by Kyle Milan, CEO
5 Fold Agency
Over the last 10 years, we all have heard about the importance of social media and the trends associated with it, but most plastics companies are stuck in a losing strategy, sending out Twitter posts that get no engagement. Regardless of your hashtags, cool tradeshow pics of your booth or distribution of your content, Twitter is the platform with the most noise. Your posts are getting lost. When the results of your efforts are audited, the lack of engagement should have you changing your focus immediately…and, it’s not 2011 anymore.
It’s time to take a step back and rethink your strategy. The key aspect of social marketing is making sure that you are active on the social platform where your potential prospects are active. Your prospects may be on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but it’s critical to identify where they are focusing their attention. Experience has proven LinkedIn to be the primary social media outlet that provides the most ROI to manufacturing and industrial companies, because it’s still the leader in the B2B arena.
LinkedIn has proven benefits, because approximately 75 percent of the companies that plastic businesses are trying to target are on LinkedIn in some way. Even if a company doesn’t have its own page, the company’s employees will have LinkedIn profiles. As the platform evolves and improves, it’s estimated that two new LinkedIn users sign up every second. Currently, there are about 500 million users and about 250 million monthly users. People are no longer using the platform strictly as a job searching tool.
Many people who have profiles on LinkedIn also have profiles on Facebook, but the purpose for each is different. On LinkedIn, you’re going to see fewer personal stories and more focus on career and business. LinkedIn also provides total control over your privacy and settings. It’s made for business and excels with manufacturing and industrial companies.
This makes your company page and personal page of the utmost importance to prospecting. It is imperative to have updated, accurate company and personal profiles. From a sales/marketing standpoint, this means sharing a compelling professional story in the summary areas that will resonate with potential clients, along with buttoning up everything from headline and headshot to profile content and engagement with your network. Your active sales/marketing team must be dedicated to time spent daily producing and sharing content that will engage with connections for sales opportunities to follow.
Having good content is only part of the battle. Continue to build your personal network daily by using the 80/20 rule: Keep 80 percent of connections relevant to your industry and the goals to be achieved in terms of prospects and industry professionals. The other 20 percent should consist of influencers with 15,000 or more connections who can assist in pushing your content to a broader audience, gaining you notoriety as a knowledge source in the industry.
In addition to marketing your company, use LinkedIn to provide value to your network. This tends to get missed as companies often only promote their news and updates. You’ll find an abundant return if your company shares information to help the community (without self-promoting) and provides industry-relevant information 75 percent of the time. Pushing company content has a place, but focus on providing value first in your manufacturing marketing strategy.
If used strategically, LinkedIn can build your brand and drive sales. You could find thousands of articles telling you how to do this, but those tricks often can lead to mistakes and wasted time. The rest of this article focuses on organic and paid ways to make LinkedIn work for your business.
The Organic Approach
Here are the top five organic manufacturing marketing strategies you can implement today that, over time, will increase your brand awareness and sales.
1. Improve your LinkedIn profile
If all you’ve done with your LinkedIn profile is add work experience, your job title and a profile photo, you’re missing opportunities. When you think of the marketing side of LinkedIn, a profile often isn’t at the top of the list of things to put work into, but it should be. Users search the platform every day for your expertise and what you have to offer. Optimize your profile with a ton of relevant content under each section, starting with the headline. Having your current job title as your headline doesn’t express nearly enough of what you have to offer. Use a strategic sentence to tell future clients and network connections or partners what you can do for them and use vertical bars to break down each aspect of your expertise.
Next, move down to the summary and use it to tell your professional story. Compel people to do business with you based on the value you can provide and accomplishments you have achieved. Go into detail about each position under your work experience. What did you do? What were some accomplishments you made? How did you help the company? What are some skills you picked up working there? The more optimized content on your profile, the better.
2. Have patience
You have to water your grass before it will grow. Not every message you send will get a prompt response, and sometimes you may not get any response. This is what separates those who succeed in marketing on LinkedIn and those who don’t. It’s human nature to get frustrated, but giving up is not an option when you want results. You might post something in the hopes that a specific person sees it and that person might not check the site every day or every week. When they get on the next day, your post is lost in their feed unless it was passed around by other connections or had enough shares/likes/comments to show up again. Have patience with connections and messages you send and with the content you post. Be persistent and consistent with your marketing efforts.
3. It’s work, but worth it
If you aren’t willing to spend the time and energy on LinkedIn, don’t expect sales to follow. I challenge you to put in a couple hours every day engaging, prospecting and producing content on LinkedIn. This is not a sprint: It’s a marathon, and your behavior must reflect that to be successful. The more you engage with your network, the more you’ll get out of it in return.
