Are you doing all you can to better leverage LinkedIn to be a powerful B2B marketing tool for your company? Here are several tips for building an organic LinkedIn B2B marketing strategy.
Melissa Barker from Organic Demand Generation was recently a guest on the Rethink Marketing podcast, where she shared her essential organic B2B marketing strategies for LinkedIn in 2018. In addition to the many tech companies she’s consulted, including Act-On and Puppet, she also authored the first college textbook on social media marketing in 2010.
Using LinkedIn To Reach Your Audience
Nathan: Can you tell us what sort of action is happening on LinkedIn when we’re thinking about reaching our prospects?
Melissa: It really is the single best place to reach out to prospects. It is now the largest professional social network with over 500 million users and growing at a rate of two new members per second, according to Omnicore Agency.
LinkedIn has really grown to not only be a networking tool, but a core business tool. And they’ve been adding things like Sales Navigator, Marketing Solutions, and LinkedIn Pulse for publishing, to make a really unique place to do business.
I think the great thing about LinkedIn is that when you’re there, people are already in a business mindset. Users are really open to being networked with, marketed to, and are often looking for the services and business products that you can offer.
What Are Best Practices Marketing Practices For LinkedIn?
Nathan: What are the tablestakes companies should be doing? Any best practices out there?
Melissa: When I’ve worked with companies, there are really five core things I always recommend they start doing when it comes to LinkedIn.
The first is making sure they have a really solid company page, making sure that all the messaging there is accurate from location to product information. And if you have multiple products, making sure that you’re utilizing the different product pages.
The second thing I recommend is you create a content strategy specifically for the updates you plan to send through your corporate page. Sending it haphazardly or without a lot of thought behind it can hurt you more than it can help you. So getting a good content strategy, starting to do that A/B testing early and often, is really important.
The third thing I recommend is to review the profiles of your executives and salespeople, or anyone really in your organization that’s going to be doing business for the company on LinkedIn. Because having their profile optimized is really critical to make them a credible source when it comes to doing that prospecting and outreach.
And executives in particular, whether you’re getting help from an external coach like myself, or have an internal expert that can help them with their profile, this is really important because your executives are the key to really building thought leadership. I know even at Act-On, Bill Pierznik has been making some really amazing posts on LinkedIn around his thoughts on the business world, and it’s garnered a lot of engagement. So, the more you could have your executives be the voice for your company and really get their profiles up and running, the better.
And the fourth thing I recommend is you make getting engaged with the LinkedIn company page part of your onboarding process for new employees. Because your employees are going to be the best amplifier of your content in the most genuine way, too.
And finally, set aside a little bit of budget for potentially doing some paid advertising on LinkedIn, whether that’s in the form of promoted posts, LinkedIn ads, this can be a really great way to kind of amplify your organic social strategy, and get people going to events, and getting specific registrations that you’re looking for. This is a great way to be able to target those individuals, especially with all the advanced targeting features that the LinkedIn paid ads offer.
How do you develop a thought leadership strategy for LinkedIn?
Nathan: You mentioned thought leadership. How do you develop that sort of strategy? What are your thoughts about the thought leadership and trying to exercise that on LinkedIn?
Melissa: I think with thought leadership there’s a variety of different ways that you can go about this. But one of the best ways is really just utilizing that blog feature, the LinkedIn Pulse, part of LinkedIn, because you are already connected with the best audience possible. This is your business network, right? And then every time someone in your network likes or engages with your blog post, it amplifies it to their network. It’s like having a built in audience for your blog without all of that groundwork of creating your own blog.
And the other way to do that is really through status updates, very short simple things to start engaging your audience, talk about the things you’re learning in the business world. And when it comes to what that strategy can look like, what I always recommend is you sit down with whoever you think are going to be your thought leaders and figure out what part of the business do they really want to position themselves as a thought leader about.
If it’s someone that’s heading up products, they should probably talk a lot about product development, or product strategy, versus marketing. I think speaking to the core skill set of the executive or individual that you want to be a thought leader, and then similarly building out a content strategy and plan around the frequency and the topics that they plan to cover.
Benefits of Video Status Updates
Nathan: You’ve mentioned status updates. One of the things I’ve been doing with the podcast is creating a video introduction. It was last fall that LinkedIn started having native uploads of videos. And I’ve been noticing anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 views per post that I upload, where nobody was checking out my videos or status updates when I was doing it in the past. That might be something people think about, too, is adding the video element into their thought leadership post or their status updates. What are your thoughts on that?
Melissa: I completely agree. And the other thing about them adding and the way they’re added in the LinkedIn video option is that there’s an auto play. So as folks are scrolling through their feed, they’re more likely to stop with this video that just kind of starts playing, as well. I think that’s a big opportunity to really get some more eyes on your content.
