When people refer to social media they usually think of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (and there may be some others I’m not even aware of). If your company sells directly to consumers (B2C) or is looking to build brand awareness in the consumer market then these social media platforms are the way to go.
There are, of course, major differences between the platforms on how to use them and what demographic groups each appeals to. But in general, each platform has the potential for you to reach a mass consumer audience. I’ll dive deeper into each one in later posts.
In this post I’m going to discuss Linkedin — and yes, Linkedin is a social media platform (and not just a place to post your resume and find a job). If you’re a professional, or simply part of the workforce, you most probably have a Linkedin profile with a few sentences about what you do and your work experience. It’s basically your resume.
You probably view Linkedin as a place to potentially find a new job or opportunity, if the need should arise. If you’re lucky enough to not need to use it for that purpose, you probably don’t, other than checking in once a while to waste some time and occasionally click on an interesting looking link.
All that stuff about job searches is true. But that’s not how you use Linkedin for your business.
How do you use Linkedin for business?
The first step to making Linkedin into a useful marketing and sales tool for your business is to view it as such. Stop thinking about it like a massive job board. From now on you need to see Linkedin as the greatest free opportunity to generate business.
The first thing you need to do to take advantage of this amazing tool is to update your profile. If it looks like a duplicate of your 1 or 2 page paper resume, you’re doing it wrong.
Your Linkedin profile should be your unique selling proposition. It should communicate the benefits that you can provide to potential customers or clients. It’s your opportunity to sell yourself.
It starts with your profile photo. Have one. People relate to other people, not placeholders. They want to see that you’re a real person, hopefully presentable and trustworthy looking.
Next comes your headline. It’s the line that people see directly below your name. This a valuable piece of marketing real estate, because it’s very likely the first, and possibly last, thing that people will see when they come across you in a search or in their feed.
You should not just put your job title in your headline — like manager or VP business development. These titles don’t really describe what you do and how you can help the person you want as a customer or client. Instead, tell them exactly how you can help them.
Here’s my own profile as an example:
In addition to my profile photo, I’ve added a cover image with some text on it to take advantage of the opportunity to expand my real estate holdings on the page. Beneath my photo and name I’ve listed the benefit I can provide. I’ve also included a non profit project I’m working on, so that when I reach out to connect with people related to that project, they’ll know who I am.
You should also include your correct contact info in the “see contact info” area, so that people can actually get in touch with you. I’m surprised how many people either leave it out totally or include outdated info or bad links. Not a very smart sales practice.
The next section in your profile is a section where you summarize what you’ve got to offer in greater detail. Include some concrete examples, some links, and even a video.
The next thing on your profile that Linkedin will show people depends on their degree of connection to you. If they are first or second degree connections, they’ll see mutual connections followed by your most recent articles and posts. I’ll discuss more about posting and publishing on Linkedin, but for now just be aware of this feature and either have some quality articles or posts, or don’t have any at all. You don’t want people to judge you by a really bad article or post you’ve written.
Everyone will then see your job experience. This is the part that’s very similar to a paper resume…but it really shouldn’t be. You’re not confined to the boundaries of a sheet of paper, so get creative and use the opportunity to market the hell out of yourself.
You should also create a company profile page, which people will check out if they’re interested in finding out more about your business (but don’t waste too much time on it).
Now that you’ve optimized your profile, you want to get other people to view it. Specifically, you want to get potential clients, customers or business partners to view it. The easiest way to do that is to send them connection requests. I won’t go into detail about how to do this, because you’ve all done it before.
The only thing I’ll add is that the research shows that including a personal note with the connection request greatly increases the chances that the person will accept. The note should be short and NOT a sales pitch. If you share mutual contacts or interests, you can use those as a reason to connect. Or think of another NON SALESY excuse for why you think it would be an awesome idea for this person to connect with you. But again, keep it short and to the point.
Sales Prospecting with Linkedin
Let’s cut to the chase. The real reason you’re reading this is to find out how to use Linkedin to get new clients or customers. Sales prospecting.
If you’re looking to sell to a mass consumer market, like I said at the beginning of this post, you should focus on Facebook, Instagram, etc.
But if you are selling B2B and you can identify the customer personal of the person you’re trying to sell to, then Linkedin is the right place for you to be working your magic.
Now from here on in I’m going to viewing Linkedin as if it was exclusively a sales prospecting too. That’s not to say that you can’t use Linkedin as a networking tool to simply expand your business network, get involved in new ventures, or try to find a new job. You absolutely can.
But for our purposes here, I want you to focus on Linkedin as a sales prospecting tool, period.
Before you can do any sort of sales prospecting you must have a clear picture of whom you’re selling to. The fancy term for that picture is a “customer persona”. It should be as detailed as possible. At the very least it should have your target’s job title, geographic location, industry, company size (or the specific name of their company). If you can’t create a customer persona then you’re not going to be able to use Linkedin effectively for sales prospecting.
Let’s look at an example:
Say you sell enterprise cyber security software that costs $25,000 per license. Let’s say you’re ideal customer is in the banking or financial industry. And the person you’re trying to reach is the Director of Cyber Security (I don’t know if that’s an actual title). You want to target the US.
Ok, you’ve got a customer persona. Plug those criteria into a search (you might need a premium account depending on how specific you want to get, since the free account only has a few possible search criteria to choose from. But there are ways of circumventing that by including a boolean search string in the keywords field).
Linkedin will return a (hopefully) long list of profiles that fit your search criteria. If the list is too long you can narrow it down by geographic location.
Now that you’ve got your list, you can either try to get their email addresses and reach out to them via email marketing or you can reach out to them directly on Linkedin either with a connection request or inMail.
Here’s a video with the advantages of using email marketing:
There are tools you can use to automate and facilitate parts of this process (Dux-Soup, and various email finders), but there’s still going to be a good deal of manual work involved.
This strategy of direct outreach is, well…the most direct and, I think, efficient and effective way of sales prospecting using Linkedin.
In addition to direct outreach, you should use Linkedin to build your authority (thought leadership) by publishing or sharing informative content relevant to your expertise. The sad truth is that very few people will most likely see your posts (which is the same problem on your social media platforms). But if you write really good stuff and work on letting people know, and you get lucky, you might actually start getting noticed.
The hope is that at some point a potential client will stumble across one of your masterpieces and decide to contact you. Inbound marketing. It does happen.
But leaving the inbound hopes aside for a moment, it’s important for you build your thought leadership on Linkedin because when you do reach out to potential clients or customers, they’ll check out your profile and content — and the more impressive your are, the better chance you’ll get of landing their business.
Yes, Linkedin sells PPC ads. Expensive ones. If you have cash to spare you can try them in addition to your sales prospecting search and contact process. But PPC is beyond the scope of this post.
Linkedin is THE social media platform for b2b companies to use as a sales prospecting tool. So give it a try and see if it works for you.