How to Use LinkedIn for ABM & ABS
A growing number of B2B marketers are embracing account-based marketing (ABM) and account-based sales (ABS) as part of their overall strategy. ABM perfectly complements the traditional, short-term marketing goal of generating leads with efforts aimed at driving long-term revenue growth. In this blog we aim to explore and recommend ways of using LinkedIn as an effective tool, as well as a useful channel within your ABM & ABS strategy.
What is ABM & ABS?
Account-based marketing and sales is the principle of focusing our marketing and sales effort on those key prospects we want to become customers. Those that are more likely to convert or who have a higher yield or those who may stay with you longer term, for example. It may be those accounts who have the highest need or the required budget. You can work out your killer values using this handy tool.
Account-Based Marketing and Account-Based Selling can accelerate the speed at which we communicate and close deals. It improves our customer acquisition by helping us to identify the diamond customers we want to be targeting.
By targeting our marketing expenditure and sales focus specifically on those clients that we want to win and tailoring customized campaigns and messages to those buying teams, we will be getting a much higher return on our marketing spend.
Here’s some key stats*:
- 97% say ABM had higher ROI than other marketing activities.
- 84% say ABM provided substantial benefits to client retention.
- 65% say ABM helped significantly with client acquisition.
*Source: ITSMA Survey
Before we dive in to how we use LinkedIn for ABM & ABS, it’s vital to ensure we are set up in the right way.
Sales + Marketing = The Dream Team
Getting sales and marketing working as a cohesive account team is the ultimate secret to success. Without that alignment, your target accounts will suffer through a fragmented experience as marketing and sales trip over each other, rather than pave the way for each other to effectively engage with key decision makers.
Success starts with clear communication between your sales and marketing teams and continues as both groups execute their part of the strategy throughout the buyer journey. Agreeing from the get-go on the ultimate goal of the ABM programme helps marketing and sales get in sync and figure out the most fitting target accounts and the best strategy for reaching and engaging them.
Once your team is assembled and fully briefed, follow these six steps for a successful approach:
Step 1. Narrow Down your Objectives
It’s more than likely that you have a number of different objectives when it comes to your ABM or ABS strategy. But when looking at using LinkedIn, you should narrow them down specifically. What are you really trying to achieve? Pick one or two objectives that you wish to focus on and park the rest for another day. You’ll then be able to pull the right levers, target the right people and clearly identify whether or not it’s been successful.
As well as having an overall marketing or sales goal of increasing revenue, number of new customers etc, you could pinpoint your objectives to be more defined. Here are some examples:
- Identify 5 more decision-makers in each account.
- Grow revenues in existing accounts to an average of £X.
- Accelerate sales cycles.
- Secure a greater number of meetings / appointments.
- Encourage customer loyalty.
Step 2: Identify High Value Accounts
The next step is to identify those diamond customers and create your personas. Who is worth the most effort? Which segments do our best customers come from? Look at the industry, geography or demographic they belong to and if they use particular competitor or affiliate products or services.
However, the answer to who is in your buying team often boils down to the most profitable, long-term, happy customers who are a pleasure to work with. In other words, they’re a strong fit for your company, enjoy success with your solutions and deliver the biggest lifetime value.
We know there will be a certain number of people involved in the decision-making process (it’s typically between 6-11 people involved to close a deal). And we can reach them, whether they are in Finance, on the Executive board or if they are engineers or running things on the ground.
Make sure you are talking to Sales here as they should know who decision-makers tend to be within a prospective business. Then you create your list of target companies you’d like to sell to and put them in order of the biggest wins. Add in job title and function, company size and level of responsibility, so you can really focus.
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.
Step 3: Map Individuals to Accounts
Sign into LinkedIn and search for the top account on your list. You can find the employees currently working at that company and go through their job titles to see if they fit within your target persona criteria, then add to your map.
If you have Sales Navigator on LinkedIn, you can then filter employees by different attributes including title, location, keyword, company size and seniority level to map out the decision makers in that target organisation.
And there you have your buyer group within that account. It may be three people, it may be 50. But this gives you a visual representation of who you wish to target within an organisation to share with your Sales team.
