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Account-Based Marketing Takes on Inbound: Which Will Win?

by Louis Gudema  |  
January 21, 2016

Over the past decade, inbound marketing has become one of the most important forms of B2B demand generation. But as inbound marketing approaches middle age in Internet years, some wrinkles are appearing. Is account-based marketing (ABM) a better alternative, at least for some B2B companies?

The inbound approach has many good things going for it, which is why it has become very popular. It maps well with how people research and buy today: they search on Google for information, share useful or entertaining content via social media, and search for online reviews—all often before talking with sales reps.

Moreover, a vendor is in a psychologically stronger position with a prospective customer if the interactions start with the customer approaching the vendor rather than the vendor "interrupting" the customer's regular activities with presumably unwelcome advertising, spam emails, and unsolicited cold calls.

An Alternative to Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing, however, has run into problems as it has grown in popularity.

Although inbound promises to generate lots of new contacts and leads, it can be lonely and frustrating to wait for the bigger companies (with budgets to do larger deals and provide a high lifetime value) to stumble upon your content and raise their hand.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing alternative approach especially focused on engaging with and eventually closing and growing the largest, most valuable B2B accounts: ABM.

Benefits of ABM

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Louis Gudema is the president of revenue + associates, which helps companies significantly increase revenue through measurable improvements in sales and marketing.

LinkedIn: Louis Gudema 

Twitter: @LouisGudema

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  • by Stephan Hovnanian Thu Jan 21, 2016 via web

    Great comparison Louis, I'm curious if you feel "customer success" is a subset of ABM. Seems like there are similarities between the two.

  • by Matt Benati Thu Jan 21, 2016 via web

    Nice article, Louis. Key to successful ABM programs is the ability to target accounts and perform lead-to-account matching for new contacts. Doing this well allows sales and marketing teams to more quickly penetrate target accounts and accelerate opportunities. I look forward to reading other comments and reading more of your articles. Please feel free to reach out to me to continue to this discussion (

  • by Dave Vranicar Thu Jan 21, 2016 via web

    Thanks for a terrific article, Louis. Your comparison of account-based marketing and inbound marketing is badly needed. I think it helps eliminate a lot of potential confusion.

    I fully agree with the points you make about when each is likely to be the better alternative.

    I also agree that for some companies, it may make sense to do both account-based marketing and inbound marketing.

    Thanks again.

  • by Faramawi Sun Jan 24, 2016 via web

    Great Interpretation, but Why we should select between them anyway? :)
    I believe Inbound Marketing can help positively on the impact of ABM.. specially that we consider Inbound marketing as a concept of thinking & Acting and not just tools & metrics we use. Educative & Entertaining Content can play a good role along the ABM relationship life-cycle.

  • by Adena DeMonte Thu Jan 28, 2016 via web

    If you think of your ABM strategy as Outbound only, you're missing out on a HUGE opportunity. If you're a B2B company, then all of your marketing strategy should be ABM strategy. ABM is not about going after a short list of accounts (though this is part of ABM.) IMO, ABM is applying an account-centric lens on ALL marketing efforts. At Reflektive, where I run marketing, my goal is to market to companies. Within those companies, there are specific people I hope to reach -- buyers, influencers, and sponsors. If our inbound strategies are not successfully reaching accounts, and being measured with an account-centric view and success metrics, then our inbound strategies are failing.

  • by Nicolas Cassidy Mon Jun 6, 2016 via web

    Account-Based Marketing has more incentives than inbound marketing, which means bigger payoffs and usually higher conversion rates. The pros/cons for ABM vs Inbound marketing part was awesome. Couldn't agree more with your analysis. We wrote a similar article on this topic at Torchlite if you want to source any of our info:

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