In a recent webinar hosted by LinkedIn where they discussed InMail strategies, they mentioned that an InMail sent from a specific person at LinkedIn had an open rate that was 10% to 20% better than an InMail sent from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. This tells me that b2b buyers are looking to engage with experts within a company rather than the corporation itself (even if it is LinkedIn!)

The click-through rate to the webinar opt-in page that the InMail promoted was 50% less for the message sent by the individual at LinkedIn than the one sent by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. This tells me that if you want to reach, connect and engage with more key decision makers, then experts need to reach out (not the company) and provide up-front value.

Yes, I’m Saying That the Marketing Standard of Giving Value After the Fact Needs to Change!

According to LinkedIn’s Report, “The Social Bridge to the IT Committee“, B2B buyers seeks insights and conversations with vendors on social media. In fact, 2 in 3 are open to connecting with a new vendor and 3 in 4 are ready to have a conversation with a new vendor on social media. So IT buyers are willing to reveal themselves and engage with b2b sales and marketing leaders on LinkedIn.

(Image source: The Social Bridge to the IT Committee)

But, the #1 reason that B2B buyers do not connect with a vendor on LinkedIn and in social media in general is because they don’t want to receive marketing materials. They want a relationship based on real, up-front value. They want you to work harder to earn their trust and interest before they give you an opt-in and a right to market to them further.

As Mike Weir of LinkedIn mentioned in an audio interview with Susan Tatum, “You want buyers to feel: I like you, I like your opinions, I want to know more. This means you need to prove to your prospects that your content is worth opening themselves up to sales calls and marketing email messages.”

Don’t Get Me Wrong – Gated Content is Still a Must. Buyers Are Just Calling for a Change in How You Use It.

Gated content is still an effective way to get potential buyers into a marketing funnel. In fact, we require our ongoing LinkedIn marketing and management clients to have at least one piece of gated content. B2B buyers will eventually fill out the form — if we don’t lead with it.

When I promote my webinars (including this one: 6 Ways Sales & Marketing Leaders Can Generate More Revenue Opportunities Using LinkedIn), I create specific content around the topic of the webinar to drive demand. For example, one of the things we discuss in the “6 Ways” webinar is how to make social selling tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator work for your organization. I created articles and LinkedIn posts like, “LinkedIn Sales Navigator is Not Enough for Most B2B Sales and Marketing Teams.

Inside this post which has more than 935+ views and 25+ likes, I talk about how Sales Navigator is a great tool – but it’s just a tool and that you need the right people in the right roles, the right messages and the right strategy to drive demand and sales. It goes into great detail as I provide a lot of up-front value and then tell readers that we’ll be going into how to leverage LinkedIn Sales Navigator to support your strategy in the webinar.

In my invitations to my LinkedIn group members, I led with my content like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator post – not the webinar. My discussions in different groups (which had stand alone value) linked to the LinkedIn Sales Navigator post. Because the webinar was an “after the fact” value-add, I greatly increased my click-through rate and my webinar attendance. 30% to 40% of my webinar registrants were from LinkedIn. Click here to listen to that webinar.

This Same Thinking of Up-Front Value Applies to More Than Just Gated Content

Just like B2B buyers don’t want to waste time with marketing materials (before they are ready), they don’t want to waste time on a “networking call” or “demo” if they haven’t see any up-front value. As soon as a connection, is made most sales professionals thank the prospect for making or accepting the connections, provide some details about what they do and then go right into asking for a sales conversation.

With our invites to connect, we discuss the content that we can provide them and how it’s relevant to their business. Once they connect, we provide them with the article, podcast, white paper that we mention in the invite to connect (everything ungated!) and invite them to join our LinkedIn group for even more content. We then nurture those that take the additional action to join our LinkedIn community with more 1-to-1 messages that lead with content.

For example, for those who would be ideal LinkedIn profile makeover and LinkedIn strategy clients vs ongoing clients, we recently invited them to a call where we’d review their LinkedIn profile. But that was after we led with how most LinkedIn profiles are worthless sales and marketing tools. We pointed out some ways they can easily improve their LinkedIn profile (which was all customized info) and linked to an article that went into further detail on how most profiles do not communicate “business value” to prospects and as a result they’re worthless. Click here to read our article “Most LinkedIn Profiles Are Worthless Sales and Marketing Tools”

Because we are showing upfront value before we even ask for a sales conversation, we’re getting 5 to 10 additional “networking calls” per week. You see B2B buyers will respond – they’ll opt-in for information – and they’ll take the time for a networking or sales conversation. But only after you earn the right to get their contact information or earn their time for a sales call.

If you like this content, then request to join my LinkedIn community, Get Help with Linked Strategies, where 500+ sales and marketing leaders are challenging common approaches – and exchanging new ways to connect and engage with B2B buyers on LinkedIn. Inside this group, you’ll find companies like American Express, Jumio, HP, Cisco, GE Healthcare. HAVAS PR, KPMG, Iron Mountain, Motorola, Pitney Bowes, Flexera as well as small to midsize professional service firms, tech companies and other B2B organizations. To join my LinkedIn community, click the image below.