Aborted fairs. Virtual customer events. Sales pitches postponed. How can B2B companies continue to engage customers and prospects when traditional business methods are nigh on impossible?
What lessons can be learned from the past few months to ensure a productive and profitable year 2021?
If we have learned anything from the past year, it is how important digital tools have become. According to McKinsey, B2B companies believe that their digital interactions have become 2-3 times more important than traditional interactions during the COVID.
B2B buyers look for digital experiences at the beginning of the buying process – when researching products. As they progress through this process, from researching to evaluating to buying, they prefer self-service channels – or as much remote buying as possible.
One way companies can connect with business customers online during the buying process – without investing significantly in their own website – is through LinkedIn B2B marketing campaigns.
LinkedIn usage increased 26% between Q1 and Q2 2020, and the site is seeing “record engagements” according to Microsoft. LinkedIn now has 690 million members, compared to 675 million in January 2020.
While your customers won’t be able to buy your services or products directly on LinkedIn (at least not yet), there are ways you can use the channel to connect with them at other stages of the buying process. Marketing, sales, management, and anyone else with a legitimate interest in how their company treats customers should look for new ways to use the LinkedIn resource.
Here are three often overlooked ways B2B companies can use LinkedIn for marketing purposes in 2021.
1. Curate long-form content on LinkedIn
B2B marketers are reallocating their event marketing budgets, and 43% are investing in content creation instead. Your elongated content marketing articles can be shared as LinkedIn articles. There are no editorial guidelines, so articles can be promotional or educational. So not only can you use them to position your company as a thought leader, but also to exchange messages. Your LinkedIn can help you show that you are a consulting business partner, which is of tremendous importance for buyers in the reflection phase.
One of my clients, the global label and packaging materials maker, Avery Dennison, uses LinkedIn articles to help raise awareness of how the organization deals with diversity and inclusion. The North American general manager has published a number of articles that share not only the company’s stance on these issues, but also the company’s direct actions.
2. List your employees who are on LinkedIn
We often hear from customers: “Many of our LinkedIn followers are our own employees. How can we use that?”
The answer? Make it seamless for them to expand content and encourage interaction with prospects. Here are a few options:
- Create and share LinkedIn content for your team. Use positive media coverage, a new product launch, a LinkedIn article, or other important information to prepare a sample LinkedIn post for your sales team to copy and paste into their own feeds, or to share content right from your company page to promote. That way, your sales team can keep engaging with customers and cultivating relationships that go beyond selling.
- Discover LinkedIn Elevate. LinkedIn Elevate is a paid tool that curates content and shares it with employees via an online dashboard. It makes a game of the post: engagement statistics are evaluated on a ranking list, and employees can compete against each other.
- Activate virtual events. Your event budget may be cut in 2021. However, you can look for new ways to increase the visibility of your employees through virtual events. Do you have an employee who wanted to present at a trade fair that was not taking place? Work with the representative to prepare a LinkedIn event. or apply for a live broadcast with LinkedIn Live.
3. Eliminate the clutter with LinkedIn Ads
Why invest in content creation in 2021 if it’s not seen by the right audience? With LinkedIn, you can create ads or put bucks behind organic posts to develop sponsored content. You can target by general population group (age, gender, location) as well as by industry, organization name, job title, years of experience, groups, and more. You can also upload a list of your current leads and include that in your targeting to ensure that your interactions and investments in the channel are accurate and meaningful.
eMarketer estimates that LinkedIn will secure a fifth of all US dollars for B2B digital ads in 2020. In addition to sponsored content, LinkedIn offers a variety of paid options, including message ads, lead gen forms, and conversation ads:
- Message ads allow businesses to send potential private messages to potential customers when they are online. The ads have a call-to-action that can direct prospects to a URL or even a LinkedIn Lead Gen form that is populated with the users’ LinkedIn information that you set up in advance.
- Conversation ads are like news ads combined with Choose Your Own Adventure stories: they plan a conversation you might have with a prospect and offer prompts and scenarios based on the path your client is taking. For example, if you’re promoting a webinar, after the first message, the customer can sign up or ask questions about the speaker or content. You can mimick a conversation through the series of messages you have prepared. As with news ads, you can end with a URL or a lead gen form.
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A typical B2B purchase can take 12 to 24 months. So if you wait too long to attract potential customers, it can have long-term consequences that will continue to affect your bottom line even after the pandemic breaks out.
Although you may not see them physically, your customers are going nowhere, and you can continue to keep up to date throughout the buyer journey by exploring LinkedIn’s marketing capabilities.