In this article, we’re going to teach you the fundamentals of creating a LinkedIn marketing funnel. This funnel can be created and run by one person or multiple working together for the same company.
First, we explain the wrong way people use LinkedIn for lead generation. Then we describe the right way to create a LinkedIn marketing funnel that produces a flow of warm, qualified leads and buyers for your business.
Let’s get started…
The Wrong Way to Use LinkedIn
Sales people and marketers use LinkedIn widely as their primary source for sales leads. They search LinkedIn for their ideal prospects, then either manually copy-paste the data into a database, or use an integration with Salesforce, HubSpot, etc. to automatically import the contact data into your CRM.
This creates a pile of unfiltered data downstream that an army of “human hamsters” has to churn through. Your CRM fills up with cold contact data that must be enriched with email and telephone numbers. Then a call team engages EVERYBODY en masse to find a few prospects that show interest. Eventually a few customers will “shake out of the hopper”.
The problem with using LinkedIn this way is it’s rudimentary, inefficient and costly. It creates a ton of data and activity but not many actual qualified leads.
It’s just a “churn and burn” tactic that LinkedIn (thankfully) has begun to throttle back.
The reason this doesn’t work well is because it fails to create engagement with prospects. They may have no idea your company exists before they get a sales call or email. They haven’t shown any demonstrable interest in your offerings, or read anything yet. There is no indication they have a pain you can solve.
LinkedIn is not incorporated with a properly-designed marketing funnel that leads with value and attracts a flow of solid prospects over time. As a result, potential buyers have no opportunity to evaluate your company and its products or services before they are dumped into your CRM and outreached to.
This is hardly a high-impact, efficient way to fill your sales funnel with qualified leads. If you’re using LinkedIn this way we strongly suggest you stop now.
The Intelligent LinkedIn Marketing Funnel
Let’s start with LinkedIn’s strengths:
- The ability to hyper-target potential buyers using Advanced Search and Sales Navigator Lead Builder
- Building a captive network of ideal prospects you can engage repeatedly
- A content platform for publishing, sharing and engaging with authoritative content on specific business challenges (this is low hanging fruit that few sales and marketing teams actually leverage)
As a business leader your job is to increase the the quality and frequency of pre-sale engagement with prospects on LinkedIn. That’s what a LinkedIn marketing funnel is supposed to do. It’s designed to attract and warm up potential customers and lead them to a place where they visit your website or initiate contact as warm leads.
A LinkedIn marketing funnel is an ACTIVE funnel, not a passive one. It requires you and your team to create content and actively distribute it to your networks. It can include elements like webinars and live stream videos that are 100% active. You can also incorporate semi-passive components like LinkedIn ad campaigns. But the core of why a LinkedIn funnel works comes down to taking focused action on a regular (daily and weekly) basis.
You must lead with value by engaging potential buyers with credible, helpful content tuned to their needs. This gives prospects an opportunity to self-select (qualify themselves) as legitimate sales leads before they hit your sales pipeline or website.
The majority of engagement on LinkedIn occurs from Articles, Updates (posts in the stream), 1-to-1 direct messages and videos. These are content pieces that you create and your prospects see and engage with.
LinkedIn Company pages and LinkedIn ads don’t generally create a high engagement level. They are important for branding, but don’t typically lead to direct engagement between decision-makers. LinkedIn Company pages get engagement mostly from job searchers and market researchers.
Private LinkedIn groups can have good engagement at a small scale if they’re managed properly. Most public LinkedIn groups are too large or have devolved into spammy PR channels. It is very difficult and time-consuming to build your own LinkedIn group, and getting real engagement out of existing public groups is a challenge.
Components to Combine Into a LinkedIn Marketing Funnel
If you want to create a digital marketing funnel using LinkedIn to bring in new business, here are the components you will need. You should use as many as you have the resources for.
LinkedIn Articles. These are essential. Your company leaders (or a copywriter that knows your business) will need to publish 5-10 in-depth articles on topics that educate and help your customers. These articles are published on their personal profiles (not the LinkedIn Company page, although they can also be shared there). These are not sales pages, but helpful authority content that discuss how-to, trends, risks and strategy in your domain. At the end of each you include calls to action, such as message me on LinkedIn, visit page X on our website, download this how-to guide, get a discount here, etc. NOTE: These LinkedIn articles can be syndicated (copied in whole or part) from your website.
LinkedIn Profile. This is essential. Optimize your personal profile Summary, About, Featured and Accomplishments sections to present your value proposition / elevator pitch and share high quality content (Linkedin Articles, Posts, Videos, etc.) you’ve created. Include your contact info and any special offer you want to make to prospects. If working as a team then all participants in the LinkedIn funnel should do this with their profiles to multiply impact.
