Quora: How do I do marketing using LinkedIn?

Here is how I answered the following question on Quora: “How do I do marketing using LinkedIn?”

I would use LinkedIn in the following ways to promote my company:

  • LinkedIn has a set of marketing services which allow you to build targeted campaigns by both firmographic (size, industry, location) and biographic variables. This is probably the most granular B2B advertising tool out there. The Campaign Manager also provides a set of analytics around viewing and impressions. Pricing is either CPC or CPM (impressions or clicks). Here is a quick description of their advertising formats: 
LinkedIn Marketing Formats
LinkedIn Marketing Formats
  • LinkedIn can be used to promote your own content as posts, whether it be white papers, product descriptions, case studies, blogs, or articles. If you mention a partner or customer, make sure to link to them and have their marketing departments like the content. Where possible, include some copy from the content or description of the content along with a visual (LinkedIn will grab a visual from the source if there is one available).

    Do not overly self-promote. Your content should lean towards thought leadership not corporate promotion. Of course, if you launch a new product, write about it. But LinkedIn is not the place for deep feature dives or long discussions of your value proposition. And please, not another What does [this character from Game of Thrones] teach us about [some aspect of business]. This type of coattail riding is generally full of clichés and stretched analogies. Originality, Professionalism, and Readability are key on LinkedIn (a good graphic and headline don’t hurt).

  • LinkedIn supports its own set of articles, but I’ve had more luck blogging on my site and then writing posts that link to my blog. You should test both approaches to determine whether LinkedIn articles work for your company.

  • Have your employees like content so that it is seen by your prospects and customers in their feed. 
  • Fill out your company profile. Many vendors rehash their website and Facebook profiles, but I would try to differentiate the copy between these three sites. For B2B companies, the website should be corporate, Facebook a bit cheeky, and LinkedIn professional, but lighter than your website. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is used by both prospective employees and customers so you want to be speaking to multiple readers. 
  • Evaluate Sales Navigator for your sales reps. This service does not allow you to download lists of companies and contacts, but it allows you to build and maintain lists of accounts and leads which are stored in Navigator (these lists can be built individually, via prospecting, or via CRM downloads). Sales Navigator also supports CRM viewing of company and contact profiles, InMails (direct messages with prospects outside of your current connections) and PointDrive, a custom website link that allows sales reps to forward attachments (collateral, price documents, videos, PowerPoints) as embedded content with descriptions. PointDrive provides analytics on what content has been consumed and tracks whether the document has been forwarded to others. 

Keep in mind that LinkedIn’s audience skews older and more professional than Twitter and Facebook.

 

The TLAs (3-Letter Acronyms) of ABM

"ABM: Taming the Alphabet" slide courtesy of InsideView
“ABM: Taming the Alphabet” slide courtesy of InsideView

As with many other technologies and business processes, sales is subject to its set of TLAs (three letter acronyms) such as ICP, TAM, and ABM.  As I regularly reference these terms in my blog, I obtained permission from InsideView to republish their slide on these acronyms.

The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is your best customer definition.  It is a hybrid of both company and contact variables.  While it can be as simple as “the Fortune 500,” a true ICP looks at firmographic, biographic, technical, and signal variables.  By technical, I mean industry specific variables such as which platforms are used, how many beds are in the hospital, or whether the company is a direct seller or employs channel sales.  By behavioral, I’m talking about business signals such as funding events, partnerships, and M&A activity (what InsideView calls agents and other vendors call triggers).

Defining your ICP is key to strategic targeting.  Without an agreed upon ICP, sales and marketing will take an ad hoc approach to customer targeting and prioritization.  At best, the lack of an ICP is sub-optimal.  At worst, it results in sales ignoring marketing leads and taking a “we’ll do it ourselves” approach.

The Total Addressable Market (TAM) is the full set of customers, prospects, and net-new accounts that match your ICP.  Of course, some of your customers and prospects will fall outside of your ICP, but it is the net-new accounts that are the most interesting.  Some call these the white-space accounts, but they are basically the companies you should begin nurturing as they represent your best hope of growing revenue.  Likewise, prospects within your TAM should be a high priority while those outside should be triaged.  Finally, the accounts that fall within your TAM should have high retention rates.  They also represent an easy path for cross-selling, upselling, and expanding to other departments, functions, and locations.  You want to go from beachheads (land and expand) to strategic partnerships with these firms so deep company intelligence is required (family trees, org charts, additional contacts, sales triggers, SWOTs, industry research, etc.)

InsideView just announced the launch of their Expert Services group and its TAM service.  I’ll be covering the announcement in a future blog.

