One of the fun, but challenging aspects of marketing for a fast-growing company in a high-paced industry is that things change all the time. And as a result, our marketing strategy has to shift, as well, in order to become even more effective and efficient.
A great example of this shift is that as our product has matured and has added powerful enterprise features, we’ve had to adapt our strategy to match our new up-market target audience. A big component of this change was adding more account-based marketing (ABM) elements to our marketing mix, and a significant chunk of our ABM execution takes place on LinkedIn.
Through this transition and through a bit of experimentation, we’ve picked up many tricks and tips. Here are six tips that have helped us succeed -- and succeed fast -- with ABM on LinkedIn.
Hold on, why shift to ABM? ABM has returned as the next big thing in B2B marketing, but it’s important to understand when it actually is the right strategy. ABM works particularly well when you have a big average deal size because you can afford to give each account more attention and more resources. When your deal size is something like $10 a month, you have to have thousands, maybe even millions, of customers. It’s not possible to effectively target that many accounts individually. But as your deal size gets bigger, like $10,000 a month, it makes a lot more sense to target single accounts. The math behind ABM has always been the case, but what has really propelled ABM into the forefront recently is the growth and maturity of marketing technology that allows B2B marketers to precisely execute and effectively measure highly targeted ABM.
And why on LinkedIn? We’ve found that LinkedIn is a great place for B2B marketers to start with ABM because of its massive scale and B2B-specific targeting capabilities.
Ok, back to the tips.
Tip #1: Before you start planning your ABM strategy, take some time to understand LinkedIn’s account targeting rules
LinkedIn’s ad platform has many requirements and restrictions for ABM targeting. For example, you can include a maximum of 100 companies per campaign, but also need to have more than 1,000 contacts per campaign. If you had set up a plan without knowing this -- say, created a list of 200 companies with 3 target contacts in each company -- it would have meant a lot of wasted time planning account groups that don’t fit within LinkedIn’s ad targeting infrastructure.
Just like any other LinkedIn campaign, it’s important to keep in mind the targeting layers in addition to company name: job function (as a way to target job titles), job level/seniority, job titles (if you are targeting huge companies), skills, etc. These layers can help you create campaign groups that are targeted enough for effective marketing, but broad enough to hit the 1,000 contact minimum.
Tip #2: Work closely with your sales team to pick the right accounts
Picking the right accounts to target starts with being on the same page as your sales team. Meet with Sales and figure out how your LinkedIn ABM efforts can best complement the named account strategy that Sales is going after. At Bizible, we have several account lists that we use for our LinkedIn campaigns. One of those account lists syncs with our lead stages in Salesforce (our Sales data), and the other is based on one of our outbound sales call list. The effectiveness of both of these lists is dependent on strong alignment between our marketing team and our sales team.
Another step in picking the right accounts to go after, is segmenting the list of accounts into the right groups for effective targeting. An obvious example is that the ads we run to our lead stage list promotes very different content than the ads that are delivered to our outbound calling list. Therefore, it makes sense that these lists go in different campaigns.
Tip #3: Personalize messaging to each account group
In line with the previous tip, the beauty of ABM is that you can target specific accounts with messaging that is tailored to them -- it makes your ads as relevant as possible. If you know a company has a specific problem that your product solves, it’s possible to write really compelling ad copy.
By no means is this easy, but it’s worth trying to create as compelling ads as your resources permit. When it comes to ABM on LinkedIn, that takes the form of personalizing messaging for each account group.
Tip #4: Keep updating/maintaining your lists
If your sales cycle is longer than a few weeks, chances are good that employees at some of your target accounts will change titles or even change companies while you’re actively targeting them. When doing ABM on LinkedIn, make sure that you’re doing your best to keep your account list as accurate as possible.
Unfortunately this is manual in LinkedIn, but it’s worth it to regularly review your lists and make changes as necessary. For example, our paid media manager updates the BDR lists weekly (which is in line with how often our BDRs update their lists) and some of our other lists get updated twice per month. After all, you don’t want to waste money on irrelevant people.
Tip #5: Measure ABM results in terms of accounts, not leads
One of the hardest aspects of account-based B2B deals is adjusting to a new measurement mindset. Unlike in B2C marketing where every single person can convert into an individual customer, in B2B marketing, an entire account -- typically multiple people -- can convert into one customer. This means that when you’re measuring the impact of your ABM efforts, you must treat email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org as a single account. If you expect the two leads to result in two new customers, you’ll be very disappointed.
One of the biggest changes with ABM measurement is lead-to-account mapping. In the previous example, that’s making sure that Jane and John (leads) are mapped to Company XYZ (an account). When each engage with our marketing, we want to see that Company XYZ shows multiple engagements, rather than multiple Company XYZs showing a single engagement each.
Additionally, ABM measurement should also account for timing within the sales cycle. Megan Heuer, VP at Sirius Decisions, said in an AMA on PipelineMarketing.com that “since sales cycles are long for some companies, marketing has to track near-term, mid-term and long term metrics to show progress towards well-defined goals, and not wait for revenue impact that may be a year away.”
Tip #6: Change up your offers, optimize
Whenever you have a more limited audience (like with ABM), there is a greater risk of audience fatigue. To keep your ads fresh, in the perspective of your target accounts, remember to switch up your offers and continue to test and monitor their performance. Keep an eye on your ads’ click-through-rates and if any take a dip, it may be a signal that your audience is tired of seeing the same ad.
Finally, there are a few pain points to also keep in mind when executing an ABM strategy on LinkedIn. The first is that ABM on LinkedIn is still very manual at this point. There’s no bulk uploading, so someone has to manually enter each company name, and there is also the inconvenience of company name redundancy -- multiple companies with the same name*. It’s obviously important that you make sure that you choose the right company, and that can take a bit of manual work. And finally, especially for young companies, sometimes a company’s name on LinkedIn is spelled differently from how they spell it on their website or how it’s spelled on the list from your sales team.
ABM may seem like a daunting task, but even with many steps still requiring a bit of tedious, manual work, LinkedIn has proven to be a powerful way to effectively scale targeted ABM efforts. So far, we’ve seen a lot of success, and by following these tips we think you can, too.
*UPDATE: LinkedIn just announced that with an Assisted Account (there is a spend threshold), there are several new features, including bulk uploading! Our paid media manager is thrilled. Read more about the update here.