After only 12 months of integration, LinkedIn is closing down its Lead Accelerator product. From the $175m acquisition of Bizo in summer 2014, LinkedIn integrated the programmatic remarketing platform into its core marketing solutions offering. The result allowed advertisers to combine the core remarketing capabilities of Bizo with the ability to leverage LinkedIn’s own data in targeting beyond LinkedIn.
LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner said that it took “more resources than anticipated to scale.” Ultimately, this means they’re focusing on Sponsored Updates, the native advertising element of the business, which at current is the fastest area of revenue growth.
I do not know the details and nuances, however I am surprised at the level of resource it appears to have needed to scale a self-serve platform. Bizo managed this rapidly since inception, so with the resources at LinkedIn’s disposal I am not sure this stacks up.
However, the questions I’m asking are two fold;
1 – Is the focus on faster growth harming marketing innovation?
2 – Is LinkedIn leaving its greatest asset untapped?
I’ll take these one at a time.
Is the focus on faster growth harming marketing innovation?
Rewind 18 months and Bizo was one of the fledging start-ups that was making noise in B2B marketing spaces. The ability to programmatically nurture contacts based on marketing automation data points provided a unique USP. When LinkedIn initially acquired Bizo, the ability to deliver nurture streams in LinkedIn (in addition to the previous display network, Facebook and Twitter) was a sure fire way to drive greater engagement of B2B audiences.
The ability to automate waves of messaging (like in email nurture) is something that other platforms could not do – especially in a way that reached audiences on LinkedIn. Layer over the top that you could use LinkedIn’s own data to further supress or target this audience, then you have probably the most individually targetable dataset available to B2B marketers.
1st party data (web behaviour + digital body language + purchase data + account)
3rd party data (LinkedIn’s job functions + sectors)
Highly targeted audience that you can automate nurturing messages within LinkedIn
This is the sort of thing that give me a nerdgasm, yes a nerdgasm. Whilst this may be a complex example, the applications are highly innovative, but now not possible.
A silver lining may be that LinkedIn is working on greater inventory availability within Ad Exchanges. This may make some programmatic capability available within LinkedIn, however not with the sophistication and ability to leverage additional LinkedIn data points.
Is LinkedIn leaving its greatest asset untapped?
For me, the short answer is yes. And I am not alone.
LinkedIn’s greatest asset is its data. In many markets and countries it represents the largest and most accurate source of B2B data. We’ve experienced over recent years the continual dispersion of media channels, outlets and sites. Whilst LinkedIn’s user data is still growing (and may continue to do so) – the assumption that platform usage rates will continue to grow may be challenged.
LinkedIn is backing its ability to continue to grow its readership in order to enhance native advertising revenues. Is this taking its natural model too far and becoming too reliant on it from a marketing perspective?
Whilst LinkedIn may have been struggling to scale LinkedIn Lead Accelerator, the ability to leverage the contact data of LinkedIn users beyond its own platform is unique. Unique to the point that no one at all can enter that market place as the data is owned by LinkedIn. Data providers don’t have the reach or coverage of LinkedIn, and they never would unless LinkedIn sold their data.
In leveraging their down data for programmatic advertising they’d have a unique product and competitive advantage – a product and solution that brings value to the market that no one else can copy or even enter. In making the data work harder for them, they’d have added a long-term revenue stream that would demand premium value and become the default for B2B media.