Of course, Account Based Marketing (ABM) is the broader strategy that is supported by a focus on your TAM and ICP.  ABM is the set of programs, campaigns, and activities by which B2B companies target their best prospects.  ABM encompasses sales, marketing, customer support, operations, etc.  Once the firm agrees on which accounts are strategic, it can direct its energy towards landing these accounts and ensuring they receive the white glove treatment.  While traditional demand generation and content marketing have focused on lead volume, ABM directs sales and marketing resources towards targeting and expanding business within your TAM.

Implementing ABM encompasses a set of tools and services for identifying the ideal customer profile, sizing the total addressable market, identifying white space target accounts and contacts (i.e. net-new leads), supporting web forms, automating batch and ongoing enrichment of MAPs and CRMs, prioritizing leads, embedding sales intelligence within workflows, event alerting, prioritizing leads, and assisting with lead-to-account mapping, segmentation analysis, and campaign targeting.  Other ABM technologies include programmatic marketing, dynamic website display based upon real-time firmographics (visitor id), predictive analytics, and proactive sales recommendations.  No vendor provides all of these tools today, much less has them integrated into an ABM suite.

 

Unique Company Identifiers

Amazon Family Tree (Source: D&B Hoovers)
Amazon Family Tree (Source: D&B Hoovers)

Associating company records with a common identifier is critical for Account Based Marketing as well as other sales and marketing methodologies.  Lacking a common identifier makes it difficult to

  • De-duplicate company records
  • Associate subsidiaries and branches with headquarters
  • Perform both real-time and batch data enrichment of firmographic, technographic, and social links.
  • Associate company news and sales triggers to key accounts.
  • Tie together company records across multiple platforms.
  • Assess the risk (e.g. credit, supplier, reputational) associated with a business.

The importance of a “unique identifier” was discussed by Owler CEO Jim Fowler in the Harvard Business Review:

The best way to keep data clean is to use a globally known, unique identifier, or a “data backbone.” My company prefers to use URLs as identifiers. They’re free, globally recognizable, high-quality data points that enable you to efficiently gather information on a business’s industry, online activities, and functionality. For example, Cisco is a company that also goes by Cisco Systems, Inc. and Cisco Precision Tools. If sales containers required users to type in one unique URL, http://www.cisco.com/ for all those different branches, it’d be much more difficult to create duplicate accounts, which helps keep data clean. Perhaps more important, URLs facilitate communication between people, systems, and even departments. Whether it’s the customer relationship management platforms used by sales teams, enterprise resource planning software used by purchasing teams, or the account-based marketing technology employed by marketing teams, the business intelligence platform can recognize a unique URL and attach it to clean, usable data. Unique identifiers let you know you’re pulling from the sources and contacts you’ve intended to track.

I agree with 90% of what Fowler states, but disagree with his recommendation that URLs are the best unique identifier for his “data backbone”.  There are a number of reasons that URLs fall short:

  • URLs are not persistent.  If a company is acquired or renames itself, the old identifier (URL) is not retained.  This creates a potential disconnect between the old and new name.
  • URLs have a many-to-one mapping which treats most subsidiary and branch locations the same as the headquarters.  For some companies, mashing together all locations into a single record may be sufficient, but it is a highly flawed approach as it loses much of the nuance concerning companies that operate across multiple sectors and countries (e.g. General Electric).  It also makes it very difficult for sales reps to sell deeper into an organization which lacks linkage data.
  • Conversely, companies with multiple URLs are not tied together.  This could happen due to differing country identifiers (e.g. .UK, .FR), division names, brand names, and subsidiaries.  Each of these scenarios treats companies as a separate business.  Amazon has many distinct businesses including Amazon Web Services (aws.amazon.com), Zappos (www.zappos.com), Alexa Internet (www.alexa.com) Audible (www.audible.com), Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), and soon Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com).  URLs do not provide a consistent data backbone when subsidiaries, acquisitions, and branches have different domains.
  • When a division or facility is divested, there is no way to determine which locations have been spun off.
  • Franchises are treated as part of the parent company when they are separate legal entities.
  • Not all companies have websites.
  • URLs can be sold.  They can also be reused if a company goes out of business or abandons a URL.

Finally, business decisions related to logistics, credit, supplier risk, and financing need to understand the underlying structure of companies.  It is not just marketing and sales that are impacted by standardizing on a non-persistent, quasi-unique identifier.

I would therefore recommend looking at credit data companies as a better source of unique identifiers.  Companies such as Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, and Infogroup all offer location level detail and linkage associated with unique identifiers that have been developed over multiple decades.  They offer sophisticated entity matching and enrichment tools such as Dun & Bradstreet’s Optimizer service. Furthermore, these firms support multiple functions across the organization helping assist with cross-platform entity linking and on-demand decisioning.

