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#128: LinkedIn’s own B2B go-to-market strategy (revealed)

Episode 128

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LinkedIn is probably the company that comes to mind when it comes to B2B. I’ve always been curious about how a company that size is able to function and be prominent in so many parts of the globe. What secrets do they hold when it comes to marketing that we can learn from?

To find out, we had APAC Product Marketing Manager Lucy Sonter on the show to walk us through how the LinkedIn pulls together its own B2B go-to-market strategy. Lucy shares stories and examples from successful product launches at LinkedIn.

Stick around and learn: how to leverage sales insights to enrich your marketing strategies, how LinkedIn changed everyone’s mind about using their ‘audience network’, and what customer insights you need to run successful marketing campaigns. As per usual, you can read, watch or listen to all the insights below.

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The Value of Sales Experience in Marketing

I’ve always had the feeling that the best marketers are those that have had the experience ‘selling’ something before. After chatting to Lucy, my opinion hasn’t changed. She took us through three of the core skills she picked up as a sales person that made her a better marketer.

Understanding the Discovery Process

Lucy emphasizes the importance of the discovery process, a fundamental aspect of sales that has made her a more effective marketer. By asking more questions and conducting thorough research before making decisions, she’s able to understand customers’ needs deeply.

“The first for me is like discovery, which is such a big part of the sales role, and it’s asking more questions, doing more research before making a decision.”

Lucy Sonter – The B2B Playbook

Speaking the Customer’s Language

In sales, you see the blank stares on the faces of your prospects when they don’t understand you. This doesn’t happen to us as much as marketers – we just don’t see it! So Lucy highlights the significance of communicating in the language that resonates with customers.

This is the skill that’s going to help you create messages that connect with and are understood by your target audience.

“Taking a step back out of the marketing language and going back into how am I gonna get this to resonate is something you have to do a lot.”​​.

Lucy Sonter – The B2B Playbook

Empathy for the Sales Team

Anyone who has spent any time in sales knows that sales is hard. After spending time in their shoes, she understands what their day-to-day looks like and what challenges they face. Make sure you take this into consideration when trying to collaborate between sales and marketing. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about what they’d want from you.

Go-To-Market Strategy: It all Starts with Customer Insights

When Lucy told me that LinkedIn starts its own go-to-market (GTM) strategy with customer research, it was music to my ears. They have a good mix of quantitative and qualitative research that comes from global research teams, feedback from sales teams, and direct conversations with customers.

It’s the conversations with customers where you get your deepest understanding and uncover insights that have the most impact in your marketing. The difference is the information you’re getting from them is unfiltered, and you have the opportunity to probe further.

(This is something customer research expert Ryan Gibson does so well – see him in action here).

Case Study 1: LinkedIn Launches Hindi Ads

Lucy very generously shares a specific case study on launching Hindi ads. For added context, there was a known need for Hindi ads because you could use Hindi on LinkedIn organically, but not in paid advertising, creating a gap in user experience.

Research and Collaboration

The team conducted extensive customer and sales agency research to understand the market better and define the scope of the launch.

Lucy emphasizes the importance of gathering insights not just from customers but also from sales and agency partners to ensure the product update would be correctly positioned and effectively meet the needs of the target audience.

“We did a lot of customer research in the lead up to it, but we also did a lot of sales and agency research purely because this is like a language update rather than a specific product update.”​

Lucy Sonter – The B2B Playbook

Educational Approach and Leveraging Partnerships

Once it was clear who the targets are and the positioning that would resonate with them, it became about education to drive adoption. As a regional lead, Lucy is just one of two in her team, so she needed to leverage partnerships to help distribute their educational content. That meant partnering with agencies who help clients run these ads, and equipping them with the educational material.

There were existing agency webinars that they could tack their education onto, which helped drive scale.

“We worked really closely with our business operations team who were imperative to helping us understand a little bit more about our customers. They brought in our customers who were in Hindi speaking states.”

Lucy Stoner – The B2B Playbook

Speaking of leverage, Lucy also partnered with their own marketing teams that own the LinkedIn page to spread the key messages.

Case Study 2: Changing the Perception of LinkedIn Audience Network

Another great case study that Lucy shares to illustrate how they go-to-market is how they increased the adoption of the LinkedIn Audience Network (LAN) in APAC.

For those who don’t know, the the LinkedIn Audience Network allows you to extend the reach of your Sponsored Content campaigns by delivering your ads beyond the LinkedIn feed to members on third-party apps and sites. Google and Meta offer similar networks, and they have largely gained a bad reputation for wasting your ad spend on sub-par advertising inventory.

This led to a perception from the sales team that customers avoided the LAN because the performance was poor quality. However, their research showed that it was an awareness problem, not a performance problem.

“We actually found out that performance wasn’t the problem. It was awareness. So the customers themselves were like, ‘Oh yeah, we just didn’t know this existed. We’ll be willing to try it.’ Whereas when we went to our sales teams, they were all, ‘Oh no, performance is the issue.”

Lucy Sonter – The B2B Playbook

This insight shifted the focus towards improving awareness and correcting misconceptions about the product among both sales teams and customers.​​

To help educate the sales team to engage more with the LAN, Lucy and the team used LinkedIn conversation ads – an engaging format to challenge perceptions the team already had about the LAN.

They also worked with the data team to pull out any insights specific to accounts to prove that performance is not an issue when it comes the LAN. So this was a big internal marketing campaign that she needed to pull together even before going externally to customers.

To educate customers externally, the team did lots of agency workshops, webinars, and case studies across APAC.

The result? The team has been able to see adoption of the LAN in line with their go-to-market efforts. Something that’s no doubt extremely satisfying!

Communication is the Key to Success

For all marketers, especially those working regionally, it’s tough to navigate the complexity of a huge organisation. Ultimately, it comes down to both consistency and quality of communication.

Lucy’s weapon of choice for enhancing communication in APAC particularly with the sales team is through a Microsoft Teams chat. She found the two-way nature of the chat to be a much better way to engage sales teams and encourage interactivity.

If you’d like to learn more about Lucy Sonter, please connect with her here on LinkedIn.

Also, check out LinkedIn’s Marketing Labs if you’re looking to learn new skills.

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