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LinkedIn has become an important tool for not only professional networking and recruitment, but also as a means to target potential customers for your business. Smart users of LinkedIn know that if utilised properly, the network can be an excellent way to find, qualify and progress potential customers into your sales funnel.

The trick here is that you need to be careful about not using your personal LinkedIn account for hard sales, which could turn off and alienate some of your contacts, while establishing a way to communicate your offering to potential customers.

The fact is that many businesses are involved in business-to-business (B2B) sales rather than business-to-consumer (B2C), so it makes sense that LinkedIn would provide a better pool of customers for B2B than any other social network.

There are plenty of ways you can focus your personal LinkedIn account on what your business does, and that’s a good start to making LinkedIn work for both you and your business.

The next step though is to start using LinkedIn’s suite of advertising programs, including Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail, and Text Ads. This will help extend your reach and expose your name and business to a lot more people than just your 1st degree connections. LinkedIn has lots of help available to walk you through the process.

On top of its existing programs, LinkedIn has just introduced three new targeting tools that could help you get more from your LinkedIn presence than likes and connections. The tools are part of Matched Audiences, which “gives you the unique ability to combine LinkedIn’s powerful professional data with your own first-party data”:

“With Matched Audiences you can use LinkedIn to retarget your website visitors, market to your contacts from your customer databases and marketing automation platforms, and reach decision makers at target companies for your account-based marketing programs. Matched Audiences helps increase ROI by enabling you to focus your efforts on the audiences and accounts that are most likely to drive revenue.”

In essence, Matched Audiences draws together the potential customer data available to you from sources like your website and other databases and matches that with people and companies on LinkedIn who may be most interested in your offerings.

The three tools it uses for this are:

• Website retargeting

• Account targeting

• Contact targeting

These tools work to integrate the customer data you might have lying dormant on an enterprise marketing platform like Marketo or Oracle Eloqua and then match that data to potential audiences on LinkedIn through Sponsored Content or Sponsored InMail.

It’s definitely worth thinking about LinkedIn as more than just an online portal for job hunting, networking and recruitment. It is the number one place for professionals and business people to connect online, so it stands to reason that people will be far more receptive to your offering than they may be on networks like Facebook or Twitter.

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