How to use Linkedin to generate leads for your startup

LinkedIn-Connections

LinkedIn is probably the best networking platform for making connections with potential customers in your industry, getting noticed professionally and generating leads online. A pretty bold statement, but it’s true.

If you are a business person or company trying to make connections in an industry, there are some simple approaches that work. But let’s start with those approaches which don’t work:

  1. You have a profile picture of you and your college friends in a ‘Sculling’ contest or stood posing in front of a six or seven-figure supercar.

This is self-explanatory, right? You want people to feel warm about your picture and for you to be approachable. Neither of these scenarios does that. The image it betrays is of someone unapproachable, who values things more than relations. If you have a picture of yourself in front of a supercar, sorry to offend, but don’t! (The exception: If you’re a motor dealer handling high-value exclusive cars)

  1. Don’t click ‘Connect’, to someone you don’t know without adding an introductory note.

Why would a potential contact agree to a connection with a complete stranger who they don’t see as having anything in common? A short message to state why you are making a connection always helps and massively increases your chances of being accepted.

  1. Don’t make a connection and immediately follow up with a sales pitch.

LinkedIn is like dating. You wouldn’t expect to end up in bed on the first night, so don’t ask for it. It takes time to warm-up. Wine and dine or rock’n’roll to begin with until you both feel safe, and more trusted in the relationship. If it’s a high-value lead, message them on related issues first and nurture that relationship. The same rules apply to LinkedIn as you would apply in your work life.

If you’re serious about using LinkedIn, then it’s worthwhile going for their Sales Navigator plan.

Sales Navigator and the Professional plans offer the ability to focus on key contacts and leads and contact them, regardless if they are 2nd, 3rd or less connected. You can make unlimited connections, unlike the ‘freemium’ version which limits your daily connections to 50. Inmails allow you to send messages to people you don’t know or are past your 2nd level connections.

Other benefits include;

  • Save accounts and leads to keep track of prospects
  • Unlocking people beyond your third-degree connections. Helpful when you have nothing in common to make contact
  • See who’s viewed your profile. People will click on you to find out more about you. You can message them and ask what their interest was.
  • Lead Builder – Build a custom list of leads using a comprehensive search tool.

However, before you sink any money into a professional sales plan, let’s get the basics right first.

Your Profile

It’s not about you. Unless you’re in the market for a new job, and you want to appeal to recruiters. You want potential customers to know immediately from your first line description what you and/or your business does.

Your Photo

Make it professional and make yourself look friendly and approachable. Get a friend or better-half to have some fun with a camera in various warm and approachable poses. Even the least photogenic, like me, can make a bad photo look good. If all else fails, take your picture wearing only your shirt and tie indoors at home, wearing only your underwear. It’s incredible the wry smile that appears when only you know this is the case!

Mind the Title

What do you want potential clients to take away from your first line? Results pages, mobile and small screens highlight only the first line of your profile. Make it count. For company and individual SEO, check your URL too. Rather than linkedin.com/in/YOURNAME/5/792/58 you can change it to linkedin.com/in/YOURBUSINESSNAME or linkedin.com/in/YOURNAME

Profile Section

Don’t use meaningless, vague adjectives or adverbs in your profile. What do you do and what can you or your business provide for potential clients? The ‘Keep It Simple’ approach works well here. It’s not going to make you stand out from the crowd if you write, like many others, ‘Professional, positive, driven, hard-working and professional’ in your profile.

Profile Banner

You have a massive space on LinkedIn to showcase what you or your company does in the banner area. Use it. Either add a logo, a relevant picture (i.e. you’re a Drone pilot offering building surveys, so show a picture of a drone surveying a building) and add a brief description and your website address.

There are some great tools available online for this. One which I recommend is Canva for importing images, adding filters, cropping and overlaying text. A free tool which sends your final image to the output size you need. The specification for LinkedIn banners, or officially known as the ‘Introduction card’, is no larger than 8MB, in JPG, GIF or PNG format and pixel dimensions of 1584 (w) x 396 (h).

