Account-Based Marketing vs Inbound Marketing: Striking the Right Balance Between the Two

| | Time to Read: 6 minutes

Both account-based marketing (ABM) and inbound marketing are powerful strategies in their own right. However, you can get better returns on your marketing efforts if the two are used together.

That's right! The thought of using these marketing strategies in parallel is not radical. Organisations and marketing gurus throughout the world are already doing it. ABM and inbound don't have to be mutually exclusive campaigns.

Speak to an account-based marketing specialist about how you can streamline your inbound marketing with ABM principles

This article will share some practical tips on how marketing executives can embed an element of ABM in their inbound marketing and vice-versa to achieve better results.

Why is it common sense to use the two as one marketing strategy?

To answer this question, let's look at the definition of ABM and inbound marketing.

Account-Based Marketing: Definition

ITSMA defines account-based marketing as the strategy of "treating individual accounts as markets in their own right" and creating highly customised programs, campaigns, digital assets and relevant content pieces that address the pain-points of buyers or customers in those targeted accounts.

Apart from customised marketing campaigns, the fundamental tenets of an ABM strategy are:

  • Focusing on the key decision makers' problems
  • Ensuring that the sales and marketing teams are aligned
  • Nurturing strong relationships with potential customers

Inbound Marketing Strategy: Definition

Inbound marketing focuses on creating meaningful content for different buyer personas. It is about valuing customer privacy and time by not bombarding them with information you know they don't need. Attract, engage and delight, these three steps form the basis of an inbound strategy

  • Create valuable content for the customer
  • Engage them with in-depth solutions to their problems
  • Delight them with your exceptional service and support.

If you go by the above two definitions, you can see that creating valuable content for attracting prospects, deepening relationships and being mindful of the buyer's journey and buyer persona are advocated by both strategies. The difference lies in the fact that ABM has very specific audiences for its marketing campaigns. The other difference is that account-based marketing can also be an outbound initiative. 

Simplistically put, inbound marketing with a focus on high-value accounts can be loosely categorised as some form of ABM. Considering that there is some overlap between the two strategies, marketers would do well by combining them and adopting the best of both worlds. 

With that background in place, let’s dive into the four steps you can take to combine the two approaches to achieve better results.

Four steps to use account-based marketing and inbound marketing as one strategy?

Step 1: Tier it out

account-based marketing tiering

To ensure you have the best of both strategies, start by tiering your accounts. These could also align with the standard account-based marketing tiers - 1:1, 1:few and 1: many.

As an example:

  • Tier 1 could be a few key accounts with a clearly defined target audience. You can also filter accounts based on revenue; for instance, in tier 1, you decide to have accounts with an annual contract value (ACV) of at least one million dollars. Other criteria by which you can define the target accounts in this tier could be the current level of ongoing sales efforts, i.e. how close the salesperson is with key decision-makers, the salesperson's rapport with them etc.


  • Tier 2 could be high-level accounts that meet your ideal customer profile (ICP). The number of accounts in this tier will be more than those in tier 1. They could be net new accounts or existing accounts.


  • Tier 3 could be a whole bunch of accounts in a specific industry that you might be wanting to expand into. These could also be top of the sales funnel accounts or companies that you want to notice you.


Step 2: Identify opportunities to leverage inbound marketing concepts and collaterals in each of the tiers


abm leverage inbound marketing

After your accounts are tiered, an important exercise is to evaluate the relevance of your existing digital assets created for inbound purposes. You would likely be able to reuse or refurbish your existing content and make it more personalised, i.e. introduce the account-based marketing flavour in it.

The content creation process becomes highly efficient in such a scenario since it already addresses the industry level problems and just needs to be made company-specific.

Step 3: Strategise for accounts in each tier


Strategise abm tier

The approach of targeting accounts in each of the tiers is not going to be the same.

For instance, the marketing campaign for an account in tier 1 will be more interconnected and personalised than the accounts in tier 2 and tier 3. Similarly, the level of marketing automation in tier 3 will be higher than that in tier 1.

Strategising becomes the key, and inbound marketing will inherently be a part of the overall ABM campaign. When we say strategising, it essentially means a collection of account-based marketing tactics. Here is a very simplistic strategy document for a tier 1 account, which will give you a better idea.

Tier 1 Account-based marketing strategy: Inbound

CAMPAIGN 1 (Weeks 1-4): Create and publish educational content in the form of a website blog addressing the prospects' pain points

  • The website blog will be SEO optimised for specific keywords based on market research.
  • Daily unique website visits would be used to measure the success and impact of the blog.


CAMPAIGN 2 (10-12 Weeks ): Create an ebook as a step by step guide which the prospects can use to solve their problems

  • The ebook will be published on the company website to target specific audiences.
  • There will be a separate landing page created for downloading the book where users would have to enter their details.
  • Social media ads will be run for specific accounts as a part of sales and marketing efforts.
  • The sales teams will then follow up with stakeholders who have engaged with the campaign.


Tier 1 Account-based marketing strategy: Outbound

CAMPAIGN 2 (Weeks 5-8): Create an ebook as a step by step guide which the prospects can use to solve their problems

  • Physical copies will be used in a direct mail campaign. Key executives will receive a copy of the book.
  • A personalised letter or a card will be sent to the executives in the contacts list highlighting the benefits of being in business with the service provider company.
  • The sales teams will then follow up with stakeholders who have engaged with the campaign via a phone call or email and try to get a meeting.
  • The success of the outbound campaign will be measured by the number of meetings booked and any feedback shared by the prospects.


You might have noticed an inbound component to the account-based marketing strategy in the above example. This is the synergy that we have been talking about.

There are many forms of this very basic strategy template that other companies and businesses might be leveraging.

Ensuring that account-based marketing's focused approach is correctly intertwined with inbound marketing can be a critical factor behind increasing ROI on marketing and sales efforts.

Step 4: Align marketing and sales strategies


Align marketing and sales strategies abm

So far, we have talked about ensuring that the account-based marketing tactics you take need to align with the inbound efforts. We have also tried to show you how using the two together can save you a ton of effort and help you increase the ROI on it.

The last and final step is to ensure that, as a marketing executive, you are keeping your sales teams involved.

ABM strategies can very easily fall flat if the sales team on the account has not bought in. The best way to get the sales team excited is to have them be a partner and active contributor in your account-based marketing and inbound marketing campaigns right from the start.

You should also set the expectation that although there is a flavour of inbound introduced, account-based marketing works best over a longer duration, and the results may not be visible as fast as they are in a pure inbound marketing campaign.

Remember, we are focused on quality and not quantity. It is not about just lead generation or gathering random new leads, but about finding the right account, nurturing it, and addressing their pain points.

Once you have all of the above sorted out, close by agreeing on the metrics and what success should look like at the end of the campaign, and that's it!


We hope this article provided some basic information to leverage account-based marketing and inbound marketing like one strategy. If you think about it is not account-based marketing vs inbound marketing, but it's more like account-based marketing + inbound marketing.

If you feel the need for a guiding hand on this topic or want industry experts to execute your account-based marketing strategy, reach out to us!

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