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April 4, 2018

Content Marketing vs. Account Based-Marketing: Weighing the Pros and Cons of Both

Around 15 years ago a new kid arrived on the block in the B2B marketing world, and it had nothing to do with a Wahlberg brother or a boy band from Boston.

It was the birth of Account Based-Marketing (ABM) – a form of marketing that involves identifying high value targets, usually businesses, and treating that individual client or ‘account’ as a market in its own right.

While ABM has been around for a while, it’s not until now – the golden age of content marketing – that it’s really coming into its own.

ABM is gathering so much momentum that marketers are asking the question: ‘content marketing or Account Based-Marketing, which one is better?’

So let’s take a closer look each of these methodologies, and the cases for and against. 

What’s the Difference?

Content marketing involves creating and distributing useful content that doesn’t explicitly promote a brand, but is designed to stimulate interest and inbound leads. 

Typically, it involves publishing useful, valuable organic online content, like blogs, to reach a wide audience, gaining inbound leads and prompts the reader to take some form of action. 

ABM consists of coordinated and highly personalized marketing and sales efforts targeted at specific high-value businesses or accounts. 

Leading B2B Marketing Leaders ISTMA pioneered the ABM concept in 2004 to “stop generic sales pitches and zero in on the essential needs of their most important clients.”

This is achieved via highly customized and automated marketing efforts spanning the entire buyer journey. 

So if content marketing is about casting a wide net to recruit a large pool of leads, ABM uses a head-hunting approach to target and retain individual accounts. 

Content Marketing

Pros

1. Low Cost, High Return Lead Generation 

It’s relatively inexpensive to create and publish content that can reach a large audience and generate a substantial number of leads.

Research has found that content marketing generates 3 times the leads and 6 times the conversions, while costing 62% less than outbound or traditional marketing methods.

According to Marketing Sherpa, the average conversion rate for organic traffic to leads is 16%. 

In my agency, Express Writers, content has fueled over 15,470 monthly visitors our way at a darn close ratio to the 16%–14%, earning us 346 sales in a given month. (See full blog case study on our conversions from inbound leads.)

2. Establishes Credibility

Every piece of content created and published is a chance for a brand to establish its credibility, and position itself as an industry expert and authority.

High quality content can build trust and enable a prospect to feel confident in doing business with you.

3. Long-term Exposure

Once content is published online, it will exist indefinitely and potentially send your business traffic and leads for days, weeks, months, and even years to come.

This is confirmed by Hubspot research that showed 76% of its blog views, and a whopping 92% of leads, came from “old” or evergreen posts.

Cons

1. Quality Matters 

The success of content marketing fundamentally relies on the quality of the content.

Using poorly written content on your site can have a significant effect on your SEO, damage your reputation, and turn away prospects.

Relying on a high-caliber content agency can help you avoid falling into the weeds of bad writers.

2. A Lot of Competition 

You’re definitely not the lone ranger when it comes to content creation.

Recent research from Smart Insights shows that more than 200 million pieces of online content are posted every 60 seconds.

So your content has a lot of competition and needs to be incredibly engaging to stand out.  

3. Casting A Wide Net 

While it’s great that your online content can reach a very wide audience and potentially generate loads of leads, not all of those will be qualified leads.

You may inadvertently attract prospects that aren’t your ideal customers, which is why it’s incredibly important to identify your target persona, and ensure your content resonates with them. 

Account-Based Marketing

Pros

1. Super Targeted 

When it comes to B2B marketing, many companies are better served seeking specific high-value customers, rather that using a wide-reaching approach.

ABM is extremely targeted but involves a collaborative approach between marketing and sales, as well as firmographic data to identify specific clients or accounts worth targeting.

2. Highly Personalized

Marketers have long known the power of personalized content and ABM provides the opportunity to create highly targeted content.

Content can be tailored to zero in on the client’s specific needs and pain points, as well as decision-makers within the client organization, for each stage of the buyer journey.

Image source: Smart Insights

3. Easier Tracking and ROI Measurement

Analyzing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is easier with ABM because you are monitoring a smaller set of target accounts.

Instead of reviewing broad metrics and huge amounts of data, you can easily identify which campaigns, content and marketing activities were most effective.

In fact one survey found that 84% of B2B businesses using ABM delivered a higher ROI than other types of marketing. 

Cons

1. Annoying to Leads

Many ABM strategies start with reaching out to the lead via cold email. 

This is a bad strategy. As a CEO, I’m hit up with daily emails. “Book a call with me!” “I have just the solution for you!” these emails scream, over and over. 

I’m annoyed, and the stats show that everyone else is, too. 1% of cold calls actually convert into an appointment.

2. Resource Hungry

ABM can be labor intensive and heavily reliant on data and software solutions. You will be putting a lot of time and effort into just a few accounts, which may never pay off. 

This marketing approach is also a long-term investment that involves building and nurturing relationships over time, so it may be a while before you know whether your efforts will be rewarded or not.

3. Requires A Specific Skill-Set

Marketers leading ABM efforts need a very specific skill-set and expertise that are not easy to obtain.

The marketer will need to fully understand the entire end-to-end marketing process, and be well versed in sourcing and analyzing market data, as well as automation software and other ABM technologies. 

4. Needs Coordination At All Levels

Effective ABM needs buy-in across the board to be successful. Senior leaders need to provide support and resources for the initiatives. Marketing and sales will need to work hand-in-hand at all times, as well as any other individuals in the organization who have a relationship with a key stakeholder within the target organization.

And the winner is…

For B2C and B2B, content marketing is likely to work for any type of business, with a focus on high-quality and engaging content.

You’ll completely avoid going the dangerous route of “being annoying” to your leads. Let them find you and come in through the value you put out.

Remember, 82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content, and 90% find custom content useful. (More stats at CMI.)

Not sure how to elevate your content marketing strategy? Just ask us. Express Writers is a leading copywriting agency, with a team of proven web copywriters.


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Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.

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