Imagine having a Rolodex filled with information of thousands of highly quality potential clients. It gives you access to their names, job titles, company info, locations, backgrounds and more.
On top of that, it gives you a way to send them electronic messages so you can network with them without leaving the comfort of your office chair. It gives you the ability to generate leads and make sales without being limited to your physical location or whom you know in your current network.
How much is such a black book worth to you?
Good news – you don’t have to pay a dime to have access to this goldmine of prospects!
This little black book is right at your fingertips, and you’re probably already using it.
It’s called LinkedIn.
As of October 2015, LinkedIn has 400 million users. They’re acquiring 2 new members every second, and have a geographic reach of 200 countries and territories.
Unlike other social media, LinkedIn is designed for professionals and business owners to network and connect. When your prospects get on LinkedIn, they’re actually thinking about their business, not cat or baby photos.
It is also the number 1 social referral source, sending more direct traffic to website than Facebook or Twitter.
As a business owner or professional, it’s very likely that you’re already on LinkedIn.
However, are you maximizing your LinkedIn presence to generate leads and get more sales for your business?
Do you know how to find the right people to connect with? Are you putting in the effort to stand out and get noticed? Do you know have the right lead capture mechanism in place to turn your connections into warm, or even hot leads?
In this article, we look at 7 strategies you can implement right away with your free LinkedIn membership to connect with highly-qualify potential clients or customers, and turn them into leads:
- Whip Your LinkedIn Profile In Shape
- Identify Your Ideal Client on LinkedIn
- Reach Out and Connect on LinkedIn
- Join Relevant Groups on LinkedIn
- Start Your Own LinkedIn Group
- Stay Visible and Relevant
- Rock a Webinar
Whip Your LinkedIn Profile In Shape
Good news – people are looking at profiles.
Bad news – getting your profile noticed is not a given.
When you reach out to prospects, they’ll look at your profile. Your profile needs to give them a positive first impression that projects trust and competence in order for them to spend the time and enter into a conversation with you.
The more complete your profile is, the better. This gives the sense that you are a real person, and trust-worthy.
There are many fields to fill out on a LinkedIn profile, and it could be daunting at first.
Remember, you can eat an elephant if you do it one bite at a time. Prioritize items that people are more likely to look at, and contributes to getting you found in keyword searches.
To start, make sure you have a professional-looking photo to instill a sense of trust and engagement. Your profile picture should be taken under good lighting, enough of a close up so people see your face, project friendliness and approachability, and taken against a simple background that’s not distracting.
However, it doesn’t mean you have to look stiff. If you’re a business owner, your profile photo should project a brand personality that aligns with your other marketing communications.
Then add your full name, an attention-grabbing headline and a relevant summary. Afterwards, you can work on filling in the various fields until you have a complete and engaging profile.
Your headline is the “120 characters” located right beneath your name on your profile. It also shows up under your name when you post or comment in groups.
An effective headline goes beyond a non-descriptive job title and sums up what you do and whom you serve.
Ask yourself this question: when others see this headline in my group discussion or comments, would it pique their interest enough to click through and view my profile?
This is the 2,000-character space below the header area on your profile page. This is where the LinkedIn algorithm searches for keywords so fill it with relevant information and phrases your target market would search for.
Imagine it’s your website’s homepage – what would you put there to make people want to learn more about you?
It’s the place to brag about your accomplishments by mentioning any awards or quantifying the results you deliver with numbers and stats.
It’s where you can share your value and your company’s guiding principles to attract prospects that resonate with you.
It’s where you tell your prospect why you are unique, what you can do better than your competition, and maybe share a few things about you to make your relatable.
To write an engaging LinkedIn summary that impresses and influences decision makers, you need to first know your target audience.
What do you want them to know about you, and how are you relevant to them? How do you want them to feel toward you? What do you want them to do to further engage with you?
Offering a relevant lead magnet to entice prospects to join your mailing list is a great way to generate leads. Your LinkedIn summary is a good place to post the URL and a call-to-action.
This is where many fall short by just cutting and pasting from their resume, and not making the most out of the experience section on their LinkedIn profile.
