How LinkedIn Brought $72,000 in Sales for PostcardMania

social media case studiesThese days, it doesn’t take long to find a Facebook or Twitter success story. Businesses that wisely use the tools see a payoff.

But LinkedIn? The stodgier cousin of the group? Not so much.

Yet for PostcardMania, a fast-growing, Florida-based postcard marketing company, unlocking LinkedIn has been a bottom-line booster. It’s not just for job searchers anymore.

Every week, the company consistently counts at least two dozen fresh leads coming directly from LinkedIn – more than Facebook and Twitter deliver.

That’s added up to more than $72,000 in revenue just from LinkedIn.

How do they do it? Here, PostcardMania shares its formula.

Hint: It’s about attractive content offered at just the right time.

PostcardMania

PostcardMania consistently creates high-value content – such as the CEO's blog – to drive people to its site.

Organization: PostcardMania.com

Social Media Handles & Stats:

Highlights:

  • Using LinkedIn, PostcardMania generated 600 quality leads – with contacts providing their information – over the course of just over a year.
  • LinkedIn leads resulted in more than $72,000 in actual business.
  • While Twitter and Facebook bring in traffic, LinkedIn pulls in actual leads.

A Content Marketing Pioneer

When Joy Gendusa started PostcardMania in 1998 with just a computer and phone, she combined two powerful ideas:

  1. Give away free and valuable marketing advice that was typically only available from pricey ad agencies
  2. Offer affordable direct-mail printing for small businesses
home page

Since the beginning, PostcardMania has used free advice from on-staff sales and marketing consultants as a major customer acquisition strategy.

Now with 175 employees and $19 million in annual revenue, it’s a model that continues to serve the company well.

Today, Gendusa’s free-advice strategy extends beautifully into social media channels. In addition to taking its own advice – mailing 140,000 postcards every week promoting its services – the company actively participates on major social media sites.

However, the company’s success with social media was not a direct route. Early attempts with a couple of marketing agencies added fans, followers and LinkedIn connections but only brought in a lead or two every couple of months.

“My boss said, ‘I can’t afford this. I need ROI (return on investment)’,” said Ferris Stith, PR & social media manager at PostcardMania.

This past August, the company brought social media marketing in-house, putting Stith in charge. She and Gendusa realized the potential of LinkedIn to connect with their audience – small businesses like dental offices, repair service companies and insurance brokers.

discussion

LinkedIn has become a solid lead generator, topping Facebook and Twitter for the company.

By experimenting, Stith arrived at a winning process for LinkedIn that truly generates leads for this business-to-business company:

#1: Create compelling content

First, you need attractive content to move people from LinkedIn to your site. PostcardMania actively creates articles, blog posts, reports and customer case studies for the different industries it targets.

“Content makes all the difference,” Stith said. “Where I’m sending the person determines how many leads I’m going to get.”

The company packs every piece of content with valuable information. No fluff. Then, Stith finds multiple opportunities to share links back to that content.

About 80 percent of the time – usually with special reports – links go to a landing page requiring the person to fill out a form to access the content, turning that contact into an official lead.

dental report

Special reports for each industry are among the top lead generators.

#2: Establish your face and voice

Stith and Gendusa agreed that Gendusa, as CEO, would be the face of PostcardMania on LinkedIn, but Stith would post. Stith spent months learning Gendusa’s voice and absorbing her marketing knowledge in order to contribute as Gendusa would.

Stith posts and responds as Gendusa for all inquiries that are not personal messages to the CEO.

comment

Stith posts as CEO Gendusa when answering questions.

#3: Build contacts and message them

When Gendusa receives connection requests, Stith reviews the person’s information and usually accepts the invite. After that, she connects one-on-one with the individual with a friendly message.

“I’ll say, ‘I see that you work at this company. Are you the owner? How’s business going?’” Stith said. She keeps conversations going by often ending with a question.

Stith stresses that she stays very conversational, and never salesy. She also keeps the messages about the other company and their needs, rather than talking about Gendusa or PostcardMania.

“Hard selling is not going to work,” Stith said. “I see so much of it… The post has to be super-helpful. Give real information.”

In the course of conversation, she might point a dentist to a gallery of visual examples of other postcards or to a video and/or written case study showing how another dentist brought in new business with postcard marketing.

“Case studies and sample galleries are really successful depending on the conversation,” Stith said.

sierra dental

PostcardMania shares links to written and video case studies in the specific industries of those they connect with on LinkedIn.

postcard-gallery

When contacts aren't sure what to put on a postcard, Stith shares links from LinkedIn back to a gallery of samples.

Or, Stith might also point the contact to a special report just for that industry, such as the “8 Ways to Build a Dental Empire” piece.

