LinkedIn is not the holy grail: Why SMEs must broaden their marketing mix

Sue Parker

DARE Group Australia founder Sue Parker. Source: supplied.

It is dangerous to put all your marketing eggs into the one basket and hold up any element as the holy grail. Like a balanced diet to support a healthy body, a rounded marketing mix is foundational for a business to thrive.

Simply put, the purpose of marketing is to target, entice and convert. And for mature brands, to maintain market share and loyalty.

And wherever you invest time, money or resources, it must be in direct alignment to where your target market congregates.

Gaining eyeballs (or ears) is a pretty simple formula in theory, but not so simple in reality, as many SMEs grapple with choices, often under a cacophony of opinions, and pressures.

Large organisations have big budgets to invest, but most SMEs and entrepreneurs do not.

LinkedIn status

LinkedIn has been an instrumental tool for business to launch and grow, and will continue to be.

The platform offers an equal playing field to build a profile, grow a brand and increase visibility to gain clients and networks. Interestingly there is a swathe of businesses on the platform that don’t even have a website.

I am a massive advocate of LinkedIn, its value and clear return on investment (ROI) and return on effort (ROE).

In Australia, we have 11 million registered members and 706 million globally.

New feature rollouts, UX and company improvements have been a hallmark of 2020, along with the scramble to get new clients.

But it is just one tool of a balanced marketing mix. Yet many are investing most of their marketing on LinkedIn and losing out on a swathe of additional opportunities.

LinkedIn can become an echo chamber, often preaching to the same networks without new eyeballs.

The hook of vanity metrics and engagement is addictive and may well contribute to hesitancy to explore other marketing avenues whose infrastructure doesn’t bait into vanity influencing.

LinkedIn can be very noisy and often seemingly over-run with vacuous, attention-seeking, low-value posts. However, it is also a respected repository of exemplary content on diverse subjects and industries.

This has been evidenced over the last four months with intellectual and business discussions and debate at the highest level.

But not every member dwells daily, often only once or twice a week or fortnight. And this means the eyeball marketing mix needs re-dress. Not all aligned target markets congregates at scale regularly.

To assume they do and you don’t need additional avenues can be naïve at best, foolish at worst.

Earned, paid, owned media

Whether a multinational corporation or a solo entrepreneur, all marketing fits within the earned, paid, owned chart, with a convergence of intersecting multiple delivery touchpoints.

And within numerous platforms, all three happily reside side-by-side.

For example, on all news sites, there will be a mix of paid advertisements, sponsorships, journalist interviews and content contributors.

All with the aim of raising brand equity and eyeballs.

Bigger budgets take a lion’s slice from the paid circle with solo and SMEs concentrating on the owned and earned.

ROI is certainly factored to a financial investment where I see the ROE factored to other input.

But across any pillar the goal is client acquisition.

Owned assets have a particular secure positioning.

For example, websites and direct mail is under your full control, whereas social media is not and at the full whim of other entities. The rug can be pulled from under you at any time.

Protection, positioning and distribution of your brand assets is a commercial insurance policy along with smart marketing.

Takeaways

  1. Understand and research all the options where your target market aligns. There will be a raft of other highly relevant avenues (even if Facebook is your go, it won’t be the only eyeball point). But of course LinkedIn will factor predominately in some areas. Research is key.
  2. Ask your clients and prospects about their own media preferences. What do they read and why? Where do they learn and keep abreast of general business and industry updates and news?
  3. Develop respectful networks with editors and journalists on your expertise and industry. Become a trusted go-to expert to them when they need it and refer others to support.
  4. Engage with PR professionals and learn about media. I guarantee that many SMEs and solo operators on LinkedIn are losing prospects by not adding a few more eggs into their marketing basket. Social proof amplifies when you are endorsed and found on reputable and industry channels.
  5. Distribute your LinkedIn content to a wider audience. Share as a guest blog on other websites and channels, podcasts or videos. Add to your website blog, offer to other niche media outlets (and tweak as necessary). Add to your mailing list and email campaigns.
  6. Consider investing some advertising spend into the right channels and media (other than just SEO). Most media is hurting at present and are often amenable to rate negotiations in many cases.
  7. Review your own cognitive biases. You may not personally use a specific media but your ideal target market may congregate there. Get out of your own way.
  8. Don’t buy into big shiny sales and digital solution pitches. Do your research. Not every media is appropriate for all.  Be critical and discerning with facts as consumer behaviours and trust is ever evolving.
  9. Email networking and outreach. Check the LinkedIn connection numbers and activity levels of a prospect. If it appears that person doesn’t place importance on LinkedIn, then send an introduction via email?

LinkedIn is an essential tool for professional businesses, but it is not the holy grail.

The world, social media and search engines alike are changing at breakneck speed, and with much uncertainty, so don’t put all your marketing eggs into the one basket.

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