'When client-agency relationships are strong, businesses grow'

Valerie Beauchamp, VP, Global Head of Agency E&D at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, tells us about the changing dynamics of marketing and more in a chat with Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor, e4m

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Published: Oct 3, 2022 8:13 AM  | 9 min read
Valerie Beauchamp

LinkedIn has become a fertile ground for conversations beyond careers in recent years. Posts about birthdays, anniversaries and personal philosophies are taking the spotlight away from those about professional milestones. While some may criticise the practice as a desecration of a professional platform, Valerie Beauchamp, VP, Global Head of Agency Development & Education at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, has a rather refreshing take on the changing conversations on LinkedIn. Read as talks to Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor, exchange4media, also about India's creative confidence, changing marketing dynamics, B2B marketing and more.

Edited excerpts:

Q: Before LinkedIn, you worked with different agencies and then an e-commerce giant. How do you think marketing has changed over the years and what has been your key learning?

Ans: Earlier, most marketers, especially iconic brands like Nike, were very focused on functional storytelling. Now, emotional storytelling has become so much more prevalent for everyone, not just the big brands.

The other thing is the fragmentation of distribution channels. Earlier, we could make a beautiful television commercial that will tell a meaningful story. I would put it on these three networks, and then everybody's going to see it and it's going to be great.

But now, you have to capture the attention of a consumer in an aggregated manner. It's the same amount of time you take talking to someone, but you now have to sequence those stories across maybe 15 to 20 distribution points over a slightly longer time scale.

This means that you have to be more creative in how you break down your story and make it meaningful every time.

Q: As the head of agency development and education at LinkedIn, what are your core responsibilities and what functions do you perform to support the marketing community?

My role here is to help agencies grow and also help marketers excel in their craft.

We're incredibly invested in a thriving marketing ecosystem. Experience tells us that when client-agency relationships are strong, and when agencies can be strategically consultative and help their clients, businesses grow.

When marketers build their skills and learn about marketing effectively on different platforms, they become better for their businesses.

Each agency might have different priorities or different objectives. Similarly, each learner might be wanting something different.

So, you have to think about how you can serve learners and agencies and their different priorities. But at our core, it’s helping agencies grow and helping marketers excel in that.

Q: LinkedIn, which was strictly a professional space a few years ago, has people having casual conversations over birthdays and anniversaries. Is the change good for LinkedIn or is it diluting the purpose?

It's an awesome question. You have to kind of go back to the onset of the Covid Pandemic and all of the things that shook the world of work.

There are lots of headlines around the big quit or the great resignation. But there's also the great reshuffle, which is about people reshuffling their priorities. They are thinking differently about not only who they work for, but also why and how they work at all.

Companies all around the world had to recognise the whole person for the first time. Because every time you went into a meeting, you were inviting someone into your home: 'This is my kitchen; this is my child.'

We have no other option except to suddenly reframe work around the whole person. So, you see that in the nature of the conversations happening on LinkedIn.

There is a good discussion on whether such conversations should continue or not. Are we adding value to the member experience on the platform?

I think we've been able to challenge the notion that sharing news about the death of a parent or the success of a child isn't inherently professional.

Q: Is LinkedIn as a platform okay with such practices since they take away exclusivity? People were already having such conversations on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

Our position is that if the members are participating and finding value in them, then these conversations should exist on the platform.

What we're focused on is not so much controlling what is or isn't on the platform, but making sure that what you see on the platform is the most valuable to you.

If your LinkedIn activities indicate that you're not as interested in seeing a friend of a friend post about their son getting into university, we make sure that your experience, your feed and your content are aligned to the things that you value.

But removing those things, I think, defeats the purpose of a thriving community because there are people that find value in that, either in contributing to it or in engaging with it.

Q: What interesting trends and trades have you noticed emerging recently in B2B Marketing?  Where does India stand currently?

For a long time, B2B marketing was synonymous with lower funnel and lead generation performance marketing. I am putting a message out to you: 'I'm interested in your product or your service.' You would pass that on through your system and begin to engage with that potential customer. 

We've been seeing over the last few years (most supported by evidence from LinkedIn’s think tank called B2B Institute) that in the B2B space, at any given time, only 5% of the buyers are actually in the market to make a purchase. So that means 95% of people are not and may not for another three years.

What are you doing to engage with them? A lead generation campaign or like performance marketing campaign? There are 95% of people who are not going to sign up to get more information because they're not thinking about buying. That has shaken the B2B space requirement for brand-building campaigns. 

What are you telling this 95% of the population while they're waiting to find themselves in the market? How am I building memory structures so that when those people become the 5%, I'm already ingrained in their brain a little bit or at least I'm popping up as sort of top of mind for them?

You start to think and see companies who are building icons and branded assets that build those memory structures in people's minds. 

Last year, there was a survey that went out to assess the state of creativity in the B2B space. And there's rising confidence from B2B marketers around creativity, its efficacy and its contribution to the business.

Interestingly, one of the countries that have the highest percentage of creative confidence in India, I think 99% of B2B marketers in India have like strong creative confidence.

Maybe 6-7 years ago, "brand building" and "creativity" were words I thought you would hear in a conversation with a B2B marketer.

Those are really interesting spaces for us to be playing in and can help marketers grow on our platform.

B2B marketing in India early on used to be dependent on close relationships, but with the emergence of technology in the post-COVID world, with a focus on a hybrid mode of communication, it must have changed a lot.

Regardless of the modes of engagement, B2B is still a very relationship-driven business even with technology in the space. So the need to build relationships hasn't changed. It's how you do it that has changed.

We would love to provide marketers particularly, is the ability to engage with people because you know who they are, what their job title is, what company they work for today, what company they used to work for and where they're based.

You probably have the opportunity to follow them and see what they care about. So, the way you might build relationships with that person might be very tech-enabled through our platform.

We've had the opportunity to harness the content, community and conversation in a way that allows people to just build relationships on the platform.

Q: What tools do you have on LinkedIn to help B2B advertisers use technology to communicate?

One tool is "Pages" where the foundation of your narrative is about who you are as a company, employer, products and services. We enable all of that.  It instantly allows you to build a community just by showing up. 

The other is the platform itself that we provide for content and community. You can start talking and people will engage with you on every topic from thought leadership to product problems. You could also invest from a marketing perspective like through sponsored content.

You could also host a live event on the platform, which is amazing, especially in the COVID age. 

In the Indian context, the most interesting thing is the excitement around start-ups. Establishing themselves as a business and competing with the behemoths of the game can be daunting.

But they can leverage LinkedIn tools like product pages, company pages, and service pages as their equity to get themselves started. That sort of levels the playing field right off the bat. That's what I think is exciting.

I think the opportunity for brands to participate in that conversation is just going to be exciting to explore.

Q.Tell us about your India trip and how it has been on the business front.

There are two things. One, many of the agencies with whom we partner are global. And for us to be really good global partners, we have to understand all of the components that make up their businesses. So, we have to understand local needs.

Two, (I'm perhaps biased because I worked in the region for a few years earlier in my career) there's so much opportunity for experimentation and innovation in this region, especially in India:  Forge interesting partnerships, create interesting programs with agencies, and then scale them out to the rest of the world from here.



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