Outreach Sales Intelligence Tiles

Outreach Sales Tiles Account Overviews
Outreach Sales Tiles Account Overviews

Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) vendor Outreach, rolled out its latest capability, Sales Intelligence Tiles, which displays account intelligence from Owler, Twitter, and MapBox alongside account information from Salesforce and Outreach.

Three tile formats are supported

  • Engagement insights: a combination of insightful information including company news, local time and historical interactions with prospect/account to ensure the communication is effective
  • Prospect overview: everything from historical Outreach & Salesforce activity to custom fields
  • Account overview: displays account firmographics and prospect information

Users can customize the layouts to better meet their informational needs.  Tiles may be moved and resized.  Additional enhancements will roll out in the next few months including “partner integrations, new tiles, design updates, and new suggested layouts.”  Layouts may be shared with co-workers.  Other partners include DiscoverOrg, Datanyze, DocSend, and Sendgrid.

Outreach’s internal research found that reps saved five hours a week by leveraging tile insights.

Outreach recently began a beta program for their Chrome Extension which they call Window Mode. “This new experience is unlike any other chrome extension,” said Product Marketing Manager Rachel Siegel.  “It removes the extension from on top of your window and creates a separate window that snaps perfectly to the side of your browser. The experience is lightning fast and immediately responsive to what you’re doing in the moment.  Many of you likely switch through a number of different browser tabs as your job. Window Mode keeps up with your pace. You’ll find that it’s faster and immediately responsive to what you’re doing in the moment.”

Selling is hard – we know it’s more difficult than ever to connect with prospects and keep them engaged throughout the sales cycle.  Sales technology has failed to deliver for reps, largely because it focuses on logging data and reporting on pipeline rather than helping reps to execute more of the right selling activities. Ultimately sales reps spend hours laboring on menial tasks. This has to stop. We’re on a mission to empower sales teams to more efficiently and effectively engage with prospects so they can predictability achieve revenue goals.

  • Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Outreach received a $30 million Round C a few weeks ago and continues to invest in tools for sales reps that assist them across the customer lifecycle.  This vision goes beyond outbound communication unification and includes sales intelligence, recommendations, and workflow simplification.

“Outreach continues to tirelessly deliver the capabilities that solve business challenges,” blogged Siegel yesterday.  “No longer are we solely investing in making SDRs and hunters efficient, we’re turning our eyes deeper into the customer lifecycle.  At Outreach we see a future where every sales organization has a platform that helps their reps build a pipeline and closes that pipeline faster and more efficiently than ever before. The future is a platform that acts like a sales assistant, suggesting meeting times, entering data, creating action items, suggesting which personas to engage at what points in the deal cycle, and more.”

Outreach is unveiling its roadmap at their Unleash conference in Sonoma, CA this week.

DiscoverOrg Startup & SMB Dataset

"Building a Winning Dataset" from DiscoverOrg Collateral.
“Building a Winning Dataset” from DiscoverOrg Collateral.

Sales and Marketing intelligence vendor DiscoverOrg announced their latest database earlier today.  The new Startup and SMB dataset covers more than 60,000 small and mid-size businesses and 400,000 executives.  The initial North American coverage profiles companies with between 50 and 1,000 employees.

All of the contacts are editorially verified and will be maintained via the same sixty-day review cycles as their other contacts.  Executives cover “all key departments, including IT, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Finance, HR, and Operations.”

“DiscoverOrg’s data difference is its team of 250+ researchers who constantly augment and verify the data in our platform,” notes Henry Schuck, DiscoverOrg CEO. “Unlike other vendors that provide SMB lists with thousands of irrelevant contacts, companies, and incomplete and duplicate records, the DiscoverOrg Startup & SMB dataset is as rich and accurate as our enterprise data.”

CMO Katie Bullard said that DiscoverOrg has “aggressive plans” to invest in SMB dataset development due to customer benefits.

With more companies, our researchers won’t have to skip over Triggers that they find through their research. We’re able to return a greater number of companies that use a certain technology, and our predictive tools like AccountView and DealPredict have larger reach with more matched accounts.

  • DiscoverOrg CMO Katie Bullard

The initial dataset is limited to North America as that is where they have the greatest current demand, but DiscoverOrg plans to internationalize the Startup and SMB dataset in the future.  While the goal is to cover all firms with at least 50 employees, the initial dataset consists of firms requested by their customers.

The press release noted how difficult it is to find reliable, actionable intelligence for SMB sales teams.  Along with company and executive profiles, the database provides 6,000 “research verified buying triggers” per month.

