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Thijs van Donselaar Feb 21, 2022 1:19:59 PM 17 min read

Account Based Marketing I 8 Essential Channels

Quick reminder. ABM is not some kind of software or tool - it’s a strategy. It’s all about focusing resources on target companies that best fit what you sell. In Account-Based Marketing, sales and marketing join forces in trying to get conversations started and opportunities created for pre-defined companies/accounts.

Once the target accounts are identified, it’s time to think of a specific message and value propositions for your audiences. ABM strategies are often designed towards a set of accounts in one specific industry. Creating a clear value proposition is both efficient and it helps create great campaigns. Addressing industry pains and mastering industry lingo is a way to be seen as the right solution for your prospects’ industry.

You know what companies you’re targeting and you have a clear message for them. Now what? Your regular campaigns are likely to hit many people outside your ABM target list. Outbound is great but it’s not easy to scale.

Here are 8 channels you need to consider when launching your Account-Based Marketing strategy, including pros and cons to help you choose what to launch first.

1. LinkedIn Advertising

LinkedIn Advertising is the best friend of many B2B marketers. Most people keep their profile up-to-date, which makes targeting by specific roles and employer both accurate and easy.

LinkedIn Campaign Manager allows you to upload a list of your key accounts as a Matched Audience, based on a simple csv upload. Your ads will then be shown only to your key accounts. Additional LinkedIn targeting filters allow you to narrow down on job title, job seniority, geography and many more. Let your campaigns run for some time, and you even get (company-level) insights on engagement with your ads and website.

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The Matched Audiences view in the LinkedIn campaign manager


If you know you’re targeting the right companies, you can target a bit broader inside of these companies. Instead of targeting specific job titles, you could target job function (department) and seniority. This way your audience doesn’t get too small, as that negatively impacts campaigns. By targeting specific job titles, you also risk missing out on people you actually want to target. People active on LinkedIn have increasingly more creative job titles. If you want to target the Marketing Manager in your ABM target account, you probably don’t want to miss out on targeting their Demand Generation Manager, Head of Marketing or Head of Growth.

The most accurate company targeting you will find out there.
Additional targeting is possible on title, seniority, interests and more.

LinkedIn advertising can be expensive (CPC above €10 not uncommon).
Not everyone is active on the LinkedIn timeline, so limited reach.

 

2. Google Advertising 

Using Google Ads, you can target specific people through Customer Match, for example by uploading email addresses. If these emails are linked to Google accounts, you can target them with Search Ads, Display Ads or Gmail Ads. Generate a list of emails and other identifiable information, upload it to your Google Audiences, and within 2 days you will have estimated numbers on your audience size. To access this feature you need to have a positive compliance history and have spent more than 50 thousand dollars (advertising lifetime).

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The Google Customer List view

But even if you don’t have the possibility to use Customer Match lists to target your ABM audience, Google Ads can still be interesting. If you are running a large scale ABM strategy (1-to-many), you can try to target your audience by bidding on keywords that they are likely to search on. You risk many unqualified leads, so you will need a lead scoring system that detects the leads that belong to ABM accounts. Evaluate your campaigns on the amount of ABM leads you are generating. Notice that this is unlikely to work if you are running more focused ABM strategies (1-to-1; 1-to-few).

Search and Display Ads have a higher reach than LinkedIn.
Extreme personalization possible by combining audience targeting and strategic keyword bidding.

Match rates are ok, but actual percentage you can deliver ads to is around 10%.
People must log in with the same email are targeting.

 

3. Bing Advertising

Microsoft owns both Bing and LinkedIn, and you can use LinkedIn data to target people on Bing. You can use Company, Job Function or Industry in your Bing targeting. Unfortunately you can’t create campaigns solely for your ABM audience. You create general campaigns on Bing and, for ABM, adjust the bidding based on your choice of companies, industry or job function.

Artboard 2@3x 2Additional targeting settings in the Bing Campaign Manager

Bing is not very big in Europe, but in the US they have a 5% market share in paid search. But don’t forget their display network, which has decent reach in Europe. Compared to Google ads, Bing ads in general have higher click-through-rates and lower cost-per-clicks.

Targeting on company, job function and industry is easy.
Typically lower cost-per-clicks and higher click-through rates: compared to Google Ads.

Not very high reach, but higher in the US compared to Europe.
Company targeting is done by manual input, which is time-consuming.

 

4. YouTube Advertising

Good news. The same Customer Match targeting audience created for Google ads can be used for YouTube too. Create video ads that play before any video your prospects are interested in.

Sure, you might down-prioritize this channel because you have no video content ready to be promoted in your ABM campaign. But YouTube is the second biggest search engine, and videos are at least twice as powerful compared to regular image ads. They allow you to communicate a lot in a short and more engaging format. Keep this in mind when you are reconsidering your budgets for the next year!

There are different ad formats available for YouTube:

  • Skippable in-stream ads are shown at the beginning of videos, can be skipped. 
  • Non-skippable in-stream ads are shown at the beginning of videos, can't be skipped. 
  • Video discovery ads are shown in the general overview and are played when clicked.
  • Non-video ads are the banner / overlay ads you see when watching a video.

High reach on YouTube or embedded YouTube videos.
Video advertising is a powerful and engaging advertising format.

People must log in with the same email you are targeting.
The production of video ads take time and cost money.

 

5. Email Marketing 

If LinkedIn is your best friend in ABM, then email marketing is your second best friend. If your CRM data is in a good state you will be able to serve and nurture your contacts with your ABM content in a highly personalized way.

Rather than simply inserting their names, go the extra mile, and try to personalize towards persona and industry as much as possible. The more personalized and relevant your messaging, the higher the engagement.

