The Starter Guide to Account-Based Marketing (ABM) on LinkedIn

How LinkedIn can add value at the seven key stages of an ABM programme

May 31, 2019

It’s difficult to find a B2B marketer who isn’t switched on to the value of Account-Based Marketing (ABM). If your priorities include more effective alignment with sales, delivering higher quality and more relevant leads, and linking marketing activity more directly to revenue, then ABM is almost certainly part of your thinking. However, just because the benefits are clear doesn’t mean that the process for building an ABM programme always feels that way.

ABM can feel daunting for several reasons: the complex task of pulling together data for a shared view of target accounts, the science of profiling those accounts and categorising your audience, the sheer scale of the task of personalising content, and the effort that’s often involved in generating the momentum to make it all happen. It can be easy to assume that ABM is only viable for larger businesses with sophisticated analytics and resource to spare.

The truth is though, that ABM is already delivering value for a wide range of businesses of different sizes and budgets – and those businesses find many of the essential ingredients for effective ABM on LinkedIn. It’s through LinkedIn tools that they are able to integrate data from both sales and marketing for a robust, real-time view of how accounts are engaging. It’s on LinkedIn that they find the targeting capabilities to deliver personalised content to the right target audiences, and it’s on LinkedIn that they can find the capabilities to scale ABM programmes in a manageable way.

LinkedIn analytics and features have value to add for sophisticated ABM strategies that synthesise bespoke data from a range of different sources. However, they also have a vital role to play for smaller marketing teams that are just starting out on their ABM journey, and are hungry for meaningful insights to help plan their programme. Here are seven ways to use LinkedIn at the seven key stages of executing an ABM:

1. Scoring and selecting targets

Effective ABM depends on a rigorous approach to prioritising your target accounts that both sales and marketing can believe in. It’s a common misconception that ABM always involves completely bespoke 1:1 approaches, with heavy investment in a few high-value prospects. In reality, many ABM programmes are more scalable – reaching similar categories of potential customers at scale. The key to getting maximum value from your ABM programme is establishing different tiers of target accounts based on the size and immediacy of the opportunity. You can then design a bespoke approach to high-priority targets, and scale this approach to grow the reach and impact of ABM to other prospects.

Scoring and selecting target accounts on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Sales Navigator provides a detailed view of account readiness. You can integrate this with company profile information to score opportunities and prioritise them in different categories – even if you have limited other data available. Features such as real-time alerts when businesses secure funding or miss key targets ensure you know when it’s time to re-prioritise an account.

2. Profiling priority accounts

It’s not enough to earmark a high-value account for your ABM programme. You also need to invest time in profiling the business, identifying each of the key stakeholder audiences, and developing a plan for them. The time that you invest in understanding your top-priority accounts won’t just support sales into those businesses. You’ll also be creating valuable personas for your wider ABM programme.

Profiling accounts on LinkedIn:

The Buyer Circle feature within LinkedIn Sales Navigator is an ideal starting point for profiling your priority accounts, and identifying all of the decision-makers and influencers likely to be involved in a purchase decision. Alerts on personnel

changes help to keep that profiling accurate and up-to-date.

3. Delivering customised content

The ability to deliver customised content is the fulcrum of your ABM programme: everything pivots around it. Personalised content is where insight from sales meets marketing execution. Done right, it means that key influencers and decision-makers are engaging with content that reflects not just the business’s needs, but the priorities of their own role. Calling out specific job titles in personalised content maximises the engagement that it can generate. In LinkedIn’s recent State of Sales survey, 87% of B2B buyers in Europe say they are more likely to consider products or services from a brand that engages them with content specifically relevant to their role.

Delivering personalised ABM content on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn’s unique targeting capabilities are the reason it plays such a prominent role in so many ABM strategies. Account targeting ensures that, when you tailor content to fit a priority account, you’re able to deliver that content exclusively to that account. Layering in profile data enables you to customise content to the needs and priorities of different functions. You can then AB test different content options for these function-specific audiences, optimising around the approaches that work and rolling out learnings to similar accounts.

