Most business professionals realize that having a LinkedIn Profile is important, and I wholeheartedly agree. LinkedIn is
now the first place most potential employers, joint venture partners, circles of influence and others will look to get a sense of who you are before doing business with you.
The numbers are staggering! As of the 3rd Quarter in 2015, LinkedIn has 396 MILLION members world-wide, and there are 2 new members joining every second. Every second! Job recruiters who have been asked their opinion on the importance of LinkedIn have said this: If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you don’t exist. ‘nuff said.
So that’s on the personal visibility and branding side. What about lead generation?
Using your LinkedIn network for lead generation is still a new idea for many business owners, but it’s picking up steam! Spring is nearly here, that wonderful ‘fresh new world of possibilities’ feeling is in the air and there are leads, business relationships and sales opportunities of all kinds, right under your nose – in your LinkedIn network. Want in?
Here are three tips to get you started.
Actually look through your network! This seems obvious, but when is the last time you’ve done it? If your pattern is to passively accept invitations to connect and then do nothing with them, you probably don’t even know who’s in your network. Set aside an hour and look through every one of your connections. Look at each of their profiles.
Make notes about where you met them and/or why you said ‘yes’ to the connection. You’ll probably find this exciting! Going through your network can feel like finding buried treasure in your backyard. Who knew you were so rich?? Create a short list of people you must talk to, and reach out to them.
Re-start the engine! It’s time to turn your network from dormant to active. Right now, who you are is frozen in time in the minds of most of your network. They remember you – if at all – as where you were at when the connection was made. But a lot can change in a year, or two, or three. This is true for you and for each person you’re connected to.
Subdivide your network into business and personal. For person connections, reach out with a friendly invite to catch up. Someone who wasn’t previously a potential client may be a perfect fit right now. And even if they’re not, most people will feel valued and appreciate your reaching out to catch up. You can hear all their news and update them about what you’re working on. Now you’ll be fresh in their minds when they meet someone who needs your talents.
For business connections, make a more formal, mutually beneficial invitation. Something like this: Hi xx, we connected on LinkedIn a couple of years ago, and I don’t believe we’ve ever had a conversation. Let’s change that! I thought it would be a good idea to have a chat, get to know more about each other’s business and see how we can support each other. I’m particularly interested in learning more about your (mention something specific about their profile).’
This is an incredibly effective networking strategy. I reached out in this way to just twenty of my dormant connections and got two clients and four invitations to attend networking events.
Keep your network fresh. Once you’ve restarted the engine, keep it tuned up. Mark in your calendar once a quarter to reach out to each connection. This can be as simple as ‘I was thinking about you today. How are things going with xx?’ When you are fresh in their minds, your connections act as a secondary sales force for you.
There are more surgical, data-driven methods of using LinkedIn for lead generation and you can incorporate those over time. But there is no more powerful a business-building tool than the word-of-mouth that comes from personal connections. You already have a network through LinkedIn, so start there. Deepen those relationships and enjoy the serendipity and business that flows your way!