“Usually when people read that report, dentists call and usually buy pretty fast,” she said.

discussion

Special reports, tailored to industries, are particularly big traffic generators.

#4: Join groups and contribute

Next, Stith joins LinkedIn groups for the various types of small businesses the company targets, and judiciously contributes to discussions and questions about marketing.

Within groups, Stith uses the LinkedIn “Discussions” feature about once per week to share valuable content that links to PostcardMania.com. Fellow group members can comment or ask questions right on those discussions.

Just recently, the company generated the most leads yet (53) from a piece of content – with the blog post, “8 Ways to Grow Your Local Business for FREE!” Each of the eight ways was a “snippet” with links to get more information, each of which collected the person’s contact information.

discussion

Stith posted a link to "8 Ways to Grow Your Local Business for FREE!" in all the groups she's part of.

blog post

Traffic coming from LinkedIn to the blog post ended up generating 53 new leads.

If someone seems like a good prospect based on his or her profile and comments, Stith will click the “Reply Privately” link to take the conversation offline and connect with that person.

“I introduce myself in a way that’s not off-topic,” she said. “‘Joy I agree with you on ABC.’ Then I ask questions.”

Additionally, PostcardMania answers marketing questions posted on various forums.

comment

By answering questions and including links to relevant content, PostcardMania connects with prospects in target industries.

#5: Cold-message contacts

Also part of her regular LinkedIn group activity, Stith “cold messages” contacts who might be promising prospects.

Again, given the nature of LinkedIn, she’s careful to be conversational, not promotional.

“I’ll introduce myself and say, ‘I see you’re in this industry’ and ask a question like, ‘how’s your business these days?’ It’s a very light touch introduction.”

600 Leads – Just From LinkedIn

PostcardMania meticulously tracks all leads. In roughly the past year, the company generated approximately 600 leads, which Stith said amounts to approximately $72,000 in actual business – all just from LinkedIn.

She notes that their close ratios for social media match those of traditional media activities such as postcards, indicating that social media does deliver quality leads.

However, not all social media pulls the same weight. While Stith uses Facebook and Twitter, her B2B audience responds best to LinkedIn.

“Twitter generates traffic to our site but doesn’t necessarily convert,” she said. “Facebook is the more social aspect. Conversion on them visiting isn’t nearly as high as LinkedIn.”

How to Unlock Leads With LinkedIn

  1. Share truly attractive free content – Contacts are conscious of fluff. Give them real advice they can use.
  2. Don’t be salesy! – Keep the focus on offering real advice and value, or risk turning off prospects and being flagged as promotional in groups.
  3. Keep the conversation going – End each message with a question.
  4. Track your leads – PostcardMania uses Google Analytics to meticulously track all traffic from LinkedIn to content.

What do you think? Is your social media marketing generating real leads beyond just fans and followers? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Casey Hibbard

Casey Hibbard is Social Media Examiner's case study writer. She is also president of Compelling Cases Inc. and author of Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.thesocialsyndicate.com Mnaughton

    Great post Casey! Linkedin groups have been very useful for lead gen. I often vacillate between Linkedin and Jigsaw to verify current contacts and was thought Salesforce’s acquisition of Jigsaw  was a good move and has been extremely useful personally.

  • http://treasurycafe.blogspot.com/ david k waltz

    Casey,

    Thank you for the information and tips. I often visit LinkedIn groups and try to participate when I can add something to the issue, either an insight, a different perspective, or an example. If done honestly, people responde, either connecting with you, visiting the blog, etc.

  • Barbara O’Connell

    I’m wondering what people think about someone else posting as the CEO. It seems social media culture generally leans toward frowning on that practice and emphasizes transparency. Thoughts?

  • DonnaGilliland

    Casey, great case study article. I am a believer in the power of LinkedIn. 

    Love the the strategy discussed in #4 – joining groups where your target demographic is living. It’s a great opportunity to help your current and potential customer base. It is truly about giving rather than receiving. Good content helps your group and gets their attention.

  • caseyhibbard

    Thanks Maeve! I need to check out Jigsaw myself.

  • caseyhibbard

    Appreciate your comment Donna. It’s a tricky balance to join groups and stay non-promotional but Postcardmania seems to have found the right tone.

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Hi Barbara – this was something we had to mull over for quite some time and I wasn’t handed the reigns initially. I think it depends on the company, their objectives, the viewpoint of the CEO, etc. For us, it seemed most logical to have me posting on behalf of Joy for several reasons… Joy travels quite often and is constantly inundated with emails, messages, calls, etc. and she was getting dozens of messages and comments on LinkedIn every day, she couldn’t keep up and people weren’t getting their questions answered or the help they sought after. So when I started managing her profile, I would type up an answer and email it to Joy to approve/edit. I did this for months and I still do it to this day.

