By Susan Tatum

November 1, 2013

A few weeks ago I wrote about using LinkedIn for brand maintenance versus measurable, sales-supporting lead generation & thought leadership objectives. You can read that article here. Since then I’ve been asked a number of times how to make the leap. So I figured it would probably be of interest to you, and as a result, this article was born.

To recap quickly, most B2B companies who claim to have organized LinkedIn programs are spending their efforts on what LinkedIn Content Marketing Manager Jason Miller calls “brand maintenance” activities. These include making regular status updates to both personal profiles and company pages, steadily adding connections, auto-posting blog articles in some groups and occasionally commenting on discussions.

You need to do this stuff, of course; but high-level marketing types and CEOs want more from LinkedIn than increased connections, shares and followers, which is all the above activities can deliver.

The good news is that LinkedIn, used properly, can be your most effective marketing channel in terms of demand generation, lead nurturing and even opportunity development – all measurable results that make bosses happy.

But, you have to change your approach.

Here are 4 key tactics that will take you from simply maintaining your brand to repeatedly producing measurable ROI.

1. Get specific. Like any other successful B2B marketing program your ROI-producing LinkedIn efforts need to be highly focused.

The obvious place to start is by setting objectives. Real, measurable objectives such as drive X visitors to your blog or landing page, engage X qualified prospects and establish a connection with X influencers. Dare to put a stake in the ground. You can always move it later.

Next, be specific about your target audience. There are 238+ million people on LinkedIn today. You don’t care about most of them. Who are the people you need to engage in order to meet your objectives? What are their titles? What kinds of companies do they work for? Where do they hang out on LinkedIn?

Once you know who and why you want to influence, get specific about your content. What topics related to your product or service or area of expertise is your target audience they interested in? What will get their attention, grab their interest, help them do their jobs better? What opinions and ideas can you suggest that will make prospects want to talk with you? (Hint: it’s not your marketing messages.)

2. Go for 2-way interaction. One of the mistakes B2B marketers make when they’re in brand maintenance mode is to treat LinkedIn like a platform for blasting out messaging. You’re guilty of this if your idea of LinkedIn participation is to regularly – an automatically - post your blog articles in groups and status updates. You’re treating LinkedIn like a news release distribution service, and that’s not what it’s for.

Better to think of LinkedIn as the online version of offline networking events – technology and business leader group meetings, Chambers of Commerce, conferences, those types of events. You might be there to give a presentation, but the real value comes from the conversations you have with others both then and later.

To drive ROI from your LinkedIn efforts, you have to engage and interact with people as people, one-on-one. For our clients, we do this by joining as many relevant groups as possible (LinkedIn has a 50-group maximum), participating in ongoing discussions and starting discussions of our own. We also reach out individually to connect with people who are relevant to the client’s objectives.

In most cases one of our strongest tactics is to create a custom group for the client where we can attract and build a community around a focused business issue. Such a group lets you feature your own thought-leadership, associate with other experts and provide high value for your prospects.

3. Follow up. Most people on LinkedIn (75% - 80% or more) won’t be interested in buying your product or service the moment they meet you. And, just like in the world outside of LinkedIn, they’ll forget you if you don’t stay in touch. This holds true for prospects as well as customers and partners.

Active participation in groups helps keep you top of mind with other active group members. Respond to questions and comments quickly and add value where you can.

An additional advantage of having your own group is that you can send an email-like message within LinkedIn to all of your group members once a week. For those not in your group, you’ll need to get them into your non-LinkedIn marketing funnel, which is not hard to do with a brilliant piece of content, a great landing page and minimal consistent effort to drive traffic to the page.

You can follow up individually via LinkedIn message with your most promising prospects and nurture them until they’re ready for an off-LinkedIn conversation. Sometimes this happens quickly; sometimes it never pans out. It depends on your prospect’s stage in the buying process.

One thing’s for sure: if you connect and disappear they won’t be thinking of you when it’s time to buy.

4. Pay attention. LinkedIn is not a set-and-go marketing program, and to achieve sales-related objectives you need to actively monitor the scene.

Take group membership for example. Just because you’re accepted into a group and you post comments or try to start a discussion, doesn’t mean your stuff will actually be seen. The best groups are moderated with one person or a team of people deciding what gets shown and what doesn’t. Are they letting your stuff through? If not, find out why. You may need to change your approach. Sometimes you just have to move on. But staying in groups, posting comments or discussions that don’t go live is truly a waste of time

To find out how to increase your ROI on LinkedIn, join me and Mike Weir, LinkedIn’s Global Head of Technology Industry Development for a teleseminar on The New IT Buying Committee - How to Engage Them on LinkedIn. Click here to save your spot.

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