Guest post by Lexie Lu.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with approximately 500 million users and more than nine million companies represented. It is a bit different than some of the other social media platforms, in that it allows people to connect with other professionals and to leverage current connections to make new ones.
What do these numbers mean for you? If you want to produce business leads, LinkedIn is a must in your social media marketing strategy. But just having a presence on LinkedIn isn’t enough. You have to know how to generate leads and work them.
Start a Group
Groups allow your connections to engage with you and one another. This is an excellent way to let businesses on LinkedIn know what your company does without doing the blatant self-promotion that everyone hates.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has a members-only LinkedIn group, which has created the opportunity for a 40 percent growth in membership.
AICPA uses its LinkedIn group to share educational and marketing tools with CPA members. These digital benefits attracted a lot of attention, which gained the organization approximately 54,000 new members in the first six months of 2013 alone.
LinkedIn offers the opportunity for users to send direct messages via its InMail app. This will allow you to create a highly targeted marketing strategy and provides your key audiences with the type of content that is most valuable to them. You can only send once every 60 days — which means you need to be strategic and focused about your messaging when you choose to use it — but still gives you an occasional opportunity to generate new leads.
In a highly competitive marketplace, American Express delivered targeted, sponsored content to the people it most wanted to reach. They used a variety of mail and dynamic ads to read potential clients. As a result, this LinkedIn marketing strategy converted 22 percent of the leads generated into customers.
Make a List
LinkedIn rules in lead generation. In fact, the platform is 277 percent more effective than Facebook and Twitter at helping businesses generate leads. To maximize the potential of those leads, make a highly targeted list of prospective customers.
If you are a marketer for small businesses, think about what industry most of your clients are in. This is your niche, and these are the businesses you want to add to your list. Do a bit of research and add the name of the CEO of each potential company you want to reach to your list.
Once you’ve made the list, go ahead and send a connection request to each person. Be honest about what you do, and offer something in exchange for them connecting with you, such as regular articles on a topic they will care about or a group discussion platform.
Beef up Your Profile
You can make thousands of connections on LinkedIn, but if your profile doesn’t provide key information, those connections won’t know what you do or why they should care. Many people make the mistake of creating a profile that reads like a bio, when the focus should be on what the person has to offer to potential clients.
Try to look at your profile through the eyes of a lead. Does it clearly show what you have to offer? Have your connections endorsed you for specific skills? What unique talents do you have to offer the lead? Take time to carefully craft your professional headline, or job title, so it clearly states what you do.
If you’re unsure if your profile strikes the right chord, go ahead and get a professional evaluation from social media marketing experts. It’s better to spend a bit of time and money perfecting your profile than to risk losing leads because it looks unprofessional or doesn’t engage the user.
Webinars can be a powerful tool to generate new leads and keep them engaged with your company. Author and entrepreneur Neil Patel brought in 518,399 visitors and 16,394 leads by offering webinars. You can share your webinar schedule on LinkedIn, post tips and a syllabus from the web class and create standard and sponsored content to help with webinar registrations.
There are many marketing tools you can use to create a simple webinar, such as ClickMeeting. You simply have to find the one that works best for your needs, and then sign up attendees. This is also a good opportunity to collect contact info for your mailing list.
LinkedIn gives you the opportunity not only to connect with new leads, but to engage current clients and retain them. When a reader comments on something you’ve posted, take time to respond. If they are posting content that applies to your audience, share their content.
As with most social media platforms, building strong relationships relies on a give-and-take situation of mutually sharing content. However, don’t expect anything in return just because you share something a connection posted. They may or may not reciprocate.
When you put in place all the elements listed here and actually generate a lead, be sure to follow up with that lead. Small business owners tend to make one of two mistakes when it comes to leads — they don’t follow up, or they follow up too slowly. When a lead comes in, immediately send a note thanking the person for connecting with you. Be sure to add a sentence or two about the services you offer, and how you can help your new connection succeed.
LinkedIn is an excellent platform to generate B2B leads. The key is to target the right person in the company, such as the SEO, and to be persistent and smart about how you are reaching out. There is a fine line between persistent and spammy. Your job is to stay on the side of persistent, and not annoy leads, but turn them into customers.
Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and blogger from Williamsport, PA. Her ideal morning includes some HTML code and a cup of coffee. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.