    Everything I post within LinkedIn is pre-approved by Joy and when I post comments or respond to marketing questions, they are all approved content by Joy. If she receives anything personal or if someone asks a question I’m not quite sure how to answer – I’ll send to Joy, she responds to me and then I’ll post it for her. This has been successful for us because I’m able to streamline the communication channel whereas if I weren’t managing it this way, people would be waiting far longer for responses and interested leads would fall off the grid.

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    You got it Donna! In talking with business owners and other marketing professionals looking to become more active on LinkedIn, most of them mention joining groups within their industry. I tell them go ahead, it’s great to connect with peers and swap ideas, build relationships to get referrals, etc. but if you’re looking to get leads interested in your product or service, you need to be where your leads are – they’re most likely not hanging out in the groups where your peers reside…

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Same here! I signed up, but I haven’t been active at all.

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    One important factor I’d like to add is that when I join a group, I read ALL the group rules, including any discussions where group rules and guidelines may be posted. I consider it a privilege to be a member of these groups and it’s important for me and the rapport of my CEO and PostcardMania to not do anything that would violate these rules. I suggest you do the same!

  • http://www.aposterioris.com Giovanni Benavides

    Nice soft selling techniques but it took her many years to be successfull and a lot of trial and error. I have read several times that a successful business will take about 5 years to be established. Giving your personal time and expertise away for free in the initial start up phase will make question your sanity. For those thinking about it, start it part time! It will be less stressfull!

  • Michael Raia

    We’ve been trying to start using LinkedIn to market more organically (we have seen some success with their ad platform) and we do a lot of content marketing already. However, I’ve had a hard time figuring out just WHERE in LinkedIn to post content apart from our own company page. As far as I can tell, posting your own content in groups is frowned upon. Posting content to my personal network is fine, but my network really isn’t our target audience. Where are people posting content?

  • Justin

    Thanks for sharing your successful LinkedIn game plan. Do you ever receive any negative feedback from people who want to read something you’ve shared, so they click the link and find themselves on a landing page requiring contact info first? For me, this changes the content from FREE to having a cost that I’m not willing to pay and often stops me from clicking links from that source again. Thank you again for this great – FREE – information. :-)

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Yes it did take us a while, but there weren’t many successful B2B companies out there in which I could look to for advice. I had to figure it out on my own. Now I know what I need to do for this to be successful for PostcardMania. There was a lot of trial and error from content to communication tone. I tested posts more times than I can remember!

    I’ve been with the company for over 4 years and I took over the social media full-time back in Aug 2010 and started seeing lead results of this magnitude around March of this year. I know average 35-50 leads per week. Had a highest ever statistic last week at 60 leads.

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Majority of the time, no. Every once in a while I’ll see a comment with something like, “nice way to build your database” lol. But I’ve only seen that maybe three times in the past 8 months.

    The content we provide is rich with helpful, valuable and educational marketing information. If someone wants it, they’re happy to fill out the form. If they don’t, no problem. We also have a dedicated marketing rep who handles all social media leads, and based on which report, article or free content they download, our rep will handle them accordingly. This way she can follow up quickly on the “hot” leads and not bombard the leads who are less interested in our services.

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Hi Michael – I mostly post within groups. Before I start posting in a group, I read all the rules and guidelines, I don’t want to violate any rules and get kicked out of the group. I learned the hard way :)

    In addition to following group rules, the way you communicate and present your content makes a big difference. Pitching never works.

  • caseyhibbard

    It’s also worth noting that Postcardmania’s revenue totals from LinkedIn are up considerably from when this story was completed just a week or so ago. They will be closing in on six figures soon!

  • 19MYLewis06

    thanks for sharing Casey, great case study and success. please check out an article published today, Nielsen/McKinsey Study Reveals How Brands Get More Love On Social Networking Sites.
    http://strategyiseverything.blogspot.com/ 

  • Morqos77

    smart policies !
    drago 

  • Scott Brand

    How were you able to create content on the dental profession when you are not in that specific industry?