In smaller businesses without media coverage or press releases, almost none of the buying intent triggers that DiscoverOrg gathers – including planned investments, key projects, personnel moves, and internal spending budgets – is made available to the public. This is where DiscoverOrg’s team of researchers provides a clear advantage: While there are millions of registered companies in the US, the difficulty is identifying and gathering intelligence on the small percentage of these companies who are 1) legitimate entities and 2) have true spend / budget. By continuously verifying contact info, conducting interviews, and engaging in research activities, DiscoverOrg overcomes the shortcomings of web-scraping for hard-to-find data on the SMB space, ensuring the intelligence customers receive is highly relevant and immediately useful.

  • DiscoverOrg Press Release

“Sales and marketing teams that want to reach the SMB market have had a very difficult go of it,” said Nancy Nardin, President of advisory firm Smart Selling Tools. “There’s been a real dearth of verified, accurate data on SMBs, quite simply because it’s harder for data companies to get. DiscoverOrg is solving for this very real pain point by bringing their best-in-class research verification model to the SMB space. You can expect the same high-quality data you get from DiscoverOrg’s broad datasets. ”

Across all databases, DiscoverOrg now covers 1.5 million executives and 90,000 companies.  Customers may purchase access to the full database or various databases by job function, company size, or region.

 

Emissary and Tacit Knowledge

Emissary Sales Coach Profile
Emissary Sales Coach Profile

I had the recent pleasure of interviewing Emissary CEO David Hammer in Jinfo, an information industry trade publication.  Topics included tacit knowledge, working with their Emissaries, and how they identify Emissaries.  I profiled their offering back in November when they launched the service.

Emissary provides a concierge service for enterprise sales reps.  Emissaries are former employees of companies, generally high-level execs that departed the firm in the past 18 months.  Emissaries provide access to a great deal of tacit knowledge that isn’t available on the open web.  This would include informal reporting structures, executive biases, language, culture, and purchasing processes.  According to Hammer:

Tacit knowledge is what we all acquire in the day-to-day of living our lives. It’s what we know simply from interacting with the world. People don’t know what they know. I worked at Google for six years but it would take me a lifetime to document every useful thing I learned there, even assuming I wanted to. And that’s assuming I know what’s actually useful! There are plenty of things I wouldn’t even think of that would be transformatively powerful to someone else. I just don’t know what, and I don’t know who it’s useful to.

Tacit knowledge can be both big and small items that provide an edge when selling.  Again, Hammer:

It can be an emissary pointing out that the pitch deck for an upcoming meeting uses the word “customers” when the internal culture always refers to customers as “guest”. It can be sharing a past mistake that cost the company $500,000 that your product would have prevented. It can be telling you the CEO has a pet project to address educating millennials and informing you exactly how to tie your product to that messaging, or that the decision-maker actually cares more about ease of implementation than the direct ROI.

Unfortunately, Jinfo is a subscription service and the article is behind their firewall.  Hopefully, you have a subscription.  If not, reach out to me and I’ll send you a copy from their platform.

Artesian Opportunity View

Social Selling vendor Artesian Solutions added a novel Opportunity feature which combines Artesian’s company intelligence with Salesforce’s Opportunity Stages. Available both within the AppExchange and via browsers, the tool assists with pipeline analysis and forecasting.

To date, most sales intelligence firms have focused on displaying their company and contact information within CRMs. Few have looked at enriching their content with CRM account intelligence to create browser mashups between the CRM and Sales Intelligence content (an exception is D&B Hoover’s CRM Watchlist). I’m not aware of any other vendor leveraging Salesforce stage data.

According to Artesian, “Sales leaders can interrogate each team member’s open pipeline and facilitate proactive conversations about key developments within individual accounts. The result is an improvement in forecast accuracy and more meaningful sales engagements.”

Artesian is the first sales intelligence vendor to combine Sales Intelligence into an Opportunity stage view. Users can quickly create Leads, Tasks, and Opportunities from the browser edition.
Artesian is the first sales intelligence vendor to combine Sales Intelligence into an Opportunity stage view. Users can quickly create Leads, Tasks, and Opportunities from the browser edition.

Users can quickly create Leads, Tasks, and Opportunities from the browser edition.

The Opportunity View allows reps and managers to focus on specific topics such as risk triggers for their most important deals. Managers see an aggregated view of the deals for the people in their teams or can filter by sales rep and stage. Artesian’s Head of US Operations Mike Blackadder listed the features benefits as “more accurate forecasting, deal acceleration, and improved stickiness.”

Users can add Salesforce Leads, Tasks, and Opportunities from within the browser version. They also have a quick navigation option to the CRM Account view.

Additional Opportunities View enhancements are planned for early summer.