Even the idea of account-based marketing (ABM) can tickle the erogenous zones of most B2B marketing types. Imagine being able to target your marketing so precisely that specific individuals in specific companies go from ice-cold leads to red-hot fire-hot ambassadors. Heaven! This both sounds and feels like the ultimate marketing nirvana.
Especially in a knowledge-heavy B2B reality, where marketing is measured by the ability to create high-quality warm leads within a specific segment or niche, ABM is difficult to avoid. But just because the idea of ABM is appealing to most sales or marketing executives with control of their segmentation doesn't mean it is easy to get started.
ABM may seem overwhelming for a number of reasons:
- the complex task of collecting data to gain a common overview of the target group - or
- the challenge of profiling/personifying the target audience and any possible sub-target groups – not to mention
- the work involved in personalising content so the recipient experiences it as 1: 1 communication - and, on top of all that
- the work in finding the resources and momentum to make this happen within a clear timeframe in a marketing function that has scarce resources
In all honesty, ABM only makes sense for larger B2B companies with a relatively sophisticated analytics set-up and sufficient resources. Or for a company like Publico where, despite our modest size, we still have more than 20 employees with extensive marketing skills.
Even with all these reservations, it is also worth pointing out that ABM can be an especially effective method of creating results for B2B companies in many different sectors - typically the knowledge-heavy markets with long sales cycles/customer journeys, and those with many influencers involved in the purchasing process.
The idea of ABM makes you think immediately of LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s tools can enable data from sales and marketing to be integrated into a real-time overview of the current engagement behaviour of leads. It is on LinkedIn that you can use targeting capabilities to accurately snipe a target audience with personalised content. You also have the opportunity on LinkedIn to scale ABM programs in an easy-to-understand way.
Here are 7 ways to use LinkedIn for account-based marketing:
1. Scoring and selection of targets
The success of AMB stands or falls with the prioritising of targets that both sales and marketing believe in. It is a common misconception that ABM can only be used to chase unicorns (dream customers) on a 1:1 basis; with massive investment in pursuing a few valuable prospects. In reality, using ABM as a supplement to your content marketing or inbound marketing efforts is more scalable than you think. The key to making an impact via your ABM program is to define different categories among the target groups based on their potential and current “lead temperature”. Next, design a customised approach to high-priority targets, and then scale this approach to match other prospects.
Scoring and selecting targets on LinkedIn: Sales Navigator provides a detailed indication of current lead readiness. It allows you to integrate this with information from your Company Profile to score leads and prioritise them into different categories. Features such as real-time notifications allow the priorities for current lead status to be adjusted.
2. Profiling of high priority prospects
Pinpointing a high-priority prospect in your ABM program is not enough. You also need to research, understand and profile the specific target company, identify the relevant key stakeholders and develop a plan to reach them. The good news is that the time invested in understanding your key prospects not only adds value with regard to these specific companies: You also create valuable personas for your overall ABM program.
Profiling prospects on LinkedIn: The Buyer Circle-functionin LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a good place to start profiling priority prospects, as well as identifying the likely decision makers and influencers in the buying process. Notifications about personnel changes help keep the profiling up-to-date.
3. Distribution of customised content
The ability to deliver customised content is absolutely crucial for all ABM efforts. Personalised content is created by combining insights from sales with marketing execution. When you hit home with ABM, it means that key decision makers in the customer's buying process are engaging with content that reflects not only their company's pain points and needs, but also their own needs. Addressing specific job titles or features in your content can increase the chance of raising engagement with people having these positions, functions or perhaps challenges. In a recent sales survey from LinkedIn, 87% of European B2B buyers say that they are more likely to buy products or services from a company that engages them in content relevant to their specific role in the business.
Distributing personalised ABM content on LinkedIn: LinkedIn's unique targeting capabilities are the main reason the platform plays a key role in many ABM strategies. Account Targetingallows you to distribute your customised content to the exact prospects you have developed it for.
4. Real-time notifications and lead-scoring
Detailed tracking of engagement with specific ABM prospects can help sales make contact at the right time - where potential ambassadors and opponents in the customer's internal buying processes can be strategically influenced. Real-time notifications can be worth their weight in gold when timing your proactive initiatives in a lengthy process. In a recent survey from LinkedIn and Edelman, 60% of European decision makers said that content relevant to their actual job situation is essential for gaining their digital attention.
Tracking account engagement on LinkedIn: LinkedIn Sales Navigatorprovides real-time notifications about relevant LinkedIn engagement with your content from prospects. You can then build up different engagement scores for people in the buying process, and time your proactive sales behaviour more precisely. This also means you can take quick action if your content is not performing as well as you had hoped. If this is the case, look for patterns in the content from other companies that your key audience is interacting with.
5. Create a smooth handover to sales
Buyers, influencers, and ambassadors in the customer's organisation are more likely to respond positively to sales people from strong brand companies that have delivered value in the form of inspirational or educational content. A good ABM program equips the sales organisation with both brand awareness and value-creating content that makes it easier for the knowledge seller to reach out
LinkedIn’s contribution to the sales process: Real time notifications help Sales Navigator-users to customise their approach and create relevant content. The PointDrive function has a personalised content hub for sharing insights on relevant/current issues.
6. Scale your ABM strategyIt is impossible to give the same attention to every single target you have identified. But the value of ABM can really be seen when you can adapt the insights of customised efforts to other targets. This enables you to make use of synergies across target audiences.
Scaling ABM programmes on LinkedIn: There are a number of ways to use LinkedIn to maximize your ROI for ABM by rolling out the approach to all audiences and prospects. It is also possible - as on Facebook - to find lookalikes for the companies and profiles that are already part of your ABM programme.
7. Choose the right metrics and measure the resultsABM makes the task of choosing metrics and measuring results both specific and manageable. You can see exactly who is interacting with your content and what that interaction leads to. This is in contrast to other types of marketing efforts where you can only use data to get an indirect idea of the activities that actually generate sales. It is probably best to select a few key benchmarks - and preferably those that are most closely related to turnover. ABM lets your company monitor whether your interaction with relevant people leads to meetings, tenders and orders. Both sales and marketing will be thrilled to have this information.
LinkedIn provides sales and marketing data to give an overall picture of the ABM programme's results. The sales department can follow who interacts with specific content, how this pushes prospects further down into the sales funnel, and how potential orders can be channelled into a specific pipeline. If you integrate Sales Navigator with your CRM (such as HubSpot CRM, used by Publico), it opens up a wide range of data and notification options. Once you identify the link between digital engagement at various levels and specific orders in your book, you can use LinkedIn's analytics to track this development on a wider scale - and in this way gain a whole new perspective on how to attract prospects to your marketing content.
Create your ABM foundation on LinkedIn
Account Based Marketing is a strategy and method that has its origins in digital marketing and data. With ABM, you can take advantage of the opportunity to get detailed feedback in real-time from actual prospects, and then precision bomb your dream customers with customised content. The more data sources you can integrate in your ABM work with sales, the better. Data can come from a number of different platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, CRM, and Google Analytics) and from specific ABM tools.
In terms of ABM, LinkedIn is hard to do without - both as a data source and as an execution channel. Even if you rely on a limited amount of in-house data, LinkedIn will make it easier to prioritise prospects, identify the right people, distribute personalised content in a scalable way – and then measure all of this.