Use the time you spend on LinkedIn purposefully. Promote other people daily by liking, commenting on and sharing their posts. Put in the work with your content as well. Use your knowledge and experience to publish articles on LinkedIn that your network will benefit from with no expectation of an immediate benefit. Search for valuable blog posts and articles that you can link to and make yourself a resource. Follow up with connections and messages and keep yourself organized by using tags in the LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Break tags down into categories like interest level and prospect qualification. Then, attach those tags to people’s profiles to keep everything in order. Get out of the mindset that this is just a social network – it’s one of the most valuable marketing tools that is available right now for B2B.
4. Give first, ask later
Nothing will put a prospect off more than pitching them without providing them with something useful first. Old school and one-sided marketing advises that you shouldn’t give anything away without getting something in return, whether that’s an email address, subscription or a sale. Instead of abiding by that philosophy, provide your network with value first, and you will be astonished at the long-term results. The ROI on time you spend providing that value will come back exponentially. Remember: Be patient.
5. The 80/20 Rule
I’ve already discussed my thoughts on the 80/20 rule in the previous text; however, here is some additional information to consider. Keep 80 percent of your connections relevant to you, and build the other 20 percent with influencers who have 15k+ connections and who are regularly engaging with their network. The 80 percent who are relevant to you will be an asset to your marketing strategy as you engage with people in positions and industries that you focus on serving. That 20 percent influencer base is just as important, giving you connections who can help pick up a post and blast it to their thousands of connections for additional exposure. One way to really take advantage of this is to compose a post, not more than once a month, and tag one of your influencer connections. Mention them in the post, give them credit for something and then push with your content. They may then like and share that post and you’ve extended your reach – that’s the 80/20 rule at work.
To put LinkedIn to work for your organic industrial marketing strategy, first evaluate your profile and LinkedIn practices. Once you have corrected how you use LinkedIn, you’ll start to see results, but remember – this can take time, so don’t get discouraged. Instead, forge on and continue creating meaningful content that will draw people to your profile and let them see you as an authority in your field. If you aren’t using these strategies, implement them today and watch the results start to work for you.
The Paid Approach
Once you’ve completed the above organic growth approach and you’re firing on all cylinders, beginning a simple paid campaign is a great tactic to penetrate deeper into your target demographic and quickly increase brand awareness. Before you go reaching for that “start” button, there are some basics that you need to understand first to avoid wasting money.
If you’re going to go at it alone, and not hire an agency to manage it for you, here are the basics when running a self-service campaign.
1. Types of advertising
There are basically four types of advertising on LinkedIn for self-service, which means that you can control the strategy, the copy, the style and the frequency of your campaign. You can also stop, pause or cancel a campaign at any point.
A. Text ad – These are simple and are 30 to 100 characters of text at the top of a LinkedIn feed. As you refresh your feed, a new text ad will come up. This is the least effective form of advertising on LinkedIn because it’s often overlooked by the viewer.
B. InMail – LinkedIn’s Sponsored InMail is its version of cold email marketing. There are a lot of pros to this type of advertising: it’s cost effective and you can still target your audience. Your return on investment will be lower and the effectiveness of the campaign is lower than the third and fourth options.
C. Sponsored post – This shows up in your native newsfeed. It’s typically the second or third post in the center of your feed that most LinkedIn users will see as they go through their newsfeed. This will be some sort of graphic, white paper, article or something below the company name, and it’s going to say “promoted” or “sponsored” in light gray, which indicates it’s a paid post.
D. Sponsored video (new) – Using the same delivery and placement as a “sponsored post,” this shows up in your native newsfeed. By using a native upload (instead of YouTube) your video will auto play as the user scrolls through their feed, catching their attention immediately if the creative relevancy is done correctly.
Sponsored posts and sponsored videos are the most effective method of LinkedIn advertising for manufacturing companies, but also the most expensive cost-per-click or cost-per-impression. These sponsored posts are the most expensive because you can do hyper-targeting and strategic campaigns to a very specific and focused demographic. Therefore, LinkedIn can charge anywhere from $8 to $20 per click because they know you have total control over who sees it. They know it’s worth it if your product or service has room for a higher client acquisition cost.
If the product or service that you sell is in the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars per client, like a lot of manufacturing companies, then it’s worth it to invest into sponsored posts and videos. In the long run, your cost per client acquisition is minimal compared to the contacts and opportunities that you’ll see and profit you will make once a prospect becomes a customer.
