When it comes to explaining marketing in clever ways, we’ve all heard the old fishing analogy. It goes something like this: Figure out what kind of fish you want to catch. Find a pond that’s full of them. Drop some great bait to get them hooked, and reel them in. Most marketers spend the majority of their resources creating the perfect hook and bait; then they go out and fish in someone else’s pond.

But why fish in someone else’s pond when you can build your own?

Done right, a LinkedIn group becomes the equivalent of your own pond; and offers powerful sales and marketing advantages.

Why a custom LinkedIn group works

Buyers of complex, high-cost products and services seek communities of knowledgeable peers and experts. In a Q3 2013 study, Forrester Research found the top reasons IT buyers use social media are:

  • The opportunity to learn from trusted peers
  • Access to a broader network of experts
  • The ability to find information quickly
  • Relevant context to connect with vendors

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Build a LinkedIn group with good and relevant content, and you’re giving these buyers exactly what they’re looking for.

Most LinkedIn groups are really bad – and that’s actually good

Many “experts” will tell you that LinkedIn groups are no longer valuable.  They argue that groups have become full of spam and/or spam-like postings of blog articles from lazy or unknowing marketers. They point to the lack of actual discussions taking place inside these groups.

All of that is true, and this is creating a big opportunity for smart marketers who are willing to put in the work necessary to build and maintain a well-run group. Buyers still want expert help. Even high-level executives will join a relevant group.

A win for marketing; a win for sales; a win for buyers

Sales people, as we all know, are finding it harder and harder to get to and help buyers in the early, awareness and research, phases of the buying process. Cold calling and cold email success rates just keep going down. Yet even the busiest and most impossible-to-reach buyers are joining LinkedIn groups that help them solve their business issues.

As an example, we’ve created targeted, interactive communities for our clients around topics such as supply chain automation, IT operations management, and mobile recruiting, to name a few. In each case, high-level buyers – the kind that top the sales team’s wish list – have joined up, found help and eventually engaged with sales people. The groups also become a good source of traffic to websites, blogs and landing pages.

“Rules” for building your own pond

Building and managing an active LinkedIn group is not easy, but it has very high value. Here are the basic rules we follow when building and managing groups for our clients:

  • Pick a topic that provides value for your target audience and that addresses a need not being met by other groups. A successful group for lead generation and prospecting is not about your solution. It’s about your buyer’s challenges.
  • Have a strategy – who do you want in your group? What will make them want to join?
  • Seed the group with both original and third-party content.
  • Craft an invitation that can’t be ignored and start by sending it to relevant people who are already connected to you or your co-workers.
  • Keep inviting new members even after you’ve hit critical mass.
  • Start and promote valuable, interesting discussions.
  • Keep your members updated on what’s happening inside the group by sending a weekly announcement.
  • Moderate constantly. Keep the spammers and auto posters out. Encourage members to post thoughtful discussions and ask good questions.

Custom LinkedIn groups offer powerful advantages for both marketing and sales efforts, and now is a great time to build one. It’s a key part of harnessing the power of the world’s largest B2B network.

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