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The pandemic forced b-to-b businesses to completely digitize their marketing efforts virtually overnight—and that digitization coincided with the industry’s transition to a more personalized, human-centered approach to marketing.
Human-centered marketing is the strategy for here and now. But marketers are facing new challenges: how to balance making a human connection with prospects and customers through almost exclusively digital channels.
As every CMO knows, to increase revenue your marketing team must establish trust, authority and loyalty with your customers in an authentic way. In the past, to drive performance, many marketers searched for the latest programmatic formulas, communication technologies and new devices to externally attract prospects.
But in today’s business landscape, it’s actually looking within by tapping their internal teams to become external brand advocates that brands have the best opportunity to connect with their buying audiences.
Consider this: A recent LinkedIn study found the clickthrough rate on content is twice as high when shared by an employee than when shared directly by the company. Customers, partners and prospects are simply more highly impacted by a brand’s employees than the brand itself.
Building out a LinkedIn employee advocacy program is the highly strategic method that can help companies stand out from the competition. This is done by using the team’s expertise to generate demand in a specific industry.
LinkedIn launched nearly 20 years ago, but here’s why 2023 is the year for your b-to-b business to invest in team-focused marketing on the platform.
Understanding employee advocacy
At its base, LinkedIn is a business networking tool with great organic potential. But when human-powered with strategic positioning, genuine intent and consistent engagement, having an entire army of brand marketers as employee advocates is what the people who you are ultimately trying to reach are looking for as we all try to build more authentic connections with those who matter in our community.
There are four keys to understanding employee advocacy as a marketing function and how to leverage it on LinkedIn for better overall brand performance.
More noise, bigger social footprint. We know brand awareness is key to growth, but getting your message out there is difficult in noisy industries. The solution: Make more meaningful sound on the platform by encouraging your employees to post content. And make it easy to do so in their own voice. Consider having quarterly check-ins, monitoring and engaging employee LinkedIn brand engagement activity and incentivizing participation by celebrating individual and collective team milestones and impact.
Leverage your team’s knowledge. Your team is the “knowledge” extension of your business, and their expertise can be leveraged to encourage social media engagement. By posting consistent and insightful content, your team will position themselves as industry experts, drawing customers to your business.
This tactic could range from spotlighting employees in Q&A-style blog features that then catalyze conversations in LinkedIn group posts and company pages to asking your employees to share tidbits of content that add value and solution-focused expertise to the core problems that your customer base is experiencing. The more your employees can meet the targeted community where those customers are, and the more they talk as an asset to the customer versus a promoter, the more organic and powerful LinkedIn communications will be.
Low cost, only effort needed. Before raising marketing budgets to meet the latest demands for revenue goals, consider the value and investment of time with already existing resources who have much to gain by helping the company become better by engaging with customers. Formally structure, encourage and measure your performance-based program that vocalizes your company’s core brand or sales messages.
The best part is the all-in-it-together element of time well spent versus pouring more money into promoted programs alone.
Create a value network. In the b-to-b world, finding new customers is expensive and takes forever. Depending on your industry, a typical sales cycle can last upward of a year. With the time and resources that go into acquiring customers, it makes sense to invest in the customers you have and keep current ones engaged.
Encourage your team to form a network of customer connections based on authentic conversation and interactions with them. If your customers feel like they are part of a community and authentically connected to your staff, they’re more likely to stick around and even become advocates themselves—the organic extension of a human-focused approach.
Leveraging your team’s voice effectively
You’ve invested time, money and energy into hiring employees and building your team. You know they’re subject matter experts and you trust them with your business. A top-down directive—authentically incentivized and focused on building stronger teams— as well as a more cohesive culture and celebrating team-driven success are all critical to ultimately motivating your staff to continuously share their expertise on LinkedIn to improve the company’s marketing and sales performance.
The more that marketing can do to structure, encourage and take a metrics-driven approach to employee advocacy, the more your brand will be represented both genuinely and effectively.
The people within an organization are truly its most important asset. While conferences and trade shows have been the traditional way for b-to-b businesses to leverage expertise and gain credibility, the pandemic has shifted how people network, connect with and trust those within their communities.
LinkedIn can also serve as a long-term marketplace to engage with people you met at organizational events, conferences and more. Leveraging human-driven advocacy tactics are also powerful from a budget perspective. By joining technology-driven tactics with human-driven outcomes, brands taking a blended approach and a systemwide responsibility for how they’re represented online make employees accountable and prompt them to take action.
As the top b-to-b social media channel, LinkedIn is only going to become more necessary and powerful as a tool to grow your brand digitally and tap into new growth opportunities. The brands that learn how to leverage it effectively now through the army of their brand advocates—their employees—will be in the best position to thrive in 2023 and beyond.