How to Drive Powerful ABM Lead Generation (Step-by-Step with Pictures)

Ryder Meehan
March 6, 2020
abm digital marketing strategies

Heman Power

ABM (or account-based-marketing) is the hottest topic in the B2B sales and marketing since the promotional thumb drive.

Rather than spray and pray across the internet, marketers can now target highly qualified prospects with a personalized and relevant offer. And since your pool of prospects is smaller and better defined you can spend the time to perfect your message and hit them with frequency.

But that now poses the question, how do you reach your ABM list effectively?

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Digital marketing is the primary source for B2B lead acquisition and can get results alone but pairing it with an ABM list is the secret sauce for unlocking access to your best accounts at scale. In fact, 84 percent of businesses using ABM say it delivers higher ROI than other marketing campaigns.

Not to toot our own horn but Upgrow generates over 125,000 leads annually (primarily for B2B) across industries for tech startups to Fortune 500 brands (toot, toot!!).  So it's safe to say we know a thing or two about targeted digital marketing.  We've discovered a POWER list of strategies that get the ABM lead generation flywheel spinning.

This list of ideas will give some of our best methods for crushing MQL goals using inbound marketing.   So read on!

First let's cover what ABM is:

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a highly focused business strategy in which a marketing team treats an individual prospect or customer like its very own market. The marketing team can create content, events, and entire campaigns dedicated to these specific accounts, rather than the industry as a whole. - Hubspot

If you're still not sure how ABM works, the benefits, or how to build your target list, check out this great article on the topic.

List of ABM Lead Generation Strategies

  1. Turn Your Account List of Companies into a List of Names
  2. Coordinate Marketing & Sales Schedules
  3. Highly Personalized Email Sequences
  4. Use a Dynamic Landing Page Platform
  5. Develop Prospect-Relevant Offers
  6. Go for the Value-Add Meeting
  7. Track & Report ABM Leads Separately
  8. Engaging & Experiential Content
  9. Build an Evergreen Lead Magnet
  10. Custom Audience Upload Display Targeting
  11. Search Ads with Custom Audience Bid Boosting
  12. Add Bing Search Ads
  13. Gmail Ads
  14. LinkedIn Message Ads
  15. Use LinkedIn Lead Forms in Your Message Ads
  16. Create ABM Specific Campaigns
  17. Target Bottom to Top Company Roles
  18. Market to Target Prospect Connections
  19. Twitter Tailored Audiences
  20. Programmatic Display Ads
  21. Content Syndication Networks

Pre-Launch Planning

1) Turn Your Account List of Companies into a List of Names

Providers such as Apollo, Reachforce, and can create lists based on role or responsibility at your list of companies. This type of list build allows account based models to seed the database with the right contacts. Using the list of emails, your outbound sales team can coordinate with marketing by executing email, calling, and direct mail efforts.  My first preference is Apollo since it's not just a prospect research platform but also has a built in CRM and email sequence sending feature for a complete solution.

Apollo Lead User Data

2) Coordinate Marketing & Sales Schedules

You want to create an impact in the prospect's mind that your brand is hot, and everywhere they go they hear about it.  The ability to create the experience is only available through ABM since your ad budget and sales outreach time are both limited, so by focusing only on key accounts you can reach only ideal users.  Scheduling out both when sales will be hitting the phones and sending cold emails as well as when marketing will be reaching them (with all the tactics listed below) is ideal.

To illustrate: suppose a user just saw your brand on their Facebook wall, got an LinkedIn Message about a relevant webinar invitation, and then an SDR calls them to offer a free guided demo.  That makes much more impact than any one of these contacts alone.

Sales & Marketing Calendar

3) Highly Personalized Email Sequences

You're going to be driving a lot of leads into pipeline with these digital marketing programs.  Make sure you onboard and nurture them correctly with a strong email sequence.

Email is the best platform for highly personalized communication. These messages aren’t general display ads or social posts, these are sent directly from one inbox to another - and should feel like a 1:1 message as much as possible. So make them personal to your prospects, leads, or opportunities. This is one of the most effective account-based marketing tactics for B2B marketers to reach out to contacts.

See more personalized email tips from Ali Powell at Hubspot.

