How to do free B2B market research using LinkedIn

Market research helps us define our product, or message and our audience. The more we know about our market the more likely our marketing efforts will resonate with our audience. In previous articles, we looked at how we could use Facebook audience insights to better understand our buyer demographics, in this article we look at how we can do B2B market research using LinkedIn ads. Both Facebook and LinkedIn give us access to great insights for free. These valuable insights which would have previously required time and money to gather, are now available from the comfort of your desk. 

Why use LinkedIn for B2B market research?

Facebook is where we live as consumers. It’s where we connect with friends and family. LinkedIn is where we live as professionals. It's where we connect with our colleagues and peers. This gives LinkedIn a clear advantage when doing B2B market research. Let’s dive in and see what we can learn about our market using the free tools that LinkedIn ads provide.

Setting up a sample LinkedIn ad to get access to the audience tool

The first thing we need to do is start setting up a sample campaign in LinkedIn, this gives us access to the tools that we need. 

Step 1: Login to campaign manager

LinkedIn makes its audience insights available via the LinkedIn ads platform. To access it you need to log in to campaign manager. You don’t need to have an ad running or pay for any ads to access tools. You can access campaign manager via this direct link.

Step 2: Select your LinkedIn ad type

Our  aim is to use LinkedIn advertising products to do market research  rather than run an ad. On the screen I will choose text ads as this is the easiest type of ad to create.

Step 3: Set campaign name

Again what you name your campaign in this context doesn’t matter as will be using the tools for research. I called the campaign “research campaign”.

Step 4: Create a sample ad

The final step is to create a sample add. Again the content of the ad doesn’t matter it won’t be going live.

LinkedIn ads audience creation

Very much like Facebook, LinkedIn allows us to create audiences that we want to target. As we create our audience we will start seeing information about that audience. LinkedIn won’t tell us who our ideal audience is but we can use the tools to see how big a potential market we have based on the parameters we select.

Step 5: Set a target location

To begin we need to select a target location. This can be a country, state, city or town. In the example I’ve set my target location as London. I can see my total potential audience in London is 3.8 million LinkedIn members.

Step 6: Start filtering your audience

 LinkedIn offers us very specific and business-focused targeting options. Compared to Facebook the options offered are very much more relevant to B2B advertising. For example, Facebook gave us the option to filter down based on relationship status, we don’t see that here. The screenshot shows all the various options you have to start targeting your audience with.

What’s can we learn from LinkedIn audience creation?

LinkedIn audience creation will tell us how big a segment is. If you want to start running ads you could then target different segments with different messages to see what resonates most with that audience. The information LinkedIn audience creation gives us isn’t as detailed as what we would get from Facebook. Let’s go through and see what information we can glean about your audience using LinkedIn ads.

How many potential customers are there in my target geography based on business size?

 To begin I have set target business size to between 1 and 10 employees. LinkedIn tells me that in London there are over 310,000 potential people I can target using LinkedIn who fall into the category of working in a business that has between 1 and 10 employees. Note that on LinkedIn there is a category of "myself", in addition to 1-10 employees.

How many potential customers are there in my target geography based on business size?

 To begin I have set target business size to between 1 and 10 employees. LinkedIn tells me that in London there are over 310,000 potential people I can target using LinkedIn who fall into the category of working in a business that has between 1 and 10 employees. Note that on LinkedIn there is a category of "myself", in addition to 1-10 employees.

There are a number of criteria which you can use individually or stack in order to define your audience. LinkedIn will tell you how big that audience is,  and this has multiple uses in a market research context here are some examples of what he could learn by using links in ads as a B2B market research tool.

  •  How big is a market in given geographies?
  • What percentage of people in a given industry have a specific job title or job function?
  •  What is the gender breakdown in a given industry?
  •  What type of skills do people working within specific companies have?

Using LinkedIn for B2B account based marketing research.

B2B market research using LinkedIn is especially useful for account-based marketing research. The larger the company that you are targeting the more employees will be LinkedIn members. We can use LinkedIn to gather information on employees and understand how best to target them with marketing. Of course, LinkedIn Sales Navigator will reveal a lot more information, but we can still obtain useful insight by using their free tools. 

Let's take the example of targeting a company such as Vodafone. I’ve selected United Kingdom as my location. I can then select company name and type in Vodafone. This tells me there are 16,000 LinkedIn members I could target. LinkedIn also gives me similar companies that I might want to add to my targeting.

Next, I want to learn more about the skills people in your organization have and I’m particularly interested in finding out who in the organization has social media or digital marketing skills. To do so I can select member skills as a filtering option and type in "social media" and "digital marketing". This tells me that there are 1,000 people in Vodafone within the UK who believe their skills include social media or digital marketing.

Finally I want to see how many people in Vodafone might be interested in buying my product. I’m going to add another filter this time to look at job seniority. I’m going to filter down step-by-step using the list of job levels LinkedIn gives me. I start at CXO and progress through to manager where I start finding LinkedIn members that are based in the UK, list social media or digital marketing as a skill and are at management level or higher. The result is that there are potentially 300 people within Vodafone I can target with a message around social media or digital marketing. I know these people are at a manager level or above so they either have budget or can influence purchasing decisions.