Understanding LinkedIn's recent acquisition of Bizo starts with a reminder that the B2B sales cycle as we know it has changed for good. As more buyers today operate within the "hidden sales cycle"—that time and space between direct marketing touches or sales calls where they are in control—B2B marketers are challenged to keep their brand seen and heard.
LinkedIn's decision to acquire Bizo is a clear signal that the social media juggernaut is strongly invested in bolstering its position as a marketing solutions provider. More broadly, it signals a growing trend in the B2B marketing world towards strategic, programmatic digital advertising.
Here are three observations I had about this new partnership.
1. It's a powerful connection between programmatic and the profile
The acquisition brings together the automated campaign and data-management experience of Bizo with the premium publishing and extensive business audience of LinkedIn.
Every business professional I know has a profile on LinkedIn filled with an accurate depiction of our expertise and experience. That has given LinkedIn a strong foothold in the talent acquisition space as we use LinkedIn as our default contact list and professional networking tool.
Now, it seems LinkedIn is using those strengths to connect B2B companies with their target audience—in a highly reliable manner. Bizo's programmatic digital advertising platform already has LinkedIn's inventory built in via API, and its data-management platform (DMP) is oriented towards modern nurture marketing.
Moreover, LinkedIn strengthens Bizo's targeting capabilities by being a type of Rosetta Stone for the professional identity.
2. CMOs are ready to spend on a solution like this over traditional media placement
Increasing digital audience targeting is the top digital engagement strategy of leaders surveyed earlier this year, according to Aberdeen Group's report "Digital Advertising: Programmed to Receive (More Budget)" (June 2014).
LinkedIn and Bizo are well-positioned to help marketers with that objective by targeting at both an individual and account level.
This research also shows an increasing preference for programmatic advertising over traditional media placement, signaling a shift in spend and supporting LinkedIn's decision to bolster its media business and diversify its services with Bizo.
Leaders also favor the integration between digital advertising and multistep/channel lead nurture via integration with CRM, marketing automation, and Web content management systems, a strategy that Bizo has been a strong proponent of.
3. It changes how marketers buy from LinkedIn
I wonder if and how LinkedIn will use this acquisition to branch from pure supply side (e.g., media) into the buy side (e.g., the Marketing department), as Bizo provides a DSP/DMP tuned to B2B marketing.
As a result of the acquisition, LinkedIn will have to balance its role as a publisher, advertising aggregator, DMP, and demand-side platform (DSP). Piece of cake, right?
As an "independent" DSP, Bizo didn't have a horse in the CPM race, as programmatic advertising contributed to the downward pressure on display prices. However, LinkedIn, as a media property, has a vested interest in maintaining CPMs.
Overall, LinkedIn now has an opportunity to help B2B marketers bridge the gap between their interest in an integrated digital marketing strategy and their ability to execute it effectively.
Regardless of how the acquisition plays out, this is one marriage that B2B marketers should pay attention to.