Selling into the exploding internet of things (IoT) market is far from shooting fish in a barrel. The number of vendors in the space that deliver “connected” solutions (or at least say they do) has grown exponentially over the past year, and the industry noise level is spiraling past 11. With conversations dominated today by major brands with big marketing dollars like Amazon, Google, Apple and IBM, how in the world are emerging companies and startups supposed to make their voices heard?
Social platforms like LinkedIn Groups and MeetUp are two effective ways to reach IoT influencers and prospects directly both online and in person. But, before you waste your time and energy on a “spray and pray” message blast, or spread yourself too thin running from venue to venue, make sure you identify the right groups and the best way to attract members of those active communities.
LinkedIn Groups Galore
LinkedIn groups can be a great way to build your credibility in the IoT community, find influencers, engage with practitioners and reach prospects. But before you jump straight into joining a LinkedIn Group and start posting away, take your own profile seriously so others take you seriously. While you might not be lucky enough to be one of the 500 or so handpicked LinkedIn INfuencers, it goes without saying that your profile should reflect your best foot forward for the audience you want to engage.
Many miss the opportunity to flesh out their bios with even basic info that can make them really sparkle or build credibility. In particular, add multimedia — like video or SlideShare content. If you recently spoke at a conference like Mobile World Congress, Internet of Things World or the IEEE World Forum on Internet of Things, share what you learned and use it as a conversation starter.
Once your profile demonstrates you know the IoT market inside and out, start immersing yourself in the right LinkedIn Groups. There are a number of communities focused on various aspects of IoT that you can tap into — from large umbrella interest groups such as Telecoms Professionals: IoT, LTE, M2M, OTT, Internet of Things, Mobile, Telecom; Internet of Things; and Future Technology: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Driverless Cars, IoT, Blockchain | Startups to job function-specific groups like Business Intelligence Professionals (BI, Big Data, Analytics, IoT), IoT Internet of Things Developers Group and even regional communities like IoT Israel MeetUp.
Take notes on the most active influencers that start conversation threads, engage in those conversations and reach out to contacts directly referencing their comment. Participating in online discussions and having your name known in that community can lead an influencer to accept your connection invite (and avoid having a “cold” request languish in LinkedIn approval purgatory) and begin a lasting one-on-one relationship.
Many of the best practices for LinkedIn also apply to MeetUp. When you request to join a MeetUp group, be sure to fully maximize information and profile questionnaire requests. That will not just speed up your acceptance by the administrator (if a closed group), but also help members understand what you are hoping to get out of the group and ways to best connect on mutual needs.
What’s also nice is that MeetUp has a page devoted to IoT and keeps running tabs on the largest groups along with a map to show you the MeetUps closest to you. For example, the five largest groups are Applied Singularity; Internet of Things London; Internet of Things (IoT), Electronics, Data Science & Open Source Community, IGTCloud; and San Francisco Internet of Things Meetup. Of course, there are many local groups throughout the country focused on areas like Atlanta, Austin, New York and others. There’s likely more than one MeetUp close to your neighborhood!
Become a resource and not just a participant in the group. Reach out the group organizer(s) and make suggestions for events or topics the group should explore. If you’re particularly passionate about an area — say IoT policy and regulation — offer to help organize the next meeting, pull in expert friends or explain why YOU could make a good discussion leader.
Whatever you do, don’t start blasting sales collateral to the MeetUp or LinkedIn Group or plaster drive-by salesy comments exclaiming how your IoT solution is leaps and bounds ahead of your competitor’s. Be a human first, marketing machine second. Put your vendor-neutral hat on and take the time to thoughtfully read comment on threads and event listings, pose your own questions to the collective, and find those with common interests or business goals that you can build a genuine relationship with online or in person.
Start Your Own Group
Don’t see a group that fits your need? Build your own! The key is identifying a unique theme, pain point or industry topic that the industry can rally around. As a LinkedIn Group creator, be prepared to spend a good amount of time curating and tending the page by flagging topics of interesting, monitoring conversations and delivering useful content to your members. For MeetUps, dedicate some time to hearing from members what events they want to attend, locations that best accommodate your group size and other needs they have so they actually show up. Whatever you do, don’t constantly push your own product — group members will see right through you.
To speed your new community’s growth, proactively market your group organically and via paid efforts. Reach out to influencers you are trying to engage with personally and invite them to your group. For example, Onalytica’s influencer list (IoT 2017: Top 100 Influencers, Brands and Publications) can give you a great head-start on individuals in the space with clout. Also, try including your LinkedIn Group or MeetUp in your marketing materials, push details to your mailing lists, or sponsor paid social content to create awareness or even target specific job titles you want to attract (CIO, Chief IoT Officer, developer, etc.). Lastly, capture event content — like Meetup panel event videos — to fuel your broader content marketing campaigns.
At the end of the day, engaging with online and in-person influencers should be a practice of quality over quantity, and always make sure you’re focusing on having meaningful conversations when reaching out to and engaging with IoT influencers. Nobody wants a sales pitch, but genuine LinkedIn group and MeetUp participation can be a valuable piece in your overall marketing and PR strategy.
If you want to learn more about marketing communication strategies in the IoT space, download our e-book on 7 Marketing Strategies for Cutting Through the IoT Noise.