4. Real time alerts and lead scoring

Detailed tracking of engagement within ABM accounts helps to identify the right moments for sales to reach out, the potential advocates within a buying committee – and the blockers who need to be engaged and persuaded for things to move forward. Real-time alerts can often help to unlock new opportunities in these areas. In recent research from LinkedIn and Edelman, 60% of decision-makers in Europe say that content related to something they are currently working on is a critical factor prompting them to engage.

Tracking ABM account engagement on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Sales Navigator provides real-time alerts whenever employees at target accounts engage with your brand’s content. This helps to build up an engagement score for different members of the buying committee that you can use to identify the right moments for sales to reach out. Equally, if your content is failing to engage key influencers and decision-makers, you can act on that insight. Look for clues to their interests and priorities in the content they engage with.

5. Designing seamless sales hand-offs

Buyers, influencers and advocates are more likely to respond to sales people who represent what they perceive to be a strong brand – and who reach out with insights relevant to their business. An effective ABM programme equips your sales team with both of these crucial assets – building awareness, putting your brand front-of-mind, and then providing in-depth content that ensures a sales person adds value when they get in touch.

How LinkedIn supports sales engagement:

Real-time engagement alerts equip LinkedIn Sales Navigator users to tailor their approach – and build on the content that individuals within a business are responding to. The PointDrive feature creates a personalised content hub for sharing insights related to their priority issues.

6. Scaling the ABM strategy

As mentioned, it’s not always feasible to apply the same level of attention to every target account that you’ve identified. The value of an ABM programme is multiplied when you’re able to use the insights that you gain from a bespoke approach to high-value accounts, and scale your ABM by applying them to similar businesses.

Scaling ABM programmes on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn account targeting enables you to scale ABM quickly and easily, multiplying the Return on Investment (ROI) from your efforts by rolling out approaches across your full account list. You can also use look-alike targeting to reach similar businesses to those already engaging with your ABM programme.

7. Generating the right metrics to track value

ABM puts marketing metrics into a much more meaningful context, because you know who’s engaging and you know what that engagement leads to. Dell EMC's Senior VP of Marketing EMEA, Margaret Franco argues that the discussion around metrics for ABM can often get unnecessarily complex. The real opportunity is for sales and marketing to cut through some of the confusion that surrounds measurement, focusing on fewer metrics – but linking those metrics more closely to actual revenue. ABM gives you the opportunity to establish how relevant engagement with relevant individuals translates into spend with your business. Sales and marketing can then agree on why such metrics matter.

Measuring ABM programmes on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn provides the data that sales and marketing need to build a shared view of the impact of ABM. On the sales side, you can track exactly who’s engaging with marketing content, how this contributes to account readiness, and how potential deals are progressing through the pipeline. Integrating Sales Navigator with your CRM systems extends the view even further. Once you’ve established how engagement by different functions contributes to revenue, you can then use LinkedIn’s marketing analytics to track this engagement at scale – and get a whole new perspective on relevant marketing engagement.

Building an ABM foundation on LinkedIn

ABM is a strategy born of digital marketing and data. It benefits from the ability to look at the impact of engagement in detail – and be precise about who you’re targeting and why. The more sources of insight that you can integrate when working with sales to plan an ABM programme, the better. Those sources can come through a range of different marketing automation platforms and ABM-specific tools – and sophisticated ABM strategies often make use of a broad range of these. However, it’s rare to find an ABM programme that doesn’t include LinkedIn as part of that mix – as a source of insight, as the key executional channel, and as a reliable source of clear data.

It’s this role across the different stages of an ABM programme that makes LinkedIn such a valuable starting point for marketing teams building an ABM strategy. Even if you’re starting out with limited in-house data, LinkedIn provides the essentials for prioritising accounts, identifying the key people to target, delivering personalised content at scale – and tracking the impact of what you’re doing. It’s the foundation of ABM, and a foundation you can build on as you gain more insight – and more evidence of value.