Professional social networking platform LinkedIn seemed to commit to programmatic, particularly among the B2B community, when it acquired business data company Bizo for an estimated $175 million Tuesday.
LinkedIn “has a bet on CRM and their investment in Bizo shows they really want to double down on B2B marketers,” said Ray Wang, chairman and principal analyst at Constellation Research.
Bizo brings a vast, pixel-based media exchange and anonymous demographic data on some 120 million-business professionals. This extends LinkedIn’s offsite reach and bolsters the quality of its in-market data.
“We’ve been pushing LinkedIn for a number of our clients like Lenovo and Red Hat and a number of clients have asked for this type of interaction,” said Bob Ray, president, Americas for B2B media-buying and planning agency DWA. “I think they offer up the argument to their user base that they’re still very focused on privacy, but at the same time with Bizo, they’ll offer to marketers a way to connect the dots” through new tools and services.
What’s unique about LinkedIn’s new value proposition, Ray said, is the ability to fold marketing automation systems such as Eloqua or Marketo in with LinkedIn’s own properties.
Last week, CRM and database heavyweight Oracle rolled out support for LinkedIn on its Social Relationship Management platform, responding to demand from B2B marketers for lead and prospect tracking across email, web and social networks.
While recruitment tools account for more than half of LinkedIn revenue (55%), Marketing Solutions accounts for about 25% or $113 million. With LinkedIn’s Bizo purchase, this ratio might soon change.
“Precision in marketing is the next age [of marketing] and that’s why targeting and data is really the most important aspect,” Ray said. “It’s not the amount [of users] you have as it’s the quality of who’s there, especially on the business side. I think that’s where LinkedIn may take some more share of overall marketing spend once they have this ability to go off-network.”
One of the key benefits for B2B marketer clients is the ability to more effectively move leads through the sales funnel, according to Mary Beth Keelty, VP of marketing for agency PM Digital. "With content and relevancy continuing to grow in importance, this combination will offer great opportunities for B2B organizations to [get even more targeted with] media."
DWA's Ray said consolidation of disparate technologies used to track buyer journeys is a welcome move by agencies.
“If we have new segmentation strategies through programmatic ways to buy audiences and connect that to behaviors off the LinkedIn site and on the LinkedIn site and back to (a brand’s) dotcom, it creates a much more predictable outcome for agencies and marketers,” he explained.
As agencies are tasked with providing routine benchmarks for incremental campaign outcomes, “having a solution where more things are interconnected and measurable (will help the brand) move more budget or people to pipeline and deliver revenue,” he said. “I think this is what the deal solves. If LinkedIn hadn’t been thinking about what business buyers and marketers were looking for, they wouldn’t continue to grow.”
But balancing privacy and monetization will need to be a development pillar for LinkedIn, DWA’s Ray pointed out.
“One would have thought they’d double down on HR, but (marketing) appears to be their long-term growth path,” Wang agreed. “It’s concerning for users who may not want to be marketed to, but this appears to be where the balance will be struck between individual privacy and network marketing.”