Is LinkedIn Effective For B2B Marketing?

After a few potential customer stories we are compelled to ask “Is LinkedIn really effective for B2B marketing?” XYZ Inc. (name withheld on request) is in the business of selling SaaS solutions to mid & small biz with a limited appeal to big businesses. After having gone through all the internet case studies & links provided by their digital marketing agency (not us) they go through all the steps & processes in the book to succeed on LinkedIn.

Three years later they report 12 seriously interested leads & 4 conversions. As a result of their sustained efforts on LinkedIn they now receive over 90 resumes each month for positions that they haven’t advertised and don’t have. They receive over 6 partnering requests each month none of which they have found valuable to pursue so far. Their HR recently found that 7 employees left in the last one due to approaches from headhunters on LinkedIn.

In contrast they say they are not satisfied but okay with the leads and conversions they receive from dedicated B2B websites for SaaS.

The main points covered in this post are

  • Facts on LinkedIn relevant to B2B marketing
  • Other online channels of B2B marketing
  • Looking deeper into conversion rate optimization on LinkedIn
  • Methods that actually work in facilitating B2B marketing on LinkedIn

Competing B2B Websites

The top 10 B2B websites on the internet today are

  1. Alibaba
  2. Manta
  3. Indiamart
  4. Made In China
  5. DH Gate
  6. China.CN
  7. I Offer
  8. Trade India
  9. Global Sources
  10. DIY Trade

Websites considered competitors to LinkedIn are

  1. Xing
  2. Viadeo
  3. Ecademy

Yes there are plenty of websites that aspire to be LinkedIn for Teachers, or Doctors, or…you name it.

Time to get down to a little basics on LinkedIn. The largest gathering of professionals worldwide. Offering numerous advertising opportunities. According to Wikipedia “As of 2015, most of the site’s revenue comes from selling access to information about its users to recruiters and sales professionals”. Does that sound similar to most of Google’s revenues coming from Adwords?

Wikipedia further notes that LinkedIn also supports the formation of interest groups, and there are more than a million such groups whose membership varies from 1 to 744,662. The majority of the most important groups are employment related, although a really wide selection of topics are covered mainly around professional and career issues, and there are currently 128,000 groups for both academic and corporate alumni.

While Facebook and Twitter dominate the B2C space, LinkedIn is that the site where B2B marketers attend find clients and make connections. It’s the sole social networking platform solely focused on business, making it the right place to take a position in marketing efforts.

According to a study by WebMarketing123, LinkedIn is that the best platform for lead generation and sales for B2B marketers.

Sure LinkedIn is the largest gathering of professionals worldwide. So it is logical to assume, leads & conversions should arise from there. But the most striking facts seem to support recruitment, hiring & employment.

Most visitors to LinkedIn are not buyers. There are lot more job seekers and career climbers spending quality time at LinkedIn than buyers or buy influencers. The buyers are mostly from HR departments. So unless you are selling HR software or something that simplifies head hunting, are you looking for buyers in the right place?

You get more buyers at B2B websites like Alibaba. Or more precisely at an Alibaba like website that specializes in the segment that you sell. If you sell car upholstery you go to a car accessories expo isn’t it? You don’t go to the latest CEO summit in town even though each of them may be looking to change their upholstery soon.

Yes these generic or niche B2B websites do not offer the kind of connections, endorsements, discussions, so called influencers (we hope they are not busy influencing who can be hired for which position at which company in which city) and such feel good social networking warmth. But if you have a specific product and/or service to be sold you simply list them with all the info. And wait for enquiries to service and sales to complete.

If you have used any B2B website to buy or sell a product or service you will agree they are clear, specific & direct. They offer just a neat transaction : products sold, money credited.

Consider these LinkedIn statistics from a recent research :

  • Half of the traffic from social media sites to B2B blogs and sites comes from LinkedIn
  • 65% of companies have acquired a lead from LinkedIn (up 1.5x from 2010 to 2013)
  • 93% of B2B marketers rated LinkedIn to be effective in generating leads
  • 50% of LinkedIn members report that they are more likely to buy from a company they interact with on LinkedIn

In short, if you’re a B2B marketer, you would like to get on LinkedIn.

Apart from the fact that you get generous traffic to your business blog from LinkedIn, the crucial word here is leads. You get a lot of leads from LinkedIn. How?

