In this article, you’ll get our 7-step account based marketing (ABM) strategy for B2B SaaS, including:
- How to segment your target account lists based on your customer personas.
- How to break your list down into quartiles based on the value of prospects so you can allocate more budget to high value accounts than lower value accounts.
This strategy is based on what we have seen our top B2B SaaS clients and other leading B2B SaaS companies do.
To further increase performance for your ABM campaigns, we’ll kick things off with 10 common mistakes to avoid making (that we think limit a lot of ABM programs).
Then we’ll outline the winning 7-step strategy.
If you’d like to learn more about how we help B2B SaaS businesses execute their account based marketing, schedule a Free SaaS Scale Session today.
10 Account Based Marketing Mistakes B2B SaaS Companies Should Avoid
1. Not Allocating More Budget to Accounts with Higher Potential Value
Let’s say you’re a SaaS company doing account based marketing.
If you think Account ‘A’ on your target account list would be worth $50,000 ARR, and Account ‘B’ would be worth $15,000 ARR, you should be willing to spend more to acquire Account ‘A’ than Account ‘B’, right?
While this logic is easy to understand, occasionally we see this fail to translate into practice for SaaS companies doing ABM.
What happens is: Once a target acquisition cost is determined (target CAC or the amount you’re willing to spend to acquire a new customer), it’s applied across the board to all of your campaigns. But in doing so, you miss an opportunity to allocate more budget to accounts with higher potential value.
This is one of the biggest mistakes that we see limit results for SaaS companies struggling to make ABM work.
2. Thinking That Investing in an ABM Platform Alone Will Make It All Work
Popular ABM platforms like Terminus, Rollworks, or Demandbase work fine, but investing in these platforms alone isn’t enough. If you don’t give the platform the right inputs, your marketing efforts aren’t likely to improve.
Investing in one of these platforms makes sense only when you have a well developed ABM strategy. The platforms alone won’t make your account based marketing work.
Our ABM strategy will show you how to get a good ROI from the ABM platform you invest in.
3. Purchasing Ads Through AdRoll or Perfect Audience Instead of Directly on the Platforms Where You’re Advertising
When you run ABM campaigns through a platform like AdRoll or Perfect Audience, they’re buying ads for you and marking them up. These platforms don’t show you what you could have actually spent on that ad had you bought it directly from the channel.
For example, you’ll see a CPC of $5.40 on your account from AdRoll without being able to see that they bought those clicks from LinkedIn for $5.00 per click. Some SaaS marketing teams may feel that the markup is worth it for a slightly better user experience. But without transparency on those metrics, it’s impossible for decision makers to monitor and understand the actual value in that service over time.
If you want to see a higher ROI, we recommend bypassing these services (to avoid their markup) and running your marketing campaigns directly through the native ad platforms.
4. Poor Journey-Offer Fit
Going straight for the sale with cold prospects (offering a demo or trial right off the bat) is like proposing marriage on a first date.
It’s a big turn off.
This is a symptom of short term thinking. Overlooking where in the customer journey your target audiences are leads to poor click through rates and higher costs per click. Platforms will end up delivering your ads to less of your audience due to these metrics, and you’ll be left wasting money on underperforming ads.
In our ABM strategy below, we’ll show you how to make sure your ads match up with your audience’s progression through the customer journey.
5. Putting Your List Together Without Enhancing and Further Refining It
Another mistake we see B2B marketers make is creating their initial target account list without refining it further. Creating your initial list is just the beginning of the process to develop it.
An effective ABM approach requires further list enrichment. You want to ask the question: “What are some other things we can add to this list that will help us target these accounts?”
These characteristics are sometimes referred to as firmographic data. Firmographic data includes basic information like company size and annual revenue. But for SaaS companies, we find technographic data to be particularly useful.
We’ll try to answer the question: “What are the various types of technologies they’re using?”
There are two helpful things you can keep an eye out for:
- Companies using the same tech as your existing customers and tech that is complementary to your SaaS.
- Companies who use tech that is at a comparable price point to your own (a signal that they make significant investments in services like yours).
Both of these can indicate the right accounts from your list to prioritize in your targeting.
6. Not Doing Proper Data Hygiene
Effective ABM requires good data hygiene to successfully target accounts.