Updates (posts in the stream). Create a series of high-value blog posts on your website with content upgrades (useful opt-in freebies). These post these blog posts to your LinkedIn Updates stream with descriptions about the problem or pains they address and the benefits the reader will get from them. The content can be the same LinkedIn Article content your leaders wrote and posted to their own profiles. You can schedule these posts with a social media scheduler if you’d like.
Sponsored Posts. Traditionally, LinkedIn ads were used to point to an external page, white paper, or webinar signup form. However, you can also sponsor your highest-quality LinkedIn Articles, then use LinkedIn’s specific targeting criteria to reach the best prospects. Once your likes and shares go up, LinkedIn starts to present your Articles broadly in searches and content suggestions, further driving qualified potential buyers and creating some viral sharing. Of course, your Article should have a call to action and one or more links to opt-in offers or webinar signups.
Webinars. Reaching people through webinars is one of the best ways to engage with your market, explain complex value propositions, and develop deep business relationships. Webinars are one of the few lead generation tools where prospects will dedicate time to listen to what you say and ask questions. The key is to keep them educational and high-value, include useful freebies like a calculator or checklist, and position your call to action strategically throughout the webinar. During the webinar sign up you can capture their contact information and follow up personally or via email. Depending on your market, 20-40% of engaged webinar attendees can become qualified sales leads.
Direct Messages. Your leaders should use the LinkedIn direct messenger to distribute content, invite prospects to webinars and events, ask questions, share valuable info, and initiate discovery calls. This is typically best managed by a marketing assistant with the help of LinkedIn automation software. NOTE: Don’t go overboard with automation here — it’s easy to mess it up and look silly in front of a key prospect. Keep messages short, personal and useful.
Live Video Streams. LinkedIn is pushing its video capabilities heavily, and they’ve made huge investments to catch up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. Live streaming video is great for an interactive webinar-like experience with the benefit of it being more impromptu and less scripted for participants. Live streams are best used for existing customers and potential customers that you’ve already segmented by interest. You generally want to keep these small and you don’t want compeititors joining. So keep the invite list small and send invites by DM and email.
Linking the Funnel Together
Unless you link these components together and sequence things right then there’s no funnel.
With each piece of content and activity in the LinkedIn marketing funnel, you need to map out three things:
- What the content piece is
- What is the call to action
- How to promote it
- What’s the expected result
Let’s use a LinkedIn Article as an example. The piece of content is a long form article addressing something interesting or strategic for prospects, focused on solving a pain. The call to action embedded in the article is “visit the Company X website HERE were you can download a full Strategic Market Analysis with 5 year outlook”. The article will be promoted on LinkedIn in two ways: a) by your Head of Sales, COO and Director of Product Management using LinkedIn direct messages to their personal networks, b) via LinkedIn text ads, and c) on your LinkedIn Company page. The expected result is 500 opt-ins to get the Strategic Market Analysis PDF.
Here’s another example using a webinar on LinkedIn. The piece of content is a 45 minute webinar on how to solve employee hiring issues for a tech company. The call to action in the webinar will be “schedule a 15 minute consultation with one of our HR experts to help solve your hiring issues”. The webinar will be promoted on LinkedIn to a) technology HR manager LinkedIn groups (with group admin permission ahead of time), b) via Sponsored Posts in the social stream (with a nice cover image, description and signup link), c) by all Sales, Marketing and HR Consultants on your team by posting to their streams, re-sharing each day and LinkedIn direct messaging and emailing invitations to key prospects. The expected result is 100 webinar sign-ups and 30+ attendees.
Consistency Is Key for a LinkedIn Marketing Funnel
A LinkedIn marketing funnel can be permanent (e.g. LinkedIn Articles) or temporary (e.g. one-time LinkedIn live video stream or annual event). As you build a body of content on LinkedIn you can reuse and re-promote it in many ways over time. You can “flex” your marketing efforts on LinkedIn.
The key to remember is using LinkedIn as a customer acquisition funnel requires both content and consistent focused marketing activity. It requires passive content that you pubish and active campaigns to promote it.
You want your key leaders and employees to be regularly building their networks with ideal target prospects and sharing content with them. Your marketing team should manage your LinkedIn Company page and run ad campaigns to promote articles, webinars and live video streams. You should work with LinkedIn group owners or build your own captive group, and promote to them. Your website should be set up with landing pages and valuable opt-in digital assets to capture new leads into your email system and CRM.
Doing these things consistently can turn LinkedIn into a very productive source of new business. This takes the right team, a well-structured plan and a budget. The return on investment is well worth the investment, as long as you do it consistently over time.
Make sure that each piece of content delivers value, answers a question, or positions you and your company as a market leader. Include an easy means of contacting you each time you publish and share your content to create an evergreen trail back to you that lives forever on LinkedIn.
By consistently creating and distributing valuable content on LinkedIn, you not only establish strong credibility in your market, but engage prospects repeatedly over time. This bridges sales cycles and keeps you “front of mind” for your ideal target buyers.