Scaling Your ABM Program and Tailoring Content to Match

May 10, 2021

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Account-based marketing (ABM) is a fundamental concept that dates back as far as the sales process itself. Companies have always been able to spot and prioritize their biggest opportunities, understanding that prized high-value prospects may take more work to win over. 

What has evolved is the tools used for ABM. Specifically, LinkedIn has made it easy to coordinate and scale ABM programs to reach the right prospect with a resonant message, no matter where they fall on the spectrum. The key is knowing what level of personalization is required to make meaningful inroads with accounts at different levels. 

Just as there are prospect tiers, there are ABM strategies to match—specifically, Strategic, Scaled and Programmatic ABM. Here’s a look at each approach, when they make sense to deploy, and how to generate success across the scope of an ABM program.  

Strategic ABM: 1-to-1 Marketing

The extremely high level of personalization that comes with 1-to-1 strategic ABM makes this the most involved form of marketing. It’s best suited for top-tier accounts and premium opportunities—marketing investment needs to be proportionate to the account’s potential. Competition for attention and consideration from these companies and individuals is generally quite fierce. 

Strategic 1-to-1 ABM on LinkedIn means assuming a high degree of customization for targeted marketing. The Content Suggestion tool in LinkedIn is helpful in understanding what content your ABM audience is most engaged with. Use results as a jump-off for your own strategic ideas. And, make sure these ideas are heavily tailored to the specific account. That means running one campaign targeted at one company, with specific name mentions. However, avoid hyper-targeted marketing at smaller companies with fewer employees who may not see your content.

While 1-to-1 ABM may have a smaller click-through rate (avg. ~1.58%), those clicks will be more meaningful. Capitalize on them! Nurture stakeholders and keep them engaged as you provide continued value through the sales funnel.  

Scaled ABM: 1-to-Few Marketing

There’s a moderate level of customization involved in a scaled ABM approach. The 1-to-few nature of messaging under this model offers the convenience of a shared value proposition, but demands diversity in the way messaging is presented. This approach is typically for your Tier 2 prospects and mid-sized companies.

The approach to scaled ABM centers on micro-segments of target accounts with similar characteristics or business challenges. Marketers need to deliver value-driven messaging that speaks clearly to those specific characteristics or challenges. Stagger different messaging based on the audience’s funnel stage and previous engagement behavior. For example, cloud computing and virtualization software company VMWare staggered its LinkedIn messaging campaigns based on prospect progression. In many of its campaigns, it generated 3x higher clickthrough rates and 50% lower cost per lead, compared to industry benchmarks.

Scaled ABM allows marketers to focus on a small pool of prospects with similar challenges. While short of a programmatic approach to marketing, it allows for some standardized messaging and more cohesion when marketing to specific verticals, industries or company types. 

Programmatic ABM: 1-to-Many Marketing

It takes very little personalization to achieve effective programmatic ABM. A 1-to-many marketing approach means focusing solely on the value proposition of the messaging, as opposed to company-specific nuances. It’s best deployed for Tier 3 accounts or targeted demand generation.

The trick to programmatic ABM (and what differentiates it from traditional 1-to-many advertising) is distinguishing the common denominator among prospects. Cluster accounts by vertical industries, horizontal functions, solutions or sales cycles, and tailor messaging that uniformly speaks to these prospects. For example, innovation management software giant Spigit used LinkedIn ads to personalize messaging by vertical industry. Spigit set up six campaigns with original case studies, eBooks and webinars tailored to audiences by vertical. It earned 7x ROI and 0.8% engagement for specific verticals.

Here again, the level of customization is proportionate to the value of accounts. A programmatic ABM approach is meant to reach broad sets of prospects, which means it can’t be too specific other than to address the commonalities between those it’s targeting. 

Always Market to Intent

Execution isn’t everything in an ABM program: content intent matters, too. The right value proposition will fall flat if it’s presented at the wrong stage of the sales funnel or without more meaningful context. ABM marketers need to pay close attention to timing and touches as they present messaging. 

On average, each member of a buying committee gathers four to five pieces of information. It’s vital for the information they’re getting to tell a story and to compound a value proposition. Market to solve problems, add value, and distinguish your solution—all within the context of your target audience. As you do this, keep in mind the 60/40 rule for ABM: 60% informational content, 40% transactional. 

Remember to also tailor the content approach based on the mindset of your audience. Build brand awareness, nurture consideration engagement, and drive lead generation in that order. During this process, begin the shift from informational to transactional content—but only after you’ve earned credibility and stakeholder buy-in. 

ABM is the Future of Digital Selling

While ABM isn’t a new concept, it’s certainly a big part of the future. Digital prospecting has become the norm and LinkedIn has become the de-facto destination for ABM. The ability to identify and segment audiences, and to leverage powerful targeting tools, helps marketers make a more direct and lasting impact.

To learn more about ABM and how to target, refine and scale the best possible strategic approach, download The Marketer’s Framework for ABM Success. And create an ad to start reaching the right people in a professional mindset.