Take advantage of LinkedIn’s capability to integrate media, and videos, images, presentations or articles quoting you to make your experience section come to life. If nothing else, it would make potential clients, customers, vendors or partners stay longer on your profile to read more about your business and offering.
Not everything you’ve done in your professional life is applicable to your current role or business. Put more emphasis on experiences and accomplishments that are relevant to your current offering to capture the attention of your potential clients.
You can toot your own horn all day. However, recommendations from others such as former colleagues, bosses, clients and those influential in your industry can go a long way to give your prospects the social proof they need to engage in a conversation with you.
You don’t have to overkill it with 50 recommendations either. Select 10 – 15 that best represent diverse viewpoints on your strengths and are relevant to your current business.
When you ask your former or current clients for recommendations, encourage them to include specific data and numbers to illustrate results.
The more a prospect can relate these recommendations to their circumstances, the more likely they would eventually engage with your products or services. Use recommendations from clients that are similar to your current target market, and guide them to write a recommendation that is relevant and relatable.
More is not better when it comes to endorsements on your LinkedIn profile.
Your endorsements should focus on the skills and expertise that are attractive and relevant to your ideal clients.
If you have people somewhat randomly endorsing you, don’t let it make a mess of your profile and get you to look like a Jack-of-all-trades.
You can go into your profile’s endorsement section to edit out irrelevant skills and arrange the rest so the most important ones are listed at the top.
To build up those numbers for your most important skills, you could endorse others; often, they will reciprocate.
LinkedIn allows you to add a slew of other information, such as test scores, certification, volunteering, publications and more to your profile.
Some of these can make you more relatable, give you additional credibility, and paint a picture of who you are outside of work an business.
Be selective about these extras, so your profile stays focused on being relevant to your ideal clients.
Identify Your Ideal Client on LinkedIn
LinkedIn initially allows all users to send up to 5000 invitations as a way to prevent abuse (you can contact them to raise your limit later on.)
Beside the quota, you don’t want to waste time on people who are unlikely to become your clients or partners.
This is why it’s important to know exactly with whom you want to connect when you use LinkedIn to generated leads.
To do so, start by constructing an ideal client profile.
Because of the unique kind of information that is made searchable on LinkedIn, you can include specific information available on a user profile to help you narrow down your search:
– What are the possible job titles of your ideal clients (typically it would be the person who makes the purchasing decision)?
– What kind of company does your ideal client work for? You can even have a list of specific companies you want to approach, and look for connections that work there.
– Does your ideal client possess certain qualification and certifications?
– What products, services and results do they look for in your area of expertise? How would they phrase it, and what would they put into the LinkedIn search box?
– Do you require that your clients based in the same geographic area as you do?
– If you are location-specific, are your ideal clients more likely to have attended a particular college?
All these specific criteria and information will help you conduct a more effective search to look for people you want to connect with, and get the biggest bang for the bucks when you invest the time and effort to network with prospects.
Reach Out and Connect on LinkedIn
Now you know with whom you want to connect, it’s time to make those connections.
To get a big enough network that is useful and helps increase your visibility, make at least 300 connections.
It’s best to connect with people you already know, instead of shooting invitations to everyone and anyone.
When you send an invitation, take the time to write a note to the recipient. Avoid using the canned LinkedIn invitation message that says, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” That screams laziness!
It’s particularly helpful if you know this person from a while ago, and you want to remind him/her the circumstances under which you crossed path. This will increase the chance of getting your invitation accepted.
Start building your network with former and current colleagues, clients and customers, partners and vendors (ideally who sell to the same people as you do.)
These people are most likely to be connected to your ideal clients. When you are connected to them, their connections become your 2nd degree contact.
This is very powerful when it comes to expending your network. Let’s do the math: assume you have 500 connections, and each of your contact has 500 connections. That means you have [500×500 = 250,000] 2nd degree contacts!
That’s more prospects than you’d ever need, if you have a good marketing and sales system in place!
Why are we focusing on 2nd degree connections?
First, you don’t know them, and that’s a good thing because that means potential new leads.
You are connected to people they are connected with, which means you can ask for an introduction instead of sending a cold contact invite. That increases the chance that they will accept your invite, and eventually enter into a conversation with you.
