How B2B Brands Can Better Monetize LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s rapidly growing number of online tools is helping B2B marketers make valuable connections

By John Obrecht

Michael Austin/theispot.com

Kathy Button Bell had a very specific goal. The Emerson CMO wanted to spark a conversation about empowering women in the workplace while also positioning the global manufacturing and technology company as an attractive destination for female engineers.

To achieve this goal, Emerson partnered with The Atlantic and LinkedIn. Throughout an eight-week period, Emerson spotlighted content from The Atlantic on its LinkedIn company page, while also using sponsored updates to drive traffic to Emerson-owned article pages on TheAtlantic.com.

The program was a success, generating more than 5,000 social shares and helping to raise Emerson's profile among women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. "We need customers in the future, and we need employees in the future," Button Bell says. "It was a very easy market to target. That is literally why LinkedIn is so powerful for things like that."

With its combination of breadth and ease of targeting, high level of member engagement, and extensive database to aid lead-generation efforts, LinkedIn has become the go-to platform for marketers ranging from long-established B2B companies, such as Emerson, to startups. "People self-identify [on LinkedIn]," Button Bell says. "So you know what you're getting."

Ninety-seven percent of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for content marketing purposes, outpacing Twitter (87 percent), Facebook (86 percent), YouTube (60 percent), and Instagram (30 percent), according to the "2018 B2B Content Marketing Trends — North America" study, conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.

What's more, nearly three quarters (74 percent) of marketers surveyed for Chief Marketer's "2019 B2B Marketing Outlook" named LinkedIn among the three most effective social media platforms, far outpacing Facebook (51 percent) and Twitter (35 percent).

It's not hard to see why LinkedIn is No. 1 with B2B marketers. Consider these stats for the platform:

  • More than 630 million members worldwide in more than 200 countries and territories
  • Approximately 65 million B2B decision-makers
  • 10 million C-level executives

"These are the world's business leaders, decision-makers, practitioners, and even tomorrow's future leaders," says Keith Richey, senior director of global marketing at LinkedIn. "That's everyone who matters to your business as a marketer, and that is quality reach at scale."

 

A Growing Portfolio of B2B Products and Services

The LinkedIn Marketing Solutions suite of paid and organic products is designed to address marketing objectives from awareness to consideration to conversion, Richey says.

For driving awareness organically, LinkedIn offers Pages, the next generation of what was formerly called Company Pages. Pages enable a company to share a range of content in a variety of formats about its products and services, as well as industry trends. They also provide a forum to showcase the thought leadership of a company's senior executives and subject-matter experts.

"Pages help businesses connect with members, engage them, and, by doing so, grow their business and grow lasting connections," Richey says. "It creates an opportunity to level the playing field, especially for small businesses."

To foster consideration, there is sponsored content, including carousel ads — a swipeable series of up to 10 cards — and video ads. Both formats were added last year. "If a picture tells a thousand words, then a video tells a million," Richey says. "We're seeing our members deeply engage with video in the feed." Other aids to conversion include text ads and sponsored InMail.

On the conversion front, marketers can use LinkedIn to track website conversion events such as purchases, event registrations, and content downloads. LinkedIn's conversion tracking also allows users to measure cost-per-conversion as well as recruitment efforts.

Global consultancy Deloitte combines organic and paid in its extensive LinkedIn marketing program. "LinkedIn in our eyes is a really great ecosystem for amplifying our thought leadership," says Ryan Gervais, paid media marketing manager at Deloitte. "We use LinkedIn for a little bit of everything — building awareness, engagement, demand generation."

Last year, Deloitte made LinkedIn's annual list of Top Ten Company Pages, winning praise for its "consistent focus on eye-catching visuals."

"Having a consistent visual identity is important to us as a brand," Gervais says, noting that Deloitte has used video and carousel ad formats to help tell its brand story.

One of the great strengths of advertising on LinkedIn, Gervais says, is its data quality. "Professionals are turning to that platform, providing resume-type data," he says. "That segmentation and targeting is very critical to meeting the demands of our stakeholders and their campaigns."

