local media insider

7 steps to using LinkedIn for advertising leads

Alisa Cromer

Most media executives use LinkedIn primarily as a personal professional network or to research advertising contacts. But LinkedIn can also generate leads and close sales for webinars and events.

Like Facebook sponsored posts, sponsored updates can be targeted to job titles, and it's a better setting than Facebook. Think of Facebook page as a place to reaches readers, and LinkedIn as the page to reach advertisers. As Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, puts it,  "LinkedIn is where you go to invest time; Facebook is where you go to waste time."  We recommend advertising poromotions stay in the LinkedIn space. 

Note that making real inroads to the LinkedIn advertiser space will require utilizing social media writers and posters. However, using these tips will allow your company to also track ROI on leads delivered. Make sure resources are allocated in the 2014 budget. 

Below are ten top ways to create demand marketing strategies to generate advertising leads on LinkedIn,  developed in conjunction with Dennis Yu of BlitzMetrics (see also instructions for how to create a sponsored update - it can get tricky!)

1. Develop the company page

Too often local media company pages, unlike their Facebook pages,  are after-thoughts, considered necessary but essentially "parked."

The launch of aponsored updates on August 6, 2013, changes the equation by allowing media to push content marketing from the company page; making it powerfully utilitarian virtually overnight.

Sponsored updates reach key executives, so they need to be more carefully wrought. Make sure the key elements on the company page - Image, products and offers - are carefully rendered and up to date. 

2. Sponsor updates as a primary marketing strategy

Sponsored updates are content marketing. Essentially the media "sponsors" its own posts, to send them outside the media's own network of contacts to any targeted audience on LinkedIn, where they appear as 'featured" posts inside the personal newsfeed:

Payment is a relatively inexpensive a "pay-per-click" platform. While the clicks can run $4 to $10 each, the targets are generally smaller and you are reaching key executives in targeted industries or even comanies. Think of this as paying only for the  pieces of direct mail that the top executive actually opened. 

Your company can still update for "free," but company pages don't have anywhere near enough "followers" in the right categories to make any kind of marketing impact on advertisers. The alternative is  over-exposing your highly connected media executives by spamming their personal networks with company promotions - and they are still untargeted. 

Like other kinds of content marketing (see case study here)  sponsored updates should be highly interesting and exceptionally relevant to end users. The standards are actually higher than mere news.

When executed correctly following these outlined instructions, however,  sponsored updates generate demand by prompting local advertisers to desire a marketing option and the specific kind of expertise provided by the authoring brand. You will be will be able to reach outside your network to generate leads and track ROI from LinkedIn. 

"People misunderstand LinkedIn because historically it was used to communicate one to one person, person to person. With sponsored updates you can send newsfeeds to anyone," Yu said. 

A side benefit of developing internal expertise in sponsored posts is the abilty to sell content marketing on LnkedIn at a service to other B2B providers such as mortgage companies reaching realtors, or any local B2B advertiser typically reserved for business journals: Accountants, business banks, commercial real estate, etc.

3. Be prepared to pay (a little) to play in the B2B marketing game

Media are not used to paying to distribute content, even if it means reaching and developing high end advertisers. However,  Yu claims that for most campaigns "without pushing the content, no amount of company contacts is enough."  Local media needs to get used to the idea of paying to play in this arena.

"That is the biggest disconnect. (Media executives) don't understand that if you produce good content, you have to pay to make sure it's seen. They don't know you can reach people who have the job title of general manager at a car dealer," Yu said.

Sponsored updates show higher results than LinkedIn ads. Didding is less competitive because "it's so new." 

"(Because its) so new, it's very effective. The cost (per click) is a lot higher than most mediums out there, you know exactly who it is without sponsoring a trade show."

As a test example, LMI updated a post organically and received 792 views and no interaction; sponsoring the same  update generated 13,982 views in 24 hours and 6 likes for a total spend of about $24. Not bad.

When done correctly, paid programs show ROI, so follow these tips to  provide trackable results to show nternal constituencies. 

4. Create a list of top  targets by industry category and  initiative

Sponsored updates allow media to target advertiser categories by city, company, job title and industry (see how to create and target a sponsored update here). So begin with the end in mind: Create a short list of key categories, such as Auto, Real Estate, Medical, Education, Dining, Obituaries and so on. We recommend starting with five, including at least one category the media wants to break into. 