  • Idahorucinclub

    Thanks for the post. I have been using Linkedin to generate traffic to my sites and it works magic.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JKUTS7VTBX2GIVPKQGV7YXUWOA Marianne

    I have the same question as Scott Brand.  As someone who recently started working for a marketing company myself, I’m faced with the same challenge of communicating with people in other industries who might need marketing help.  But I don’t know much about those other industries and find it hard to contribute to discussions in those groups (if I’m lucky enough to get into those groups that I obviously have little connection to).  Do people in those groups of which you are a member tend to talk much about marketing to begin with?  I’m just overwhelmed with the vastness of what’s out there.  Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/AlvinDonovan Alvin Donovan Equity

    nice

  • http://twitter.com/AlvinDonovan Alvin Donovan Equity

    nice case study- well written article

  • http://www.singfreenow.com Mark Bosnian

    I tell clients all the time how LinkedIn can serve as a lead generator, but it takes time, effort and strategy. Then when they try in on their own, they give up early, so that is where we come in. We assist them or take over so that they can see what LinkedIn really has to offer in lead generation. Great post!

  • Lilly Liu

    Very informative piece..Just had one question..what type of snippet did you use to collect the person’s contact information?

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Hey Alvin – We haven’t experienced any issue or been approached on this. I will take a look at what you’re talking about though, thanks for the info!

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Hey Scott – We have over 3,000 dental clients and know what works (and what doesn’t) in regards to marketing for the dental industry. The information is based on the real results of other successful dental direct mail marketing campaigns.

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Marianne – When I get into a group, I take a look at what the current discussions are and there’s quite a few of them talking about things like, “how do I get more customers?” or “what will get me new patients”, etc. This is a perfect opportunity to chime in and start giving them some tips on what they can do to promote themselves. No matter what industry, everyone needs to market to get business. Even if you’re not in that industry, if you just start thinking about their target market and what form of communication would best reach that target market.

    What type of marketing services does your company offer?

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Hi Lilly – We have a full-time programmer and we design and develop all of our landing pages and forms.

  • http://twitter.com/AlvinDonovan Alvin Donovan Equity

    i think a lot of ppl do this- most busy xecutives need to hire a social media person to manage a good campaign but it is actually against the linkedin terms of service. two DONTS:

    1. make sure you and the other person are never on the same account at once.
    2. dont go to your account, sign in, then sign out and go to the other persons account. wash and scrub between accounts if u follow :-)

    i understand the reasons they do this but i dont agree with it personally if you are actually doing this with the right intent.  of course everyone should always follow the LI terms of service at all time and you should always check with your own IT department and advisors.

    anyway ferris good on your for your successes and thanks for being an example for others to learn from :-)

  • http://www.ExpandTheBrand.net Tia Dobi

    Appreciate the story ~ I love LinkedIn – As a solopreneur, new clients find me and hire me directly (via LI) frequently and consistently. LinkedIn stodgy? Not in my vocabulary. Writing my clients’ LI profiles (whether it’s part of their resume package or other) is #1 on my marketing list. I suggest to every teenager and colleg kid I meet “Get on LinkedIn today.” Peace and profits! ~ Tia D.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JKUTS7VTBX2GIVPKQGV7YXUWOA Marianne

    Thanks.  My company does direct mail postcards, the same as you, lol.  We’re not quite as big, but you definitely seem like someone we could learn from :)

  • http://www.ExpandTheBrand.net Tia Dobi

    Hi Georgia ~ First and foremost,  there are many pistons (line items) to hit when writing an ad tohelp ensure it’s ROI success. What checklist are you using prior to placement? Tv, radio, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc etc etc etc etc – these are simply vehicles, platforms for message placement. The key is in the messaging. Peace and profits, Tia D.

  • http://www.best-web-hosting-companies.com/ Kavya Hari

    Worthy post!!! without any doubt on here :)

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Oh cool! Feel free to give me a holler if ever need any help! ferris@postcardmania.com

  • http://www.postcardmania.com Ferris Stith

    Oh yes, I definitely follow these! Thanks for the tips and for looking out Alvin :) Do you use LinkedIn to get leads? What is it you do?

  • http://www.i95dev.com/ecommerce-magento Henry Louis

    It is very interesting to read. I have surprised a little bit. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • pete pierson

    I don’t see why someone writing for the CEO is any different than a speech writer writing for a prominent figure; a marketing agency developing and implementing a plan for their client/brand; or a copy writer writing a letter for a sports figure that he signs and sends to a fan.  If it is well written/produced/approved and the consumer of the message finds value, does it matter?

  • http://www.tiptechnews.com/ Rameez Ramzan Ali

    Actually, my website based on services for Facebook application and iPhone application development so how can i use this techniques in my LinkedIn account.

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  • http://twitter.com/aaronzakowski Aaron Zakowski

    Great tips! I’m excited to give it a try for my business soon.

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  • http://mailrevolution.com/ Whitney

    I knew LinkedIn was a great resource, but I never thought it could be used so effectively. I’d love to try this… very helpful article.

  • http://www.businessgatewayinc.com/ Helena Zwarts

    Excellent article – found it via a LinkedIn group – so pleased that I followed the link!

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