Being introduced to them by someone they know, you’re not perceived as an unknown quantity. This raises the trust factor critical to furthering the relationship that leads to sales.
To make the most out of your LinkedIn 2nd degree connections, you can use the search function by narrowing down the search criteria to match that of your ideal client profile.
After you’ve identified the 2nd degree connections you want to connect with, find out who is the 1st degree connection you share with them. Send a message to this mutual contact, and ask for an intro.
If this 2nd degree contact responds to the intro, you can then send out a connection invite, which he would be very likely to accept, and start a conversation.
With this prospect becoming your 1st degree contact, you are now able to see each other’s update. You can stay on their radar, rank higher on their search results, be able to message each other, and even email him in response to a status update!
While you are busy working on new leads, don’t forget your existing 1st degree connections. Stay top-of-mind with the following:
– Regularly post status updates to stay on their radar.
– Tag them on relevant updates to get them involved in a discussion or conversation.
– If you notice that a 1st degree contact can benefit from connecting with your other 1st degree contact, take the initiative to make an introduction. You’ll appear resourceful and helpful, and they’d be more likely to return the favor.
– Design a system to regularly reach out to 1st degree contacts that are most likely to become your clients or are connected to your potential clients. These communications should position you as a trusted and helpful resource, focus on relationship building and help you stay top-of-mind, and not aimed at selling.
– If a connection is a past client, stay up to date with his activities to spot opportunities that he may reengage your services.
– If a connection is a partner or potential partner, keep an eye on what they are up to and see how you can support them. If you do joint venture or cross promote with vendors who serve the same target market, you’ll be exposed to their list and clientele who are also your ideal clients, and vice versa, creating a win-win situation.
When you get the conversation going and establish a relationship, you can then invite your connections to an event (e.g. a webinar) when appropriate to capture their contact information, continue the conversation and build awareness around your products and services.
Another way to identify those who may be interested in your offering is to see who have viewed your profile.
LinkedIn will show you exactly who these people are, and make it easy for you to get in touch with them.
Take this opportunity to reach out, mention you saw that they viewed your profile, and see how you may be able to help them.
Join Relevant Groups on LinkedIn
LinkedIn groups are informal communities formed around industries, professions, themes, niche topics, etc.
Everyone can found his own group, and there’re over a million groups on LinkedIn covering various topics. You can participate in up to 50 groups at any given time.
Even 50 could be a lot to manage if you do it right. It’s best to be selective and choose the groups that are of high value to you then take the time and make the effort to participate.
Many people make the mistake of only joining groups that are about their own industry. They of course will help you stay on top of industry trends and give you the opportunity to ask questions related to your area of expertise, but it doesn’t help you get in front of your ideal clients.
To generate new leads, you need to join groups in which your ideal clients hang out.
Here are a few reasons why joining and participating in LinkedIn groups can help with your generate leads:
– You can widen your network substantially because LinkedIn considers members of a common group your 2nd degree connections. It means you can turn them into 1st degree contact if they are in your target market.
– You can message group members directly when you are in the same group. You can select those who are most likely to become a prospect to reach out, start a conversation and build relationship.
– When you start a discussion or comment on one, group members will be able to see your photo, name and headline. If you have done a good job with your profile and make your headline client-attractive, potential clients may click through to your profile and check you out. Since LinkedIn allows you to see who have viewed your profile, you can circle back with these folks and start a conversation by messaging them if they fall into your target market.
– When you share valuable and relevant content and comment on group discussions, you’re building goodwill, trust and familiarity. You’re also positioning yourself as the thought leader in your area of expertise when you share valuable input.
To find groups that are worth your while to join and participate, use keywords you have identified in your ideal client profile to start searching. Don’t be afraid to get specific. If you put in a broad search term, you’d probably get an overwhelming numbers of results that won’t do you much good:
When you narrow down the list of groups to join, you can look at the current discussions to see if it’s the right fit for you.
You also want to check out the group rules to see if promotional content is allowed. Find out if it’s ok to share links to your products, services or blog articles, before you post them.
Don’t worry if you find yourself in the wrong group. You can always leave it and join a different one so experiment to find the ones that give you the most interaction with potential customers and share your expertise.