Create another list of key initiatives that are important to the media in the coming year, such as promoting an inhouse agency, selling mobile apps, creating a major event or driving SMB workshops.

Knowing these priorites will give focus to the content marketing plan. We also recommend using Borrell Research to "skate to where the puck is going, " specifically, promotions, targeted local ads, and mobile. Sponsored updates are a great way place to demonstrate expertise in these areas. 

5.Four-in-five sponsored posts should be  informative, not sales oriented

Because sponsored post are relatively new, Yu says, "the first people to run (B2B) sponsored posts jammed them with straight up offers that were not entertaining and not informative, just 'Buy! Buy! Buy!' If you put the shoe on the other foot, it doesn't work like that...Only one in five posts can be a webinar."

This is another area that is difficult for media to grasp:  How to create sponsored posts that take advertisers through the sales funnel, such informational posts on a brand new topic, industry specific "Top Ten" strategies, case studies that show the authoring brand's expertise, and invitations to work shops. 

6. Create a content-marketing schedule

It is almost impossible to create the right mix of weekly sponsored posts without a schedule. While most B2B marketers came out of the box with too many sales-oriented sponsored posts, local media are simply reposting business news, which keeps the page current and builds a following, but does not create a sales funnel. A content marketing schedule provides discipline to keep a true marketing funnel in operation throughout the year. 

Ultimately, the schedule is designed to connect with advertisers and generate leads. We recommend a mix of general posts that show digital expertise and industry specific posts, along with a mix of "calls to action" to attend events or webinars  and  softer, click here for a personal site review, prompts.

Here are some ideas for topics that media have on hand and can include; and which are highly relevant to your target categories:

• Advertiser case studies

These make fantastic posts to push out to other companies in the same industry.

Feel free to use winning ads from LocalMediaInsider's library, just send an email to alisacromer@localmediainsider.com. However, your own success stories from local businesses will have more impact.

• Aggregated proprietary analytics based on real campaigns

Local media have proprietary analytics from a variety  of local marketing campaigns. Do events raise CTR's 3 to 5 times? You bet. Do mobile ads also outperform significantly? Yep. What are the three top offers generate the best leads for dentists? Give the writer access to internal advertising analytics to review with the sales managers for great ideas. 

• Top contest ideas by category
By all means, start with updates around your own contest schedule. But also include a list of ideas your team can sell to new advertisers, by target category from SecondStreetMedia's learning center or use this list of Top Selling Facebook Contests for 16 categories here. Think in terms of posting updates like  "3 Great Facebook contests For Dallas Grocery Stores" that can generate larger dollar leads. 

• Events
Your list of locally sponsorable events should be set for the coming year (see How to create a multi-million dollar events franchise here, which includes how to vet events in September to create a schedule). This is a great source for category specific posts aimed at targeted groups of advertisers.

• Best practices

Whether you have a digital specialist or third party, it will be helpful to assign a writer to gather  useable marketing content aimed at local businesses, and establish your brand as a digital marketing expert.  Focus on "Things made simple" messaging:  "Three simple tricks that convert fans to sales,"  "How Houston grocery stores use SMS to promote coupons," "The Five Best Uses of Pinterest by Tampa retailers." 

• Congratulate business success - especially marketing success

It never hurts to acknowledge people for promotions, business appointments and other successes - especially advertising success stories. LinkedIn allows you to push these to the company itself, without paying to spam other audiences. 

• Market specific information from Borrell Reports
If you have spending data from industry categories; use it in your posts to prompt interest, the same way you would on a sales call: "Nashville bankers to spend 50% more on mobile." 

• Workshops and webinars

A great way to soft-sell a workshop or webinar, is to upload video into your posts, sampling a bit of the information - enough to be useful, but listing all the other  amazing topics that will be covered. And as long as you stick to the 1 in 5 rule, its perfectly fair game to invite your advertisers to attend more commercial events.

• Seasonal prompts 

See "LIfehackers" best time to buy anything list.   These prompts can help you time schedule posts to these categories, and provide a source of content, along the lines of  "Is March is the best time to sell sporting equipment?" With tips for marketing in high and low seasons.

• Special offers 

Why not occasionally test a free offer, such as a 'Digital Check-up' analysis, mobile site or $100 worth of advertising?  Look for formulas to generate leads that can be upsold. 

