- LinkedIn is getting into the consultancy business with a new unit called B2B Edge.
- The Microsoft-owned business social network hopes to expand beyond its digital display ad business.
- B2B Edge already counts HP, Oracle, and SAS as clients.
B2B advertisers shifted spending from in-person channels to digital during the pandemic, and one of the biggest beneficiaries was LinkedIn.
B2B display ad spending skyrocketed 33% to $5 billion from 2020 to 2021, with 32% of that share going to LinkedIn, eMarketer found. And now, LinkedIn is trying to grow that revenue with a new consultancy called B2B Edge.
With B2B Edge, the social media platform for professionals is going after the spending dominated by consulting giants like Accenture, Deloitte, and Ogilvy Consulting. B2B Edge is trying to show B2B branding efforts can drive actions like email sign-ups or sales by analyzing campaigns that run on LinkedIn and elsewhere.
LinkedIn quietly launched B2B Edge eight months ago, working with clients like Oracle, HP, and analytics giant SAS. Linkedin wouldn’t break out exactly how much revenue its making from B2B Edge but said it’s already a significant contributor to its ad business.
In connecting branding to direct response, LinkedIn is hoping to convince B2B companies to spend more on branding. LinkedIn said 8% of B2B marketing dollars it gets go toward branding, with the rest going toward direct response. With B2B Edge, LinkedIn hopes to increase that share to 51% over the next decade, said LinkedIn’s VP of marketing Jim Habig.
While LinkedIn says its data on 830 million members can differentiate B2B Edge from other consultancies, Habig stopped short of saying that the company has the Accentures and Deloittes of the world in its sights – at least, for now.
“We do not see B2B Edge as a standalone business at this point,” he said.
The consultancy also primes LinkedIn to snap up B2B spending beyond digital display. While B2B advertisers spent just $5 billion on digital display in 2021, Insider Intelligence estimates B2B advertising overall totaled $26 billion in 2021 and will reach $30 billion by 2023.
“This consultancy positions us as much more than a digital display or advertising platform,” said Habig. “It positions us as critical partners in creating effective B2B marketing strategies.”
SAS is prepping for a 2024 IPO and started elevating its profile in mid-2021, with its first branding campaign in 20 years called “Curiosity Forever.”
SAS used B2B Edge to measure the impact of its ad creative, said SAS CMO Jennifer Chase. B2B Edge started out measuring the creative that ran on LinkedIn but is now expanding to measure all of SAS’s “Curiosity Forever” creative, including videos on YouTube and content published in The New York Times and Harvard Business Review. Chase said working with the consultancy has helped her justify ad spending devoted to branding.
“I can have a conversation about brand marketing and put it in financial terms,” Chase said.