Start Your Own LinkedIn Group
LinkedIn groups can be a very powerful way to gather your potential clients in one place, and give you a platform to communicate with them.
There are marketers who use LinkedIn groups to market their products or service, sell out their paid events, and even build their entire business.
LinkedIn groups help you establish thought leadership, build a community of supporters, drive traffic to your website, capture leads, grow your personal network, and send regular email messages to the members.
When you start your group, include important keywords in the group name so it shows up on your ideal clients’ search results. It could include specific profession, area of expertise, and/or geographic location to make it clear who should join the group.
Here’s how to leverage the power of LinkedIn groups to generate leads and market your business:
Establish thought leadership
People want to seek help from experts. When your name is listed as owner of a group, you project the perception of thought leader within your niche.
When you back up this perception by sharing valuable content and executing good community management, you’ll be considered as the leader in your niche.
You want to create an environment in which your group members feel comfortable. Cultivate a supportive environment, encourage conversations and take the time to listen and engage.
You also want to be considered as the advocate for your target market in your area of expertise, and you want your members to feel that you are taking a stand for their benefits.
Drive traffic to your website and build your list
You can get more visitors to your website by putting the URL in the group profile, sending weekly emails to your group members with links to your website, posting articles in the discussion section with links back to your blog, adding the site RSS feed to the News Section, and sending a welcome email with links to your website or opt-in sign up to all new members.
Moreover, as the group owner, members are more likely to check out your profile. If you have your website URL or opt-in landing page URL listed there, it gives you another way to drive traffic to your website and generate leads.
Build personal network
It’s a natural tendency for people to want to connect with community leaders. By positioning yourself as such, you’d have the opportunity to connect with more people, some of whom would come from your group and therefore likely to be your ideal clients.
Once you have your group members in your personal network, you can reach out via private message and start a conversation.
Send weekly messages
This could be the most powerful feature offered by LinkedIn groups.
As the group leader, you can send a message to all your group members and have it land in their inbox every single week.
When a post appears in the newsfeed or a group, people may not see it. But when it appears in their inbox, it’s more likely to get their attention.
This feature gives you the benefits of having a large email list, without having to get your potential clients to jump through any hoop to sign up to a mailing list.
You can use this weekly email message to share links to your articles, a webinar you are hosting or a lead magnet you are offering. This can help you drive traffic, and grow you list with highly qualified leads.
These weekly messages help you stay top-of-mind, reinforce your thought leader positioning, and build goodwill and trust by offering value.
If you’re already sending out a newsletter to your mailing list, you can leverage the content so you can maximize your content creation effort by reaching more people.
Send a welcome message
LinkedIn allows you to send an automated welcome message to everyone who joins your group.
Besides extending a warm welcome, telling them a bit about the group and how they can benefit from being a member (you want to make sure that they stay), you can also use it to capture leads.
If you set it up correctly, these welcome messages give you an immediate lead generation opportunity by pointing the new members to your website, or lead magnet sign up page.
Create segments for more targeted messaging and marketing
You can create up to 10 subgroups within each LinkedIn group. It’s a great way to segment your members so you can send out targeted messaging.
For example, if you’re hosting a regional event, it would make sense to promote more frequently to a subgroup that consists of members in that geographic location.
Stay Visible and Relevant
A potential client may not become a lead at the first encounter. However, if you’re connected to him and stay top-of-mind, he may think of you when the need for your products or services arises.
There are a few ways to stay visible and establish thought leadership on LinkedIn:
- Post valuable resources on your updates. You can share links to your own blog posts, or information on other websites.
Business hours have the largest maximum reach, so plan to post your updates during morning and mid-day, Monday through Friday.
A marketing report published by LinkedIn indicates that 20 posts per month allows you to reach 60 percent of your audience. That translates to 1 post per weekday, which you can schedule using social media scheduling tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite.
Use LinkedIn Pulse, LinkedIn’s long-form publishing platform. LinkedIn is one of the top 10 websites with most user traffic on the Internet. Not only would your content be exposed to your connections, but it will also get some Google juice and reach a larger audience.
