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How to Use LinkedIn Ads for Account-Based Marketing


June 6, 2023


June 7, 2023

Right Side Up recently hosted a webinar about using LinkedIn ads for account-based marketing, led by Trey Buchanan, VP of B2B Advertising at Right Percent, a Right Side Up venture specializing in paid advertising for B2B companies. Trey offered insights he’s gained while working with Fortune 500 companies and high-growth brands like DoorDash, Zenefits, and ServiceMax. For more details about LinkedIn ads, watch the full webinar.

LinkedIn advertising is a powerful channel for account-based marketing (ABM) because of its ability to target specific audiences and engage them in a personalized way. It lets you create targeted campaigns that reach decision makers at the companies you want to do business with, and deliver content that speaks directly to their pain points and interests.

But to make the most of ABM on LinkedIn, it’s important to understand the channel, audience targeting methodologies, proven tactics that work, and how to measure success.

Why Should You Use LinkedIn Ads for Account-Based Marketing?

Brands tend to start using ABM when they’re interested in achieving a few different things:

  • Sales and marketing alignment
  • Less wasted spend and time
  • Focus on larger opportunities
  • Increased marketing ROI
  • Shortened sales cycles
  • Enhanced customer experience

“Sometimes what we see is that we see the same ad from the same advertiser over and over again, it doesn't fit in terms of what we're actually looking for,” said Trey Buchanan, VP of B2B Advertising at Right Percent. “That's a big disconnect that we're trying to avoid with ABM. And that's why we typically pursue ABM advertising.”

Why do ABM on LinkedIn?

The case for ABM is pretty straightforward, but why use LinkedIn advertising as part of your ABM strategy? LinkedIn has:

  • More than 750M professionals on the platform worldwide
  • The ability to target your ideal customers using given information about their role, company, and seniority level
  • Opportunity to hit the target list when they are in a business mindset

With other channels, there might be some business-focused content and activity, but overall, there are hundreds of other competing topics. LinkedIn is solely focused on business—and that means users are more likely to be receptive to your B2B messaging.

Audience capabilities

So how do you set yourself up to reach the right audience? There are several kinds of lists and strategies for ABM that can be leveraged on LinkedIn, including:

  • CSV uploads of target accounts, using a domain and unique company name
  • CSV uploads of target contacts or specific individuals on LinkedIn
  • Integrations with intent data platforms (e.g. Bombora)
  • Integrations of ABM audience platforms (e.g. 6sense, Demandbase)

Nearly everyone can do some form of ABM on LinkedIn. It’s just a matter of understanding the capabilities of your tech stack and how it fits within your actual marketing goals and structure.

When should you add LinkedIn ABM to your mix?

Like every other ABM motion, there are a few prerequisites to launching a successful program. And they’re dependent on what your goals are and what you’re trying to achieve.

  1. Account based segmentation: Lists broken down by vertical, intent, size, team, etc.
  2. Agreement on list sourcing: Sales and marketing need to work together here. Your efforts will fail without cross-functional buy-in.
  3. Marketing operations setup: Make sure leads from your target accounts get to the right place.
  4. Appropriate content for your ABM targets: Content segmentation by vertical, company size, etc.

Effective ABM Targeting Methodologies

When it comes to the best targeting methodologies for ABM, it’s crucial to think about all the different ways you can slice and dice your audience. Depending on how you can segment, you can try different tactics and customize the experience to fit your and your audience's needs.

Look at your entire tech stack and assess what potential data you have that could be pushed into LinkedIn. The platform has several third-party integrations that can port in audiences for ABM, including, but not limited to:

  • 6sense
  • Bombora
  • G2
  • Marketo
  • Salesforce
  • HubSpot
  • Engagio
  • Demandbase

To better understand the range of approaches you can take to segment your audience, we’re going to look at three different examples; vertical segmentation, regional and vertical segmentation, and 6sense intent breakdown.

