LinkedIn has been touted the most powerful social media tool for professionals. Unlike other social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn keeps professional connections just that—professional. You'll be hard pressed to find business owners chatting about their kids or weekend plans on LinkedIn. Instead, you'll find businesses looking for other business owners; making connections and generating business and sales leads.
LinkedIn allows you to find and connect with decision makers for companies in virtually any market or genre. You'll find businesses looking for goods, services and new products. If you're looking for leads like this, then LinkedIn is the place you want to be. So, how do you go about finding and attracting leads on LinkedIn? Take a look at these six steps for lead generation to get you started.
Create a trustworthy LinkedIn profile
You're not always going to go hunting for leads on LinkedIn. Some will naturally find you through search or other people's connections. When leads fall into your lap, you want to be ready with a huge dose of "trust factor." The trust factor is a combination of all the things you can do with your profile page that allow leads to get to know you, feel confident in your skills, and trust you enough to give you a call or e-mail. Unfortunately, many businesses don't provide enough information on their profile pages to offer up a healthy dose of trust. You don't want to be one of those people. So consider these things:
- Take full advantage of your profile. Your profile page is your opportunity to tell a story, toot your own horn and give the full dish about your business and why leads should care. How many LinkedIn summaries have you seen that are either empty or have too little information? Make sure you've included a summary of your business services, the history of your business, your education and relevant work experience. This will help leads know that you know what you're talking about. Add referrals and testimonials from past happy clients and you'll add even more punch!
- Add a picture to your profile. You want potential leads to see a trustworthy picture of your smiling face. Everyone wants to know they are dealing with a real-live human. Smile pretty and add your best, most professional picture.
- Consider adding video. LinkedIn allows you to add a video to your pages. Consider adding video of yourself offering up a welcome message, or talking briefly about your product or services for an even more 'human' aspect.
- Don't forget to add your full contact information. This may seem like a really silly tip; however, you'd be remiss to miss out on leads because they can't contact you. It's not only important to list your business phone number, fax, e-mail and website address, it's important to update them. If you've changed any contact information since first joining LinkedIn, update your profile to reflect these changes.
Ask for leads
New leads may be the lifeblood of your business. So ask for them. Be clear that you're looking for leads on your profile page. Mention that you're looking for connections, and then be clear what those connections are. For example, if you're looking for a wholesaler of plastic bags, clearly state so. You never know who will land on your profile page and have a brother-in-law in the wholesale bag industry.
Alternately, don't just rely on your profile page to spread the word about the leads you're after. When you make a new connection, let them know what you're looking for as well. Let's say you connect with a financial planner for entrepreneurs. Don't be afraid to drop a little note asking for any referrals or leads on a plastic bag supplier. That financial planner may be building a portfolio for an up-and-coming plastics supplier. Even if connections seem unrelated, they may not be. So go ask for those leads!
Participate in discussions
LinkedIn offers groups where like-minded professionals connect. These groups cover an infinite array of genres, from industry-specific groups to entrepreneur groups. No matter what business you're in, you are almost certain to find a group to participate in.
Why are groups important? Think of a group as a little social media island in the middle of a huge LinkedIn sea. They offer a more intimate way to connect, not only with people that may already be in your lead base, but others who might want to be.
When you participate in a group, you have the ability to ask questions, answer questions, increase your visibility and even start a following of people who like what you have to say. Your professional participation is the perfect avenue for new leads to find you. You'll find leads just from reading posts and discussions in groups, as well.
Four ways to use advanced search
When looking for new leads, you'll start with people in your target market.
Let's say you're a small business advertising copywriter who works with women entrepreneurs. How do you find women entrepreneurs with startups, who may need some advertising done? You can start by running an advanced search and start sorting through companies in your market. Click on the 'advanced' link by the LinkedIn search function and start refining your search.
- You may want to start in a specific industry.
- You can then look in groups where women entrepreneurs may hang out.
- You can also search by location if you are sourcing women entrepreneurs in a certain area.
- If you're fortunate enough to already have the name of a lead you want to contact, you may search by name.
Consider using the advanced search to explore different industries and groups for a broader source of new leads.
Contact leads personally
Once you've sourced leads through LinkedIn, it's time to make it personal.
Gather up all those new leads and choose which ones you are most interested in contacting. Then, start reading. It's important to make a personal connection with any lead you're interested in pursuing; reading his/her LinkedIn profile is the perfect way to get personal. Find out a little about your new lead—where she went to school, what activities he enjoys, what business she's worked with in the past. Then, create a personal e-mail that includes a connection to this information. For example, if your new lead graduated from a college in your area, mention that. Or, if you both share a love of reading, mention that, too.
Then, craft a personal message to your new lead that lets them know who you are and why you're contacting them. Ask for any referrals to leads they may know as well.
Even though there are thousands of people on LinkedIn to potentially gain leads from, it doesn't hurt to get a little help from Google, as well.
Any content you add to LinkedIn can be optimized for Internet searches to help those using search engines find you. If you don't already know what keywords or key phrases are important for your product or service, find out soon. You can use Google's keyword tool to help you find the best keywords for your business. Once you've done your keyword research, use your best keywords in your LinkedIn profile. Add your keywords to your profile, services page or any other content to help pull in leads from outside LinkedIn. Keywords are a great tool for getting leads that are specifically looking for what you offer.
Justine Grey is a Web entrepreneur who writes Work Life Joy for frazzled business builders who long to work vibrantly and live beautifully. You can find her on Twitter at @JustineGrey chatting about life, work and her pop culture obsession.
Thanks to Justine Grey / Open Forum / American Express Company