You know LinkedIn is a potential gold mine for sales. But you’ve heard countless lead generation strategies and tactics that promise the moon and deliver nothing.
What’s worse, some of those suggestions will not only dry up your sales pipeline; they could actually lead to you getting kicked off of LinkedIn, and leave you in worse shape than before.
So how do you engage in a sustainable, sincere strategy that will help you generate B2B leads?
The answer is to stick to the adage that’s worked for salespeople throughout generations: Use LinkedIn to get people to know you, like you and trust you. Here’s how our approach works:
- Know you: Create a profile that shows prospects how you can help them.
- Like you: Pay it forward with helpful content (and not just your own).
- Trust you: Connect with other people and extend the relationship.
I’ll elaborate on each of these further below.
The key: Build relationships, generate referrals — not direct sales
Just like you do in real life, your goal is to meet people who will ultimately become referral sources for you. Not direct sales.
Wait, what? Isn’t this post about generating sales?
Yes, but there are very few salespeople out there who successfully use LinkedIn for generating direct sales leads. Dan Bigger is one of them.
Dan Bigger, who is very active on LinkedIn and Twitter, has success reaching out to prospects and introducing himself as a potential vendor.
But we think Dan is the exception to the norm. He’s in a niche manufacturing industry, and he’s also extremely active on social media. He also isn’t pushy in his approach. It works for him, but it may not work in every industry, or if you’re trying to reach people who get bombarded with sales requests.
So start with Dan’s approach first. If you can book an appointment just by connecting with someone, go for it. That may be all you need to do.
However, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work. Sam Gupta of ElevatIQ notes that LinkedIn is difficult for direct sales. Here’s what he says:
While LinkedIn is great at building target lists, it’s not a great platform for sales outreach. We have compared the results for direct outreach with cold call, email, and LinkedIn. And LinkedIn was always the worst performer for direct sales outreach.
For buyers who are in the market, it’s rare that they will go to LinkedIn. They typically go to Google. If a potential customer goes to LinkedIn, they will post about a product or solution and ask for recommendations.
So let’s talk about how to build up your network and start making connections to referrals.
Marketing team: Focus on individual pages before your company pages
You can and should have a LinkedIn company page. But for small marketing departments in particular, your efforts should focus on helping your individuals, particularly your sales team, build out their individual pages.
This is a business networking site. The idea is for individuals to connect with other individuals. With your own personal page, you can connect with others, follow others, and also follow their company pages.
If you are managing a company page, essentially all you can do is post content and hope it attracts followers. A big marketing department with a ton of resources will promote their company page and use it to gain followers.
Most small marketing departments don’t have those resources and need to more actively support their sales team.
The company page can be a great place to first post your own internal content, then share it with the team. But beyond that, don’t focus your time on the company page.
Getting people to know you, like you and trust you
There are a million and one things you can do on LinkedIn, but we’re going to apply the Digital Twin Manufacturing Marketing Approach: We’re going to use LinkedIn to get prospects to Know You, Like You and Trust You.
Let’s start out with your first priority — getting people to know you.
PRO TIP: After you read through this post, be sure to check out our LinkedIn 2021 Updates for Personal and Company pages.
Know You: Create a profile that shows prospects how you can help them
Your profile page tells the tale of who you are, your specialty, and what you do.
But because LinkedIn is a business platform, your mindset in creating your profile must be different than most social media profiles:
You want customers to know you in the sense they know how you can help them.
People are on Facebook for entertainment. People are on LinkedIn for business, either using it to get a job or improve their business.
Your profile should reflect how you can help people achieve their goal, section by section. LinkedIn guru Jared Wiese refers to this as “peeling the onion.” I’ll detail how this works by walking you through my profile page.
Headline and Profile Picture
People have to see who they’re dealing with, so you absolutely must upload your photo.
I won’t spend a ton of time on the picture. Upload a shot where people can see your face from the shoulders up (called a headshot), and get a white background behind it so you stand out. Here’s a tool to white out the background.
Next, we’re going to write your profile headline. This is the critical starting point, and it should cut to the essence of what you bring to the customer.
We ultimately deliver content that acts as a foot in the door for sales and relationship-building. This headline, I feel, sets the tone for our approach.
Then simply state what that is in terms of a well-known, keyword-searchable service “Content Marketing for Manufacturers.”
Note: I didn’t advocate stuffing keywords into your headline.
In experimenting with a client, Jared found that tightening the headline helped in the search results. He cautions against overusing keywords.
Sometimes, exact terms from headlines can take you out of searches!
So keyword stuffing headlines can really hurt, and testing is key.
This is anecdotal and based on a few clients, but think of it in terms of writing for people, not for algorithms.
Also note this warning from LinkedIn about the overuse of keywords:
This is the header image, which is an image you can upload. This is great real estate, as it allows you to build on the headline message. So treat it like a billboard. We emphasize the value to the customer first.
I also include my company name and then our niche “Marketing for Manufacturers.” This won’t be picked up by LI’s search engine, but it helps position our company.
The next important section is the LinkedIn Services section, where I include all the specific things I provide. In theory, this should also help you with the LinkedIn search engines.
The next layer of the onion is the About section. But I’m talking about the customer here, not me. Note how I start out talking about the challenges of our clients, and I have a teaser line with a fun emoji to get them engaged.
When you click the see more button, you get a brief overview of what we do, but more importantly, I’m sharing results and testimonials (social proof) from clients.
A new section on here is the Featured section, and instead of posting numerous items (they can see more of my work in the Activity section,) I instead just post the one thing that I want them to see: our strategic overview. I use this as a call-to-action to get them to our website.
The next section is Experience, which includes my work history. Now I get a bit more personal, but I’m going to use this section to showcase how my journey has led me to the position where I’m uniquely qualified to deliver on all I’ve listed above.
If I would have started my narrative here, you would have ignored it and moved on. Now you’re ready for it — it’s the background check, the due diligence.
Now you’ve got a good sense of who I am and what Winbound is all about.
Even though we spent the first section on the profile, there is a bit of overlap between the Know You and Like You part of this strategy. People will first truly discover you through the content you share, which will lead them to your profile.
For them to even get to the profile, they better like the content they’re reading. So let’s move on.
Like You: Pay it forward with helpful content (and not just your own)
How do you get people to like you?
The easiest way is to do them a favor. If it’s a neighbor, you lend them a missing ingredient when they’re cooking. If it’s a friend, you help them move a couch (ugh, heavy lifting).
On LinkedIn, you help them get a job or improve their business.
You can do this through the content you post and share. The goal is to help people, and in the process, build connections and potential referral sources. Here are some examples:
1. Post top of funnel content that can truly help prospects — and include some experts
We create content that answers questions from our niche market, but we don’t do it alone.
For example, I created a post on how to succeed at virtual trade shows. I involved a lot of influencers in the content, integrating their tips in the post. Then I posted it to my network, tagging both the influencers and potential prospects.
Note: I use video to promote the actual blog post, giving a brief overview of the content. Note I include a shot of the post in the video.
The result is that I’m expanding the distribution of this post, and providing a good service to both the people I involved in the post and my own readers.
2. Do a friend a favor and promote them on LinkedIn
I shared this post about Curt Anderson, a friend of mine. Curt had just done me a big favor by introducing me to a number of people. I really had nothing to offer him in return, so I put up this fun post about how he’s such a great connector.
When I wrote this, the post had received 69 likes and inspired 23 comments — many of them from Curt’s network.
My goal here wasn’t to cherry-pick his network — I really just wanted to promote Curt’s capabilities. But it was a nice byproduct that I made some new friends in the process.
3. Create events with partners, and use LinkedIn to promote them
Events are a great way to gain exposure to a large group of people. But they’re hard to do alone.
I’m a big fan of working with another organization to build something big. Case in point: Winbound teamed up with the American Marketing Association chapter in Madison to create a monthly event called Craft Marketing.
Every month, we bring in a top marketing expert to discuss a topic. It’s a fun way for me to reach out and invite experts to present, and it provides AMA with some great ongoing programs.
The best part is that I have a bunch of AMA members who are vested in the event and share my posts to help promote it. I also have event presenters who have a large network of their own to share in the outreach.
Here’s an example of how I promote the event and tag numerous people related to it.
4. Commenting on other people’s content
One of the most neglected methods of exposure on LinkedIn is commenting on other people’s content.
Every day, I leave three lengthy comments on other people’s content. This has the following effects:
- It makes the author happy that someone is reading their material.
- It makes me happy because I’m making someone else happy (seriously, it does).
- It boosts the number of people who look at my profile.
The last one seems surprising, but it’s true. I followed Jared Wiese’s advice using this tactic, and you can see how it impacted the number of people viewing my profile. That’s nearly a 200% increase in profile views — and on a consistent basis!
Note that all these pieces are designed to help people and increase my exposure to different people. They’re also my foot in the door — sales start with great content — and I’ve given content to allow me to take it to the next step: Making a connection.
Trust You: Connect with other people and extend the relationship
In the first two sections, we talked about getting people to know and like you. That’s achieved primarily through your profile, the content you create, and your engagement with the community.
Now they Know You and Like You, so it’s time to help them Trust You. And for that, you need to get personal.
Share some data on what they may be doing wrong
Many of us are getting inundated with LinkedIn requests, and they’re typically from someone we don’t know who is promising us all kinds of solutions even if they don’t know if we have a problem!
That spray and pray approach is usually automated and is an antiquated sales approach: Knock on enough doors until someone opens.
A more efficient and constructive approach was offered up by one of our clients, a marketing director, who told us:
“I will respond to an email or connect on LinkedIn if I can see the person has done some research on me, and may have a solution that can help.”
So after sharing the types of content I’ve mentioned in the “Like” stage, I will reach out to people only if they’ve:
- Viewed my profile
- Liked my content
- Connected with me first
Then I’ll do some homework on my end to see if they are someone I can potentially work with. We have a number of factors we consider. For example, we’ll analyze their website and determine if they’re only ranking for their company name in search engines, and not the products or services they sell. If that’s the case, we’ll let them know.
Then I offer up some type of free audit. In our case, it’s a Content-Conversion Scorecard.
If I get a positive response, I simply send them a message, and ask them if we can get together for a discovery call.
Now I can’t tell you what specifically you can do to prequalify if you can help someone, or what type of content you should offer them. You have to develop your own strategy, and the best advice I can give you is to narrow your focus to a specific target market that you’ve been successful with.
Using this content-first approach has allowed us to book 44% of the meetings we request!
This approach won’t generate enormous results overnight. But it’s a sustainable, long-term approach that:
- Won’t get you banned from LinkedIn because you’re spamming people for sales.
- Will help you build meaningful relationships, and create legitimate leads.
By implementing this approach, and sticking to it on a day-in and day-out basis, we increased our sales pipeline by 44%, and we’ve reached our goals of new clients per month.
If you’re interested in the Content-Conversion Scorecard we mentioned above, just click on the link below. Remember, you want to generate the content that makes this approach possible!