2. Optimize your graphics
When you’re running a LinkedIn sponsored post, you want to make sure that the graphics you’re using for the post are customized and created fresh for your specific campaign. You don’t want to recycle graphics unless it’s applicable to the message that you’re trying to send. Graphics are something you’ll want to continuously update and refresh.
3. Send click traffic to the correct page
Send the traffic to a page that has specifically been created or optimized for the campaign that you’re running. You always want to send paid advertising traffic to a specific page, and you don’t want to just send them to your homepage unless you’re running a campaign that is strictly for brand awareness. Sending traffic with a specific call-to-action means focusing on the relevancy of the text and the graphics that match the relevancy of the page. If people see your ad and have interest in your ad, they want to be brought immediately to a page that corresponds to that ad.
4. Tighten up your target demographic
Once you’re setting up your campaign in LinkedIn’s campaign manager, you’ll have 100% control over who sees your ads based on your target demographic, which is driven by the information people provide on their profile. This information can be their title, geographic location, company, the school they attended, job function or the seniority that they have, and it can all be used as target triggers when setting up your campaign. The key is to be as specific and strategic as possible and determine the tightest target demographic while also making sure that the number of people that come up in your results is high enough. This information can be found at the top right corner of the LinkedIn campaign manager, and it will help ensure that your ads are actually going to be seen on a daily basis by your demographic.
The best tactic for this is to focus on company names. Each campaign allows you to have 100 company names that you can input and pair with their company LinkedIn page. Then you’re going to look for employees in those specific companies based on their job function, whether it’s purchasing, engineering, operations, sales, marketing, administration, etc. The next filtering would be seniority if you want to target only managers and above. Be careful not to over-target because you could be missing people who don’t have their profiles properly updated.
5. Monitor performance
You can’t effectively know if your campaigns are working without monitoring the performance of those campaigns through the LinkedIn campaign platform and, more importantly, through Google Analytics website traffic.
- LinkedIn campaign monitor: Look at the click-through rate that you’re seeing on your campaigns within the LinkedIn campaign manager. LinkedIn produces content that says a good click-through rate is anywhere from .25 percent to .35 percent. In our experience, that percentage is extremely low unless you’re doing a brand awareness campaign either for your brand or a specific tradeshow you want people to attend. A standard LinkedIn campaign with a CPC (cost-per-click) setup shows the lower threshold should be around 0.5 percent to 0.6 percent. Try and shoot for anywhere from 0.9 percent to 1.3 percent click-through rate.
- Google Analytics: Check your bounce rate, average time on site and number of page views to get a rough idea as to whether the campaign is effective.
6. Ad rotation
The most effective way to run a LinkedIn ad is for each campaign to have four ads with graphics in rotation. If your target demographic sees your ad in their LinkedIn feed and they don’t click that ad for whatever reason, either the graphic is not optimized for them or they don’t notice it. The next time that they come to LinkedIn or refresh their feed you want to show them a different ad with a different graphic.
7. Bid strategies
The way the bid strategy works with LinkedIn is the same as Google AdWords or Facebook: you only pay a penny more than the next highest bidder. The issue that you’ll come across is people get gun-shy when placing a higher bid because they don’t want to burn through their budget. You have to think about it this way: The amount of time your target demographic spends on LinkedIn, how far down they scroll and how many minutes they spend per session will determine whether they’ll see your ad.
It’s much more effective to show up higher in the feed in either the first ad position, which is the second or third post they’ll see, or the second ad position, which will be the 8th to 12th position in their feed. Focusing on the top two positions guarantees a higher likelihood your targets will see your ad once they’re fresh on the platform. People often get lost or distracted while scrolling, so showing up in the first one to three ad positions is going to be the most advantageous and produce the best ROI.
Whether you’re only comfortable doing the organic approach or want to get into paid advertising, any attention and focus you put into a proper LinkedIn marketing strategy will be well worth your time. We have worked with hundreds of companies in the plastics space and produced amazing results, but if companies don’t put in the work at an employee engagement level then the results will be hindered.
Kyle Milan is an accomplished B2B sales and marketing professional with more than 18 years in the manufacturing and industrial industries, with 10 of those years in custom injection molding. He is the CEO of 5 Fold Agency and a LinkedIn marketing and advertising expert. He has published several articles at major news media outlets on various topic in industrial marketing, manufacturing marketing, LinkedIn marketing, advertising and entrepreneurship. He also has a daily Vlog on YouTube where he shares all of his methods to help manufacturing companies improve sales and marketing. More information: (312) 515-8145, firstname.lastname@example.org or https://5fold.agency