LinkedIn Account-Based Marketing: A Complete Guide

Shiyam Sunder
|
May 15, 2024
LinkedIn Account-Based Marketing: A Complete Guide

Contents

LinkedIn ABM can transform your company into a seven—and eight-figure brand. It’s a potential gold mine. But it’s also expensive. Without the right resources and strategy, you will waste a lot of money. 

You simply have to get it right. 

That’s why this guide covers everything you need for an effective LinkedIn account-based marketing campaign, including how to target high-value accounts and achieve much-needed cooperation between sales and marketing.

Let’s dive in! 

What is LinkedIn Account-based Marketing (ABM)?

LinkedIn account-based marketing targets high-value prospects, i.e., decision-makers at top companies, using LinkedIn as a channel. 

This is different from the typical B2B marketing funnel, where you cast your net on a broad, albeit defined, audience, hoping to create some leads for the sales team. 

With account-based marketing, you've defined the specific companies or accounts you want to target before interacting with them. You can then approach each company in a highly personalized manner. 

Note: LinkedIn ABM is not only reserved for "big shots." There are ways to use it for smaller targets, which we’ll dive into later. 

How to get started with LinkedIn account-based marketing?

The following is crucial if you are to generate ROI with your LinkedIn account-based marketing strategy: 

1. Get Sales and Marketing Teams to cooperate

Your LinkedIn ABM efforts are going nowhere if your sales and marketing teams are not entirely on board. 

Account-based marketing might require a longer and more complex sales cycle than your SDRs and salespeople are used to. You’ll have to onboard and convince them to remain active for the long haul. 

Also, sales and marketing will need to actively collaborate at the following stages: 

  • Identify and agree on the ideal customer profile (ICP) or target accounts. 
  • Collect and analyze feedback to improve prospecting, ads, and creative marketing materials.
  • Synchronize prospecting with ad engagement. 

2. Get everyone on LinkedIn and subscribe to LinkedIn Sales Navigator

It’s almost pointless doing LinkedIn account-based marketing without a LinkedIn Sales Navigator license. The tool has what you need to discover and compile the target accounts for sales. 

Marketing must be on LinkedIn to run ads and content that engage your accounts. They will also have to retarget these accounts while the sales team is prospecting. 

You need everyone involved on Sales Navigator to make collaboration easier. However, you can only work with teams on Sales Navigator Advanced, which costs $149/month.

3. Define your ideal customer profile

You need to identify your ICP before you can know what accounts to target using Sales Navigator. 

To start with, in an ABM program, you are targeting companies and not individuals. So, your ICP will be an organization that fits all your criteria for a perfect client. You can look at your existing clients for inspiration.

When building your ICP, you’ll consider two types of signals: 

1. Static 

Static signals are fixed characteristics of an organization. They don’t change frequently. Think of them as basic ways to identify an ideal account: 

  • Location(s)
  • Industry 
  • Size (number of employees, annual recurring revenue, number of branches, etc.)
  • Growth rate 
  • Tech stack (the functionality or lack of certain apps might make a company an ideal prospect)
  • Size of relevant departments (e.g., a bigger marketing team might mean they are prioritizing marketing products or services you offer). 

2. Dynamic

Dynamic signals change more frequently. They provide insights into a company’s current interests and challenges. As such, they are key to qualifying an account for prospecting: 

  • Funding
  • Product or app launches 
  • Executive or management hires (the company might be prioritizing processes in the relevant department and thus need resources that you offer).
  • New branch openings 
  • Social media engagement (typically of executive staff).

With dynamic signals, you can properly personalize prospecting for each account. 

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How does LinkedIn ABM targeting work?

Now you know how to identify your ICPs. But you can’t simply target all your accounts the same way. They will probably vary in size, relevance, etc.

Which is why you should segment them into categories based on their level of importance. 

In a typical B2B ABM strategy, there are three ways to close accounts based on how relevant they are: 

The strategic or 1-on-1 approach (for top-tier accounts) 

This is a hyper-personalized approach reserved for your "big shots"— big-name prospects that will bring in the largest revenue. 

Tip: Your company’s top execs and superstars are the ones to reach out to these accounts.

This approach is almost entirely manual. You are building relationships, so you have to painstakingly tailor each stage in the cycle through the following channels:

  • LinkedIn InMail or messaging
  • Personal email outreach
  • 1-on-1 online meetings or calls.  

Account-Based Marketing Lite (mid-tier accounts)

Here, you simultaneously approach a very similar group of mid-tier accounts—not your highest-level prospects but still quite valuable. 

This process is slightly less personalized than 1-on-1 account-based marketing, and it includes some automated marketing plays. 

Common channels: 

  • LinkedIn InMail 
  • Exclusive LinkedIn live webinars
  • Highly-personalized LinkedIn ads and content 

Programmatic Account-Based Marketing (low-tier accounts)

The least manual approach. You use it for low-tier accounts that bring in revenue you can’t refuse—the smaller accounts we mentioned earlier. Here, you automate personalized emails and content to an extensive list of accounts. 

