You need to rethink the way you use LinkedIn. Without some of us even noticing, LinkedIn developed into a useful publishing platform and lead generation tool for marketers and sales people looking to build relationships with prospects.
But if you’re looking for an easy lead source, you won’t find it here. After using LinkedIn to build my own discussion groups, I’ve discovered that using LinkedIn as a lead generator can be a pretty simple process — if you’re willing to invest a little time sharing your expertise and thought leadership.
Here are some ways to make the most of LinkedIn for lead generation:
1. Create a polished and personally branded profile on LinkedIn.
If you haven’t already, spend some time perfecting your profile to make sure it is clear what you do and what your strengths are. Focus on your headline and summary. It should be compelling.
Your headline will automatically be displayed as the last job you’ve had, unless you do it manually. My friend Jill Konrath put together a great video on 4 steps to writing your linked in headline and summary. I’m starting to apply her lessons to my own profile.
Dan Schawbel of Mashable, the social media guide, suggests that you brand yourself for the job you want, not the job you have. For instance if you are Marketing Specialist for Toyota, reword it to say “Internet Marketing Expert for Fortune 500 Companies.” Schawbel also suggests that your profile include keywords that recruiters or any individual who uses LinkedIn as a talent search engine will be looking for. Ask for recommendations from clients and colleagues.
Also, be sure to leave your email address either at the end of the summary area or put it in the contact field labeled public. Don’t be afraid to update your status as often as you need to.
2. Connect and reconnect.
Start connecting with your current and past contacts, focusing on relationships where trust already exists. It’s easy to conduct a search on LinkedIn to find individuals you’ve lost touch with. These people usually want to help you as you want to help them.
Accept any invitations that make sense to you. When you get a new business card, look the individual up via LinkedIn and invite them to connect with you. If you’re just starting out as a LinkedIn user, you can import your contacts from Window Live, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! or AOL. Be sure to include your distinct URL in your email signature, on your traditional resume, on your blog, on your website and on your business card so that others can connect with you easily.
3. Reach out to former clients.
You can track what your former clients have been doing since you last saw them — with no awkwardness. When contacting a former client, instead of sending an open-ended message, make a positive comment about their achievements and ask questions about their new projects.
4. Join LinkedIn groups where your clients/customers gather.
Groups can be extremely powerful to your brand. Use Advanced Search to find practitioners within your firm and in industry at-large. Through these groups, you can learn a lot about your industry by tuning into the conversations. You may discover new industry-wide pain points and learn about options to solve those pain points. Learning more about your industry by watching from afar will give you real, everyday insight into ways you can help and connect.
5. Post relevant content on groups and answer targeted questions.
Start building your credibility in the group by sharing relevant content. This includes relevant blog posts, links to articles you have written, articles that quote you and event notices for webinars.
Be sure to stay sensitive to the dynamics of your group and don’t ever try to dominate the conversation. Your materials should be a resource, not a sales push for you or your prospects.
Answer targeted questions. Many group members use LinkedIn as a discussion board, and you’ll find many questions posted on any given day. Take time each day to answer a few or to post a few questions yourself. Answer questions that are relevant to your expertise or something you’re passionate about.
If you find a question you can answer well from someone who’s relatively senior in a company and you would like to do business with, take the time to write a detailed, high-value response. You never know who’s reading the information. Lots of members gain a foot in the door because of the expertise they lend to a discussion.
6. Check out individual profiles
Find out if your prospects contribute to blogs. Learn what events they are attending and even the books they are reading. This is the beauty of LinkedIn: how many other sources will tell you where senior execs of your prospect organizations used to work?
7. Use the information to turn a cold call into a warm call.
An introduction received via LinkedIn is much warmer than a cold call because it comes with a bit of trust. You’re not the stranger trying to upsell something; you come with a recommendation from a person that the receiver is connected to, or you share a common membership in a professional group.
Even if you can’t find a path to connect to someone, sending a direct message via LinkedIn is better than sending a cold email because LinkedIn implies a business context. So when you are checking out a prospect, you can review their profile, discover their interest and determine if you have something in common with them to help warm up your call with them.
8. Search with Advanced Filters.
One of the best features of having a LinkedIn Premium account is being able to use Advanced Filters in search. Not only can you search by company and relationship, but Premium advanced search on LinkedIn allows you to search by function, location, seniority level and company size, too. Pair that with InMail, and now you can contact them directly without a referral.
When I write personal relevant emails with research I get via LinkedIn, I almost always get a response.
9. Create your own LinkedIn group and share relevant content.
Starting your own group gives you control over its content and reach. You can choose to open the group only to people you know or if appropriate, and if you have the time, you can open it up to a much larger audience. The goal is to engage your audience and leverage your thought leadership to make a difference with members of your group.
LinkedIn offers tips for consultants using the channel to build their business, demonstrate areas of expertise and leverage their network. Check out the B2B Lead Gen Roundtable Group on LinkedIn. I founded this group, and it’s all about sharing ideas that focus on the many aspects of B2B lead generation such as lead nurturing, lead management, teleprospecting and more.
The group has grown to 17,742 members, but I’m even more excited about the quality discussions. I’m learning a ton from members. We have rules about what can and can’t be posted, and there is a group manager dedicated to ensuring that the rules are followed.
If you are going to do this, be ready for the time commitment this will need to be a successful group.
10. Post regular updates.
Spend a minute posting an “Update” or “what’s on your mind” to your LinkedIn network each day. You can use updates to share a link to an article, blog post or a video that you think is relevant to your potential customers and network. Or use the “Pulse” feature on your LinkedIn dashboard.
When you post an update, what you post gets displayed in the feed of all the people you’re connected with. Remember this isn’t the place to sell. However, don’t be afraid to share significant announcements or news either. Add value with each update.
It’s that keeping-up process that will spark conversations about opportunities for both you and your contacts. It’s in these conversations (which could also be done by email) that ideas will arise about prospective clients, possible partnerships and other revenue-generating projects.
Implementing these tips into your daily routine will require a time commitment, but it’s easy to join the conversation for a few minutes each day and check in with various groups. Also, LinkedIn is constantly evolving, so keep an eye on it. As it continues to grow, people will find new and smarter ways to utilize it. You’ll want to be there, ready to dive in.
Enter for a chance to win Welcome to the Funnel: Proven tactics to turn your social and content marketing up to 11 by Jason Miller, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn. The deadline for entries is March 22.
You can follow Brian Carroll, Executive Director, Revenue Optimization, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @brianjcarroll.
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