LinkedIn has been around for over a decade, but if you’re still thinking about (and using) LinkedIn as a glorified business card, then you’re missing out on the many other effective ways this social networking tool can be used as a CRM (customer relationship management) to help grow your business.
Unlike other social networking sites, LinkedIn is geared entirely to the business world, with a mandate to offer business-to-business marketing opportunities to its users. Indeed, as LinkedIn has achieved critical mass it has become an effective lead generation tool and business marketing tool—one that we use daily here at Wardell.
VISIBILITY IS KEY
To be effective on LinkedIn, you’ll need to maximize your visibility. The best way to do this is to keep your profile current and relevant. Use a professional photograph and make sure your business title, skills, expertise and other activities are up-to-date. The more relevant the information you have listed on your LinkedIn profile, the more useful the connections you’ll make. Note: ensure the professional headline that appears below your name includes all the information you want representing yourself and your business, as this is what people see first.
CREDIBILITY & ENDORSEMENTS
The more often you use LinkedIn, the more people will see your profile and be able to endorse your skills, which are visible to everyone. When it comes to referrals, however, you’ll generally need to ask for these directly. The best approach here is to identify contacts that have the greatest influence with your target audience and send each a request for a referral. To make it easier for them, you could consider drafting or offering to draft the referral yourself. Frame your request by letting them know how much you value their opinion.
LinkedIn gives business owners the very valuable opportunity to connect in person with people they otherwise might not have the opportunity to encounter. It happens all the time, and it’s one of the reasons LinkedIn is my favourite social media tool.
For example, one of my clients, the owner of a financial consulting firm, had been trying unsuccessfully for months to arrange a meeting with a large investor. One day, the very investor he was pursuing confirmed his request to connect on LinkedIn. Within minutes of receiving the email, my client responded, asking for a quick phone call. The phone call quickly turned into a first meeting, and then a very valuable partnership. Without LinkedIn it might have taken much longer. The key to success here is to respond quickly when an opportunity arises and take the conversation into regular email by seeking out the contact’s email address on the profile page versus responding within LinkedIn’s mail program.
And when you need to connect with someone you haven’t yet met? Find them on LinkedIn, you’ll see who you know in common, and then ask your (best) mutual contact for an introduction.
For many businesses, especially those in the B2B world, direct marketing is a critical part of day-to-day business and LinkedIn can be a valuable tool here also.
Consider our approach at Wardell. When I get a request on LinkedIn, I always respond immediately asking if I can add that person to my email newsletter list. As they’ve asked to connect with me, the answer is typically yes and usually accompanied by a note of thanks. I take this second opportunity to connect back, offering my new contact the opportunity to take Wardell’s free business strength analysis test. Often my new contacts pursue this offer, which enables us to track who has taken the test and their level of interest in our services.
If your business has a newsletter, a whitepaper, a survey, a sale or coupon or something else of value to offer new contacts, LinkedIn can be a great place to make these offerings.
– Mark is president and founder of Wardell Professional Development (www.wardell.biz), an advisory group that helps business owners plan and execute the growth of their companies.