Programmatic account-based marketing also works for lower-level employees of top-tier companies. Once engaged, these employees can connect you to the executives and decision-makers in their company. 

Common channels:

  • Mass automated InMail
  • Relevant LinkedIn ads and content
  • LinkedIn live webinars. 
  • LinkedIn newsletters

So, how do I discover target accounts on LinkedIn?

This is where you will need LinkedIn Sales Navigator. With its Account Search feature, you can find the specific accounts you want en masse and compile them into a list in minutes. 

You can filter search results by:

  • Company employee count
  • Location
  • Company type (public, educational, or privately held)
  • Funding events
  • Recent hires 
  • And more than a dozen other filters…

Navigator will let you save relevant search results into lists. You can then search for individuals within these lists through the job title and seniority level filters.

This is how you will discover the key decision-makers and relevant personas you need to contact. 

LinkedIn account-based marketing: The foolproof way to do it

You already know how to discover target companies and their key employees on LinkedIn. Now, you will learn how to reach out to them and close deals.

Remember that your approach will differ based on the account tier, so you must segment the accounts accordingly before starting your outreach.

Once this is done, you can then take the following steps to ensure a successful account-based marketing plan: 

1. Set up a coherent strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts

You need to create a smooth workflow where every involved party knows their specific duties or your account-based marketing strategy will fail. 

In a typical account-based marketing campaign, this is what happens: 

  • Marketing works with sales to identify target accounts.
  • Marketing runs personalized ads and content for target accounts.
  • Sales and SDRs prospect accounts to generate meetings.
  • Sales provide feedback to marketing based on engagement.
  • Marketing retargets accounts and tweaks content based on feedback and campaign analytics.
  • Sales nurture qualified leads and close deals. 

It’s a sensible framework that has been proven over time. But there’s a better way to do it: 

Instead of leaving prospecting and content entirely up to sales and marketing, get your top executives and biggest names to roll up their sleeves. 

2. Involve your executives and influencers

As mentioned, your executives should be the ones reaching out to top-tier decision-makers. This is more likely to work for several reasons: 

  • It signals a stronger commitment to the deal on your company’s part to the decision-maker. 
  • It increases the willingness to negotiate. The decision-maker knows they can arrive at flexible arrangements quicker and more decisively. 
  • Peer-level communication. You can’t always count on this, but a top exec is more likely to command respect from a fellow top exec than a sales rep. 

Your team should have champion employees who are fairly known on LinkedIn or, as they are called, influencers. They will be important to the inbound aspect of your account-based marketing plan. We will dive into this later. 

 3. Create hierarchies within enterprise accounts

You will reach out to the decision makers of your top-tier accounts one-on-one, but if you’re familiar with LinkedIn outreach, you know most cold pitches are ignored. 

And if your top-tier accounts mainly consist of enterprises, you are far more likely to be ignored. For an enterprise ABM approach like this, start your outreach with lower-level employees. 

They are usually less busy and more receptive. Using dynamic signals, build a rapport and ask them to introduce you to the key decision-makers or even help set up a meeting.  

To do this, search for employees with lower seniority levels within your top-tier accounts. LinkedIn Sales Navigator has a feature that allows you to organize employees in a company according to seniority level. 

4. Do your homework on each company (for top and mid-tier accounts)

You have to build a highly personalized sales pitch for these two tiers. Whoever is reaching out must be armed with relevant information to build a solid case.  

This is where the dynamic signals mentioned earlier will come in handy. But you can go further. 

LinkedIn Sales Navigator provides rich details about your saved accounts, such as: 

  • Number of new hires per month
  • Growth rate per department
  • Job openings per department

You can clearly tell when an account is strengthening a department. If it’s a department that’s relevant to your product, then it might be a signal to act on. 

But you can do better than employee updates. There’s still a wealth of information you can use to personalize your account-based marketing outreach. That’s where alerts come in.

5. Use alerts for personalization

With LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can set up alerts to be notified about your target accounts’ activities: 

  • If a decision-maker engages with your posts or views your company page
  • If the company publishes content or a new article
  • The company is mentioned in the news
  • There are job changes, or a new decision-maker is hired.

You can use these events to create very relevant pitches and build a rapport with your prospect. 

6. Set up LinkedIn Account Targeting

You need LinkedIn Account Targeting to run ads to your target accounts. You will need a LinkedIn Campaign Manager account for this. 

To start with, you need to export those account lists you compiled in Sales Navigator as CSV. Format your CSV list so that it includes: 

  • Company name
  • Website
  • Industry
  • Stock symbol
  • Country

Then, upload your list into Campaign Manager. You can then target an ad campaign specifically to that list. 

ABM Tactics that work great on LinkedIn

At this point, you know the best practices for setting up a successful LinkedIn account-based marketing strategy. But what about execution? 

