More than half of B2B marketers are now account-based marketers. There are a lot of reasons that marketing and sales teams are coming together to build an account-based marketing (ABM) approach, but some of the most compelling are:
These benefits aren’t surprising due to the precision-targeted, personalized nature of ABM. When it comes to this strategy, B2B marketers often look to LinkedIn to help boost results. Savvy marketers can take five important steps to ensure success when incorporating LinkedIn into your account-based marketing program.
1. Start with a strategic ABM program
It’s important that you define your ABM strategy before launching your LinkedIn campaigns. Remember, LinkedIn is just one tool in your ABM toolbox. By letting your campaigns follow rather than lead your strategy, you’ll help set them up for more impressive results.
Designing your campaign will require marketing and sales alignment throughout the entire customer journey. Does your sales team already have contacts at the companies you’re targeting? Are you looking to reach more of the decision-makers with an awareness campaign, to drive members to follow your LinkedIn page, or are you trying to generate leads at new companies for the sales team?
Involving both sales representatives and marketers in the approach will help ensure that the ABM strategy accomplishes its goals. Determining the decision-makers, setting target accounts and then crystallizing the messages you want to deliver are just as crucial as setting up your advertising campaign.
Keep in mind that there is more than one way to do ABM. Consider trying some of the following strategies to see which approach best meets your needs:
- One-to-one – targeting a small number of accounts as if they were your own market is useful when you have evidence of verified intent signals, each account has a large number of stakeholders, and landing a deal would be huge for your company.
- One-to-few – targeting a larger number of accounts can be useful if you know they have 3-4 stakeholders and you have the resources to engage with and create content for a wide variety of companies and sectors.
- One-to-many – it’s debatable whether reaching out to a large number of accounts with 1-2 stakeholders is true ABM or simply “marketing,” but this approach can be useful if you lack clear data on current purchase intent for target accounts or are building awareness around a new brand, product, or service.
Campaigns don’t have to be aimed company-by-company. You may find success in targeting by job title and delivering the same message to multiple people in the same position at different companies. You might be targeting people at large companies you already have contacts in, creating lookalike audiences, or staking out uncharted territory.
By being clear from the get-go about what you want to accomplish through your ABM efforts, you can make the most of your LinkedIn campaign dollars.
2. Prepare your digital marketing tech stack
Thanks to the free LinkedIn ads training that’s available, anyone can take a good shot at building an effective campaign. If you’re invested in having a long-lasting effect, you need to get your digital marketing tech stack ready.
It’s futile to focus your efforts and interactions with target accounts solely via LinkedIn. You will want to connect your LinkedIn campaigns to other tools you’re using across your marketing strategy to maximize the opportunity for additional touchpoints. Here are a few examples of what you’ll want to think about before diving in.
Advanced ad technology
There’s a lot of advanced technology to help you find high-value accounts better and faster if you know how to use them. Don’t worry if you haven’t explored them yet, but it’s worth investing time to leverage intent intelligence and find companies who are ready to buy.
Landing pages should be tailored to the ad, which includes the copy, branding, and target audience. This is especially important when it comes to ABM because the very nature of this strategy is ultra-targeted.
Your ad targeted at CFOs should be different than the one targeted at cybersecurity managers. And your offer on the page will need to be something attractive and valuable to that particular audience.
Establish your UTM parameters, what you hope to gain from the campaign, and how you plan on measuring everything. It’s impossible to measure success otherwise.
Your own CRM is one of the most valuable marketing and sales tools you have. Most likely, the foundation of your ABM strategy was formed by analyzing data from your CRM to identify ideal companies, company sizes, and/or job titles based on past marketing and sales data.
Whether you’re using Salesforce, Hubspot, Marketo, or other CRMs, you’ll want to ensure that you’re integrating these platforms into your campaign. If you’re using an agency for your LinkedIn ABM campaigns, they’ve probably already asked which CRM(s) you use in order to get everything set up and started on some of the analysis. Here at Merritt Group, we are technology agnostic, meaning we can work with the platforms you already use to help maximize results.
This is especially important if you’re focusing your campaign on lead generation. If that’s the case, you can try using LinkedIn’s lead gen forms, but you absolutely want to make sure the information that’s submitted makes it to your CRM and those respondents are directed to an appropriate landing page after completing their submission.
The software you’re using for your CRM probably has come marketing automation functionality as well. Be prepared to spend some time thinking about how you’ll use data gained through your LinkedIn campaigns to carry on a relationship with your new contacts.
You might drop them into a nurturing campaign that will help keep your solutions top of mind. If they respond, you could further segment them into future campaigns based on their level of interest or specific offers.
For example, contacts in your CRM who visited last month’s webinar page, but didn’t sign up, might respond well to an email sequence inviting them to a quick recap along with a link to the replay. People who have checked out your technology page might be interested in the new white paper you’ve just released.
3. Create stellar ads
No matter how much you spend on your LinkedIn ABM advertising, your campaign can’t overcome poor execution. Remember that the reason you’re using an ABM strategy in the first place is to align your messaging to speak to the pain points of decision-makers at target accounts.
If your company has never advertised on LinkedIn, you’ll need to take a few steps to get started. Once your ads account is set up, here are some important decisions you’ll need to make as you set up your first campaign:
Selecting an objective
This is where a lot of people get tripped up early on. You’re telling the platform what matters most to you for this campaign, and where to prioritize optimization, so it’s critical to align your campaign objective with the results you want.
For instance, don’t choose “awareness” if you plan on measuring success by the number of leads you get. That’s going to be a losing battle. The algorithms are only as smart as the instructions you give them, so choose your objective carefully.
This step is crucial because targeting is one of the prime reasons to use LinkedIn as part of your ABM program.
