Astonishing Tales of Content Marketing: The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn

August 8, 2016

Throughout the Astonishing Tales of Content Marketing series, we have traveled space and time to bring you inspiring examples of content marketing done right. We visited the early 20th century to see how a tire company got into the travel guide business. We explored America’s obsession with Jell-O, from the dessert plate to the main course (and back again). Most recently, we learned there are plenty of dumb ways to die in Australia, but thanks to clever content, playing around trains doesn’t have to be one of them.

There will be other astonishing tales to tell from distant times and places. But for this installment, I’d like to focus on a story closer to my heart: The creation of the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn. Sure, it’s no “Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits for Volvo,” but it’s an inspiring story of just how powerful a piece of Big Rock content can be. 

The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn changed the game for the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions brand. In fact, The Sophisticated Marketer has become its own brand, an owned media empire including four crash course booklets, full guides to content marketing and thought leadership, webinars, and a podcast. Not to mention the #SophisticatedMktg movement.

But I’m not here to brag. Like every Astonishing Tales post, this is about learning how we did it, so you can do it for your brand. With that in mind, let’s go back to where it all began…

Why Don’t We Own this Conversation?

It was 2013. I had just left Marketo to join LinkedIn Marketing Solutions as the Senior Manager of Global Content Marketing. At Marketo, we had enjoyed success with long-form, authoritative content. With my new team at LinkedIn, I wanted to do something really extraordinary. Something to demonstrate LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’ thought leadership and provide a massive amount of value to our audience. In short, I wanted to make a definitive, mic-dropping guide.

It was easy to pick the perfect topic: marketing on LinkedIn. Who knew more about the tools and tactics for LinkedIn Marketing than the team that lives and breathes it? But despite our in-house expertise, we had yet to really own the conversation.

I wanted to go beyond just writing a guide to our platform, though. I wanted our brand to express a point of view on digital marketing as a whole, its present and future. What kind of qualities does a marketer need to be successful in an ever-evolving, always-on digital marketplace?

After much discussion, we found our point of view: Marketers need to be multi-talented, hyper-aware, and endlessly improving. We should take advantage of all the information available to us and go deeper. Deeper into understanding our potential audience. Deeper into analytics to improve. Deeper into tactics to get our content seen. In short: the modern marketer needs to be sophisticated.

So we had our topic. We had our point of view. All we had to do was create the content. But we couldn’t do it alone…

Assembling a Marketing Dream Team

When you’re looking to make the definitive guide to anything—be it marketing or potato farming—you can’t be limited to a single worldview. We decided to bring in experts from across the marketing world to expand our content.

Some were people I’ve known for years, others we just knew from their writing. We ended up with an all-star cast including Brian Clark from Copyblogger, author Neal Schaffer, and TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden. As with all good influencer marketing, their participation accomplished four things:

  1. It made the content more valuable to the reader
  2. It lent credibility to our team’s content
  3. The experts helped promote the piece when it published
  4. It was the beginning of several awesome ongoing relationships

It turns out that if you want to get to know someone, asking them to help you build something cool is a good way to connect. We made sure to generously cross-promote, too—we featured each of our experts in blog posts, social media posts, you name it. Some of the folks in that original document are still my go-to experts for content today.

Repurposing, Refreshing, and Expanding

Shortly after its launch, the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn achieved an ROI of roughly 18,000%. It quickly became the most successful revenue and awareness driver in LinkedIn Marketing Solutions history. To this day, it’s still our number one asset.

But we didn’t just sit back and watch the leads roll in. We followed up the launch with a webinar, then got to work on a series of crash courses. And, of course, we set about carving as many turkey slices out of the content as we could. Blog posts, SlideShare decks, infographics, you name it. We even printed up physical copies of the guide to hand out at marketing conferences.

To celebrate the guide’s first anniversary, we put out a new, refreshed edition. And we took the movement global. As of 2016, the guide is available in seven different languages: [list of languages]

We refreshed the guide again for this year. And the train keeps rolling with my podcast series, a refreshed Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership, and plenty more on the horizon.

Success by the Numbers

To date, the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn remains our #1 driver of MQLs. It owns the conversation for marketing on LinkedIn, and is the cornerstone of an owned media empire. Here are a few of the numbers:

  • More than 99,000 downloads of the guide
  • More than 35,000 views of the webinar SlideShare

Sophisticated Takeaways

What can marketers learn from the Sophisticated Marketer’s success? Here are some ideas:

Pick the right topic. Choose a topic for your Big Rock that’s right at the intersection of your knowledge and your customers’ needs.

Be thorough. Make your content the definitive statement on the topic you’re addressing. Cover all the angles and touch on corollary topics, too.

Add influencers. Outside experts can make sure your piece covers all the bases, can add credibly, and can help with promotion.

Carve that turkey. Drive your audience to your gated asset with blog posts, infographics, webinars, etc.

Make it a brand. If the theming of your Big Rock resonates with your audience, keep using it in future assets. The Sophisticated Marketer is 100% associated with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions now, and it has a reputation for quality content.

The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn was always meant to be more than an instruction manual. We wanted to help people use our platform, of course. But we also wanted to elevate marketing in general. We wanted to embrace and endorse a new kind of inbound marketing, driven by valuable content that pulls people toward your brand. The guide was our way of practicing what we preach. Its success proves we were right about what modern marketing can be.

Thanks to a dedicated in-house team, advice from the experts, and all of you who read it, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn launched a brand that became a movement. Not only did it get results for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, it has helped thousands of marketers get results on our platform. And that’s a truly astonishing tale of content marketing.

To read all of these astonishing content marketing tales one place, look for the new ebook, "Astonishing Tales of Content Marketing," which launches next week on Tuesday, August 16. 

Ready to create your own astonishing tales? Download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing.