But why is using LinkedIn for business such a conundrum, when 93% of B2B marketers rate it as the top social media and lead generation source?
Obviously, this is dependent on your LinkedIn for business goals and are your customers and potential leads using LinkedIn to communicate with companies like you and your brand? If you are looking for new leads that convert to product sales, then this maybe why you are not getting the returns on your investment.
I liken LinkedIn to a business conference that you are there to network with. You wouldn’t just pitch your product and expect someone to buy there and then, the same for LinkedIn. However similarly to a business conference it is okay to talk business and this is where you need to function your efforts when utilising LinkedIn.
1# LinkedIn Connections
LinkedIn is professional and business-like and your profile is based around a CV format with groups and discussions focussed around business topics, not what you had for lunch that day or your pet cat’s new toy. Keep that for Facebook and Instagram, if you are going to use LinkedIn for business then be professional at all times. For this reason alone even senior business people feel it is appropriate to have a LinkedIn profile.
This represents a valuable opportunity to not only contact senior company figures, but to engage with them for business advice and possibly pitch your product/service. Whereas before trying to contact them required going through and getting past their secretary or PA — the so called “gatekeeper” (as many of my Business Development colleagues have labeled over the years) who often blocked their access and hence a business pitch. People are more likely to read messages received through social media than emails or phone calls from a cold prospect.
LinkedIn connections are based on the six degrees of separation — it’s likely we are all connected to each other by six people. By searching for people you want to connect with you can view whether you are connected by someone in your network. If so, this makes it easier to connect with them as someone can introduce you to them rather than attempting a cold approach. Once you begin developing connections others will simultaneously connect with you.
2# LinkedIn Groups
There are thousands of active groups and communities on LinkedIn and this is where I find using LinkedIn for business really useful. Join a group in your product’s industry field and then begin reading and watching the members discussions. What are they discussing? How do they pitch themselves or their product? Do NOT begin by asking everyone to take a look at your product pages and drop a link to your website in a discussion, or even worse begin a conversation with this. Why? Well you will be instantly listed as a spammer and a shameless self promoter — nobody wants to engage with these types of individuals even if they would benefit from your product. I’ve done this and was instantly burned and bungled out of the group by the group’s admin.
So how did I find this useful you ask? Well simply put I learnt to become patient, I commented on conversations from others, answering and asking questions. I learnt to understand their needs. So when a discussion erupted that I knew my product would solve – I pitched my product as a solution to their needs and what value it represented to the user. Rather than being listed as a self promoter it proliferated sign ups to our service, because I was an trusted group member who provided something of value.
3# LinkedIn Updates
As mentioned earlier this is not what you had for lunch but for posting premium content that will likely be shared and therefore, highlight you as an industry leader. Post about a new a new product launch or the latest project you are working on, or a free webinar you are holding. This is where it is fine to share a link to an article to your website or blog, again don’t pitch your product, pitch that you are an expert in your field. Others will reshare your content and comment on it — ensure you answer every comment, no matter if it is direct or negative — stand your ground. You are after all the expert.
LinkedIn now has an option where you can actually publish an article on their website — LinkedIn Pulse. When LinkedIn opened Pulse to the public in February 2014 it represented an opportunity for marketers to gain new reach to new lead prospects and potential customers. Business owners and other non-marketers followed — now the most aspiring copywriters, bloggers, salespeople and recruiters could publish their content and become experts in their fields — whether cosmetics, Star Wars or a list of top online small business tools. The LinkedIn Pulse app provided readers with an insatiable appetite for content to read and connect with industry specialists.
4# LinkedIn Ads
Before you say I don’t have the budget for this, or that that you’ve heard horror stories about burning money for little gains, here me out. I too have not always obtained the results I wanted (and got a stern slap on the wrist from my CEO at the time in the process!) But LinkedIn Ads can be effective because you can segment your audience and target specific demographics that are likely to use your product.
