I was at a great expo in Scotland recently presenting on LinkedIn to owners and directors of SMEs. I told the audience that with over 450 million people on LinkedIn including 21 million in the UK, LinkedIn was a powerful networking tool that all small businesses needed to learn to use effectively.
At the end of this meeting a couple of the audience came up and the focus of their question was : “With so many people on LinkedIn how can I find the ones that are really going to make a difference to my business.”
They have a point; LinkedIn is so big it can seem to be difficult to get to grips with. So … how do you “find the right one”. Here is a simple three step process
STEP 1 – Do you know who you are looking for?
A simple question you’d think but so many business owners don’t have this sorted. At any networking meeting that you attend the first thing you need to do is have a plan as to why you are there and WHO you want to talk to. It is the same on LinkedIn, the first step is to know who you are trying to target and why. It is surprising but a large group of business owners don’t know. They will talk in generalities “Owners of small businesses … IT companies … companies with a turnover of £5-10 million … pharmaceutical companies”. Don’t define your target group as anyone who could ever possibly want to buy your product or service; that is a wish-list not a targeting strategy. Put some work into identifying and targeting those who you want to talk to. The way I put it at my workshop sessions is “If I could introduce you to just one group of people who could help you grow your business, which group would that be?” How would you answer that question?
STEP 2 – Search out the right people.
LinkedIn has a powerful built-in search engine but it may well not be the one you are currently using. Most people simply use the search bar at the top of the page to try and find people, companies or jobs, which is fine for finding someone or something you already know about. But what if you are trying to extend your reach? Well, clicking on the ‘Advanced’ search brings up a wealth of further search options, such as:
- First Name
- Last Name
Most are obvious, but I focus mainly on just two areas; Location and Keywords. I also search on industry, either in the keyword box or as part of the search boxes. The keywords search is an extremely powerful tool as it allows you to use Boolean search (true or false options) terms to ensure your search returns exactly what you are looking for. The simplest of these is to add quotation marks. For example, if you were searching for a ‘marketing executive’ and typed that in, it would return any people with ‘marketing’ or ‘executive’ anywhere in their profile. However, put quotation marks around it so that the word string is “marketing executive” and it would only return people with the full search term ‘marketing executive’ in their profile. You can also use phrases such as “AND“ “NOT” and “OR”( the capitals are required) . To exclude a term, type that term with an uppercase NOT immediately before it. For example, type “programmer NOT manager”. To include a particular term use “OR”. So ‘Sales OR Marketing’ will give you a list of targets that have either term in their profile whilst ‘Sales NOT Marketing’ will give you a list of sales only. Finally, location can be personalised right down to postcode so you can look at potential customers 10, 25 or 50 miles from your location, or nationally or internationally. So, if you want to find purchasing officers working in the construction industry within 25 miles of your company you now know how.
STEP 3 – Getting Personal.
Once you’ve found your list of ideal customers, reach out to each person on your new prospect list with a PERSONALISED invitation and give the recipient a reason to accept and to connect with you. Don’t whatever you do use the default LinkedIn message – if you cant be bothered to personalise an invite why should I be bothered to respond! Take the time to look at each person’s profile for insights into how you can word your invite. Where are they from? What do they do in their business? How might you be able to help? This process will only take all of 20 seconds and is well worth investing the time. Then when they accept you can respond with a thank you and start a conversation. Always think “what’s in it for them?” – give them a reason to connect, talk with you and meet with you. You are on your way to having a wonderful business relationship!
If you want more tips on how to utilise LinkedIn to find, connect and engage with ideal contacts, simply download my free E-Bookguide: ‘How to connect with anyone in the world’ which has loads of tips on how to find , connect and engage with your customers on LinkedIn.