Hubspot Example - personalized email

Offer & Landing Page Tactics:

4) Use a Dynamic Landing Page Platform

At Upgrow we prefer Unbounce, but there are a number of good tools for this out there.  A landing page builder provides unique advantages like fast deployment, A/B testing, dynamic content, tracking, and many more.  It's a small investment for so much benefit.  While landing page builders are universally useful for digital marketing, the dynamic content, simple testing, and ability to create multiple personalized versions make them especially useful in providing a customized ABM user experience.

Dynamic Landing Page

5) Engaging & Experiential Content

Most effective ABM programs have a small number of targeted high-value accounts, so campaigns and offers need to deliver high conversion rates simply because there are less prospects to market to.  However, because the list is small, sales and marketing should concentrate on providing a highly personalized offer.  An example from Upgrow's own sales team would be doing an SEO audit on a target accounts website before even getting in touch and sending through the results on the first cold email contact.  It took about 30 minutes to complete and wouldn't be possible to send to 1,000's of prospects but it's a very doable marketing effort with a defined, qualified ABM list.

6) Go for the Value-Add Meeting

Skip the general whitepaper and webinar lead magnets and offer something with more personalization.  It takes more work and time, but again you have less accounts to target.  A strategy session, competitive review, technology assessment or account audit are strong meeting offers that also provide value to the prospect which make them more compelling and likely to accept the meeting.

7) Track & Report ABM Leads Separately

Add unique Google Analytics UTM's to your ABM campaigns to separate them out from other marketing campaigns you're running.  This allows your sales team to prioritize those leads and gives your marketing team appropriate credit for reaching them.  To do this, use unique UTM's when setting up the campaigns and drive to a specific landing page version for ABM's which is easy to set up on a platform like Unbounce or Instapage.

8) Engaging & Experiential Content

Prospects are bored of PDF's.  Use video or a platform like RelayTo to create an engaging experience that breaks through to get attention of busy executives. Here is an example:

MemSQL Relayto Interactive Content Example
Click to Open in New Tab

9) Build an Evergreen Lead Magnet

It may seem counter-intuitive that you would want to give ABM users a non-personalized offer.  This strategy is best to test as a first engagement with ABM list prospects, especially influencers, though it's also worth targeting decision-makers with as well.  SleekNote does a great job of explaining why and how to use evergreen lead magnets in this epic post but I'll summarize the benefits below.

An evergreen lead magnet is a content upgrade that (1) offers immediate value to the user, (2) invites repeated usage, and (3) is regularly updated to ensure it’s the most up-to-date resource it can be.

Combining evergreen lead magnets with social media ads is effective for 3 reasons:

Google Ads

10) Custom Audience Upload DisplayTargeting

There are more than 2 million websites on the Google Display Network (GDN).  According to Google, that reaches more than 90% of the entire internet population.  One of the best aspects of the GDN is that it lets you specifically target your audience based on a variety of criteria including specific placements, site categories, in-market behaviors, and most relevant to this strategy; custom audiences.  Simply upload your ABM target audience and assign it as a target for your display campaign.  Google provides detailed step-by-step instructions to do so.

11) Search Ads with Custom Audience Bid Boosting

Targeting user audiences with Google Search is also available and recommended.  Simply add your ABM audience to search campaigns and set an increased bid for reaching them when they search for a keyword in your list.

12) Add Bing Search Ads

If you're not running on Bing, and need additional reach and coverage, consider adding it to your program.  They make it easy to mirror your Google Ads account structure to Bing Ads and Bing also offers custom audience upload targeting.  Bing works especially well for older audience targeting, which can often be the gray-haired executives that B2B marketers are trying to get their search and display ads in front of.

Bing Ad example

13) Gmail Ads

Place your ad at the top of your prospect's Gmail promotion tab inbox with Gmail placements.  Learn more about Gmail Ads.

Gmail Ads - ABM Strategy

Paid Social Ads

14) LinkedIn Message Ads

Message Ads are a high-impact way to get in front of prospects, especially with a specific offer that is timely.  The down-side is that they quite expensive compared to other LinkedIn Ad formats (or other digital marketing CPC's in general), but when B2B marketers are taking an ABM approach it's doable since the audience is well-defined and limited.

