[Event Recap] Is Inbound Marketing Flatlining?

Last week at our latest #ToutLive event on Account Based Sales & Marketing, Jon Miller, CEO and Co-Founder at Engagio said that “returns on the general inbound model has changed.”

“Ten years ago, I could write a blog post for Marketo and the next day, we’d rank #1 on Google for that search term. You could do inbound tactics and they’d work really well, but now everyone is doing it and it’s harder to get the same return for those tactics.”

Does this mean that inbound marketing is flatlining? Not necessarily. It does mean that inbound marketing alone isn’t enough to sustain a viable business, especially for companies seeking to move up in market and scale. Companies need to adopt Account Based Sales and Marketing strategies to maximize their revenue potential with enterprise accounts.

For the event, we brought Jon Miller and Lars Nilsson, VP of Global Inside Sales at Cloudera, to talk about their experiences in scaling companies and their knowledge in Account Based Marketing and Sales. Though the session may be over, you can relive the event in our-demand video as Lars, Jon and TK talk through Account Based Sales and Marketing. 

For Inbound to Survive, You Need Outbound Efforts

According to ITSMA, 78% of executives are willing to respond to unsolicited outreach from companies, if it contains ideas that are strategically relevant. This is incredible news for outbound prospecting proponents and a signal for change for inbound loyalists.

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For companies looking to increase their dollar pipeline and close larger deals—you need both an inbound and outbound stream, and it all starts at the account level.

“When you’re in an Account Based mindset, you aren’t going to wait around for the right people in those accounts to swim into your net. You find ways to reach out to them through practical tactics like Sales Development,” said Jon. “So, that switch has an outbound nature, which frankly raises the bar on relevance and personalization, so when you do reach out to them it actually works.”  

Having your Sales and Marketing teams work at the account-level, allows them to understand a prospect’s industry, pain points and figure out those strategically relevant ideas that will pique an executive’s interests.

Lars, John and TK on Account Based Sales and Marketing. 

“Doing Account Based Sales Development, account by account, our open rates have gone from 50% to 70% and our reply rate went from 15% to 35%,” said Lars on Cloudera’s engagement rate since implementing Account Based Selling to their pipeline team. “When you’re sending out to a hundred people and you get a 25% reply rate, that’s 25 individuals in an account that have replied with a message that they’re interested.”

Companies Need to Leverage Technology to do ABS and ABM

“In the last two years or so, new technologies have made data and personalization at scale more available. Technology allows companies to reach 200-500 accounts with a high level of personalization,” said Jon. “If you combine that with the declining return of inbound, that’s what makes Account Based Marketing so powerful.”

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With data more accessible, a company’s opportunity to implement Account Based Sales and Marketing is more tangible than ever. Today, through technology such as data software and email automation tools, it eliminates those historical hurdles.

Lars Nilsson on Account Based Sales. 

Lars believes that Account Based Sales took off once the technology and power of automation was put in the hands of the Sales Development Representative (SDR). “Before ToutApp came around 4.5 years ago, it was Marketo—marketing people were sending out those nurturing emails en masse,” said Lars.

“Now, technology goes into the hands of an individual SDR, and they can personalize emails, orchestrate it and alter it on the fly because it’s there and allows them to do that themselves.”  

Instead of a Random List of Accounts, Think Strategically

Even with technology, it still means that for any Account Based campaign to be successful, reps and marketers will still need to rely on personalization at scale.

Remember, 78% of executives are willing to respond to unsolicited outreach from companies, if it contains ideas that are strategically relevant.

“There’s not going to be an infinite number of personas that you’re going to want to reach,” said Jon. “So, don’t mess them up by sending a generic message. You’re one button away from an opt-out.”

Jon Miller on Account Based Marketing. 

During the event, Lars shared his team’s Account Based Sales Development process:

  • The team decides which strategic accounts to go after in two ways:
    • The AE decides which accounts to go after and partners with the SDR to execute an outbound campaign for each specific account
    • The Sales team leans on Marketing to gather signaling information where people from strategic accounts are visiting Cloudera’s website
  • Then they look at the number of contacts, their titles and they begin their research to understand those contacts and create a hyper-personalized outbound campaign

Account Based Sales and Marketing is all about moving up market and maximizing revenue potential. It’s nearly impossible to hyper-personalize a random list of leads because that would take too much effort. Instead, through an Account Based approach, it takes the randomness out of the equation and allows for personalization.

If it Doesn’t Scale, You’re Doing it Right

As the session came to a close, our panelists shared the most eye-opening fact about Account Based Sales and Marketing: it doesn’t scale.

Running an Account Based Sales and Marketing campaign at the SMB isn’t scalable. There’s almost an infinite number of SMB accounts, any company would need an army of sales reps and marketers just to get by. However, when moving up into Enterprise sales, an Account Based approach makes sense.

“I think a big part of ABM and ABSD are about doing things that don’t scale, like sending out books to prospects,” said Jon. “It works because it doesn’t scale. If it’s something you can scale to infinity, you’re probably not doing Account Based well. If it’s something that doesn’t scale, you’re probably on the right track.”

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For more actionable steps on how to implement Account Based Sales to your team, read our 6 Step Approach to Account Based Selling blog post

  • John McKeown

    Great article and a good way to look at things – when Toutapp does account based marketing, what deal size for you guys justifies this approach. Just a note on your comments section… it requires you to sign up to Disqus – I was hesitant and imagine most people won’t do this, do you think this might be atrophying people commenting on your site?