  1. Signup Premium : send InMail messages, do advanced searches for leads, view unlimited profiles and see who’s viewed your profile over the last 90 days. InMail is useful for numerous reasons. After you log into your account and see who’s checking your profile, you can reach out to those people and see if they’re interested in working with you. If you’re trying to contact prospects but not having any luck finding their contact information online, InMail allows you to message them directly. If you upgrade to the sales plan, LinkedIn sends you lead recommendations, allows you to look at decision makers at companies, imports your Salesforce contacts, allows you to message using InMail.
  2. Enhance your company’s LinkedIn page. Your company’s LinkedIn page must show your prospects what you are doing, and what you’ll do for them. Explain why your company and merchandise are valuable and use language that your audience understands. Under the specialties tab, use keywords that folks are presumably to use when trying to find a business in your field. For your cover photo, choose one that displays your business’ story and represents you within the best way possible. It are often as simple as showing your flagship storefront or a photograph of your products.
  3. Join LinkedIn groups : LinkedIn groups are platforms for connecting with others in your field and starting relevant discussions. Under the Interests tab on the location, click Groups, and you’ll see an inventory of recommended groups that suit your business. Go ahead, join a few. Within the group you join, you’re ready to post discussions and participate in other users’ threads. You can also see who the highest contributors are and whether or not any of your contacts also are members. After you join, confirm you’re a lively member by posting questions and starting discussions which will get people talking. Ask questions that many other professionals in your community would want to know the answer to, and answer other people’s questions as well. That way, you’ll showcase your business expertise.
  4. Post thought provoking content: apart from group discussions, differently to determine yourself as an expert in your field is to post content that gets people thinking. You can do that by using LinkedIn’s publishing platform. Write about changes to your industry, your thoughts on upcoming business legislation that impacts your niche or a piece of writing about the teachings you’ve learned as a business owner. There’s no limit to what you’ll write on. The idea is to showcase your knowledge. Show the B2B world that your business knows its stuff.
  5. The most efficient way to get leads from LinkedIn is to do an advanced search for your targeted folks. You may be impressed by the rather large number of results you’ll get. Yeah that is the beauty of LinkedIn. The largest gathering of professionals worldwide. You can then read through each profile to decide if they are the right fit for you. You can then figure out their email through a tool or another; some folks also leave their email address in their profile. And if that doesn’t work, you can always bank on InMail. Considering the first level of filtering is going to be a little painful, repetitive and long research, you may choose to have it done by professionals who excel in such grabbing.

Once you have the targeted leads you can choose to interact with them in a way that your product/service and business sells best. You can add them to a list (with their permission of course), engage them with useful information and sell to them when they have a specific need.

Research is yet to be conducted on this facet of LinkedIn towards B2B marketing but we bet this is the most valuable contribution of LinkedIn to B2B marketing.

The other effective channel available on LinkedIn is advertising. They have Sponsored Posts and they carry ads both on top of the screen and elsewhere. Considering a large amount of traffic is concerned with hiring, recruiting & job hunting, you will need to be careful in choosing your keywords & target profiles to display your ads.

If you wish to reduce your LinkedIn ad spending (at least in the beginning when you haven’t yet realized its value) there is a convenient Google Display Network hack available whereby you can get a bigger bang for your buck on LinkedIn advertising expenses. You can create & run a display ad from within Google Adwords choosing LinkedIn as the only display network for that campaign (LinkedIn is a Google Display Network partner).

To summarize, if you are looking for quick sales (for example tangible products & services that don’t need much of presales or concept selling or requirements gathering, prototyping, etc) you get lot more bang for your buck by focusing on the few B2B websites in your segment, in your demography; the few B2B websites where your potential customers hangout. If as a Sales Manager you are looking to both sell a product or service and secure your next job, I guess LinkedIn is far more useful.

But as we have seen, if you are in need of sales lists or new leads; LinkedIn is an abundant hunting ground for them.

With these findings we went back to folks disgruntled with the B2B marketing strengths of LinkedIn and we are happy to report; at least 2 of them are happy harvesting leads from LinkedIn.

The above is a summary based on our expertise & experience. If you feel we missed something significant or anything needs to be altered, feel free to share your valued comments. If there is someone you know is likely to benefit from this information, please feel free to share. Thank you for your time!

 

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