To set them up, simply load in your ABM campaign audience the send them an exclusive and personalized message and offer (see content ideas above).  Message Ads allow you to set up dynamic personalization, but make sure it feels like a 1:1 email, gets the user's attention, and is highly relevant.

LinkedIn Message Ad Example

15) Use LinkedIn Lead Forms in Your Message Ads

LinkedIn reports that Lead Forms can yield 4X more form fills than standard ads with a landing page due to the reduced friction.  Connect a Lead Form to your Message Ad so the prospect can easily sign up using their LinkedIn profile information.

LinkedIn Lead Form - Example

16) Create ABM Specific Campaigns

If you're concurrently running non-ABM audience targeting, it's best to set up a separate campaign for ABM audiences.  Additionally, be sure to exclude your ABM list from your other campaigns to prevent over-saturating them with ads.  This is applicable to LinkedIn and Facebook Ads.

17) Target Bottom to Top Company Roles

In most B2B marketing LinkedIn Ad campaigns, targeting a key decision maker or end user role is standard.  Since ABM limits the target company pool significantly, expanding your audience targeting to a wide net of influencer roles and job titles can be beneficial.  There are many roles involved in a  major company purchase or vendor selection, reaching all roles involved ensures you're coming at the account from different angles and all players are familiar with your solution and how it applies to them.  Provide case studies and content marketing offers relevant to how they would use your solution is necessary to gain their interest and influence.

18) Market to Target Prospect Connections

Who you know is important, but who knows you may be even more important.  And there is no better way to show your brand is known than on social media where users can see when their friends Like or Follow a brand.  This network-credibility-based marketing tactic involves targeting the connections of your desired prospects.  LinkedIn does not offer connection targeting so this requires some scraping.   A tool like Phantombuster is useful for this (as well as other things).  Just go to the prospects LinkedIn profile then view their contacts and unleash the scraping tool.  Add that list to your target audience and start building your friends-of-friends following. If you're not using a tool like Phantombuster, you can still view a user's connections manually, but do need to be connected to the user.

LinkedIn Connections

19) Twitter Tailored Audiences

You didn't think we'd get to 21 without covering Twitter as well, did you?  Twitter is a great ad platform for high tech industry decision makers and influencers, less so for finance or heavy machine industries.  But just like LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter has it's own way to target a list of specific handles.  Twitter tailored audiences can be built in three ways. First, advertisers can input a list of Twitter handles to whom they wish to advertise. Second, advertisers can add a Twitter tag to their website and retarget those viewers with twitter ads. Third, if you have a mobile app, you can retarget app users.

Twitter Tailored Audiences

Additional Ad Channels

20) Programmatic Display Ads

When you have a larger ABM list (or many prospects at a given target company) then a programmatic display ad program makes a lot of sense.  Temper your expectations on direct response results and think of it more as an awareness channel, and know that nearly all conversion will be impression-based.  MediaMath and Quantcast are good providers to check out.

These platforms allow you to reach target accounts on a broad display network with programmatic factors - such as their online behavior and demographics layered on. Integrate has a helpful guide to go deeper into how to use ABM + Programmatic.

Bright Machines - Programmatic Display Ad Example

21) Content Syndication Networks

Another place to hit your accounts is through content ads on platforms.  Taboola, a leading content network, has partnered with Bombora, the leading provider of B2B demographic and intent data, ABM on this network is now becoming possible.  By pairing Outbrain’s core product and Bombora’s data, marketers will now be able to deliver content at scale to their most qualified and valuable audience of B2B buyers.

Outbrain ABM Content Syndication

In Conclusion

Now that you've got a war chest of ABM-seeking digital marketing strategies to unleash on your account list, you should be able to precisely reach your desired buyer.  It's key to remember WHY you're doing ABM, which is not to serve broad ads to full market, but to reach defined and qualified accounts with a highly personalized message and offer.

Do not try to use all of these strategies at once, it would be unmanageable and some strategies are better for different situations. Pick the most appropriate for your product and industry and launch them one at a time.

Helpful ABM Resources

Did we miss something?  Tell us your favorite ABM strategy in the comments below.

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