For example, you can target specific countries and job functions, even excluding certain segments:
Importantly, you can specify your daily budget and the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) you are willing to pay. LinkedIn will advise you what other advertisers (competitors) are bidding so you are sure that you will reach those potential leads. With over 200 million users LinkedIn presents a great way to reach others you are not able to in your own network.
But there is caveat — don’t begin advertising until your LinkedIn profile and company pages are up to scratch. Whilst 30% of people might believe what you say about yourself or your company on your website, 70% are influenced by what they read on your LinkedIn company pages. Why? Because as you receive customer/client feedback in the form of recommendations for your product or services, they are listed on your company pages/profiles. Prospective leads can view who made the recommendations, how influential they are, what positions they currently hold. This validates the strength and value of those testimonials so are key to how to use LinkedIn for business.
5# LinkedIn Premium — specifically LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Why you ask? Isn’t this a way that LinkedIn monetises their site, well maybe. But don’t be too quick to dismiss it. Okay it’s not exactly cheap (the Pro version being $80 per month) but it does offer something else than LinkedIn’s free version. Both offer monthly InMails to directly message prospects, lets you view more profiles, provides details on who’s viewed your profile, lets you execute advanced searches and save searches and of course using the Relationship and Contact tabs to track your contacts.
So what’s the difference? Well one nice thing about Sales Navigator is that you don’t need to connect with a person to define them as a lead. Once you define a lead or account, anything they publish is listed here. You can also get notifications through the ‘Connected for LinkedIn’ mobile app when leads publish content — this makes it easier for you to keep up with the prospects you’re most interested in, and view what they are interested in and may provide opportunities to reach out and engage.
The Accounts page is a little more powerful. It lists your accounts and provides suggestions for accounts you may wish to follow. In addition, you can view the account and get more insights from Sales Navigator.
Sales Navigator has a long list of features. Some of these are features you would expect any CRM-like product to have or are only slightly better than the free or premium version of LinkedIn:
The Lead Builder allows you to search for keywords, companies, locations, and titles, and to filter by functional role (like sales or accounting), company size, industry, and so on. Once you set your parameters, Lead Builder shows you the filters you’ve applied and the subsequent results. You can save searches, and selectively remove filters before, or after the search has been executed. You can also filter the results list by keyword, relationship, current company, and so forth.
Sales Navigator gives you access to LinkedIn’s data in unprecedented ways that can reduce B2B sales cycles if you have connections to leverage. There are scenarios where Sales Navigator can provide sales opportunities almost out of nowhere, but consistent good results will require a well oiled selling machine, time, and help from your team.
6# Add ons and plugins
So you are not convinced about paying for ads or LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, but to really get more on using LinkedIn for business you’ll need to pay something to compliment your lead generation efforts. After all you get nothing in this world for free right?
Remember LinkedIn has a lot of data that people are willing to list on their public profiles — many LinkedIn users view other profiles and add their contact data to an excel spreadsheet or their own CRM platforms and then contact prospective leads this way. Although laborious this is still an effective way to use LinkedIn for free and boost your sales leads.
However to reduce the monotony and increase the speed and accuracy of adding this data to a CRM why not use several browser extensions that can do this for you? Prospects, Ebsta, Ecquire are a few examples. For several dollars a month these software services can do this for you, adding the data into CRM pipeline stages whilst checking for existing client data you may have added previously. This enables you to focus more on pitching your products to prospective leads than the time taken to manually transfer data.
There are various ways on how to use LinkedIn for business, no matter what your budget. Using the free version is excellent at highlighting you as an industry leader within your field creating a network of connections. Paid versions enable you to reach others beyond your connections to boost your lead generation and brand awareness efforts. Whilst 3rd party tools can complement your LinkedIn strategy and boost your sales pipeline for a few additional dollars a month. Before you begin, determine whether you have the time to allocate to a LinkedIn business strategy. Using LinkedIn for business requires a sustained continued effort to reap the rewards.