by Lindsay Bayuk
Linkedin is the world’s largest professional network with more than 400 million members. It goes without saying that all small business owners should have a Linkedin account for emarketing and networking purposes. If you’re looking for more information about getting started with Linkedin, check out some of our other blogs on the subject. This post is about building relationships and finding highly targeted, warm introductions. If you want to learn how to save time and find the right prospects for your business, continue reading.
1. Build Your Brand
As a small business owner, you know that your brand is your business’ brand. Your reputation is your business’ reputation. Maintaining a current, transparent Linkedin profile is one of the easiest ways to build trust and confidence with the connections you make at networking events or coffee dates. A full description of your previous work history, recommendations, and endorsements all establish your credibility (or a lack thereof). Don’t miss an opportunity to present a polished, professional presence on Linkedin!
Let’s say you own a marketing agency and one of your happy clients makes a referral. It’s highly likely that the referral is going to want to verify the recommendation on Linkedin. Once you have the referrals’ name, you may even want to proactively reach out to them via Linkedin. If your profile is full of great recommendations and endorsements, you’ve just provided valuable testimonials to this new referral. We know from our customer surveys that referrals are the second biggest lead source for our customers. Leveraging Linkedin to build trust with these referrals is a great way to convert those leads into sales.
2. ABCs of Linkedin: Always Be Connecting
If your business generates leads from events, networking and referrals, you probably already know how critical it is to follow up. There’s nothing worse than meeting a great contact and allowing the relationship to die on the vine. Linkedin makes it easy to make the next step in the relationship. After any face-to-face or email introduction, make sure to follow up by connecting on Linkedin. Send a personal message to the contact along with details about the circumstances of your introduction (to jog their memory if necessary). This helps to put a face with the name, learn about mutual relationships, and establish credibility.
If you’ve been on Linkedin for any amount of time, you probably get invitations to connect with people you don’t know and have never met. Don’t connect with them! I never connect with anyone I don’t actually know. If you think connections on Linkedin is just a numbers game, you’re doing it wrong. You don’t want someone from your network to ask for an introduction to someone that you don’t actually know (and can’t trust). That would be embarrassing!
At the same time, try to connect with as many people (that you've actually met and/or worked with) as possible. Linkedin makes it easy to keep track of their professional path, mutual connections, and shared expertise. If you don’t have many connections (and don’t make it a habit to connect on Linkedin) you won’t have many 1st connections to search.
3. Search Over 400 Million Professionals and Ask for Introductions
Is it valuable to access a database of 400 million professionals, their contacts, companies, industries, employees, etc.? You bet! The search features of Linkedin are by far the most valuable for small business owners! The advanced search allows you to search by keywords, geography, company name, industry, relationship, language, company size and seniority. That’s what I call great demographic and firmographic segmentation a.k.a. targeted marketing!
To demonstrate this further, let’s use the example from above. As an owner of a small marketing agency, you know that you've seen the most success with clients in the computer software industry. Using the Linkedin advanced search, you can create a search for any of my 1st and 2nd connections in the software industry in the Phoenix area. This results in a list of 25 connections. You can narrow the list to just manager and owner titles. Now, the list is 15 people. As a busy small business owner, you can save time by only researching the contacts/companies of best fit and ask for introductions where you have the strongest relationships. When asking for introductions, make sure to convey that you’ve done your homework and that you believe there’s an opportunity to create mutual value. And voila! You now have targeted sales leads via warm introductions.
If you sign up for a Premium account with Linkedin, you’ll have access to InMail. This allows you to reach out to anyone on Linkedin without asking for an introduction. This feature helps you get in touch with decision makers. These decision makers can view your Linkedin profile and know that you’re not just some anonymous spammer.
At the end of the day, social media is all about communicating with real people. It’s all about building real relationships. Don’t just sign up for Linkedin because everyone is doing it. Do use Linkedin as a valuable tool to establish your credibility, build relationships and generate sales leads.