If many of your contacts have opted in for marketing communication, consider automation of 1-to-1 messaging with ABM relevant content. HubSpot’s feature “Sequences” is perfect for this, but there are many other tools available.

Build and nurture relationships with personalized and relevant content.
Email is a good way to leverage existing leads in a cost-efficient and effective way.

Your reach is as big as your own contact database of opt-ins.
You have a limited amount of touchpoints available before being seen as spammy.

 

6. Re-targeting

Account-Based Marketing is all about focusing your budget on the right companies and the right people in those companies. ABM campaigns can be pretty costly, as you get very selective in your audience targeting. Re-targeting is a cost-effective way to get more out of the engagement you have on your ABM campaigns.

Capture your website visitors to ABM landing pages through, for example, LinkedIn ads and your email campaigns. Those visitors are well targeted and you can then be sure they are part of your ABM target audience. Capture them by including the same word in all your ABM landing page urls, and build your audiences on the back of that.

Group 152454Re-targeting audience setting in LinkedIn

There are ways to expand your retargeting audience inside your ad tools. Re-targeting LinkedIn company profile page visits, LinkedIn event registrants or Lead Forms increase your audience significantly. This is because the match rates are much higher and deleting cookies is not affecting in-tool retargeting.

Re-targeting is a good way to strengthen your ABM messaging.
It helps doing more cost-efficient campaigns towards the right audience.

When you're starting, the minimum audience size might take some time to build.
Not possible to transfer engagement from one advertising platform to another.

 

7. Direct Mailing

Direct mail is a form of marketing that involves sending a physical piece of promotional material through the postal services. Imagine sending a book to your prospect with a handwritten note, or sending some little present you know they would like.

Many marketers are immediately thinking of Direct Mail at the launch of their Account-Based Marketing strategy. Yes, it’s a unique way to get your message in front of your target audience and it’s likely to leave an impression. However, it’s very expensive and you’re not sure of success (or even response) if you haven’t experimented with it before.

Frame

 

At Ocean.io, we like to think ABM campaigns in combination with the maturity of your overall ABM strategy. If you are just starting your ABM, it’s in our eyes better to start out with cost-efficient campaigns with a certain reach (email marketing, LinkedIn advertising, etc). If instead you have some experience running ABM and you’re confident you have identified the right companies, it’s time to try more advanced campaigns towards your target accounts.

Direct mailing or gifting has great personalization potential.
If you give something nice, it's hard to ignore from your prospects' side.

Item and shipping costs and time spent make this a costly ABM channel.
Post-direct mail engagement is hard to track, as it’s not digital.

 

8. Conferences and Events

Face-to-face marketing done at conferences and live events is often overseen as an ABM marketing channel.

If you have a clear industry focus in your Account-Based Marketing and you have a large target list of companies, it’s a good idea to identify large industry events and attend them. There are different ways of attending these, from being a regular participant, sponsoring a speaker slot or break-out sessions, to sponsoring a booth on a tradeshow. Your cost-benefit estimate should be depending on how many target accounts you think you’ll be able to reach and how easy it will be to close deals from it.

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ABM automation platform Engagio hoped to get conversations started at the Dreamforce event. They identified who might be joining and created customized bobbleheads that could be picked up at their stand. They converted 31% of the bobbleheads into a meeting!

 

For smaller events, it can be interesting to identify networking events where your target accounts could be present. It’s quite common that conferences share guest lists of attending companies to boost interest. Once you are signed up, you get access to a networking tool that allows you to identify attendees within your ABM. Make sure you know exactly what information you will get before you sign up, as GDPR of course has complicated data sharing.

Unique opportunity to start an in-depth conversation with your prospects.
 Self-selection of key accounts when data is available.

Event participation or planning takes a lot of time and effort.
Without attendees’ information is hard to estimate how many of your ABM prospects will attend.

 

+1 Outbound and Sales alignment

Last but not least, Account-Based Marketing is a unique opportunity to align your marketing inbound and sales outbound efforts. With brand awareness (through marketing campaigns) it’s a lot more likely outbound efforts are fruitful.

Beside outbound, it’s important to be sure your generated ABM leads are followed-up in line with your strategy. Too often leads are followed up in a general way that has nothing to do with the topic they initially engaged with. Help your sales team understand where a lead comes from and make it easy to access your ABM content that could help them in their pitch. Some teams develop an ABM Playbook that offers industry specific insights, call scripts and email content.

Your Account-Based Marketing strategy should be co-owned by your sales and marketing team. Loss of buy-in is often the result of misalignment and can be detrimental to your entire strategy.

 

Conclusions

We've discussed 8 key Account-Based Marketing channels that should be on the ABM marketers’ radar. There is no golden rule as to which combination of channels to go for when planning your ABM strategy.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind, to make sure your ABM strategy doesn’t eat all your budget without any results.

Your ABM can only be as good as your targeting is. Make sure you have high-quality lists of target accounts. Anything less will affect your campaigns and organizational buy-in.

Test your strategy with more affordable campaigns first, before spending big bucks on advanced demand generation.

Make sure you are aligned with your sales team. Both teams should feel like they co-own the strategy. Misalignment will hurt your results and could make your ABM go belly up.

Make the most out of more expensive ABM clicks through an extensive re-targeting strategy. Capture everyone and use affordable retargeting campaigns to boost impressions.

Make sure your system supports your ABM. Keep your CRM organized, include ABM in your lead-scoring, and use marketing automation to personalize interaction. 

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Thijs van Donselaar

Marketing Manager @ Ocean.io