There’s also a lot of stuff even just around how much having a few simple images in your LinkedIn Pulse or blog post can really increase engagement. We’re becoming a much more visual society as it is. If you look at every social network, there’s now the ability to do video, to add photos. And so the more that you can capitalize on that, the better.
B2B Prospecting on LinkedIn
Nathan: A lot of people are talking about B2B marketing strategy on LinkedIn; and that’s really just talking about how do we drive more sales. Any thoughts about how to prospect on LinkedIn?
Melissa: Yes, definitely. I think with the prospecting side of things and really social selling, this is always where I direct folks in an area that I’ve done a lot of training for sales teams.
‘There’s really two core strategies I always recommend. The first is looking after prospecting in groups. This one is a big one because I think this is one of the single best ways for sales and marketing to drum up new business on LinkedIn. But the caveat is I’ve also seen this go horribly wrong. And without getting into too much detail, there’s a few recommendations I have to avoid some of those pitfalls.
The first is that you look at who are your current customers, who are your prospects, what groups are they in, and join those same groups if they’re relevant and not too title specific to a marketer or a different field that you’re not in. But really starting with the folks that you already are working with and using them to figure out which groups are most relevant. This is also especially important because I think it was about a year ago, LinkedIn now made all the groups private. So you can’t go in and look at what’s going on in the group. And it’s really hard to know which ones are the best ones to join just by doing simple searches on say the title of the group. So, start with the folks that you know.
The second is to really avoid promoting yourself, or your services, or your business, in these groups when you first join them. Like with any social network, you really need to build trust. And the best way to do that is to simply engage with the content that’s already there. Start replying and making genuine comments about the content being posted by people that could be prospects for you.
And then when it comes to actually, ‘OK, so now I’m engaged in these groups, now what?’ What I always recommend doing is taking the conversation offline. So reaching out to the people who you responded to in the group via InMail, or taking it to email, or phone even, and really making that be the place where you do some of the investigating to figure out if they’re a good client fit for you.
And the next thing I recommend that I’ve seen work really well is to just simply use the advanced search feature and InMail in combination. This can be tricky if you don’t have a paid account which allows you to send InMail to anyone.
With the advanced search feature, I always recommend that after you put in your demographic information, you check the option for second degree connection. And the reason for that is it’s really powerful to be able to ask whoever the mutual connection is to make an introduction, or to use them as a reference in your introduction. I know even for myself that I’m much more likely to respond to someone who knows someone that’s already within my network. And I’ve seen this and I’ve heard about this working really well for a lot of different sales folks, telling me how just even name dropping a single person got them that initial phone call.
When you’re doing your research, when you’re doing your outreach, know that it doesn’t always have to be cold, and feel comfortable asking for those introductions. Because more oftentimes than not, people will be willing to make them.
How about Employee and Partner Advocacy on LinkedIn?
Nathan: Any suggestions on getting your employees and partners engaged in boosting your voice on the platform?
Melissa: Definitely. I think there’s two different strategies. With employees, the biggest thing you can do is to educate your employees on the importance of their engagement with your social network. It’s so much more than just a like or just a comment.
Every one of those engagements can amplify a post tenfold depending on the size of their network. And really you’re educating them on, ‘Hey, when you engage with our content, you’re not only just liking the content, but you’re opening that content up to all of your network, which can ultimately help with building the business’ bottom line, getting more awareness, which in turn drives more leads, and helps move people down the funnel, they build trust when they see your name more often.’
I think there is a basic line of education that really needs to be done for most organizations. And it’s hard to expect people outside of marketing to really understand the value of a like, or engaging, or a share. So making that part of your onboarding is really helpful.
And then if that isn’t enough, what I’ve seen work well is provide some incentives. Have a social contest, a social engagement contest, where people can like content for an opportunity to win say $100 gift certificate, something small scale like that. I myself have been part of these sort of contests before for a number of organizations and see it really amplify the engagement, it gets it in front of your employees’ eyes and thinking about it. And then the beautiful part is after the contest is done, the habit’s built oftentimes. And you’ll notice those same people that were engaging initially for the contest continue to engage with your content and help amplify your message.
And then on the flip side with partners, it is a little bit different. Again, you can do that education piece, but ultimately offering reciprocation is going to be your best bet. So finding out who the social media manager is for your partner, talking with them, figuring out, ‘Hey, we’re going to retweet you this many times this month, or is there any events that you have coming up that we can help promote?’ And that reciprocation is very natural. It also builds credibility for both organizations. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to engage with your partners as well as amplify their content.
Nathan: That’s all great advice. I really like the tip to really put this into your onboarding program. I think institutionalizing that process is a win/win for everyone. So I’m wondering, how can we learn more about you and what you’re doing?
Melissa: The best place is LinkedIn.
Editor’s note: If you are in Portland in the coming weeks, Melissa is hosting a LinkedIn profile optimization workshop on July 24 and August 3.