Example 1: Vertical segmentation

Let’s say the company is a transportation and logistics firm. Here’s how you might handle vertical segmentation:

  • List by different target verticals
  • Food and beverage, logistics, trucking, oil and gas
  • Lists of target job titles by each vertical (if different)
  • Content broken down by vertical
  • Sales team broken down by vertical

Example 2: Regional and vertical segmentation

Again, we’re looking at a transportation and logistics firm, but this time, we’re segmenting based on region and vertical:

  • List by different target verticals and regions
  • Food and beverage, logistics, trucking, oil and gas
  • Lists of target job titles by each vertical and region (if different)
  • Content broken down by vertical
  • Sales team broken down by vertical and region

Keep in mind that this approach will increase the number of campaigns by 2–3x, so you’ll need to adjust your budget appropriately.

Example 3: 6sense intent breakdown

And for our last example, let’s imagine we’re a cybersecurity firm. Here’s how to segment based on 6sense intent breakdown:

  • List exported to LinkedIn by intent stage (e.g. decision, purchase, consideration, etc.)
  • Lists of target job titles overlapping each segment
  • Content and offers broken down by intent segmentation or stage
  • Demo/free trial down funnel
  • Content upper funnel—great way to get in the door and give sales an opportunity to talk to them
  • Sales team broken down by vertical, region, etc

If this list is broken further down by region and vertical on top of intent, there will be a lot of campaigns. That’s not a bad thing—but you’ll need to be sure you have enough resources in place to handle the increased number of campaigns.

The limit does exist

There is such a thing as too much segmentation. If you have a limited budget and too many campaigns, LinkedIn can struggle when optimizing to campaign goals. You’ll also start to run up against data aggregation limitations, which can slow down your ability to learn and make changes to your campaigns.

So how much is too much? An example of over segmentation would be five verticals in three regions with only $20K/month of budget leading to less than $1.5K of spend per campaign per month.

We recommend starting off with fewer campaigns and then as you prove out the strategy, go wider and expand when you have the appropriate budget and audience size.

ABM Tactics that Do and Don’t Work on LinkedIn

Within ABM, there are a few tactics that are commonly used, but they’re not all great for LinkedIn. Let’s take a look at the commonly used approaches and determine whether they’re worth using on this platform.

When using LinkedIn ads for account based marketing, some tactics are more effective than others.

1 to 1 ABM

This approach is simple; one campaign for one account. But due to scale and automation limitations, one-to-one campaigns don’t typically work well on LinkedIn. If your audience is too small, targeting won’t be efficient; you can’t target an audience with fewer than 300 people on LinkedIn. With one-to-one, you’ll also see limited data aggregation, making it difficult to gather enough impressions to optimize your campaigns.

Finally, your account would be unwieldy to manage because you can’t (realistically) dynamically customize creative for 50 campaigns for 50 accounts. 

1 to many ABM

On the other side of the spectrum, a one-to-many approach is essentially just a standard target account list upload for all targets. It’s not customized toward the individual’s specific needs or challenges. You can certainly try it, but it really isn’t true ABM.

1 to few ABM

In a Goldilocks world where one-to-one is too targeted and one-to-many is too broad, one-to-few is the sweet spot that is just right. This approach is the ideal way to execute LinkedIn advertising campaigns for ABM because it allows you to develop a customizable strategy around how you want to bring people into your funnel.

With one-to-few, you should focus on segmenting campaigns by industry or use case and then customize ads and content for the segments. The campaign setup for this approach is typically manageable, just make sure you have a large enough data pool to optimize once things get rolling.

Content Recommendations

The right content strategy for your ABM efforts is dependent on where the target is within the funnel. We recommend testing all content across each stage and seeing what gets a response and where it happens. Third-party reports (from Gartner, Forrester, etc.) are great to start with, as well as helpful—but not boastful—ebooks and guides created by you. 

Remember that no one really cares how much money you’ve raised or that you think you have the next best product; stick to creating and promoting content that helps fix specific problems that your actual ideal customers are facing.

