Inbound demand generation vs. outbound account based marketing methodologies

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Generically speaking there are two methods of marketing software today: Outbound Account Based Marketing and Inbound Demand Generation:

  • Outbound account based marketing targets only your ideal accounts, often with little regard to their preparedness to buy your product.
  • Inbound demand generation attracts those with buying high intent, but also people who you may not want to sell to.

If you read Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers (from 1999) you’ll immediately recognize the term “interruption marketing” to describe outbound marketing and selling.

This is an unfair moniker and it not only reduces the legitimacy of the tactic, it also minimizes its perceived effectiveness. Both strategies can coexist and a balance should eventually be sought to fully take advantage to maximize both inbound and outbound channels.

The ultimate measure of quality marketing at high margin companies is revenue.

HBR.org, October 2012

A mix of ABM and Inbound is almost always the right strategy, but as your audience grows more and more specific, the mix will tend to skew towards ABM.

 Inbound DemandAccount Based Marketing
MethodologyTactics and channels combined with inside sales alignment.A company wide, strategic decision to align all efforts against specific companies.
AudienceLarge. Anyone who can benefit from, and afford, your solution is part of your addressable audience.Small. Generally less than 1,000 companies at any given time across a long sales cycle.
ChallengesFishing with a net. Potential customers come to you to for a solution, but you’ll often find extraneous fish in the net.Fishing with a spear. You’re hunting only your customers but you have to hit each one with custom everything – and they may not be ready to buy.
TargetingIndividuals who are actively looking for your solution or information related to your solution.Accounts you have determined most likely to gain value from your solution.
Required InvestmentIncremental. With inbound the initial investment can be as simple as hiring a blog writer and making SEO improvements.Substantial. ABM is a company-wide commitment that requires close coordination and management across all disciplines (marketing, sales, customer support, executive, events, public relations, etc.)
ResourcingA team of exceptional functional marketers that can be applied across multiple disciplines. Paid search, content development,A dedicated team whose skills encompass strategy, writing, editing, design, development, analysis focused on nurturing specific accounts.
Usable Channels (link to targeted vs. intent slide)LinkedIn, Paid Search, Organic Search, DisplayAll of them. Events, Direct Mail, Demandbase, LinkedIn, Retargeting
MeasurementConversion rate and velocitybetween each phase of the sales cycle – from leads through closed deals. Observable impact can be near immediate in lead quantity and sales.Account activity, closed accounts. Because mpact can be difficult to measure and will take time to see results. Requires sophisticated multi-touch attribution systems.