THE POWER OF LINKEDIN FOR FURNITURE BRANDS, RETAILERS & SALES REPRESENTATIVES
I've been "Ranting" a lot about technology lately, specifically because I believe adopting new and innovative technology breakthroughs, that help consumers find your brand or shop your stores, is imperative in stopping the erosion of sales at local brick and mortar stores to the large "on-line" giants.
So with that said.....Marketing is about digital relationships, and this platform is the best for B2B
This RANT is about Why Is It Furniture Brands & Furniture Sales Representatives Ignore The Awesome Engagement Power of LinkedIn? Many think LinkedIn is only for job seekers and recruiters….WRONG….I will tell you since I have invested in this platform, 80% of my new clients found me on LinkedIn!
LinkedIn is the most profound business-to-business platform ever created and I’ll bet you are NOT doing it, or doing it wrong. Not everyone can afford to advertise in the Industry Trade Magazines and their marketing platforms...PLUS they are SO LIMITED as to what you can do...so integrate this digital platform, with your social and traditional marketing platforms
Let me explain...It took me 2+ years to figure this out and learn all the tricks... what I've outlined below will save you the time and frustrations I had figuring this out
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 414+ million members, 100 million+ in the U.S. alone - 35% of the population and growing rapidly. LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals. The key words here are “professional network”.
Now, this social network is NOT to connect with consumers like Twitter, Facebook, etc., It is built to connect professionals and businesses with professionals and businesses involved in the same or similar categories.
For furniture designers and manufacturers, this is a goldmine. Think about it:
1. You can connect with buyers (Existing and new prospects)
2. You can connect with retailers (Existing people at the retailer and/or new prospects)
3. You can connect with suppliers (Existing and new prospects)
AND it helps immensely with search engines...see how it works for me.
Create/Update Your Profile - Individual (Be sure to have your ability to be connected open so people can find and connect with you. Individuals who want to keep their information private or unattainable/unconnectable...should just stay off the platform...it's useless to be there and people can't connect with you so"why is it you're even on the platform if you don't want to use it as intended"? If you don't want to connect with people who want to connect with you, just say NO/REJECT to the request...pretty simple, huh?
CREATE/UPDATE YOUR INDIVIDUAL PROFILE -
DON"T MAKE IT ABOUT A RESUME...UNLESS YOU NEED A JOB. MAKE IT ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR "ME OR MY COMPANY"! THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW. HERE'S WHAT I DID. (YOU CAN SEE IT AT: HTTPS://WWW.LINKEDIN.COM/IN/WFNAPIER
Make it relevant to your brand and/or products. Talk about your knowledge, experience and results and how you can help your audience - existing and new customers improve their business by using you, your resources and/or your company.
Get Connections -
It's easy to get "relevant connections" you can search for people/businesses who are on LinkedIn, or upload your contact file. Then you can choose who you want to connect with. (Be careful here, don't try to connect to a ton of people, LinkedIn may see that as SPAM. Be selective and make the connections relevant).
Join Industry Groups and Follow Them - Many of these groups have thousands of industry professionals that will share insights, new products, technologies and more. KNOWLEDGE/CONNECTIONS are powerful tools! Below are a few industry groups I follow and sometimes contribute content that is "relevant" to their audience.
FOR COMPANIES BRANDS OR SALES TERRITORY GROUPS
- Create Your Profile - Company - This is for Brands OR for Sales Rep Groups/Rep Companies, IHFRA Regional Groups and more.
- Create a Group - (Public or Private by Invite Only) This is an amazing way you can post articles, share information from other, you can have multiple editors to help you post and so much more. I use it as a platform where I can share information for and to the industry to help them do more business. My group is Private to make sure only relevant content to the subscribers gets posted. (Click the image to see the group or join it)
How BRANDS can make LinkedIn work For You
A company profile is geared more towards the “corporate” entity and it has limited marketing ability vs. an individual. It’s a great place to let people discover your brand/company’s vision and mission. As I mentioned, it’s an awesome “social platform” to let your company be discovered. This is a great platform for Senior Executives to share information: Vision - Mission - Core Values - Products & More
You can build out your profile; however it is limited to just showcasing your company, not your products and services as an individual profile can. With the company page you can:
- Create an overview of your company
- List careers – job openings
- Communicate your services
- Have followers recommend you
- Have your employees connect with you and share insights
As I mentioned, it’s a brand page for people to find you, learn your core business and most importantly, push them to your website, connect with sales and/or key people and more. It’s “Inbound Marketing”, and as I always lecture, you must be everywhere your customers want to find you, when they find you and how they want to find you.
PLUS As I mentioned, not everyone can afford to advertise in the Trade Magazines and their marketing platforms which are somewhat limited and can be expensive...so integrate this digital platform, with your social and traditional marketing platforms
Step one - Create a Company Brand Page.
Here you can post company information, news, new products and more to help your retailers do more business.
Step Two - Invite People To Follow Your Page
Invite your retailers and Sales Representatives to Follow Your Company Page, so they can receive announcements and more. Make sure it's news/information they can use!