The above are the absolute basics to be noticed. You should add any certifications, awards, recommendations and work history experience as required.

Now you have the basics set-up it’s time to make connections.

Making connections

The best relationships are those you have something in common. If you don’t have much of interest to share give something back. Create a group; it will reward you many times over. As an example, my group services business owners and directors who have an interest in generating leads and marketing their business as marketing issues for engineers, manufacturers and technologists. I have learned more from discussing the real problems, such as Return on Marketing Investment and perceptions versus the reality of various marketing technologies than any course could have provided.

It also benefits me as I write and post daily a new article or curated post, which positions me as an expert in this field.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Create a group based on shared interests. Don’t make it too ‘salesy’. You don’t want to force-feed your company and sales pitches to your group members. You will never get anyone willing to join.. Don’t keep pitching in your posts and provide useful information that’s of interest to the group. Each of your group members are potential future clients.

Write about group related articles every day. Select these from sources within the internet related to your field of expertise. Don’t forget, clients and members of your group should be there to know, like and trust you as an expert in your area of expertise.

Warm-up messaging

Using your Unique Sales Proposition (USP) to target key users and your ideal persona, set-up a series of five or six messages to new contacts starting with an initial ‘Connect’ message asking them to connect as you are in similar industries. Create a set of warm-up messages saved as a text document (to copy and paste).

The follow-up messages are designed to warm-up your contacts into eventually agreeing to a call or, if local, a meeting with you. The following is an example, as you need to write this in your own words and specifically about your subject/group.

Message 1: Thank you for making the connection. I connected as we work in similar fields of…… I also have a LinkedIn group you might be interested in. https://www.linkedin.com/groups

Message 2: Link to a resource related to your subject online with a brief explanation of why they might find it useful. Add on a P.S. that you are the founder of the group which may be of interest to them.

Message 3: Link to a conversation within the group with a brief explanation and why they might find it useful. This is where your connections need to have joined to view the group and its discussions.

Up to message 3, spaced evenly at 2-week intervals will take six weeks minimum, you have warmed them up, and they will know what you and your group do. Time to arrange a phone call or meeting.

Message 4: Ask for a connection, either by phone or a meeting.

Don’t hesitate to send a reminder message and ask them a few weeks later for a call again. They may have missed your initial message.

Now the above has been completed you can revert to sending messages by email, as it attracts those people who don’t review their LinkedIn often.

Automation

A criticism of a lot of social media is that you can all too easily automate the messaging. As of today, it’s not easy to send automated messages via LinkedIn. And that is for a good reason. LinkedIn has shown some foresight here as it means real conversations take place, not automated, powered by AI. After all who wants to talk to a ‘Bot’?

The more honest and open you are the better the response from other connections. Make connections on LinkedIn and engage with other users, it helps you as an individual get noticed.

The above method can be simplified by using some simple planning tools such as Excel spreadsheets and ‘Feedly’ for curated posts in your group pages feed.

Acceptance rates can be as high as 25% for obtaining telephone appointments. The test of this is how well your contact database, what you offer and have in common to the ideal persona or buyer for your business.

Dealing with that initial telephone call or meeting is the subject of another post. It does show that LinkedIn is an excellent tool for targeting potential customers. Like anything good, it can’t be done in a day, but makes LinkedIn one of the most popular for B2B lead generation.

Social selling index

Everyone using LinkedIn gets a score based on engagement with and use of LinkedIn, called the SSI, or Social Selling Index. Doing some of the above will help establish your professional brand, find the right people, build relationships and engage in group or individual conversation with others. The SSI index will give an idea of how you fare in your industry sector against your peers.

Conclusion

LinkedIn often underestimated. It is not Facebook, although a Facebook company page can be helpful in attracting leads to your website sales funnel. But in the end, LinkedIn is probably still the best tool for attracting B2B clients and promoting your startup following some basic, professional rules following sound marketing advice.