Account Based Marketing Vs. Inbound Marketing What’s The Difference?

4 Differences Between Account Based Marketing Vs. Inbound Marketing Every Marketer Should Know 

Account Based Marketing Vs. Inbound Marketing

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Lead generation is fundamental to the success of any brand, in B2B or B2C contexts. Two of the most popular strategies used today are inbound marketing and account-based marketing. So what are these marketing strategies and how do they differ? Read on and find out! 

What is Inbound Marketing?


Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that relies on creating various forms of content to generate traffic to a website that can then become conversions. This form of lead generation is employed in both B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to customer). 


The base premise behind inbound marketing is that by creating high-quality and relevant content, your website will receive a great deal of high-intent traffic. A great way to understand inbound marketing, compared to ABM, would be to call it fishing with a net. This is because it casts its focus wider and catches more, although not always the fish you want. 


Examples of Inbound Marketing

There are many ways in which brands can implement inbound marketing. The following are some of the more recognizable:


  • Blogs

Often problem-solving blogs target potential customer pain points and offer a product or solution to the problem. This reinforces the notion of being a subject expert. For example, a post about managing tax on shipping and handling by an accounting business.


  • Videos and Vlogs

Consumers have come to expect brands to produce video content nowadays, and they are a huge part of inbound marketing. For example, how-to’s, webinars, testimonial videos, case studies, and so on.


  • Social Media (General)

The most successful social media accounts are those that don’t promote hard. Instead, they are down-to-earth and personable.


  • Infographics

The use of infographics, like blogs and videos, tells the potential customer you are a subject expert. A benefit of the graphic format is that they are more readily shared than written content. 


Building brand awareness, gaining trust, and educating an audience all help a brand encourage conversions.

content marketing

  Image source.


What is Account-Based Marketing? 

Account-based marketing is another form of lead generation strategy, although, in contrast to inbound marketing, it’s exclusively used in a B2B setting. Account-based marketing relies on deciding the exact type of account to target and then developing a holistic and personalized campaign to bring them in. 


To use the fishing analogy once more, where inbound marketing is like fishing with a net, account-based marketing is like fishing with a spear. Rather than casting wide to catch much fish in the hope a few are right, ABM targets specific fish. 


Examples of Account-Based Marketing

There are many forms of ABM, and although all are highly personalized with the target account in mind, they can include the following: 


  • Focused Messaging  

This can be email, postal, direct messages, and so on. The voice used in these messages is one-to-one and not generic at all. In effect, messages that feel written by a person, not a program.


  • Social Media (Direct) 

In contrast to how inbound marketing uses social media, ABM’s social media use is direct. This includes engaging on client accounts, messaging directly, and tagging them in posts.


  • Gifting and Trials

Often brands will engage potential customers with free gifts, service trials, and personalized promotions.


  • Account-Based Advertising 

Highly personalized adverts targeted at a specific account group; these may also incorporate gifting and trials.


Ways Inbound Marketing and Account-Based Marketing Differ

It should already be obvious that although both marketing strategies aim to secure conversions and turn potential customers into committed clients, their means to do so are very different. 


Below are four ways that inbound and account-based marketing differs from one another. 

Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up 

Both marketing methods aim for the same outcome, that is, a successful conversion. The way each goes about getting to that outcome, though is totally different. 


As the image below highlights, the inbound marketing process begins with a wide scope that gradually becomes more focused further into the process. For example, initially, a large number of people may become aware of content created by a brand. As time goes on, a smaller number of those become engaged with the content, and finally, an even smaller number become conversions. 

lead gen funnel

Image Sourced from


Account-based marketing begins where traditional lead generation strategies, such as inbound marketing, end. ABM decides which conversions were the most successful, perhaps who offered the best ROI and then uses that profile to target similar accounts. 

Once desirable accounts have been identified, they are drawn in using strategies discussed earlier, such as personal messaging and promotions, and are then converted. The ABM process then begins again with more potential accounts. The process starts narrow and then can become wider as conversions grow. 

