbound Alone Isn’t Enough
Ultimately, inbound marketing is a waiting game — you publish content, then wait for prospects to find it in search or on social. As you narrow your target account definition, you constrain the number of companies that could possibly convert on your content, thereby delaying the time-to-value for inbound. Some companies attempt to accelerate results by running outbound marketing — unsolicited, blanket emails and calls — in parallel to inbound. But even as stopgap measure, the damage of outbound can exceed the rewards.
I explained that the annuity of our inbound will increase over time, but between then and now, we needed “something else,” something that delivered more immediate results than inbound, but without the compromises required of outbound. Enter: ABM.
An ABM strategy allows us to bridge the divide between the polar extremes of inbound and outbound by targeting campaigns specifically to the accounts that sales is working, and “right sizing” the investment depending on potential deal value and likelihood to close. It can even augment customer marketing efforts.
The Shift from Leads to Accounts
Before you make your internal case for ABM, be ready for likely objections. Here are a few to expect:
- ABM doesn’t scale: There’s a natural tension between ABM and scale. After all, ABM is intended to achieve a “persona of one,” that is, every interaction should be — or at least convincingly resemble — a one-to-one exchange. This certainly puts pressure on marketing to develop more varieties of content and distribute them in a “narrowcast” manner. But with slight shifts in marketing philosophy, ABM can scale as much as it needs to.
- I’m measured by leads sourced: This is a tough one, because your CMO is probably correct. I’m prone to say, “Show me how I’m measured, and I’ll show you how I behave.” Sourcing KPIs undermine ABM. Suggest sales and marketing partner on a named account pilot and attach to the effort a different set of goals, like close rate or pipeline velocity. As the change-management book “Switch” would advise, create “bright spots” together.
- Our deal size doesn’t justify ABM: Today’s technology-enabled ABM strategies allow for elastic investments. For high volume, transactional deals, the ABM approach could be as simple as combining targeted ads with smart website personalization.
- The technology just isn’t there yet: I’d contend that there are already too many ABM technologies. The emerging industry is already ripe for a roll-up. There are specialized tools for ABM campaign management, website personalization, ad targeting, account sourcing, direct mail management, and so on. And if you run a marketing automation system, like Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot or HubSpot, odds are these tools natively integrate with your infrastructure.
- Nobody else is doing it: Lots of people are talking about it, but is anyone actually operationalizing it into their marketing strategies? Yes. There are, in fact, many prominent marketers at very successful companies running ABM play books. There’s a whole conference–FlipMyFunnel–dedicated to the topic. The agenda can give you a sense of who is adopting the strategy and why. I’ll also be sharing InsightSquared’s experience with making the transition at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit in May.