Wednesday 20 June 2018

When Bram Vanoirbeek of ‘The Thing About Digital’ asked our professional services audience how they used LinkedIn, there was a broad consensus. Most people take an ad hoc approach, a few had a strategy, but there were no sceptics. Or at least none brave enough to raise a hand during a talk on the subject.

We were in Mazars Bristol office, Bram was our featured speaker, and we were about to be educated about the power of LinkedIn.

Challenging objections to LinkedIn

Bram began by challenging a common objection. That is, “My audience is not on LinkedIn”.

Armed with stats, he reminded us that it is the world’s largest professional network, with half a billion users globally and 21 million in the UK. And that 45% of LinkedIn article readers are in upper-level positions: so decision makers.

LinkedIn is about starting and nurturing relationships and it is unlikely your audience is not present if you are B2B. 

So where does LinkedIn fit within the marketing funnel?

Is it a CRM dealing with individuals? Business development dealing with tens of prospects? Marketing dealing with hundreds of people? Or general comms talking with thousands?

The answer of course, when you think about it, is all of them. And examining different aspects of this was how the rest of the talk unfolded.

Increasing brand awareness with LinkedIn

The thing with LinkedIn is that it has the potential to give you exponential exposure through its structure of first, second and third degree connections and how stories appear on its feed. Consider this: if you have 300 connections who each have 300 connections, that gives you a potential audience of 90,000. Jump to 500 connections with 500 connections of their own, and you have an audience of 250,000. And that is just at second degree level. By way of contrast, the Financial Times has a circulation of 185,000.

On this point, Bram advised accepting connections from anyone who is at least semi-relevant to you – because you never know who they know, it expands your audience and enriches your own feed. 

Drive traffic

50% of traffic to B2B articles comes from LinkedIn, showing its power here. So if you publish articles on your website but don’t share them on channels like LinkedIn you’ll miss out on a huge amount of exposure. It’s kind of like billboard advertising in a desert - only people who pass by that road will ever see it.

 Bram summed the point up by quoting Jonathan Perelman of BuzzFeed: “Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants.”

BD and LinkedIn: connect the dots

LinkedIn helps business development professionals find their place in the world. It does not replace current BD activities, but does complement and enhance them. So look at your connections and you’ll be surprised who they know. Don’t be shy to ask for an introduction if someone you know is connected to a prospect.

And don’t forget that people will be doing the same to you. So make sure your profile looks good. 

Keep your network warm with LinkedIn

Bram explained the “mere-exposure effect” to the room. This is a psychological phenomenon whereby people warm towards things for no other reason than because they get to know them.

So frequently posting about important but non-urgent issues that are relevant to you and your target audience can be a powerful strategy. It builds rapport and acts as a buying trigger when the time is right. Bram offered some reassurance that you don’t have to be original or fantastic with your posts. Just be present on the platform. 

Nurturing clients and leads, and staying informed with LinkedIn

Bram spoke about the possibility of nurturing individual clients and leads with targeted outreach – even going as far as generating specific content for one person, should there be sufficient value in that for you.

Always remember that LinkedIn is two-way, and that your customers and leads will be posting news and content themselves. So it can be a useful tool for keeping up-to-date with what they are doing and with significant events at their company.

Three LinkedIn strategies for the different levels of your professional services business

You can actually look at LinkedIn at three strategic levels: The firm through a company page; a team through a showcase page; and fee earners through their individual profiles. Each level should be used differently in terms of brand, connections and deployment, whilst the traffic strategy can be consistent across all three – using it for thought leadership, campaigns and events.

Bram reminded us that using the LinkedIn channel must be an ongoing initiative.

LinkedIn training and advertising within your professional services firm

As the talk drew towards its end, Bram covered some practical application for LinkedIn.

In terms of internal training, he promotes the idea of establishing a nine-minute LinkedIn routine every week for staff. It doesn’t matter when (although late on a Friday afternoon was recommended), but just spend nine minutes sharing something interesting, keeping abreast of what other people are up to, honing your profile, reaching out to someone or engaging with other people’s content.

Struggling to find content to post yourself? Set up google alerts for related terms and you will get relevant content straight into your inbox. And be sure to read newsletters you have signed up to, as these can be a good source of shareable articles.

As for LinkedIn advertising, Bram sees this as an untapped opportunity at present. And a compelling channel when you consider its pay per click model, low costs compared to traditional media and the likely cost per acquisition vs lifetime value of a client.

Final thoughts

Bram left us with three final thoughts for LinkedIn: 

  • Your competitors are using it as a tool.
  • Your clients are on there.
  • This is only the beginning. 

So what are you waiting for? The world of LinkedIn is your oyster.

Written by Huw Bendon, South West Regional PR
Managing Director and Founder, On Point Copywriting