And even though they’re (sometimes) mildly useful or entertaining, stay away from infographics. People don’t want to hand over their contact info for a pretty picture full of icons and charts that don’t really say much.

Content distribution across channels

Now that we know what type of content works best, how should you get it out there to your audience? Think of LinkedIn as a sort of premium content distribution channel compared to your more organic channels. If you produce a particularly valuable piece of content, you’d want to push that out and maybe have it gated. Less valuable content can be left ungated on your blog, but look out for opportunities to drive people to the more premium content.

How to Measure Success

We’re not going to sugarcoat it, measurement for ABM is complicated, but not impossible. With the right setup and attention to detail, you can track useful insights into your ABM performance. And we’ve got a few pointers to get you started.

Classic holdout test

For some advertisers with new ABM strategies, we recommend a holdout test.

Classic holdout tests are a great way to measure success with LinkedIn ads for account based marketing
  • Split your ABM audience 50/50
  • Show 50% ads, hold back on the other 50%
  • Over the next 3–4 months, measure the sales success of each segment to see how impactful your test is on your bottom line

Overall ABM strategy performance

Most sophisticated strategies include a wide range of different tactics, so the measurement of ABM performance should be similarly comprehensive.

  • What does the pipeline look like with the combined impact of LinkedIn, programmatic ads, sales outbound, etc.?
  • Are you hitting your pipeline and close-win goals with your current strategy?
  • Try changing one piece for a few months to measure the impact each strategy has on your overall ABM strategy.

Early indication front-end metrics

You can also look at a few indicators on LinkedIn to see if your strategy is reaching the right people.

  • CTR: The CTR average from Linkedin is around .4%, so anything above this means your audience is responding well to the ads. (Congrats!)
  • Leads/CPL: CPLs are dependent on a few things, such as the number of forms, the offer, etc. If you have a super easy form fill, but you’re seeing less than a 3% fill rate, you need to revisit your ads and offer. Something is missing or wrong.

LinkedIn audience engagement

LinkedIn has powerful audience visibility tools—take advantage of them to see how you’re doing and identify ways to optimize. When you upload an audience, you can see how many members of the organization are being targeted by your campaigns and how much they’re engaging with your ads. If you don’t like what you see, make some changes.

Budget Recommendations

Your budget will vary depending on your audience size and the number of campaigns. If you have too small of a budget and too many campaigns, you’re not going to see an impact. Make sure you’re not overshooting your budget by being too ambitious with your campaign spread.

Our general recommendation for budgeting is for every campaign with 100K–200K people, you need $7K-$15K per month.

Example 1: Five campaigns broken down by vertical should have a budget of $35K-$75K.

Example 2: Three smaller campaigns of 20K-50K people should have a budget of $15K–$30K/month.

The goal is to be able to penetrate enough of the audience with your budget to drive conversions and see the performance you want.

In Conclusion

LinkedIn ads are a powerful tool for account-based marketing, but only if you understand the channel and how to set up an effective campaign. If you follow the guidelines outlined above, you’ll be on your way to crafting targeted campaigns that convert prospects into customers by serving up content that addresses their distinct needs.

Do you want to see how LinkedIn ads can support your account-based marketing strategy? Talk to the experts at Right Side Up by sending us a note at growth@rightsideup.co.

Trey Buchanan is a B2B advertising leader with experience managing LinkedIn ad campaigns for early stage startups all the way to Fortune 500 firms. He has a deep expertise in paid social and B2B advertising, having managed more than $60M in LinkedIn ad spend. Before joining Right Percent as their VP of B2B Advertising, Trey was the Head of B2B Paid Social at Metric Theory where he managed a team of B2B-focused social marketers who specialized in driving LinkedIn ad performance for their clients.

Jes Parker is a writer and content marketer with experience creating B2B and consumer-facing assets that build brands and make complex concepts more human. She has worked with companies and nonprofits like Highstead Foundation, Trust for Public Land, Harvard University, the Museum of the City of New York, and Times Square Alliance to craft accessible and engaging content strategies.

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