Lead Approach


A particular point of difference between inbound marketing and account-based marketing is the way in which they approach their target audience. 


As the name suggests, inbound marketing relies on a ‘pull’ approach to leads. Create the content and allow potential customers to come to it. As mentioned above, subtlety is the keyword when it comes to inbound marketing. Present the product or service as a solution to customers’ problems, and let them come to the conclusion to buy on their own. 

Image created by writer

Account-based marketing is much more ‘push’ in terms of its approach to leads. By nature, ABM relies on informing potential leads of the benefits of products or services. While this might conjure images of hard salesmanship, actually thanks to the unique understanding of a potential client’s problems, it’s more a case of giving them something they really need.


Most inbound marketing agencies say that brands that employ ABM over inbound marketing tend to have more control over the number of conversions they receive. For this reason, it’s a great strategy to use for brands that want less stock fluctuation. Choosing 10 accounts to go for in a quarter, rather than unexpectedly getting 5 or 100 that inbound can yield, makes life much easier for your stock monitoring software. 


Metrics For Success 

Any lead generation strategy of course needs its own, clearly defined, metrics for success. This is another area where inbound marketing and account-based marketing differ somewhat. 


Inbound marketing emphasizes metrics such as page visits, viewers on videos, clickthrough rates, low bounce rates, and sign-ups. These metrics have a tendency not to be all that accurate, however, a site visitor can spend 5 minutes on a blog post, watch a whole video about the importance of having digital signature solutions to close sales and leads and not sign up (become a conversion). Any business utilizing a solely inbound marketing strategy should be familiar with how to measure content marketing ROI. 


Account-based marketing has much more defined metrics, thus having task management software will make measuring the success campaign much easier. These can include response rates to messaging, email opening, and click-through to purchase or sign up. 


Relationship With The Sales Team

A key point of difference between inbound marketing and account-based marketing strategy relates to how integral sales teams are. Account-based marketing relies very heavily on input from the sales team. Who the target accounts are, how they will market toward them and what promotions to use, all rely on information from the sales team.


As sales teams are the main point of contact between a brand and its customer base, they know the customer better than anyone, so who better inform the marketing department who to target?

The data that can come back from a sales team regarding account profiles to target can be both qualitative and quantitative, which can be hard to stay on top of. Having a marketing lead use tools like quote and proposal software, therefore can be very helpful. 


inbound marketingImage sourced from

Inbound marketing isn’t targeting specific accounts, therefore it doesn’t rely on information from sales in order to build a strategy. Instead of being involved at the beginning of the process, as with ABM, sales teams are only involved when inbound marketing has worked, and conversions are made.

It’s worth noting that while inbound marketing doesn’t rely heavily on the sales team, it’s no secret that marketers should be utilizing the staff in the back office for help.


Which is more appropriate?

While there may be a catalog of differences between inbound marketing and ABM, one isn’t universally better than the other. It’s almost like asking, ‘should I eat apples or oranges in order to be healthy?’ Both are great options and can help in different ways.


Like choosing between apples and oranges, both marketing strategies can be beneficial but there are key differences. Image created by the writer. 


Inbound marketing works especially well for companies with a very broad target audience, perhaps due to a varied product inventory. Inbound marketing attracts a wide array of visitors to their site, their varied inventory is likely to tick one of their boxes and thus a conversion has been made. 


As mentioned before, brands that utilize inbound marketing often have to make broader predictions regarding their sales and thus, their stock. It’s important for these brands to use a defining cloud based inventory management software, to avoid chronic over or under-ordering. 


Account-based marketing is most effective for brands with a more specialized and focused product/service offering. Rather than spending resources raising awareness when the vast majority aren’t potential customers, targeting those who are in a much better strategy. 


Larger brands typically employ both forms of marketing in tandem thanks to their greater available resources. For these brands, inbound marketing serves to engage a large number of potential customers, some of those will become committed customers, and then an ABM strategy can be devised based on their profiles.