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 In Managing & Growing, Marketing

Winning new business: How to use LinkedIn

Most people fail to see LinkedIn as anything more than a corporate version of Facebook. But if you’re willing to put some effort into the platform, the return on investment can be phenomenal.

What is LinkedIn used for?

LinkedIn used to be referred to as “Facebook for people about to be fired”. But while it remains an effective tool for finding work, it’s evolved into a platform for driving business growth. Here’s how you can use it to connect with potential clients.

Step 1: Push your personal brand

People who need a plumber can now go to LinkedIn and type ‘plumber’ into the search bar. So if you’re a plumber keen to receive enquiries from potential customers, you need to stand out from the crowd. To put things in perspective: there are 4.2 million monthly active Australians on LinkedIn, and almost 10,000 of those are plumbers.

With such strong competition, you need to provide a compelling reason why you are the better business. Throughout your profile, and especially in the summary, highlight your unique selling point – whether that’s providing the cheapest price, the best customer service or the finest craftsmanship. You can further optimise your profile with the keywords like ‘same-day plumber’ or ‘workmanship guaranteed’, which your potential customers might be searching for.

Step 2: Get connected

LinkedIn is to some extent a popularity contest. The more connections you have, the more people know about you and what you’re selling.

Aim to join the 500-plus connections club ASAP. Put your LinkedIn profile address at the bottom of your email and on your business cards. Don’t be shy about asking: “Can I send you a LinkedIn connection request?” to people you meet in the non-digital world. And don’t hesitate to contact strangers, despite the official LinkedIn warnings about doing so. The worst that can happen is your connection request is ignored.

You’re able to contact your first-degree connections for free (all the more reason to make as many as possible). And if you take out a paid membership, you can send ‘InMails’ to people you aren’t yet connected with.

Always remember that many business opportunities are facilitated by what academics call ‘weak ties’. These are friends of friends – or connections of connections – rather than people we already have strong relationships with.

LinkedIn advises that when sending InMails you get a far better response rate if you mention a connection you have in common, or something personal in their profile. Consider picking out a business they’ve worked for or hobbies they’ve mentioned.

Step 3: Become a thought leader

Identify the groups your target market is likely to be members of and join them. Firstly, this provides you with an opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in your field by engaging in discussions. That means you’ll be top of mind when a member of the group – or someone they know – needs what you’re selling. Secondly, it provides insight into what’s going on in your industry, and with the businesses that comprise it. Such information is invaluable when prospecting.

Regular, brief contributions work better than occasional, long ones. Aim to share a post to your page or to a discussion group at least every other day. If you’re short on time, simply liking other people’s contributions or endorsing your connections keeps your profile active.

It’s also important to note that no one likes reading long essays online. If you have time to publish longer posts where, for example, you share your thoughts about a topical industry issue, aim for around 200–500 words.

And finally…

At its core, LinkedIn is a social network, so building social capital is important. Unless there’s a compelling reason not to, accept connection requests, reciprocate when a connection endorses you, and assist others with advice and introductions rather than simply self-promoting.

Finally, play the long game. As with real-world networking, you’re unlikely to see immediate results. If you keep plugging away though, previously unimaginable business opportunities can materialise.

If you’re looking to grow your small business and need funds to help you do it, speak to Prospa about a small business loan.

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