In our last article, we focused on your prospects and their preferred new language — digital. To begin with, we gave tips and insights into building your profile up in the right way so that you look like the Wolf of Wall Street (only trustworthy!) on your LinkedIn profile, not The Dude from the Big Lebowski. Now, let’s discover how to take that freshly polished LinkedIn profile and successfully generate qualified leads.
First, look at your existing LinkedIn connections. Of that list, which folks would you categorize as “ideal customers”? They are the ones who love you and you love them and together, you have a great partnership. You provide them with high-level managed services and they love to tell you how grateful they are for your solutions. Go ahead. Click on their profile. Now, if the number of connections they have is blue then it is linked and you can click on that number to see all of their connections.
From those connections, which ones look like viable prospects? Who can you provide value to? Identify the top folks from that list and connect with them. To get in touch with these folks, you have two choices:
1. Connect directly
2. Ask for an introduction from that original connection.
Here’s how you can approach each type of outreach. Regardless of which way you choose, BE PERSONAL! Don’t attempt to connect with someone new using only LinkedIn default email text. An example of a direct connection might look like this.
Happy Monday to you. I’m reaching out to connect on LinkedIn. I enjoy connecting with like-minded folks and I see we share a connection whom I think quite highly of, namely [insert that person’s name here], and I believe I would enjoy following your posts and updates. Please accept my connection request.
If you’d prefer to ask your connection to introduce you to their connection, simply click on the “Get Introduced” button and ask your connection to introduce you. That ask might go something like this:
Hope you are well! I noticed that you are connected with Charles. I would like to be able to connect with him to build an online relationship. Over time, I believe Charles and I might be able to bring value to each other as you and I have. Would you mind making that connection? I would be most appreciative.
Short, direct, and asking for absolutely nothing in return aside from an online relationship from either request. This will work for many of the requests you make, but not all, so just know that going in, especially if you are looking to connect with C-level executives.
So, Bob makes the connection or you reach out directly to Charles, and he accepts your request the next day. What’s next? The thank you message of course (or two of them if Bob makes that introduction). Once someone has let you into their LinkedIn connection group, you should consider that a privilege. Do not immediately begin to pillage their connections. Begin with a thank you. It should be simple and to the point and build value. For example:
Thank you for accepting my connection request. In looking at your profile, I see we also are both members of the CEO Technology group. I really enjoy the discussions that happen in that group. Would you like to connect in the next week and grab a cup of coffee? I’d enjoy chatting with you about some of the recent discussions within the group. I’m available on Thursday this week around 10 a.m. Does that work for you?
Looking forward to connecting.
Lo and behold, Charles is happy to connect for coffee — the CEO Technology group is his favorite place to learn from other CEOs in the technology space. Good sleuthing!
What happens next? You begin positioning yourself as a trusted advisor — as the industry expert you are! You share relevant information via reputable articles, blogs and long format posts (we’ll get to these in short order). As the next week progresses, you share original long format posts wrapped around some of the technology issues that most likely resonate with Charles as well as reputable third-party articles with your thoughts within the post.
When you log into your LinkedIn account and you look to the top right of your LinkedIn page, you’ll see the email, flag and silhouette symbols. Focus on the flag in the middle. There’s likely a red number there, alerting you that something interesting has happened with your connections. Check on the following:
1. Who has viewed your profile. Why check this? Because if someone is checking out your profile, they have been attracted to something about you (and no, more than likely it wasn’t your stunning good looks). Something made them look at you — a business connection, a keyword from your summary that was served up as a result from a Google search … something. So check those folks out and if they seem like good connections, send them a personalized invitation to connect.
2. Long format posts. LinkedIn will alert you if someone has published a long format post. Here’s an example of one of mine for reference: http://bit.do/long_format. See if any customers of influential connections have published a long format post and comment on or like it.
3. Anniversaries. LinkedIn will notify you when someone is having a work anniversary. Be sure to congratulate them and send well wishes. It’s a touch point that is unobtrusive and shows you are thinking of them.
4. Comments. Folks love to share their thoughts and opinions online. If you post an engaging post on an article, folks may comment on it. Be sure to reply.
What is a Long Format Post?
LinkedIn long format posts are a fantastic way to build up your credibility as an industry influencer and trusted advisor to your connections and followers on LinkedIn. The long format posts are similar to blogs in that you are able to create your own original content and post it on LinkedIn’s publishing platform, complete with images and links back to sources and your own website.
To get started, look at your update status bar. There’s a small pencil icon on the right hand side of the update bar. Click it. Now you’re ready to begin.
How Do I Post My Article?
I’d recommend writing the post in Word or your favorite text editor of choice, then pasting it into the LinkedIn long format post area, just in case there’s a loading issue with your page. You don’t want to lose all your hard work!
Once the article is pasted into the editor, go through and bold, italicize, and link your article in the relevant places. You ultimately want to drive folks back to your website to learn more about the topic you’re discussing.
Pick an image to accompany your post and upload it to the area at the top where it reads: “Upload an image to bring your post to life.” It’s just above your author photo at the top of the post. Find a relevant image from any stock photography website or something you may have already in your library. Just don’t steal any images from the Web without licensing them.
Let’s go over some best practices:
1. Original content — make sure that this is something you wrote. The content has to be an article written by you. This is not the place to share an article with a short comment, this is a multi-paragraph blog post. This does not replace your blog post for your company, this enhances your individual credibility as a thought leader in the office technology space.
2. Don’t sell — this is a platform that wants to provide helpful, educational information. Do not post your monthly copier specials or toner deals. Your post will be ignored. However, if you want to offer tips on how an office manager can change simple settings on their copier or MFP to save dollars throughout the year, that’s meaningful. That has value. If you end your post with “Call us today to buy a copier with these features” you’ve just lost your credibility. The purpose is to build trust so when your audience sees your post, they begin to trust you and think of you over your competitors when it comes time to upgrade their fleet.
3. Stay on top of the comments — regularly check and reply to all comments (email alerts and checking the flag icon on your profile page are both great ways to do this). Sometimes, folks have great questions or insightful comments. It is best practice to reply to them and keep the conversation going! It’s not much different than a typical dialog with a prospect, only now, the platform of choice is digital, so meet them where they’re hanging out and talk to them there. Online. On social channels.
Overall, there are so many ways you can engage with your target prospects via LinkedIn. Learning to harness the power of this platform can result in more highly qualified leads that trust you. And that is a powerful thing.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of The Imaging Channel