My company uses content marketing for a number of purposes to promote our business and build relationships with customers. But one of the particularly effective ways we’ve used content marketing is to increase the membership of our LinkedIn Group, “Manage Your Leads,” a group focused on lead generation and B2B sales.
Our CEO founded the group in November 2009, and today we have more than 6,000 members. Owning a LinkedIn Group is one of the most effective tools we’ve encountered when it comes to building our business’ credibility and networking with industry peers and colleagues, and we have built much of our audience through content marketing.
If you’d like to start a LinkedIn group of your own — or boost the membership and raise the profile of a LinkedIn group you already have — here are five time-tested B2B content marketing tips that we’ve used to drive traffic, attract new members, and increase the engagement of our group:
1. Promote your LinkedIn group in every piece of B2B content marketing
It’s important to make your LinkedIn activity a specific focus of your B2B content marketing strategy — not just a side activity. Every time someone reads your blog or email newsletter, or comes across one of your comments on an industry blog or message board, it’s an opportunity to subtly invite them to connect further with you by letting them know about your LinkedIn group.
For example, we have a prominent link to our LinkedIn B2B group from the home page of our company website. We also include prominent invitations on our regular email newsletter that goes out to more than 30,000 subscribers.
We have even issued special press releases to commemorate milestones that we have hit in our LinkedIn group membership — for example, we sent out a press release to announce the 5,000th member to join our group.
2. Keep content promotion low-key and informative
One advantage that makes B2B content marketing an ideal fit to promote a LinkedIn group is that joining a LinkedIn group does not require a high level of commitment. When people sign up for a LinkedIn group, they know that it’s less of a commitment than signing up for a company newsletter, or sharing their personal information with a business, and this low-key approach makes a LinkedIn group excellent for networking — once new members are inside the group, you have the ability to share your content in a networking setting.
As a rule, our company only shares content that is informative, and we never include any sales language in the articles. Nor do we ever email the group any sort of company news or promotion. Additionally, we only email content one or two times a month, and only content that our current customers have responded to in a positive way. Our email announcement to the group typically reads:
Just posted an article to Manage Your Leads that you might find useful. It’s called “Is Your Sales Effort Broken? 5 Questions To Ask Yourself.”
Here’s the Link: http://bit.ly/PecYGM
Another advantage of hosting a LinkedIn B2B group is that it gives your prospects and industry peers another place to find and interact with your company online. While it’s important to have a good website and a good landing page to capture email addresses and introduce people to your company, a LinkedIn group can be an enhanced, long-term resource for building relationships and enabling prospective customers to get to know you and your company without the immediate expectation of having to make a sale.
One of the things that I do is invite members of our group into my personal network on LinkedIn. I typically get a very high response rate to these invitations, and that is because when I email them, I welcome them to the group and let them know that I am here for assistance.
My email invitation to new group members, inviting them to connect on LinkedIn, looks like this:
Managing our company’s LinkedIn group gives me a great chance to reach out to people on a personal level and create lots of follow-up conversations with our members to potentially help them solve problems. One of the things that most sales people forget is that they aren’t just sales people — they are problem solvers. Many members of our LinkedIn group email me with sales questions about their specific company or industry, or follow-up questions related to something that was posted or discussed in the group, and I use the platform to communicate that I am here to help them.
If these helpful conversations turn into a sale, then that is great; if not, maybe in the future, if they appreciate the value I’ve added for them through our LinkedIn conversations, they will call me to help in a more official manner.
These low-key, informal relationships could not exist without the LinkedIn group. A reader of my company website would never email me sales questions or ask for free advice. A website is not usually as effective of an invitation to ask questions as a LinkedIn connection can be.
3. Use content marketing and LinkedIn group promotion as a two-way street
LinkedIn gives you an outlet to distribute your content, and your content also needs to support and promote your activities on LinkedIn. For example, an easy and obvious tactic is to post all of your blog articles on your LinkedIn group. Every time you produce a new YouTube video or a new podcast, it can be shared with the LinkedIn group (again, don’t overdo it, and flood your members with lots of content. Keep it to one or two times per month).
But in addition to generating content for your LinkedIn group, you can also use the conversations and activity from the LinkedIn group to create inspiration for content to share on your other channels.
For example, you could pose a question to your LinkedIn group like, “What do you think will be the biggest trends affecting our industry in the next year?” and then use the best responses to be featured in a blog article or white paper. You can also create a poll in LinkedIn to generate instant market research, and then use that market research to create content such as an infographic or chart.
Another way to use the two-way street of LinkedIn and B2B content marketing is to highlight and promote the individual members of your group. Your LinkedIn group represents a significant amount of expertise and interesting stories — why not use these stories to promote your group members while also creating great new content for your own blog?
For example, you could write profile articles about the “LinkedIn Group Member of the Month,” or do a podcast with someone from your LinkedIn Group who has a particularly interesting story to share, or whose company is introducing a new product or solution. You can create content to share some of the best responses to the latest questions discussed on the LinkedIn Group. By using content marketing, you can spotlight and share praise and appreciation for your LinkedIn group members — and every time you co-create content in this way, your group members will help share the content with their audiences, helping you expand your reach and find new members.
4. Create content to build relationships with prospects and industry peers
Most of the members of our LinkedIn group are other B2B sales and marketing professionals from a variety of industries. Our business is focused on B2B lead generation for clients, so you might think that it would be counterproductive to host a LinkedIn group of “competitors.” However, we’ve found that hosting a LinkedIn group for our industry peers can be very helpful in lead generation for our own company. When industry peers start to look to you for ideas, insights, and leadership, your prospects will be likely to notice this as well. Also, whenever you create a new piece of content that gets shared and read widely on LinkedIn, odds are good that the content will reach not only your industry peers, but also their extended audiences through social media — some of whom might become sales prospects for your business.
5. Don’t be too “salesy” with your B2B content marketing efforts
When creating content to promote your LinkedIn group, make sure to keep in mind that the overall goal of content marketing is to inform your readers and build deeper relationships with them based on credibility and trust — not to create “hard sell” sales pitches. We don’t include any overt calls to action as part of our content marketing articles — or any content that we share on our LinkedIn Group. The informative part of the goal has to be the first priority.
To do this, make sure your content is offering valuable, beneficial, genuine information. Tell your readers something new that they didn’t already know. Give them insights and inspiration to approach their challenges in a new light. Make it easy for people to connect with you on LinkedIn, but don’t constantly interrupt them with invitations or “sales pitches.”
The best B2B content marketing quietly extends an invitation to connect and engage in further conversation, while making the reader eager to learn more. Every piece of content you publish should make people want to hear more from you, and your LinkedIn group should give them an ideal venue for doing that. It’s true that we all are ultimately trying to generate sales leads from our content marketing, but the best way to do that is with a “slow and steady” approach based on trust and remarkably informative and high quality content — not thinly disguised sales pitches and interruptive tactics.
We are big believers in the value of content marketing to boost our LinkedIn group and get more sales leads. We’ve seen it help attract over 6,000 members to our LinkedIn group, which has become a valuable source of sales leads and a way to expand our company’s profile as a thought leader in the market. Your company can do the same — with a solid content marketing strategy, persistence, and a willingness to share the spotlight with some of your industry peers.
For more tips on leveraging your content marketing across your social media channels, read Michael Silverman’s book, “Capturing Community.”
Top image via iStockphoto