How B2B Marketers Can Play the LinkedIn Long Game
BY John Miller
May 18, 2023

As B2B marketers, we know that Linkedin is a channel we need to activate. Everyone we want to reach is on there—more than 760 million users as of this very second. Undoubtedly, your customers are there. They go there for information, inspiration and to stay up to speed on their specific industry.

LinkedIn likes to say it’s a place where business gets done.

However, it’s also in danger of becoming a swampy, smarmy, sycophantic forum of yuck. As we’ve seen on every social platform, when everyone has a microphone, things can get chaotic in a hurry. That can make it difficult for B2B companies to find the balance between standing out from the pack while also demonstrating value, showing some personality and staying true to your brand. 

This post is intended to help you navigate this fine line and have success on LinkedIn.

Understanding the “LinkedIn long game”

A quick fix would be fantastic, but it just doesn’t exist for B2B firms. You’re not selling cheeseburgers; you’re selling big ticket items that have complex sales cycles. Getting up in the grill of people you haven’t even met yet and trying to set up a sales call is not cool (I know that is typically something a salesperson would do rather than a marketer, but your company needs to all be in alignment, so I’m saying it here.) Marketing needs to push back on the sales mentality of “Now”—yes, we all need to start working and there is much to do, but B2B marketing on LinkedIn is the proverbial marathon, not a sprint.

The rush to a sales call is like proposing marriage on a first date. And yet people do it every day.

Don’t act desperate.

Show some confidence.

When you’re working for a company that has a six to 12-month sales cycle, you’re not going to make that sale today. Let it breathe a little.

Playing the LinkedIn long game is the right strategy for companies with a complex sales process. You (theoretically) got into the world of B2B because you liked the idea of exploring, learning and then leveraging the complexities of this world. It’s a cool puzzle to try to solve.

When we play the long game, we’re focused on sparking conversations that ultimately lead to trust-based relationships. Trust always comes before the sale, and relationships that are worthwhile always require work.

So, let’s get crackin’, and let’s be patient!

Getting everyone’s LinkedIn profile in ship-shape

First things first—every customer-facing employee who’s going to be active on behalf of the company needs to have an up-to-date, professional LinkedIn profile. This means:

  • Having a recent, professional profile picture
  • Focus on the headline and the summary section. This is all above-the-fold territory, so it’s the first impression you’re making
  • Ensuring that their job titles, both past and present are accurate
  • Don’t forget to include education and volunteer work; often these things help to create a connection with someone you don’t yet know
  • No typos!

This is just the tip of the iceberg—we have deeper thoughts on updating your team’s LinkedIn profiles in this post.

Rules of the road for the LinkedIn long game

As a friend likes to say, “quality and quantity are not opposites.” It is possible to do both, but it is work, and there is definitely tension between the two. Fact: Those who post more frequently are going to get higher levels of engagement and have more people involved in meaningful conversations. Fact: Unless their posts are lame, or obvious, or obnoxious, or … just not worthy of other people’s attention.

So, post frequently, but focus on making every post the best that it can be. If you can, post three times a week. One Friend of Scribewise advocates posting more than once a day. Yes, really. But if your quality is slipping and you’re starting to post things simply for the sake of posting, reassess. 

Empower and incentivize employees to be active. It’s not just you—every company struggles to get its employees active on LinkedIn. Only 3 percent of employees share content about their company, but those shares are responsible for driving a 30 percent increase in engagement with the company. This is a puzzle worth solving! Data from LinkedIn furthers this case: 

  • An employee’s network is, on average, 10 times larger than a company’s follower base
  • When team members share a post, it’s seen as 3x more authentic
  • When employees share content they see a click-through rate that is 2x higher than what their company sees

There is gold in them thar hills, but it is difficult to unearth it. Consider ways to incentivize team members—especially sales and other customer-facing folks—to get more active on LinkedIn; some will willingly do it because they’ll realize it’s good for their personal brand, their career and, ultimately, their compensation. Others will need a nudge, so try to figure out a program that works for your culture.

  • Personal over corporate. One way to get employees to engage more on LinkedIn is to not dictate what they share. Don’t try to exert too much control; after all, they own their own profile. One way to get them to be more active is to give them (relatively) free reign as to what they want to post—keep any guidelines loose. Steer them toward alignment with your company’s philosophy and POV, but otherwise let them post about their specific area of expertise and interest. 
  • But don’t be too personal. This isn’t Facebook or Instagram. Be human, but be a professional human. Occasionally, your kids or your mother might have done something that you can spin into a business lesson to be learned. But don’t try too hard, and don’t do it too often.
  • Focus on generating conversations. Playing the long game is all about building trust. That requires plenty of human interaction, which demands give-and-take. Ask questions. Comment on others’ posts. Take a position, but don’t be close-minded. This isn’t Twitter. You want to create engagement and build trust—something that takes time. One thing we’ve come to believe is that people who express absolute certainty on anything are almost always wrong. Embrace the gray—or better yet, the purple—in this world others portray as black and white.  
  • Lead with smart content. Sure, people might like that picture of your gang at a trade show, but is that really creating a connection with your future customers? There’s a lot of mediocre content filling up LinkedIn newsfeeds, something that is both a challenge and an opportunity for those of us trying to break through. We recommend focusing on consumable thought leadership and helpful advice. 

Smart thinking about your industry or the latest trends showcases your smart thinking. Pro tip: Try to avoid the habit of simply posting one-line posts that link back to a blog post on your website; LinkedIn’s algorithm prioritizes content that does not take the reader off the LinkedIn platform.

More and more, people are sharing about a problem they faced and going into significant detail about how they solved it. In the past, you may have been afraid to say you struggled with something, but your customers today appreciate the honesty it takes to admit a struggle, and the brains it takes to solve the problem. 

  • Bring a helpful mindset. As in any other relationship or conversation in your life, if your focus is on your wants and needs, people won’t be all that interested. If you’re focused on helping others to do their job or providing insight that assists them in some way, you’re more likely to find some common ground. Start there, and don’t worry about whether or not someone is going to buy from you this quarter—they’re not.
  • Experiment with different content types. Short posts. Long posts. Video. Quizzes. Content curated from other trusted sources. Change it up and monitor over time to see what seems to resonate best.
  • Chill out with the InMails. Every day, I get InMails from people I don’t know. That’s fine—but they’re always, and I mean always, trying to sell me something. Please don’t do this. It doesn’t work. This entire post is about taking your time and not rushing to the sale, so don’t turn into a rabid dog just because you get five free InMails per month with your LinkedIn subscription. If you’re going to use InMail, treat it as a connection tool, not a sales tool, and follow all the rules of the road above. 

A lot of LinkedIn’s marketing is focused on helping people sell, and sales and marketing leaders get excited because they think it’s some type of magic key that will unlock success. The truth is it isn’t magical—it’s a platform that you need to work in a smart way to build momentum over time.

Let’s talk about growing your company.

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