Know thy audience
Only 32 percent of B2B companies have a documented content strategy, according to a 2016 study by the
Content Marketing Institute. That means 68 percent of companies could be missing opportunities—or, worse, appearing out of touch with audience needs.
“A top mistake is companies look at social selling as cold calling, smile-and-dial, just in another platform,” Dover says. “Take the time to develop thought leadership content. Understand the person you’re talking to. Understand you have a relevant contribution to help them with the issues they’re running into. If you’re going to be a good social seller, you have to develop thought leadership in the space you’re trying to sell.”
When it comes to developing content, don’t guess what might be of value to your audience. Let data drive the content strategy, whether it’s from LinkedIn or from third-party sources with insights into your target segments.
“The first step is to understand your audience,” Romoff says. “We can also help marketers understand what kind of content the audiences and segments they care about most actually interact with on the platform. We can take a pixel and put it on the site to understand who’s coming to various parts of the site. Then we can say these are the topics each segment cares most about.”
Once you’ve identified where your company can provide value in a way that sets you apart from the pack, develop content pillars. That doesn’t have to mean developing completely new content, though.
“A lot of B2B companies already have a lot of content—you don’t need to make stuff from scratch,” Romoff says. “What’s content you’ve already invested in that you can get more mileage out of because you know it’s interesting to segments you want to reach? Doing it in a data-driven way makes it repeatable, too.”
If you’re looking to move fast but aren’t sure where to start, one option is to start with LinkedIn’s
Sponsored Updates. “It’s the easiest way to get into marketing on LinkedIn—and the most effective,” Romoff says. “Look at the content you’ve already put together. It could be articles, white papers or other content that will be of interest to your audience. You as a brand are bringing something helpful to them.”
Even going in armed with data, don’t assume there isn’t room for improvement—or for zeroing in if you uncover a highly engaged group within your audience. Continuously launch tests, analyze performance and identify content optimization opportunities to put what you learn to work.
“We can get campaign results and see what’s really resonating,” Romoff says. “Then we can plug back in and do it over again. Maybe we thought one segment would be interesting, but then maybe we have a subsegment that was actually most interesting, so we can focus on them.”
Go wide—then narrow
To put your valuable content to work, develop a targeting strategy that helps you reach key audience segments in each part of the sales funnel. And try tapping into LinkedIn’s capabilities, like targeting custom company lists, for instance.
“One of the key things about LinkedIn for SunTrust is it’s currently one of only two channels where we can target directly to our prospect list because our list is based on company name,” Otero says. “So, it allows us to have more in-depth thought leadership go directly to that target, which helps us achieve our campaign goal of driving landing page traffic.”
LinkedIn’s 2017 road map includes smart targeting opportunities beyond companies, expanding to email contact targeting with Eloqua, Marketo or LiveRamp integration, as well as website re-targeting.
Creating the right strategy for your brand involves two steps. First, identify the broadest possible target while maintaining a reasonable assumption that it carries potential business value.
“When marketers and planners have so much granular data, one of the temptations is to over-target,” Romoff says. “They become overly specific so they say, ‘I know I only want to reach CMOs, so that’s all I want to target.’ The reality is they’re trying to sell a product where, yes, the CMO is the final decision-maker, but there’s a whole committee of people involved in the decisions who are doing the work two to three levels down. They’re doing the research and making the recommendation.”
Once you set your targeting plan in motion to reach the broad spectrum of people involved in decision-making, proceed to step two: Analyze performance and optimize accordingly.
“Understand how to start broad, and then use that data to narrow it down,” Romoff says. “Continually optimize based on insights that come back from the platform.”