Comparing account-based marketing and inbound marketing: A deep dive

By Anders Björklund

Comparing account-based marketing and inbound marketing: A deep dive

Imagine the simplicity of your marketing and sales if you had clarity on the specific companies to target, along with knowledge about the content that would most engage them. Intriguing. In our modern world, inbound marketing (referred to as 'Inbound') and account-based marketing (referred to as 'ABM') coexist. When synchronised effectively, they can often yield the results you're aiming for. It is not about picking between the two; rather than pondering over 'ABM vs Inbound', the strategy should involve deploying both Inbound and ABM tactics.


You might already be acquainted with the Inbound concept—a strategy offering content and features that furnish solutions, advice, evidence, and forward-thinking recommendations.

In the same way, you might have some knowledge about ABM. ABM is a tactic that harmonises marketing and sales by providing a uniform, customised prospect-buying journey.

To begin our exploration, we will explain these two strategies and suggest incorporating them into your existing sales and marketing blend.

What does account-based marketing entail?

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is an emerging tactic adopted widely to foster growth. It coordinates marketing and sales to curate a bespoke experience for your selected accounts rather than for a single individual.

In ABM, potential buyers are not treated as separate entities; you devise a marketing and sales plan to target all potential buyers within a given account.

The first step involves aligning sales and marketing to cherry-pick specific accounts. Then, a joint marketing and sales plan is designed to target each account. This saves time for both marketing and sales and creates a more consistent experience for the potential customers within each account.

Companies that are a suitable match for employing an ABM strategy usually sell high-value products or services to other businesses, like most B2B organisations.

The alignment of sales and marketing, facilitated by ABM, enables more streamlined business decisions. This alignment is the key to reducing friction, saving time that would otherwise be spent identifying the most relevant companies to target, and expediting the process of pleasing potential customers.

With ABM, accounts are treated as individuals, enabling the creation of relevant and personalised content that delights decision-makers.

ABM is becoming an increasingly popular strategy for shortening sales cycles, enhancing relevance, improving ROI, and effectively selling to high-value targets and customers—but how does it stack up against Inbound?

ABM and Inbound 

ABM facilitates a focused approach that delights your high-value accounts. Inbound, on the other hand, attracts customers through valuable and relevant content and functionality, providing target groups with what is of significance to them.

Commonalities between ABM and Inbound

Both ABM and Inbound require a profound understanding of your target buyers and companies, informing the content you create and the manner of its delivery. This bolsters discoverability and relevance for the target groups.

Your existing content and touchpoints, created for Inbound, can be repurposed and used for ABM. Typically, with ABM, you take this foundational content and customise it.

Both Inbound and ABM focus on delivering a superior buying experience across the entire buying process. ABM should be utilised to boost the inbound foundation you have established.

Furthermore, both ABM and Inbound concentrate on targeted, personalised content. ABM zeroes in on delighting the right potential customers with content designed to cater to their specific challenges, a fundamental component of Inbound.

ABM and Inbound help in satisfying and retaining your existing and potential customers. As ABM focuses on a set of specific accounts, you have more opportunities to concentrate on the satisfaction and retention of those customers, which is a crucial aspect of inbound.

You can also employ ABM and Inbound in tandem to enhance your overall plan. Inbound assists in attracting the right potential customers, and ABM utilises marketing and sales to expedite the process and deliver valuable customer experiences. Both strategies give you an advantage in securing the desired target customers.

It is crucial to approach ABM in an inbound manner: providing valuable and relevant content, functionality, and customer experiences to those high-value companies.

By integrating ABM and Inbound, you can deliver a more robust plan. The software you choose to support your efforts should allow you to experiment with creating campaigns that align with your desired business outcome.

How to execute account-based marketing

To ensure that potential customers remain central to your ABM, it is vital to stick to the principles. Your ABM should focus on customising how and what you communicate with your target companies.

Below, I outline the five primary steps to ABM that harmonise with Inbound and detail how you can execute ABM in a user-friendly manner.


ABM begins with sales and marketing identifying and selecting the relevant accounts to target. As the selection and segmentation process begins, data such as company size, annual revenue, locations, and number of employees helps you understand which accounts to prioritise.

You can use your buyer personas to comprehend your target customers' main challenges and needs. Then, you determine content and touchpoints to approach these target customers.


When utilising ABM in sales, the buying decisions are typically made by several individuals within a company. ABM helps establish relationships with potential buyers and involves them in their purchase decisions.

Creating unique, company-specific content that appeals to each potential buyer within the targeted company is crucial at this stage. In the expansion stage, it is vital to identify and engage with everyone involved in the company's buying decision to secure a customer.

You must consider your stakeholders' fundamental challenges to create relevant and compelling content. For instance, finance may focus on price and payment terms, whereas operations might concentrate on user access, security, and ease of use. In this context, I would like you to create targeted content and offer potential interactions that align with each individual's needs and challenges.


This is the stage where marketing and sales collaborate to engage with stakeholders across various channels. For example, if one of your stakeholders prefers email, equipping salespeople to reach out to that person with a helpful and relevant message can initiate a conversation. This step primarily involves developing relationships with and understanding all the buyers who will make the final decision.


Next, I would like you to build relationships with a few stakeholders who can act as advocates within the organisation. Modern buyers can ignore information they want to avoid hearing. Therefore, it's up to marketing and sales to provide value, discussing the product only when and where it's relevant.


Regular reporting at the account level can provide data on what works and doesn't, allowing you to enhance relevance over time.

If you select the right ABM software, you can report on company revenue, growth, job titles, engagement, and more—at the company level.

Kickstart your account planning

If you're interested and want to learn more about account-based marketing, I've included a downloadable template to help you get started with your account planning.

Curious to learn more about account-based marketing? Take a look at our in-depth ABM guide, where we explain more about the benefits of this strategy and the tactics you should use to be successful.

 Download the account planning template

You can also read this article in Swedish on Onlineguiden.

Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B.
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