I just got a call from an industry colleague, whose company sells B-to-B, with a question I hear often:
“We do a lot of trade shows, and have a good system for getting people to our booth and following up with them afterward,” she reported. “But how do we reach the people who never come to trade shows? There are a number of companies in particular that would be a perfect fit, but we just don’t know how to reach the right person.”
That scenario is ready-made for LinkedIn. The problem is, most people don’t go any further than putting up a basic LinkedIn profile. Here’s how I suggested my friend proceed:
1. Write a dynamite LinkedIn profile that really highlights why someone would want to do business with your company. And yes, I recommend using a personal profile, rather than a business page. LinkedIn’s strengths are in personal one-on-one networking, so put your personal face forward.
2. Connect with industry contacts — as many as you can. “Do you connect with people you don’t know?” my friend asked. Yes, I do, as long as they’re established in the industry and their profile appears credible. The whole point of LinkedIn is to widen your circle of business relationships, so why not?
When time allows, I get in touch with LinkedIn contacts I don’t know and say, “We’re LinkedIn connections, but we’ve never met. Tell me more about what you do.” You never know where those conversations will lead.
By the way, when you send an invitation to connect, don’t use LinkedIn’s default message. You’re more likely to get a positive response if you personalize the message, along these lines: Hi Jim – It was great meeting you at the XYZ Show last week. Give me a call at xxx-xxx-xxxx if we can help with your gardening widget needs. In the meantime, would you like to connect on LinkedIn?
3. Troll your contacts’ connections to identify prospects for your own business. If you have a paid LinkedIn account, there are search capabilities to help you do this more efficiently.
Once you’ve found a good potential match, you can ask your mutual connection to introduce you. Barring that, you can often send a message via LinkedIn’s InMail mentioning your mutual connection and introducing yourself. And of course, you can always look up the company’s snail mail address and contact your new prospect the old fashioned way.
4. Join LinkedIn groups. One benefit of joining LinkedIn groups is that you can then see names and companies of fellow group members and send them a message from within LinkedIn. You can also form new relationships by starting discussions or participating in ongoing ones. Just avoid being overtly promotional. Questions, helpful information, and a soft sell are the best approaches.
For anyone whose company can benefit from expanding their base of business contacts, LinkedIn offers a huge opportunity. Take advantage of it!