Apart from reaching out to top-tier accounts, how do you launch a full-fledged ABM strategy? The fastest, and most tried-and-true route is LinkedIn Ads. 

Depending on your resources, you can execute any of the following tactics: 

Sponsored Content

Use LinkedIn Account Targeting to tailor sponsored content to your target accounts. This tactic is typically used for mid—and low-tier accounts in an account-based marketing campaign, but you can also curate highly specific content for top tiers. 

Tips to follow: 

Aim to teach and disclose, not sell: Sponsored content will probably be your first point of contact with these targets. Unless you’re a well-known brand and your product is genuinely amazing and straightforward, your "salesy" ad won’t stop the scroll. Informational content types that perform well on LinkedIn include case studies, in-depth guides, or research reports. 

Focus on a specific use case: This sounds obvious, but it doesn’t matter if your product/service can do many things. The simpler the message, the higher your chances of engagement. Your sponsored content should highlight the specific use case that’s most relevant to your targets. 

LinkedIn InMail

LinkedIn InMails perform better than cold emails. But they’re still essentially cold outreaches and very easy to ignore. Use the following tips to get a higher response rate: 

  • Keep your InMails short and straight to the point. InMails under 400 characters get more responses than those above. (LinkedIn graph)

Source: LinkedIn

  • Focus on one specific problem. Offer one specific solution. This keeps your messages short and easier to respond to. 
  • The purpose of your first message is to start a conversation. So don’t pitch your product yet. Simply introduce yourself, disclose what references or signals brought them to your attention, describe the problem, and indicate the solution.
  • Your InMails should be reserved for top—and mid-tier accounts that haven’t accepted your connection request. You only get 50 InMails per month in LinkedIn Sales Navigator. 

Sponsored InMail

Sponsored InMails are used for low-tier accounts in your account-based marketing strategy. They aren’t like typical LinkedIn messages, as they are marked "Sponsored" and recipients can only interact with CTAs. 

With them, you can send messages at scale and direct qualified leads to your landing pages. 

LinkedIn Ads Retargeting

You can retarget ads to people who have already interacted with your brand on LinkedIn in one form or the other. 

LinkedIn lets you select audiences based on form of interaction: they visited your website, opened a LinkedIn message, engaged with your ad, viewed your company page, etc. 

Email Automation

You can also email your prospects outside of LinkedIn. To do this, you’ll need to export your account lists from Sales Navigator and import them into a CRM & email automation tool.

You are better off with a CRM tool that offers LinkedIn ABM capabilities, like HubSpot. This way, you can seamlessly manage your entire outreach and implement account-based marketing at scale. Learn how to integrate LinkedIn ABM with HubSpot

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Do you need an ABM agency for your LinkedIn ABM strategy?

LinkedIn account-based marketing is resource-intensive—very difficult to execute without dedicated sales and marketing teams. You can forget about leaving it to your in-house multipurpose marketer and a couple of freelancers. 

If you don’t have a roster of experienced and highly skilled professionals, you should seriously consider hiring a SaaS ABM agency to avoid wasting your money. 

A few more reasons to consider: 

  • Top ABM agencies will cost less than the combined salaries of highly skilled sales reps, growth marketers, and content creators. 
  • They are already equipped with the advanced tools needed for analytics and automation.
  • They have run several successful account-based marketing campaigns. You will be relying on vetted expertise rather than stepping into the unknown yourself. 

How can ABM and inbound marketing work together to improve your company's ROI?

With inbound marketing, you aim to make your brand a niche authority on LinkedIn. Once that happens, convincing accounts and decision-makers within your network becomes easier. 

Influencer marketing remains one of the most effective ways to do inbound on LinkedIn. As a social network, its users are far more receptive to human faces than brands. 

To get the most out of your LinkedIn ABM strategy, get your employees and top players to expand their influence with thought-leadership content. 

FAQs

What are the benefits of LinkedIn ABM?

  • LinkedIn has one of the world’s largest databases of professional organizations. It’s one of the best places to target high-value accounts at scale. 
  • LinkedIn provides tools like Campaign Manager and Sales Navigator to specifically target high-value accounts. 
  • You can integrate LinkedIn with automation tools, letting you reach quality accounts at scale.
  • Because you can precisely identify and target the right accounts, there’s a higher chance of ROI. 

How to align marketing and sales teams around an account-based marketing plan?

  • Both teams need to agree on a common goal, e.g., targeted revenue or a specific set of accounts.
  • Work with a shared source of data. Both teams should be able to access the same analytics and CRM platform. 
  • Develop a joint strategy with a defined workflow. Each marketing and sales rep must understand their role within the ABM strategy and be clear on each step. 
  • Implement a feedback loop. An effective account-based marketing strategy requires marketing reporting to sales on what is working and vice-versa.
Shiyam Sunder
Co- Founder | Tripledart - Growth Startups

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