Missing data can lead to missed targeting opportunities. To drive home the importance of data hygiene, consider this scenario:
You have a list of 500 company names and each company has 10 people you want to target. So you have 5,000 people in an Excel file.
If you don’t get your data hygiene right, you might think you’re targeting 5,000 people when in fact many of them aren’t matched when you finally upload your list. There might be 100 valuable names on your list that simply aren’t matched because of typos or formatting errors, leading you to miss out on targeting them.
7. Not Setting Up Your Campaigns on an Account-by-Account Basis
Account based marketing consists of marketing, sales, and performance tracking across each individual account.
Yet, we still sometimes see B2B companies segment their account lists based on the shared characteristics of their accounts.
For example, they might create a campaign for “US enterprise technology companies” — because that’s what their target companies are. Then, they run their ABM campaigns toward that group rather than each individual account.
But this misconception defeats the purpose of an account based approach. You’ll get performance data on enterprise technology companies, but not data specific to the individual accounts you’re targeting across each individual account.
8. Using Sponsored In-Mail Without Warming Up Prospects
This mistake is similar to mistake #3 of having poor journey-offer fit. If you’re sending sponsored in-mail to prospects without any pre-targeting communication, you’re going to turn prospects off.
Instead, you should send out ads a month ahead of time to reach these people before you ever reach out to them through their inbox. Our stance is that sponsored in-mail is one of those marketing tactics that should be reserved for retargeting campaigns (definitely not for a first touch).
Note: to learn more about B2B marketing best practices, check out our article on LinkedIn ads for SaaS.
9. Not Remarketing on Every Possible Channel
Multichannel marketing — marketing to prospects through many different channels — is the status quo today.
However, omnichannel marketing — which places users at the center of the marketing experience (by connecting the different channels where they interact with you) — is still underutilized.
One easy way to implement omnichannel marketing is in your remarketing efforts, but many SaaS companies fail to leverage this. Not creating omnichannel remarketing campaigns for people who have engaged with your ads is a missed opportunity to reach leads in the different places they spend time online.
While ABM prospects will usually enter your funnel through LinkedIn, you should be retargeting them through Google and Facebook to further increase their awareness of your solution. In addition, when you get a click through Google or Facebook, it’s likely to cost less than getting it on LinkedIn.
We recommend implementing omnichannel campaigns to help make your ABM more successful and cost-effective.
10. Bidding on CPC Based on What LinkedIn Recommends
Marketing teams that follow LinkedIn’s suggestions about what to bid for campaigns often fall victim to over-estimations of what their bids actually need to be, and end up paying more to the platform than necessary.
We recommend starting out your bids at 50% of the recommended rate to see how things perform first, and then increasing them from there as needed. We can often attain click-through-rates of 1%+ (well beyond LinkedIn’s standard for a good ad of .1-.7% CTR) with a CPC that’s a fraction of what they suggest.
Remember, these platforms are designed to get rich, not to make you rich. So, do your own testing to see what bid rates perform best.
Now that we’ve covered the common ABM mistakes we’ve seen, let’s dive into our process for ABM.
A Step by Step Account Based Marketing Approach for B2B SaaS
1. Build Your Customer Personas
As we covered in our article on SaaS buyer personas, we typically develop personas for three key stakeholders:
- The Daily User
- The Manager
- The Check signer
When we onboard clients, we’ll workshop with them to lay out basic demographics for each persona, as well as their fears, frustrations, wants, and aspirations. Then we’ll create persona profiles based on what was brainstormed.
This is the first step because it sets the stage for you to reach the right people at your target accounts with the right messaging.
2. Build Your Target Account Lists and Ensure Your Data is Clean
To build your target account lists, first you have to get the basic information of individuals who work at the companies you’re seeking to acquire as customers.
Common ways to acquire this data include:
- Purchasing it from a data provider like Leedfeeder, Crunchbase, Angelist, Datanyze, or ZoomInfo
- Compiling it through attending trade shows, conferences, or other events
- Doing research with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, target account websites, and other online directories
The basic information you need to get started are (also known as anchors):
- First name
- Last name
- Email address
- Company name
Note: In addition to these basic data points, you can also add in your technographic data or other relevant data you’ve decided to use to enrich your list.
Once you have this raw data for your target accounts, you want to be sure to check your list thoroughly for typos and formatting errors. If you really want to do your diligence, check for bounced emails through a service like NeverBounce.