Step 4: Research
You can also use LinkedIn to find out more about the individuals you are trying to target. At a basic level you can find out where they have worked previously and if they share any connections or common ground with any of the team. This could give you or your sales team a foot in the door. At a more detailed level, you can see if they have any competitor activity or are connected with any of your partnering organisations. You could focus this effort on your top 10 accounts.
A valuable by-product is that ABM enriches the marketing team with a much deeper understanding of the company’s overall target audience. Marketing can apply their insight into what content and messages resonate to amp up the results of their other efforts.
Step 5: Create and execute targeted campaigns.
Once you’ve selected your target accounts and individuals, you need to develop personalised campaigns designed to connect with them. Campaigns can include an array of tactics, including email, special events, direct mail, ads, and more.
Start by aligning your messages and content with the interests, needs, and challenges of each account and target. Ideally, you should develop a unique value proposition and relevant content for each stakeholder that influences a buying decision, adapting it each time with consideration for their individual requirements.
LinkedIn’s unique targeting capabilities are the reason it plays such a prominent role in many ABM strategies. Account Targeting enables marketers to engage the accounts that matter most to their business by tailoring their LinkedIn Sponsored Content and LinkedIn Sponsored InMail campaigns to a list of top priority accounts, and then layering profile-based targeting, such as job function or seniority, to put their content in front of the right people in a particular organisation.
Marketing and sales can simultaneously engage with accounts on an individual level using a personalised strategy that makes sense for each contact.
For example, maybe a specific team member reaches out because they went to the same college or they share the most professional connections with the contact. That team member could make introductions to the team member who owns the account when the time is right.
Step 6: Measure and optimise
Measuring ABM results is different than measuring the impact of standard lead-generation tactics. Marketing and sales are jointly accountable for driving pipeline and revenue when it comes to ABM. You care about moving accounts – not individuals – through the purchase process.
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.
In addition to tracking account engagement, tally opportunities created, along with closed-won deals and their value. Give your teams enough time to generate results – in line with the typical purchase cycle – and then adjust your strategy and tactics.
One of the great things about LinkedIn is you can see in real time, how many people have engaged with or seen the content you generate as part of your ABM strategy. Remember to continue to measure everything you do and maintaining an agile approach throughout, so you can check what works best and adapt it as you go.
So now we know the process, let’s take a deeper look at how we use LinkedIn to strengthen the power of our ABM & ABS.
Targeting your Ads
LinkedIn advertising comes in different formats. You can run website retargeting which shows ads to those who have visited particular pages on your website.
You can use Email Contact Targeting, where you import or integrate your contact emails lists by connecting to your CRM or uploading email addresses.
Or you could do Account Targeting ad campaigns, where you combine the power of demographic targeting on LinkedIn with your target account list.
You can set up your LinkedIn ads to target by company name, industry, job title or how many years’ experience they have. So, you can choose precisely who you want to see your ad.
As an example, you could create an ad campaign that promotes a webinar you are running. You may wish to invite your top target accounts so you would create a profile for your ad, where they need to work in e.g., technology marketing, and the company they work for has to have a certain level of spend.
At scale, you can get in front of key stakeholders across target accounts with ads tailored to their role and stage of the buying cycle. For your initial outreach, you can use LinkedIn Sponsored Content campaigns to display relevant content to a select audience segment. Then through Sponsored InMail, you might directly reach out with a short message from a sales rep with a personalised offer.
While you can reach any stakeholder using account-based advertising, it’s especially valuable for engaging the decision makers who aren’t actively conducting purchase research for the solution in question. Think the CFO or Procurement Officer. Account-based advertising is a relatively inexpensive way to expand your reach within your target accounts so it’s worth considering as part of the overall mix.
Tailor your content to the buying journey
Getting your CRM data in line before you start and once you have your list of key accounts, working out how far through the buying cycle they are, will help position the right content (with different offers and calls to action) to the right contacts at the right time.