To maximize the lead generation power of your post, include an author bio with the URL of your lead magnet opt-in page and links back to relevant articles on your website. You can also create a content upgrade to capture leads.
In terms of topic, 6 out of every 10 LinkedIn users are interested in industry insights. Focus your content on sharing your expertise and insights, and make them relevant and actionable for your ideal audience.
LinkedIn also allows you to tag the post with up to 3 categories to help you make your post more searchable.
Leverage your most popular content pieces, turn them into PowerPoint presentations and put them onto Slideshare. Embed these Slideshare presentations onto your profile and company page, and share them with your connections.
Create a shortlist of connections that you identify as high quality leads. If you come across information and resources useful for them, send them a short message. This will take a bit of elbow grease, but it’ll help you stand out from a sea of automated messages.
Rock a Webinar
Webinar is a popular and effective content marketing tactic for B2B lead generation. When you offer a webinar, it’s natural and logical to ask for the prospects’ contact information so you can send them details for attending the event.
Webinars work very well within the context of LinkedIn because you can find the exact audience that would consider your industry-specific information relevant and useful, and therefore more likely to sign up and attend.
Hosting a webinar further establishes your thought leadership positioning, wrapping all the hard work you’ve done in sharing content on your status update, providing value in your group discussions and being considered as a community leader in your own group into a nice package.
When you have established connections, been active in groups and even started your own group, you’d have in your contact a good number of people in your target market you can promote your webinar to.
When these folks sign up to attend, they become warm leads right away because you can be certain that they are your ideal audience, and they are interested in what you offer. They’re more likely to trust you because they’ve already interacted with you, or at least have “seen” you around.
Since they’ve shown interest in your area of expertise, you can follow up and market to them more aggressively via email, going beyond just being merely a connection on LinkedIn.
Here’re a few things to keep in mind when hosting your B2B webinar:
– Plan and test: there’re quite a few moving parts when hosting a webinar. Make sure you have a project plan that lists out all the tasks such as content creation, promotion and technology, so you don’t get into a last minute scramble.
It’s particularly true for technology. Plan to do a test run a few days ahead of time to make sure everything is working as you envision. Pay attention to details such as sound quality and lighting (if you plan to show your face at any point) – it’s nothing more annoying than having to make out what the presenter is saying from a sea of static noises.
It’s also a good idea to watch a few other webinars from well-regarded marketers to observe the flow, ways they pre-empt or deal with technology hiccups and how they elicit interactions and responses from an audience.
– Provide great content and make it look good: obtaining valuable and relevant information is the reason your audience signed up in the first place. Deliver what you promise, and more. Keep your webinar educational, and don’t turn it into a pitch fest.
Webinar is a very visual medium so make sure you put some work into your deck to keep your audience engaged.
– Get the audience involved: you can make your webinar more engaging and effective by eliciting interaction from the audience. Asking a few simple questions at the beginning and have them type the answers into the chat box is a great way to warm them up.
You can also find out if there’s anything specific your audience wants to learn about the topic, and you can adjust your content to meet their needs. Most audience would appreciate that and be more likely to stick around because they know their questions would be answered.
Make time for Q&A at the end. Not only would you be able to interact with the audience, but you can also address any misconception or question about your products and services in real time should they arise.
– Next step and follow up: at the end of the webinar, give your audience a clear call-to-action should they be interested in your products and services.
With most of today’s webinar software, you can identify who attended the entire webinar, dropped off in the middle, or did not attend. You can craft different email follow up sequences to these segments to deliver a personalized message and keep the conversation going.
LinkedIn gives you a wealth of potential clients to connect and network with, and presents great lead generation opportunities.
Remember, you prospects’ time is valuable, so start your relationship by being relevant and helpful. Make their interactions with you worthwhile.
Don’t skimp on putting in the work to make your communication personal – research your contact, and make sure you’re speaking to their specific needs and challenges.
It may mean putting in some elbow grease to do the research and write individual messages. That’s why having clarity on your ideal client profile is so critical so you get the most out of the time you spend on working your connections on LinkedIn.
Create a system and block off time to reach out. Even if you connect with just one person each weekday, you’d have networked with 20 people in a month’s time!