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After Microsoft buy, LinkedIn makes bid for B2B advertising

linkedin_mainLinkedIn was acquired by Micro­soft recently, and it’s been busy at work improving the service. The company launched an updat­ed site in late January. But what most people don’t know is that this wasn’t just an everyday, cosmetic touch-up. This was a massive over­haul of the site and the back-end infrastructure.

There were many upgrades and new features. But there were three specific changes, somewhat quietly introduced, which could change the game for anyone involved in B2B advertising, marketing or demand-generation. Here’s the skinny on each of them.

  1. LinkedIn remarketing

As a B2B advertiser, you have people visiting your site every day. For every 100 people who visit, you’d be lucky if 10 of them convert or raise their hand by filling out a form, downloading content, or reveal­ing their identity so your sales team can follow up.

In other words, most of us are seeing a 10 percent conversion rate — on our best day.

This means 90 percent of the traffic that we work so hard and spend so much money to get to the site in the first place will leave without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again. ‘Remarketing’ is a technology by which you can cookie those users who visit and don’t convert, then serve ads to them (and only them) after they leave the site.

You’ve most likely experienced this phe­nomenon if you’ve ever shopped online. Say you’re looking at watches and you don’t buy one. But then you start seeing ads for the same watches you were looking at all over the place.

That’s remarketing, or retargeting. And it’s been around for a long time. But you’ve never been able to remarket users on LinkedIn specifically.

Now you can say… if users visit your site and don’t convert, show them these ads on LinkedIn. And you can specify which ads you show them based on the pages they viewed on your website, the actions they took, the amount of time it’s been since they visited and several other settings.

In general, retargeting spend is the most profitable spend. When done well, it yields the highest-quality lead at the low­est cost. It’s pretty much a no-brainer.

  1. Email match, or matched audiences

As a B2B advertiser, you probably have a list of target accounts. You probably maintain a CRM. You may have even pur­chased a list or two at some point along the way that you give to your sales team to work or send emails to.

So LinkedIn introduced a feature where you can upload a list of specific contacts or companies to their platform and target only those contacts or compa­nies. This is basically steroids for anyone involved with account-based marketing or ABM.

Before, you could choose parameters. You could say, “I’d like to spend $XYZ dollars per day and target this type of person at this type of company (specify by industry / # of employees) in this geo­graphic area, etc. But it was pretty much anonymous.

Now, you can say, “I want to target these specific people at these specific companies & ONLY them.” Thus your dollar goes a lot further. There’s much less waste. And you can segment granularly and create messaging that resonates deeply with the audience (since you know exactly who they are).

Another complete no-brainer.

  1. ‘Lead gen’ forms

You might be familiar with Facebook “lead ads.” Facebook lead ads pretty much changed the game for Facebook advertisers by introducing a new, “low­er-friction” ad format. Here was the typi­cal flow users once went through: See in­teresting ad in news feed >Click/tap >Go to landing page >Read some copy, evalu­ate >Debate whether to complete the five required form fields >Eventually decide to do it >Validation error >Correct (or maybe bail) >Finally submit. In contrast, Facebook lead ads make it much easier, to the tune of: >See interesting ad in news feed >Click/tap >Go to pre-populated form (Facebook knows your name/email, etc.) >Click/tap Submit” and it’s submit­ted. And what’s more, cost-per-lead pretty much dropped through the floor.

So LinkedIn launched a format pretty much identical to this. They call it “lead gen forms” (not “lead ads” as Facebook does).

The long and short of these changes? They have huge implications for B2B

Chris Mechanic is co-founder & CEO at WebMechanix, a digital marketing company.