Next up is a step that’s often neglected.
3. Segment Your Target Account Lists Based on Your Customer Personas
One account at a time, you’ll take your list and separate individuals into three categories, one for each customer persona.
For example, if you sell a SaaS to marketers, you might separate your list as follows:
- People with job titles like CMO or VP of Marketing go in your check signer segment.
- People with job titles like Demand Generation Manager or SEM Manager go in your manager segment.
- And those with job titles like SEO Strategist or Content Writer go in your daily user segment.
By segmenting your list in this way, you can add personalization to the messages you deliver, and create separate campaigns for these different stakeholders within a target company.
This graphic represents how you might personalize messaging for your different personas:
4. Use an Account-Based Structure for Your Ad Campaigns
Once you have your cleaned, segmented lists for all of your target accounts, the next step is to set up your prospecting campaigns for each account. You want to set them up with an account-based structure that divides the target account campaign set into subsets of segmented stakeholder campaigns.
Each account will have a set of several campaigns running, serving different ads and messaging to the various customer personas you’ve identified.
Note: At this stage, we’ve created our lead magnet landing page flow that users will follow from ad click through to conversion. This is covered in our article on mapping SaaS landing pages to your sales funnel.
5. Separate Your Target Accounts Into Quartiles Based on Their Revenue Potential and Set Your Budgets Accordingly
This isn’t perfect science, but it’s an effort to factor the potential value of individual accounts into your budgeting.
Let’s say you have 400 target companies on your list. You’d go through the 400 companies and segment them into 4 quartiles. In the first quartile, you’d put the top 100 companies that you think would bring in the most revenue if you acquire them as customers. In the second quartile you’d put the next 100 companies, and so on.
With this additional layer of segmentation, you can increase your target CAC for higher value prospects which allows you to:
- Deliver more unique ads to key accounts
- Pay more for their clicks commensurate with their clicks being worth more
- Dedicate more remarketing to those accounts
This can all increase the quality of your lead generation and the likelihood of better conversion rates with your most prized prospects.
With all of this in place, you’re set to launch your campaigns.
6. Launch Reach Based Campaigns, Followed by Engagement Campaigns
We always start with launching reach campaigns first. For these, we might kick things off with running video ads or ads that offer ungated content like a blog post.
The purpose of reach campaigns is to create general awareness of your brand and service among your target accounts. Once you’ve done this and they’re becoming familiar with you, you can move into the next phase of running engagement campaigns.
Engagement campaigns are where we begin offering lead magnets like downloadable resources or webinars. Here we start using the landing page flow we mentioned above. And the purpose of these is to turn anonymous prospects into a name and a lead on your prospect list.
Lead magnets are created in the Journey-Offer Fit Workshops that we do with clients in our SaaS pilot program.
7. Remarket with Lead Magnet Campaigns, Followed by Conversion Campaigns for Lead Magnet Downloaders
Remarketing campaigns are set up to begin firing as soon as we’ve collected pixel data from prospects who engage with our ads. These engagements might mean they:
- Watched a video or read a blog post
- Visited other web pages like a product or pricing page
- Downloaded a lead magnet resource or signed up for a webinar
The first stage of remarketing ads are lead magnet ads — but once someone has downloaded a lead magnet, that’s when you can begin delivering conversion-focused ads with trial and demo offers.
And the key to remarketing is to do it omnichannel and to meet prospects in the different places they spend time online. So while you’ll be seeking to get the first click on LinkedIn (the origin point of discovery), you want to remarket to them on Facebook and Google as well.
Omnichannel remarketing helps to speed up your sales cycle and has the added benefit of getting clicks at a lower cost than LinkedIn.
Throughout this process, we’ll closely monitor our campaigns, and tweak messaging and budgeting where necessary to optimize performance.
Signing up with services like Terminus or Bizible (or AdRoll or Perfect Audience) are only half the battle if you want to execute on account based marketing for SaaS.
If you’ve been using these services or others and are still finding it challenging to get results from your ABM program, we hope this article will help you avoid any mistakes you might be making, and to refine your approach to optimizing your campaigns.
If you’d like to learn more about how we help B2B SaaS businesses execute their account based marketing, schedule a Free SaaS Scale Session today.