With LinkedIn ads and ABM, another point of difference is the type of content you include in your campaign. At the start of the buying cycle use some soft offers such as whitepapers, reports, calculators, competitions. Later on, you can offer phone calls, demos, appointments, audits and webinars. These take more commitment so should be aimed at those who are more committed to your brand, products and services.
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.
Give your targets the personal touch
That well-considered approach matters at a time when buyers are increasingly insistent on outreach tailored to their business and even their personal interests within the business. ABM requires that marketing and sales engage each person on the buying team in a personalised way.
Do this well and buyers are more open to your outreach and less likely to ignore your content and communications.
Customers also benefit from ABM in the form of a better experience. Buyers prefer personalised interactions, and ABM delivers just that. Serving targeted content and messages that resonate takes up-front work, and customers will recognise and appreciate this – and the fact that you don’t waste their time with ones that are off the mark.
Mentioning a connection or other members encourages engagement with your posts and comments. Connections or other members mentioned get notified about the post or comment. A post or comment is associated with a connection’s or other member’s profile. Viewers can click on a connection or other member’s name to navigate to their profiles.
By the way, LinkedIn members don’t need to be your connection in order to mention you or be mentioned by you. To mention someone in a post:
- From your LinkedIn homepage, click Start a post or click Comment at the bottom of someone else’s post.
- Type “@” and then begin typing a name. You’ll see a list of potential people you can mention.
- Click the name of the person or people you want to mention from the list and continue typing your message.
Single Customer View and Tracking
There are a number of tools that are available to you that integrate your website with your account-based marketing initiatives. IP Tracking software, such as GatorLeads, uses UTM value tracking to notify you when someone comes from your LinkedIn ad and lands on your website, and you can track those visitors from organic search and social channels as well as PPC, but that’s for another blog. But what this does, is it gives us more insight on these target customers. An overarching single customer view on how they engage with our content, which inevitably helps us to sell to them.
We need to be thinking about the sales funnel and where each target is. It could be about raising their awareness at the top of the funnel, through the consideration phase in the middle and then the decision-making process further down to ultimately convert them.
LinkedIn Social Selling Index
This is available without an upgraded or premium account. It’s a free tool that will measure the effectiveness of your sales teams in terms of their prospecting activity, how much they’re sharing and engaging and how well they are connected. There’s nothing that sales guys like better than a little bit of competition. Search for the LinkedIn Social Selling Index for your industry and this will then give you some benchmarking information for your account-based salespeople in terms of how they should be scoring and using LinkedIn. It could help them improve their score by being more active in the right way and helping your ABM in the process.
It might be worth as an organisation, looking at some LinkedIn sales and marketing training or you may be confident enough to put together a list of dos and don’ts for how to communicate with these key accounts. What we don’t want after all the work to identify and nurture these key accounts is for someone to parachute in and burn the relationship. That would be a real shame.
All Star LinkedIn Profile
This is more a housekeeping exercise but ensuring all your lead and customer facing staff have an ‘All Star’ LinkedIn profile will help with ABM & ABS. Naturally; we will be checking out your profile before we decide to accept your phone call. This fits neatly into that consideration phase / half-way down the funnel, where they will check you are connected to the right people and that you are publishing content that they find useful and trustworthy. Do you and your sales team have the skills I need, in order to do business with you? One of our favourite webinar guests, Susan Hallam MBE, has written a useful checklist on what you need for a really good LinkedIn Profile.
LinkedIn offers both useful tools to research and prepare your account-based activity as well as an effective channel used to communicate with them. The key is to think about the account first, followed by the buying team surrounding the decision and ideally get them thinking and saying the same thing. With marketing and sales working hand in glove and using your CRM to know where the account is in your buying cycle as well as finding out a bit more about them using LinkedIn, you’ll be able to tailor your content and messaging to that person as an individual. This gives you a much better chance at connecting.
Sales Navigator gives you more precision targeting and measurement tools, but you need to work out if it’s worth the annual investment. You can use ads to target specific accounts and this can work out cost effective, especially if you focus on your bullseye criteria and aim your advertising at the people within the organisation that your other campaigns don’t normally reach.
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