If you want to reach, connect and engage with more IT buyers, then as a sales and marketing professional, you need to position yourself as an expert who wants to have a real relationship that’s based on up-front value.
Yes, I’m saying that the marketing standard of giving value after the fact needs to change!
According to LinkedIn‘s report “The Social Bridge to the IT Committee,” B2B buyers seek insights and conversations with vendors on social media. In fact, two in three are open to connecting with a new vendor and three in four are ready to have a conversation with a new vendor on social media. So IT buyers are willing to reveal themselves and engage with B2B sales and marketing leaders on LinkedIn.
But the number one reason that B2B buyers do not connect with a vendor on LinkedIn, and on social media in general, is because they don’t want to receive marketing materials. They want a relationship based on real, up-front value. They want you to work harder to earn their trust and interest before they give you an opt-in and a right to market to them further.
As Mike Weir (LinkedIn’s tech industry expert) mentioned in a recent audio interview, “You want buyers to feel: I like you, I like your opinions, I want to know more. This means you need to prove to your prospects that your content is worth opening themselves up to sales calls and marketing email messages.”
In a recent webinar hosted by LinkedIn where they discussed InMail strategies, they mentioned that an InMail sent from a specific person at LinkedIn had an open rate that was 10% to 20% better than an InMail sent from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. This tells me that B2B buyers are looking to engage with experts within a company rather than the corporation itself. (Even if it is LinkedIn!)
The click-through rate to the webinar opt-in page that the InMail promoted was 50% less for the message sent by the individual at LinkedIn than the one sent by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. This tells me that if you want to reach, connect, and engage with more key decision makers, then experts need to reach out (not the company) and provide up-front value.
You see IT buyers want you to provide them with valuable content that teaches them about the technology you provide and engages them with your brand. Don’t just throw out speeds and feeds and basic product information–actively strive to produce content about the capabilities of your technology, discuss the business impact it can make WITHOUT talking about your brand as the only option. Tell them about how your product works with existing systems and educate them about the latest technological advances. Show them that you really, truly understand their needs–and you’ll be shifting the conversation from you to them. The goal here of course, is to position your brand as a thought leader in the field and actually add value to the market conversation. From there you can drive demand, leads, and sales opportunities.
Don’t Get Me Wrong—Gated Content is Still a Must. Buyers are Just Calling for a Change in How You Use It.
Gated content is still an effective way to get potential buyers into a marketing funnel. In fact, we require our ongoing LinkedIn marketing and management clients to have at least one piece of gated content.
B2B buyers will eventually fill out the form. You just have to be thoughtful about your content-gating strategy and not lead with it. In a recent LinkedIn survey, prospective clients were 81% less likely to consider a vendor that gates all of their content, and 15% said they immediately leave a site if the first piece of content is gated. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if your prospective customer isn’t going to ever see it.
When I promote my webinars, I create specific content around the topic of the webinar to drive demand. For example, one of the things we discuss in our webinars is how to make social selling tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator work for your organization. I created articles and LinkedIn posts like, “LinkedIn Sales Navigator is Not Enough for Most B2B IT Sales and Marketing Teams.”
Inside this post, which has more than 1035+ views and 33+ likes, I talk about how Sales Navigator is a great tool—but it’s just a tool and that you need the right people in the right roles, the right messages, and the right strategy to drive demand and sales. It goes into great detail as I provide a lot of up-front value and then tell readers that we’ll be going into how to leverage LinkedIn Sales Navigator to support your strategy in the webinar.
In my invitations to my LinkedIn group members, I led with my content like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator post – not the webinar. My discussions in different groups (which had stand-alone value) linked to the LinkedIn Sales Navigator post. Because our webinars are an “after the fact” value-add, I greatly increase my click-through rate and my webinar attendance. 30% to 40% of my webinar registrants are from LinkedIn.
This Same Thinking of Up-Front Value Applies to More Than Just Gated Content
Just like IT buyers don’t want to waste time with marketing materials (before they are ready), they don’t want to waste time on a “networking call” or “demo” if they haven’t see any up-front value. As soon as a connection, is made most IT sales and marketing professionals thank the prospect for making or accepting the connections, provide some details about what their software or technology solution does and then go right into asking for a sales conversation. IT buyers haven’t seen why they need these sales and marketing leaders or their solutions yet but still they’re being asked to schedule a demo call. These sales and marketing leaders are playing a numbers game hoping something will stick and that they’ll get enough people to say yes if they send out mass number of messages.
With our invites to connect, we discuss the content that we can provide them and how it’s relevant to their business. Once they connect, we provide them with the article, podcast, white paper that we mention in the invite to connect (everything ungated!) and invite them to join our LinkedIn group for even more content. We then nurture those that take the additional action to join our LinkedIn community with more one-to-one messages that lead with content.
Now, Talking About Our LinkedIn Community…
If you like this content, then request to join my LinkedIn community, Get Help with Linked Strategies, where 600+ sales and marketing leaders are challenging common approaches – and exchanging new ways to connect and engage with IT buyers on LinkedIn. Inside this group, you’ll find companies like Jumio, HP, Cisco, GE Healthcare, Pitney Bowes, and many other enterprises, midsize and small software and tech companies. Click here to join the Get Help with Linked Strategies Group