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A Good Alternative to Facebook

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With marketers reviewing their Facebook strategies following its recent decision to tweak its algorithms, LinkedIn is proving to be an increasingly popular platform for those in the B2B space, writes John Ring. 

The digital marketing industry is often viewed as super sexy by those trying to establish themselves in it with “shiny new objects” being ever popular. When you hear the duopoly of Google and Facebook announcing new bells and whistles regularly to help advertisers, they’re frequently targeted at the B2C sector as that’s where a huge amount of ad spend goes. By contrast the B2B world is pretty unsexy with email being the most commonly used digital marketing tactic. New and shiny email is not but it’s still the most effective B2B lead generation tactic according to multiple studies (with content marketing catching up fast)

Linkedin of course is the most accurate source of data for those in the B2B space where sales leads are all about quality rather than quantity. I joined Linkedin back in 2004 when it had 500K members but since then it’s been very disappointing from a functionality and ad sophistication perspective. From it’s annoying direct sales model to its lack of ad transparency around CPCs and estimation tools, it’s been pretty poor but finally it has upped its game substantially and I’m not sure if that’s because of the recent Microsoft purchase or really just a blatantly obvious demand for better tools and targeting from a far more knowledgeable member-base.

“Linkedin of course is the most accurate source of data for those in the B2B space where sales leads are all about quality rather than quantity.”

I talk to lots of unusual and wonderful companies such as the company exporting paint-mixers to over 100 countries or the company who is the only exclusive manufacturer in Europe of FDA-approved plastic that can go inside your body (Slightly important if you talk to a cardiologist!)

Both of these smart Irish companies want B2B marketing tools and options as much as the next company. So, what’s the best way to generate more brand exposure and product enquiries nationally / internationally via online channels? When Gartner is telling us that “57% of a B2B purchasing decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier”, it makes sense that content marketing is far more relevant for the B2B space than even in B2C where it’s the favourite tactic de jour.

Most B2B buyers want to know “What’s my problem?” and then, “How do I fix my problem”? Thought leadership content from a potential supplier is superb at framing this conversation but there’s a problem we regularly encounter with ‘thought leadership’ content among B2B companies.

What’s interesting is that it’s more a problem of perception rather than a genuine obstacle. Senior executives frequently believe that as subject matter experts who can write, they are best placed to produce ‘thought leadership’ content and of course they are – if they have the time to devote to it. Which naturally they don’t because they’re senior and so generally very busy.

Agencies are often asked “what could you guys possibly know about our niche topic?” The much smarter question we sometimes get asked is “how can you extract from our heads, package and then promote our expertise?”

Once the content hurdle is overcome by executing on a persona-targeted editorial calendar, getting that content promoted aggressively is next. From good SEO to CRM retargeting ads via the likes of Adroll and Linkedin Sponsored content updates, there’s a lot of options to get B2B content seen.

One tactic we’ve seen work well is in the area of ‘social selling’. Imagine you want to target the approx 1,000 Facility Managers on Linkedin in Ireland. Does your personal profile resonate with a Facility Manager such that if you invite one to connect, your profile is credible enough for them to accept your invitation without personally knowing you? As soon as you’re connected, you’re now in a superb position to contact those people individually on a systematic basis with valuable and helpful content that makes their jobs a bit easier.

Another thing to be conscious of with Linkedin from a B2B perspective is that it’s a social i.e. person to person platform meaning that it’s far more geared towards the use of personal profiles rather than company / brand pages. This is important as if for eg a B2B company has a sales rep invest considerable time in building up his online network, that valuable strategic work is effectively wasted should the person leave the company.

Another problem that Linkedin has had is that many potential B2B customers who have profiles seldom login to the platform. It’s for this reason that they launched the Linkedin Audience network last September to allow Sponsored Content posts be more widely seen. Unfortunately it has nowhere near the breadth or granularity of the Google Display Network but hopefully they’ll fix that in the near future.

Linkedin’s introduction of ‘Matched Audiences’ last year which allow B2B companies target their – usually extensive – email database via the platform is a very effective targeting tool but whether or not there will be issues with it after GDPR kicks off in May will be one to watch which is why Linkedin have only just updated their policies. All in all, for those in B2B marketing, there are lots more tactics and tools at your disposal now. The challenge as ever is to make sure they generate a positive ROI from the not inconsiderable effort that’s involved in making them work.

John Ring is managing director of TinderPoint

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ February 2018)© to order back issues please call 016611660