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Five strategies for b-to-b LinkedIn advertising

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LinkedIn is considered a strong lead generator because of its ability to segment professional categories; as a result, many marketers are allocating a portion of their social media budgets to paid advertising on social sites this year. Let's talk about five strategies that early adopters have used with LinkedIn ads to achieve their marketing and sales goals.
  1. Increase awareness. People can't buy from your company if they don't know it exists. People need to see your logo, company name and main message. LinkedIn ads can raise awareness among your best customer targets. Make sure you have a list of all the kinds of prospects you want to reach (job titles, personas, industries and so on). You can use it as a checklist to track how much awareness you're creating and to keep an eye out for segments you might not be reaching.
  2. Support content marketing. Did you create a great new white paper, video or blog post to engage prospects, position your company or share great industry research? Expand your reach to prospects by advertising on LinkedIn. If no one sees it, all that time and creativity spent on content is wasted.
  3. Amplify media coverage. When your company is covered or interviewed, you can create ads to send your prospects to the online interview site. Media coverage is only valuable if people see it. Start making a list of the publications you'd like coverage in, both mainstream and in your niche. You can also create ads that target people who work at those companies or target ads to job titles, such as “editor in chief,” to encourage coverage.
  4. Segment the market. You can't impact people if you don't know what they care about; and you can't know what they care about if you don't know who they are. Because you can target ads to people in this segmented fashion, it makes sense to know what you should say to each group. For example, CEOs and CFOs have different priorities. They favor different words. When you target people by their job titles, you can use those titles in the ad to increase attention and clicks (for example, “Attention, CEOs”). Prospects are also more impressed and interested when you address their particular industry. Some of your salespeople may have insight on segmentation and messaging. You can make a grid of the top three to five industries and the top three job titles that marketing and sales want to reach. These can include decision-makers, influencers, financial people and the people who use the solutions you sell. This grid can also be used to generate ideas for content marketing.
  5. Persuade presale. The goal of b-to-b advertising is to help marketing and sales get better results by preparing prospects ahead of time. In your ads, highlight their concerns. Tell them why your company is great and how your solutions fix their problems. Show customers who have benefitted from your solutions. It's easier for sales when the prospect has confidence in your company. If competitors do effective presale advertising and you don't, your salespeople face a bigger challenge. As one salesperson put it, “I've been in two different cycles this year already where the buyer was armed with a portfolio of misinformation. They dug their feet in because their people researched it on social media and the Internet. I didn't care so much that we lost; what I cared about was the clients' addiction to that information as if it were the truth.”

The marketing department needs to develop strategies to combat competitor propaganda and keep prospects from the commodity-thinking that creates price wars. Try to establish value your competitors can't undercut. Brian Carter is VP-customer success and marketing at social marketing company Infinigraph. He is also the author of “LinkedIn for Business: How Advertisers, Marketers and Salespeople Get Leads, Sales and Profits From LinkedIn” (Que Publishing, 2012). He can be reached at bbcarter@gmail.com.
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