Emerson has effectively used Elevate, a paid LinkedIn content-sharing tool that lets companies showcase thought leadership from their employees and amplify it through sharing. Button Bell says the company has provided media training for about 500 of its employees, primarily engineering subject-matter experts.

Button Bell says the Elevate program is popular with Emerson employees. "They get a lot of visibility from it," she says. "It's great for their personal brands." In the first quarter of this year, Emerson employees shared more than 8,000 pieces of content, with an audience reach of 8.3 million and an earned media value of $379,000. The effort earned a Gold Award for Emerson and its PR agency, FleishmanHillard, in the category of Employer Branding at this year's SABRE (Superior Achievement in Branding, Reputation & Engagement) Awards.

 

Sturdy Marketing Vehicle for Small Businesses

As Richey notes, LinkedIn helps smaller companies compete effectively. One company that has been particularly adept at using the platform is Noodle.ai, a provider of artificial intelligence solutions for manufacturing and supply chain operations, which came in No. 4 on the 2018 list of LinkedIn Top Startups in the U.S.

"As a startup, we don't have a lot of wiggle room," says Steve Moskovitz, director of marketing at Noodle.ai. "If we want to reach CEOs, CTOs, and CIOs — these are the type of people that aren't always looking at magazines, but we know we can get their attention on LinkedIn."

Leslie Poston, director of content, social, and community at Noodle.ai adds, "It gives us a ready-made community of industry leaders that otherwise takes as long as two years to build via regular channels."

Poston oversees Noodle.ai's LinkedIn Page, which offers a wealth of content: an e-book titled "New Rules of the Supply Chain;" white papers, webinars, and infographics; coverage of the company, including by CNBC and The Wall Street Journal; even a "Happy Star Wars Day" greeting. "We try to post at least once a week or more," Poston says. "Generally, we end up posting three times a week."

Noodle.ai also uses LinkedIn to build awareness among its executive-level target audience and to drive leads. At one time, the platform was generating 40 percent of the company's leads. Moskovitz says that percentage has declined due to an increased emphasis on trade show marketing, but, even there, LinkedIn plays a role by driving awareness of the company.

According to a LinkedIn case study on Noodle.ai, click-through rates for its paid content on the platform are two to three times higher than the industry standard, and it sees three times better lead-gen ROI than other methods.

 

Laser-Like Targeting

No matter the size of the company, lead generation is clearly a major reason to be active on LinkedIn.

Matt Preschern, CMO at cybersecurity company Forcepoint, says the primary attraction of LinkedIn is the ability to engage directly with a core set of B2B prospects. Forcepoint runs targeted campaigns on LinkedIn using InMail and measures its success by the number of meetings set up with decision makers and leads generated, he says.

"Paid is easier. The organic side requires the commitment to a long-term presence as part of your content-marketing initiatives."
— Jason Abbate, director of interactions at Stein IAS

LinkedIn aids business marketers' lead-generation efforts with its lead-gen forms, which allow members to click on a marketer's sponsored InMail or sponsored content ads and exchange their information for a marketing offer, such as a downloadable e-book or free webinar. "It takes a lot of friction out for members," Richey says. Marketers can track their lead-generation efforts, as well as recruitment initiatives, using the conversion tool in LinkedIn Campaign Manager, the latest version of which was announced in July.

LinkedIn also introduced two new features earlier this year to help marketers reach prospects. Interest Targeting enables marketers to target members with ads based on the content they're engaging with and sharing on LinkedIn. Lookalike Audience lets marketers upload a list of their target audience and LinkedIn will find other members with similar attributes.

Jason Abbate, director of interactions at B2B marketing agency Stein IAS, says LinkedIn is on just about every B2B marketer's paid media plan. He recommends that clients use a combination of paid and organic on the platform. "Paid is easier," he says. "The organic side requires the commitment to a long-term presence as part of your content marketing initiatives."

Deloitte's Gervais offers this advice for smaller companies looking to boost their marketing on LinkedIn: "The power of digital advertising is thinking big but also testing small," he says. "You can start small, making sure tracking is in place to understand the impact. … If things aren't going well, you can certainly stop or pivot that campaign. If it is working, you can double down on what's working great."

 


 

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