LinkedIn is the world's leading online network for professionals. On any given day, any number of LinkedIn's 500 million-plus users will gather to discuss professional topics, look for jobs, hire employees and of course, sell things.
Conventional wisdom would probably suggest that LinkedIn as a platform to sell products and services, is probably better suited to business to business (B2B) sales than business to consumer (B2C). But are we missing an important opportunity by making such an assumption?
This is not a topic I had given much thought to, until someone posted a seemingly innocent question on a marketing forum which I am a member of.
"I have a product that helps people with their fitness and I am looking to advertise this product on social media. Do you think that LinkedIn is a platform that could also assist in our sales efforts?"
It didn't take long for the obvious answers to appear. The first response stated simply, "I think LinkedIn will not be good", soon after, "Use Instagram, it will be a lot more effective than Linkedin", and finally, the response that I assume sums up most people's first instinct: "If you have a product you are trying to sell business-to-business, LinkedIn is great. But, if your product is for consumers, you're best to focus on Facebook/Instagram and AdWords."
I don't have a problem with any of these responses; they are all fair and reasonable, and they probably did a good job in steering the questioner towards the right channels for their first campaign.
However, there is another way to look at this. Whether your product or service is B2C or B2B, there is a human making the purchasing decision. One could therefore argue that all business is B2H (Business to Human).
LinkedIn, just like Facebook, Instagram or any other social network, is a place where humans gather (so to speak). All 500 million of them.
So why shouldn't you promote your B2C product on LinkedIn?
The important question therefore, is not should you promote a B2C product on LinkedIn, but how could you? And I believe that the answer, like everything in marketing, begins with knowing your audience, and ends with understanding the context of your interaction with them.
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Let's be honest, putting an ad for an electric toaster on LinkedIn is going to look a bit odd, isn't it? It doesn't matter how many enthusiasts of the wheaten breakfast snack use LinkedIn, your toaster ad is going to look a little out of place. That might not be such a bad thing (it would certainly stand out). But I would guess that most LinkedIn users would be a little turned off by such a blunt offer.
However... Writing an interesting blog post about how this specific electric toaster increased your productivity, by allowing you to make breakfast faster and beat the traffic into work, might not be such an outrageous thought.
Following up with a free downloadable recipe book filled with breakfasts designed to "increase productivity, improve energy and heighten brain function at work", and you don't need to be too imaginative to start to see the makings of a meaningful campaign.
Add retargeting to anyone who reads the article, and email marketing to those who downloaded the eBook, and you might even expect to see some interest form in your amazing, productivity-boosting, electric toaster.
Now this is far from a comprehensive strategy, but you can hopefully see my point. Like all marketing, the channels that you use are less important than the way that you use them. Good marketing is good marketing, and if executed correctly, it shouldn't matter where your audience are, only that they are within reach.
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Rather than asking yourself, which channel should I use to promote my product, you should think more about who is my audience (or more accurately, who are my different audiences), where do they spend their time, and how could my product or service help them to improve their day in some way?
The answer to these questions are likely to be different for each of your audiences, and likely different again depending on the context of where and when your message will reach them. Like on LinkedIn, for example.
But when you understand your audience and the way that they make decisions at each stage of their decision making journey, then you can easily adapt your message to suit almost any channel.
At BizWisdom we call this defining your marketing operating system. If you get this part right, then questions such as "where should I promote my product or service?" become easy to answer: "Wherever your target audience is."
Author Bio: Sam McEwin is the founder and Director of BizWisdom. Sam is a regular contributor to BizWisdoms’ blog and guest speaker at digital media industry events and workshops.