How we used LinkedIn to refine our virtual marketing offer

Once we had ironed out the operational creases with our initial clients, it was time to get feedback on how the offering was presented to our target audience.

Both services are B2B and while not what we would consider ‘high ticket’, at between £1800 – £2000 per month, are out of reach of many micro and small businesses. We felt LinkedIn provided an excellent opportunity to gain further feedback on the virtual marketing service offering as our target audience could easily be identified and engaged, and were more open to business communication than other channels due to the nature of the platform.

The Target Audience

  • Managing Directors
  • In Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside of Greater Manchester.
  • Turnover in excess of £500,000
  • In our second degree network (to leverage mutual contacts)

The Strategy

Our objective was to gain valuable feedback on how the offer was presented as well as the pages used to convey that offering.

In order to do that we reached out to 100 people within the target audience through LinkedIn, and asked them for their professional opinion and feedback directly. We would target second degree contacts to leverage mutual connections and encourage a response.

The initial gathering of prospects, connection requests and messaging was automated but personal.

The Process

  1. Target audience criteria set
  2. Automated collection of profiles
  3. Manual sift of prospect list to ensure validity
  4. Automated connection request and personal message to 100 prospects
  5. Manual reply to each person who responded
  6. Feedback received, recorded and acted on
  7. Personal thank you to each respondent

The Results

  • 753 Initial prospects identified
  • 100 shortlisted
  • 100 connection requests and personal messages sent
  • 32 responses and feedback

 

32% response rate

 

The Feedback

  • The feedback on the offering itself was overly positive.
  • Respondents unanimously commented on the ‘virtual’ offering idea positively, and made recommendations on how better to communicate the benefits.
  • There were several (embarrassing!) mistakes on punctuation and highlighting the need for objective proofreading before taking anything to market.
  • The pricing was generally considered competitive, with a number of respondents commenting on similar but differently packaged services of local providers being approximately 30% higher.
  • Whilst respondents clearly liked the comparison offered between an in-house permanent staff member and the virtual offering, they asked for more clarification on the exact specifics and for it to be represented in percentage format.
  • There were several recommendations made to remove the focus on ‘cost saving’, as it was felt by respondents that this would attract ‘penny pinchers’ and people who are not committed to the development of their business and investment in strategic marketing capability.
  • The combination of working on-site and remotely was a clear winner with respondents, as a completely remote option did not appeal to them.
  • There were recommendations made around the structure of the page and size of the font.
  • All feedback was considered, with the vast majority of it acted on and common themes running throughout. Overall, the feedback given was reassuring and there were a number of referrals made to prospective clients at this stage.  

Validity

Respondents were asked initially to provide honest and objective feedback to help the development of the service and anyone who was considered ‘too close’ of a connection or we had personally met was excluded in the manual sift of prospects.

We stressed the need for honesty and there was no incentive for response.

We relied completely on being extremely polite and the good nature of those we contacted to earn feedback.

Lessons Learned

Combining LinkedIn and the ‘personal touch’ whilst still automating some of process provided an excellent compromise between effectiveness and time efficiency.

We consider a 32% response rate without incentive and 3 referrals for a new service an excellent result and have made it part of our strategy to market the services to a wider audience and with a sales focus.

Whilst it may have added an additional 2 weeks onto our launch, we feel that we have increased the relevance of our marketing message and the way in which we communicate the benefits of the two offerings dramatically.

This final stage of refining our offering not only supported our initial market research, but gave us increased confidence in the investment we have made in the virtual marketing services.

 

How we tested the virtual marketing concept

We listened

If it’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s to listen to our customers. If you boil down marketing to its core elements and principles, that’s exactly what it is; listening to people, understanding them and then solving their problems. It’s what we teach our clients in workshops and in consultancy, and what we practice with our own campaigns.

The virtual marketing services project was born out of the need to solve our customers problems, but the traditional consultancy model just wasn’t working for us (or them!) any more, and we had to have a sit down and reconsider what exactly it was that we offered our customers.

Identifying the problem

For years we’ve acted as consultants for SMEs across the North of England across various industries in b2b and b2c markets. Often we’d work from customer offices, working to develop strategies and campaigns to generate them more revenue, retain their existing client base, bring them into the 21st century or solve specific issues.

One of the major issues we faced was bringing their marketing team (or sometimes individual) on-side. The problem with bringing in a consultant to assist in developing marketing capability we often found, was that the person(s) responsible for marketing within the company felt threatened. Imagine if your boss all of a sudden brings in someone to do or assist in the job you’ve been doing. It probably isn’t going to feel great.

We found that we often struggled to get ‘buy in’ with these people, and we had no authority to lead, manage or hold them to account when work wasn’t done to the required standard. In some cases they actively sabotaged campaigns or dismissed valid ideas out of a misconceived notion of self-preservation.

Another problem we faced was fluid nature of consultant or contractor hours. Businesses often found that they were paying more than they were expecting, as campaigns took longer than predicted to complete or ‘mission creep’ happened and more hours were invoiced.

This was far from ideal for our clients, and it wasn’t ideal for us either. There’s nothing worse than an invoice being paid begrudgingly, late or not at all. Even if results are brilliant, there’s nothing like an unexpected high invoice to put a dampener on the mood. We want our clients to be happy and feel they have received value for money.

That’s why we sat down and thought about what we could do better.

Solving the problem

For years we’ve worked alongside businesses that have used ‘virtual assistant’, ‘virtual office’ or ‘virtual receptionist’ services. These are usually completely remote workers, that offer a high level of service at a significantly reduced price when compared with hiring in-house. They manage to do this passing cost-saving on from lower overheads, servicing a number of clients at the same time and leveraging opportunities made available by technology.

The idea intrigued us, and there are (still at present!) very few people offering the service. We didn’t feel that 100% remote working was conducive to good marketing, unless it was task or technical orientated such as conducting on-page SEO. We wanted to be more than that.

We played with the idea and created the Virtual Marketing Director and Virtual Marketing Manager solutions. They provide a combination of on-site and remote working, and target specific needs. Adding strategic capability to businesses that would otherwise not have it. 

It allowed us to come into a business with a level of authority in the eyes of the current marketing team, with clear responsibilities to manage and hold them to account on tasks or projects; thus removing one of our main issues when working as consultants.

Rather than working from a time based pricing system, they utilise set monthly pricing, and focus more on scope of service than the number of hours worked. While this isn’t a highly scalable service for our business, it does mean we can have more impact on a smaller number of quality clients. 

As such, the people we work with go through a selection and scoring process to make sure that we are firstly going to be a good fit, and secondly that we can make a positive impact on their business.

Testing the solution

Before openly marketing the services we needed to test them.

We leveraged referrals through our network and tested the services on 3 new clients at a discounted rate over a 10 month period. Ironing out operational creases, identifying new opportunities and taking on valuable feedback from our clients.

It was at times a frustrating process, taking ideas back to the drawing board and ensuring we didn’t fall back into the traditional consultancy style of service. But we were happy with the results, and most importantly so were our clients. 

The next step was to take this revised version of our services to people in our target audience and outside of our initial referral network.

 

See how we refined it further using LinkedIn >

Jack Barron

DirectorInvoke Media