LinkedIn has become the world’s most popular social network for career professionals, but many businesses are still trying to figure out how to use LinkedIn for lead generation.One of the common misconceptions about LinkedIn is that it’s “only for people who are looking for a job” or “only for hiring people.”
Most business professionals use LinkedIn to post their resumes and keep in touch with old colleagues, but there are also many ways that businesses can go farther to use LinkedIn to network, find clients, find prospects and generate sales leads.
Here are a few easy ways that your business can generate sales leads on LinkedIn, with a minimum amount of time and effort:
- Participate in Groups: LinkedIn Groups are one of the best ways to immediately connect with other people and companies in your industry. Keep in mind that people go to LinkedIn Groups not because they’re looking to buy something, but because they’re looking for information and ideas. For example, if you sell IT solutions, chances are there is already a LinkedIn Group dedicated to your specific market niche, and you probably have prospective customers and business partners who are discussing the types of challenges that your solution can address. LinkedIn allows you to join these discussions and build relationships with people who might eventually become sales prospects. If your market niche doesn’t have a LinkedIn Group, you can create one of your own. For example, my company started a LinkedGroup called Manage Your Leads which connects business owners and sales professionals who are looking to learn about lead generation best-practice. Our group now has over 2,500 members, who are looking for ways to grow their businesses.
- Answer questions: LinkedIn gives you an ideal venue for sharing your expertise. Keep in mind that this should not be an exercise in “bragging” or hard sell tactics. Instead, look for opportunities to answer people’s questions. For example, you might see someone post a question in a LinkedIn group that relates to the solution you sell – like, “What are some considerations that companies should keep in mind if they’re going to explore an investment in this type of solution?” or “Should we start small or go big on this type of solution? What are the potential pitfalls?” Starting from this general question, you can share your knowledge and demonstrate your generosity as an industry thought leader.
- Ask questions: If people aren’t already discussing the kinds of topics you want to talk about, start a conversation of your own. Posing a question on LinkedIn and soliciting the advice and expertise of other experts in your industry can be a great way to develop contacts and gain valuable business intelligence. LinkedIn can be one of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry, just by reading the comments and updates from people in your field. Ask questions that inherently will attract individuals interested in your product or service. For example, I will ask questions in technology groups about how they are improving their sales pipeline. It’s very important for me to understand what the market is doing to address problems that my services solve. This gets a great conversation going, and helps me build my LinkedIn network. Again, it’s not about a hard sell, but providing insights and getting the conversation started.
- Integrate LinkedIn with your other marketing activities: Every time you post an answer on LinkedIn or contribute to a discussion in a LinkedIn Group, you can add a link to a relevant blog post or white paper on your company website. Keep in mind that the goal is to be generous and thoughtful – make it about solving the other person’s problem and helping them understand, not trying to sell them something. Overly aggressive tactics can backfire on LinkedIn just as in the real world. But at the same time, your goal should be to develop relationships on LinkedIn that you can bring into your “real life” marketing techniques. You can invite new contacts on LinkedIn to join your next conference call or seminar. The reverse is true as well – every time you meet a new contact in “real life,” whether it’s at a networking function or at a seminar you’re presenting, look them up on LinkedIn and add them to your online network.
LinkedIn makes it easier than ever before to stay in touch with your entire professional network, all in one place. There is a world of opportunities waiting for your business on LinkedIn if you’re willing to invest some time and effort, put yourself out there, and engage with people in a spirit of helpful generosity.
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