- If you want your marketing efforts to reach people at companies you don’t have accounts with yet but have specifically identified, you’ll want to target by company and job title.
- If you want to market to prospects and known contacts, contact targeting is the way to go.
- If as part of your campaign you want to deliver messages to certain people who have engaged with your website, a retargeting campaign might be one tactic that could help with your LinkedIn ABM efforts. If you’re just getting started, this may not be an option yet, but it’s good to keep in mind as your ABM program matures. (More on that later!)
LinkedIn offers several ways to reach your audience.
- Sponsored content appears as native content in the LinkedIn feed.
- Sponsored messaging
- Text ads
- Dynamic ads
- Carousel ads
When it comes to copy and creative, this is not a time to cut corners on personalization. Replacing a B2B mindset with one focused on human-to-human engagement can mean the difference between someone scrolling by or stopping to take action.
Your creative for these campaigns should be laser-targeted for outreach to the target accounts. LinkedIn recommends that you create 2-4 ad variations for optimal testing. Create variety by testing different headline and text copy combinations for each visual.
You can choose between Rotate Ads Evenly or Optimize for Performance. The former will rotate ads in order over and over again, showing each one equally. The latter will let the platform deliver impressions of higher-performing ads more often.
Staying on top of creative can be tricky when there’s urgency surrounding the content. When you’re promoting events, webinars, or seasonal messages, make sure you have the bandwidth to get fresh copy and visuals created quickly. Using your most high-performing templates as a starting point will help.
4. Always be measuring
It’s unlikely that your account-based marketing campaigns will be an immediate and overwhelming success. Even if they are, there’s always going to be a way to improve them. It’s difficult to determine success or find room for improvement if you’re not using the right tools to measure success.
There are countless tools that make wonderful complements to LinkedIn campaigns, but a few to note are:
- Google Analytics: measure your onsite ABM success by analyzing traffic that entered your website through your LinkedIn ABM efforts.
- Hubspot: Drop new contacts straight into your CRM and track them throughout the buyer journey. When you connect your LinkedIn Ads account with Hubspot you can also monitor campaign metrics.
- Databox: pull together data from multiple sources to get a clearer picture for setting benchmarks and measuring success.
These are all tools that we commonly use at Merritt Group to keep an eye on LinkedIn campaign progress for clients, but we’re also able to incorporate any of your preferred tools so that your connections to your campaigns are seamless.
Notice we’ve said “always be measuring” and not “always be changing.” There’s a difference. Adjusting your campaign based on every tiny dip or climb in the metrics is time-consuming, and not ideal when the platform is constantly performing its own adjustments as it learns what works best for your campaign.
Keep an eye on your metrics to make sure pixels are working properly, and the campaign is still running smoothly, but you only need to make adjustments when you have statistically significant data to take action. We recommend waiting at 7-10 days to report on data in order to give the algorithms time to optimize ad delivery.
5. Leverage LinkedIn campaign results to supercharge your ABM strategy
According to the ABM Leadership Alliance, there are 4 stages of ABM adoption: exploring, experimenting, expanding, and embedding. Moving across this spectrum of adoption takes some patience.
By the time your LinkedIn campaign has ended, you’re likely to have some good data to evaluate its effectiveness. How you use that data is crucial to the success of future campaigns. Start by answering a few questions:
Did the campaign work as expected?
If this was your first LinkedIn ABM campaign, you may not have known what to expect. You started with baseline metrics and goals for the campaign itself, and hopefully your results were somewhere in the ballpark.
A good next step in evaluating the success of your LinkedIn ABM campaign is checking out the new Company Engagement Report feature. This shows you how individuals at your target companies interacted with your paid and organic LinkedIn content, as well as the breakdown of ad impressions served by company.
Using this data can help inform future creative decisions and other tactics you may want to test to grow engagement from certain target accounts.
What did this campaign teach us about our current account-based marketing approach?
Was there a certain type of content that people found more valuable? What messaging seemed to work best? How did the campaign perform when you look at metrics by job title? With proper analysis, you can use this data going forward in your content marketing and demand generation plans.
You’ve wasted your time and budget if you’re moving onto the next big thing without trying to understand how a campaign might influence future marketing programs. Review creative performance by CTR, Frequency, and/or conversions, tailoring your analysis to the goals of the campaign.
There won’t be major epiphanies from every marketing campaign, but taking stock of what you’re learning over time can lead to important shifts in targeting the right accounts and establishing ideal customer profiles that make marketing easier.
How can we continue to interact with the people who engaged with the campaign?
Just because someone didn’t buy immediately, doesn’t mean they will never become a customer. Following your campaign, you have some new contacts in your CRM. If you ran your campaign to a UTM-tagged page, you can run retargeting ads on some platforms aimed at audiences who visited that page. This requires some forethought but can help you reach prospects in more places.
Perhaps you collected a few email addresses from key accounts during the campaign. Test some email marketing tactics to see what you can do to move more of these people further into the sales cycle.
LinkedIn also gives you the ability to retarget based on video views. If you ran a video campaign, you now have a warm audience (start with people who watched at least 25% of the video) to deliver top-of-funnel messaging.
As your ABM strategy matures, so will your ability to use sequential targeting as a way to stay in front of your audience on and off the LinkedIn platform. How you segment is up to you, but if your audiences are large enough you can base creative off of which video people watched, and how much of it they completed, to see if sequential messaging helps move them down the funnel.
Hopefully, these tips will help you leverage the power of LinkedIn advertising to enhance your ABM strategy. We know LinkedIn is making a difference for our clients, and we wish you the same success!
If you’re ready to give your B2B marketing a boost and don’t know where to start, reach out to us to learn more about what we can do for you.