How useful and effective is LinkedIn for B2B lead generation? I’ll begin by saying what I have seen in recent times—I see LinkedIn as being a good forum of exchange for B2B marketers. Unlike more “personal” channels like Facebook, executives come together on a “professional” platform offering opinions and industry perspectives using LinkedIn Answers. Some of the most exciting management positions are sought and offered on LinkedIn Jobs. B2B events are announced and promoted using LinkedIn Events. Company websites and blogs are promoted via LinkedIn profile pages of organizations and their executives. So, in a nutshell, I definitely think LinkedIn is a powerful tool and should be a part of your social media marketing plays.
As a matter of fact, there are some interesting features that I personally love about LinkedIn. For example, the feature that informs you when a contact has changed jobs or updated their profile. It allows for a natural reconnection. I recently reconnected with a long lost contact; he accepted my invite, we exchanged a message or two and a few months later he referred someone to us and we came highly recommended. I wish there was a way to make this happen over and over again. But I think it will likely be limited to building connections and strengthening existing ties on LinkedIn.
So the question is; how useful is LinkedIn for B2B lead generation? In my opinion, the most useful function that LinkedIn can deliver to B2B organizations is the opportunity to offer valuable, relevant and interesting content. And I don’t mean your company’s business profile page or senior executives’ profiles—those are interesting, no doubt; but mostly to you. Post relevant questions and better still, reply to questions pertaining to your industry. It helps build your credibility as a thought leader and subject matter expert. Potential buyers in the B2B space are influenced by the leadership of possible B2B vendors and service providers they may consider engaging with. This is particularly true for industries such as technology, telecommunications, software, healthcare and professional services. Because the workforce of these industries is a “floating population” and attrition rates are high, prospective customers look for the comfort and confidence in knowing about good, solid, leadership and stability, at least at the management level.
Do’s and Don’ts on LinkedIn
My word of advice for B2B marketers about LinkedIn—it pays to use LinkedIn for the right reasons. Don’t be blatant. Act in a respectful manner and do not bombard people with emails. They are your most valued connections, so treat them like gold.
Be LinkedIn-friendly and do not put your contacts on a regular mailing list. They get updates so they know what you are up to; and will get in touch when they want to find out more! Yes of course, you can use LinkedIn data to segment your list–use it as background research to gain more insight into people on your prospect list.
If you join an existing conversation on LinkedIn to offer your thoughts or answer a question, it is possible someone will want to discuss it further with you privately, outside of the group. This is a good sign and you must leverage it. But don’t pin your hopes on it and jump to the conclusion that this is a sales lead; it may only be a hand-raiser—know the difference. Yes, by all means, you can nurture that contact and work your way towards converting it into a lead and probably even a sale, eventually. All I’m saying is, LinkedIn will not put leads on a platter before you, but it will open up means of communication so you can plant quality seeds and watch them grow.
All this may sound simple, but it is still a lot of hard work. To add real value to LinkedIn conversations, you need to be involved, not lower level staff and this takes time. It is easy to let it get away from you if you are not laser focused and set aside a specific amount of time to spend on LinkedIn. If you are a small business, it becomes very challenging because you have limited resources and this is not something that is easily outsourced due to the requirement of having an expert in your field contributing to the conversation. For medium and large companies, the sales force can do this because they should have the necessary expertise and product/service knowledge.
Coming back to the point I started out with; forging relationships, striking new alliances, engaging prospects in relevant online conversations, are all very useful deliverables of LinkedIn. That’s why we see several case studies, statistics and “success stories” online showing that LinkedIn is a popular social media channel among B2B professionals. Do any of them quantify the impact of LinkedIn on B2B lead generation? Not as far as I have seen. And I do ask my clients regularly about what tools and techniques are bringing them the best leads. When I hear a B2B marketer talk about LinkedIn in this context, I will be sure to mention it here on my blog.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your experiences with LinkedIn. Feel free to share!