• Marketing opportunities 

Be sure to look at the editorial and promotional schedule and target unique marketing opportunities  by category  - especially ones that are limited: "We have two sponsorship opportunities left for  Palo Alo High School Football,"  " Don't miss out of Restaurant Week, four days to go before sign ups close," or "Best of Columbus nightclubs is now Undeway: Five tips to get out the vote." Use targeting to limit these to the right categories. 

6. Utilize targeting

LinkedIn has some very specific targeting capabilities and since the price per click is so high, this is important to master. Here are some tips on effectively targeting sponsored updates:

• Put the name of the market and the target industry in the headline.
Example: "Ten Completely Ethical Ways Dallas divorce attorneys can reach out to people in troubled marriages," or "Cincinnati Auto Dealer generates 1000 new fans from Facebook promotion."

• Iterate versions to appeal to different industry categories. Sponsored updates allows you to literally change the posts to appeal to different categories, which means the same post on say, using Pinterest, can target retailers, restaurants, or other categories, with different versions.

• Make a list of top companies in each target industry and post them in the "company" field when selecting targets. Go broad  in the selection of company titles to include all jobs that may influence a buying decision, not just the marketer. Generally this is minimally the general manager, owner, and sales manager.

• Utilize "company" targeting for one-to-one communication such as thank you's and congratulations notes.  This avoids the lengthy "request to connect" process required for one to one communication with people in that company. Again, a great choice for congratulatory or thank you messages aimed at just that group.  Combine with Twitter via Hootsuite to get the full social impact.

Here's a list of job titles you can select from: 

7. Establish a variety of soft-opportunities  to shift the relationship offline

A weakness of content marketing on LinkedIn is that there is no way to track conversions - although it is possible to track "likes" and "follows" by name, with a link to the profile.

So the content landing page needs to have a prompt or lead capture of its own. Neglecting this part of the process will turn this program into cost rather than an investment. To tie-back to specific campaigns use call-tracking and email tracking. Here are some ideas for "end of the article" leads capture:

• Post a telephone number on the content landing page.  Call tracking  and/or email capture, with a prompt such as "For a free personalized report on your company's local web presence"  should be at the bottom of your posts.  

• Include links to "sign up for updates on free workshops in your area."

• "To talk to a digital specialist about creating a (mobile, social, targeted) strategy, call (this number)."

• Create an advertiser contest, such as "Remake my marketing" with a benefit of $5000 in free advertising to the winning entry.

Analytics do allow administrators to optimize posts and to see profiles of users that "liked" the post. So a soft follow-up from a sales rep - such as a "thank you," invitation to connect via LinkedIn, and comment, "If you are interested in discussing digital strategies at your company, feel free to contact me at (phone numer and email) -  is a great next step. Avoid a hard sales call immediately following a "like" of the prospect  may feel duped by the informational nature of the post.

Conclusion: B2B sales as a courtship not a whirlwind romance

Unlike B2C decisions, which can be as spontaneous as finding a nearby restaurant, B2B purchases are analytical and often require 6 to 9 different kinds of information before a lead is generated.

A "word of mouth" referral or LinkedIn sponsored update could come first, midway or last in a series of different kinds of information sources, which could include meeting someone at an event, attending a workshop or being called on by an area sales rep. But online/offline combinations allowed by local LinkedIn marketing are especially powerful. 

 B2B LinkedIn strategies that reach advertsiers will have multiple steps, with content for each stage in the funnel. While local is more immediate, your company still needs to "wow" the advertiser with content. 

"If (the copy) becomes promotion) you become" that guy" selling, selling selling, like the bums on the street corner who ask for change," Yu says.

Combining LinkedIn with other types of B2B marketing, such as Twitter, and email, creates a new, inexpensive opportunity for demand marketing and generates warm leads.

This is a new field, and will require investment of resources, but as another way of looking at it, if your media is not supplying localized, industry targeted marketing content on LinkedIn, another company will be soon.

Many thanks to Dennis Yu, CEO Blitz Metrics, Dennis@BlitzMetrics.com, for sharing his expertise with us. Here are some other helpful links:

 To set up sponsored updates, use this report.  

Facebook versus LinkedIn analyzed 

LinkedIn's Sponsored Updates Users Guide

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.


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