Energy industry sales processes are, in both service firms and product-oriented businesses, widely varying. Many of the companies that were once focused on serving specific niche markets such as those in need of emergency services now seek ways to expand into different categories such as transportation environmental services, and other related oil and gas projects or alternative energy projects.
Unfortunately, the most popular sales methods seem to play into the belief that it’s either all about “who you know” or who you meet at major trade shows… which is often “who you know”! Even the practice of email, effective though it may be, becomes commonplace and flat in some marketing efforts. Surely, the rise of a robust digital atmosphere must offer energy professionals a different way to get a foot in the door, right?
The short answer: yes. The slightly longer answer: LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s track record suggests long-term staying power as a network, but it’s not its longevity that makes it useful. Rather, LinkedIn opens the door to a several distinct marketing efforts with strong value both independently and in coordination.
#1: LinkedIn’s energy professional volume is through the roof.
Some networks require extensive business strategies that may or may not work as well as you prefer because of difficulty reading the market. The good news is that a quick search for one of a variety of potential job title-specific searches in the energy industry yields clear and instant results. Make no mistake: your decision makers are here and ready to discuss the industry with you.
If you switch your search function to groups, you will find more of the same. From fracking to OCTG to procurement and more, LinkedIn features the people you need to meet.
How to leverage LinkedIn’s energy volume: In determining your social budget (both time and hours), spend extra time leveraging LinkedIn and less time on consumer-based channels. While exceptions do exist, Facebook offers you far more in the way of consumer interaction than it does direct B2B sales. Therefore, if you need to appeal directly to an audience such as gas pump customers, other networks may be the way to go. However, LinkedIn is likely your golden goose.
#2: LinkedIn’s recon efforts are superior to those of all other networks.
Want to get close and personal with a prospect or partner? LinkedIn search is the way in the front door. LinkedIn’s SEO power, clean UI and widespread early adoption made it a useful network for those seeking to conduct business, all within a very short timeframe.
The beauty of LinkedIn is that it not only gives you the full scoop on the majority of people you search, but also offers the nifty opportunity to determine who their friends are. Any profile has a list on the side of the page next to it with the phrase “Users who viewed this profile also viewed”; this list is generally a list of who will be in the room if you meet your intended prospect. LinkedIn is the only network to reliably predict this.
How to leverage LinkedIn’s recon ability: Bonus points for those who even log out before viewing the biggest prospects in an effort to maintain anonymity. Purchase of a premium package will accomplish the same without requiring the user to do so, so depending on your budget, it may be a good idea to purchase your package for your sales manager. Higher level membership also allows for greater searchability of the network and direct communication with prospects.
#3: LinkedIn makes rapport-building easy.
Most marketing technologies are innovative when the originally launch and lose steam with use due to their entering the commonplace marketing toolkit. Some maintain strength to some degree; email sticks out, for example. However, the best methods are those that are still somewhat new to the business community.
While LinkedIn may not have been born yesterday, it’s still a toddler to any. Approaching those you have connected with by asking to further your relationship via phone call or other method is a great way to advance the conversation. This tactic only works on networks where connections are less guarded and LinkedIn is the highest volume site with a low barrier to access (gatekeeper factor).
How to leverage LinkedIn’s rapport-building capabilities as a network: Aside from the obvious direct outreach, consider scouring groups for leads. Groups are often aptly named by what you are looking for. In addition, this method works extremely effectively for pitches. Like any pitch, you still must learn about the media publication you want to address, but LinkedIn’s recon (as previously stated) allows you to find the editors and journalists you really want. With a little work, you can reach in, establish a relationship, compliment their work, discuss what you do, and eventually establish another wonderful distribution stream for clients news in a relatively short amount of time. It’s like working the phone… but on steroids, because it’s digital.