Step Three - Create a Company Group. This is different than a Company Brand Page (See above how I did it)
You can make this group public, where anyone can join, or you can make it private by invitation only, and you can accept/reject people or companies that you would prefer not to be in your group. (As I previously stated, my group is private and I control all the content submitted to ensure its relevancy to the group. I recommend you do the same.)
Groups (Again, Join Relevant Groups AND Create Your Specialized Own)
Integrating The CORPORATE BRAND PAGE, THE CORPORATE GROUP PAGE, but managing it from YOUR INDIVIDUAL PAGE
The Individual Profile is the best platform and marketing medium that allows you to connect with like-minded business people, groups, associations and so much more. It is incredible and I’ll explain how to do it.
First, you need to designate a key person to be the “Corporate Spokesperson” for your company. I recommend the Chief Marketing Person, because that’s their job and this is what they must do as part of their job. COMMUNICATE THE BUSINESS:
Build your personal profile around your business. Use Appropriate Keywords and Phrases in Your Heading and Title and Mirror Your Online and Offline Business Networks within LinkedIn.
DO NOT make your contact information private, deterring people from connecting with you. When someone does “request” a connection, you have the opportunity to decline. Why take a chance on NOT meeting someone/businesses that may help you innovate?
Add tools to your page so people can dig deep into your business such as:
- Slideshare – an application to present PowerPoint or video presentations in your profile
- Box Files for press releases and articles that are relevant
- Behance Product Display for new product introductions, photography & more
- Blog link-Link your blogs and article right on your profile
- Events – promote specials, promotions and more
- Videos, links and video embedded code can be added too. People LOVE videos and they're easy to add with the <> tool
Once you’ve built out your Individual profile, connect with people that share your business interests. You can do this several ways:
- Upload your email database of business contacts
- Search for contacts, companies with their search function
- When you connect with someone, review their connections and request a connection to join you.
Now that you’ve built your profile, search for Industry related “groups” that you can join. These groups can give you valuable free ideas and content and you can post your content on these groups to expand your reach.
Next, start your own group and invite your contacts to join your group. The really cool thing about this is that when you post something on your group, all your members get the content. It’s like having an industry conference call or presentation about your new products, services, specials and more!
For instance, I have over 2,600 connections and everytime I post something, those connections will get a notice of the post. (Again, just post relevant business stuff..NO POLITICS, NO HAPPY FEELINGS, and stuff that will irritate people or stop following you. THIS IS A BUSINESS NETWORK
The group I started - Internet Strategic Marketing Group for Retail & Manufacturers - currently has 1,483 members…and growing daily. Collectively the groups I’ve joined have over 100,000 members. So, depending on what I post, I can share it with a few connections, just my group, or blow it out to all my connections and groups…and guess what…this costs me a whopping $9.00 per month.
All of this and you can measure it too. LinkedIn ranks 4th for driving traffic to my websites: www.napiermkt.com and my marketing website www.social4retail.com. What’s especially interesting is when I post a blog, article or tip and blow it out, my site visits skyrocket.
Each spike on the graph is a post. My normal site visits are between 130-220 people a day, but when I post, it goes into the thousands
"All people are consumers all of the time. Just because they go to work and perform a job, they don’t stop being a consumer. They purchase business products and services the same way they purchase items for themselves or their home. They do research and become inspired with the same thought and emotional processes as they use in everyday life".
- Get all your sales people on LinkedIn
- Have them improve their profiles as mentioned above to ensure brand awareness and consistency
- Create a group that is closed to only retailers. You can do this with the tools provided.
- Invite those connections you want to talk/market to. Have your sales people invite their contacts to this group too.
- Use that group to get feedback on new designs, introduce new products, innovations and more
- Push out promotions to your connections. Specials, discontinued items and more. Give customers a "preview" of new product introductions and more
- Publish blogs and “backlink” them to your website.
Business is competitive and when you get a new placement that means one of your competitor’s products comes off the floor.
There are not many B2B platforms out there that are relevant and cost effective. LinkedIn has solved this IF you invest the time to make it work for you. Today you need a multi-faceted approach to win in today’s tough economy. The old way of getting your product to market doesn’t work anymore…it’s time to expand your strategies and use the tactics that have been proven to work.
To learn more ways to use LinkedIn and other social marketing tools, visit our marketing website: www.social4retail.com or give me a shout, I can help you build out this platform;
OK, I know this looks complicated, but it really isn't. If you want to implement some of these strategies and tactics and need guidance....I can help.Contact me at:
Bill is Managing Partner of Napier Marketing Group. He is also the owner of www.Social4Retail, a website dedicated to helping retailers and Brands compete in today's digital marketing environment
He has been the chief marketing officer of several small, medium and large companies throughout his career, most notably Ashley Furniture Industries Inc from 2000-2005.
His passion is to help retail brands & brick mortar retailers grow their business by creating, guiding and deploying successful marketing B2B/B2C solutions, integrating traditional marketing with the web/social media.