If you market and sell your services to other businesses then the chances are you use Linkedin. Probably a lot.
If you know how to use it, it can be a really effective system for finding contacts and referrers to begin a high-value relationship with. And someone visiting your profile can be the first step towards them making contact.
But the whole Linkedin interface is about to change…
Only 22% of Linkedin users are active once a month or more frequently. Contrast that with 66% of Facebook's 1.79 Billion users who are active daily and you can see that Linkedin has a big activity problem.
The way they aim to address it is by simplifying the interface. Making it easier to use for the majority of basic users who they hope will then use it more.
But the flip side of simplifying the interface is that they'll be taking features away and making it more restrictive. If you're a frequent Linkedin user you'll find that many things you rely on now (like Advanced Search) are going away or changing significantly.
On this episode of the More Clients Podcast I interview the UK's “Mr Linkedin” Mark Williams. Mark has been training businesses in how to use Linkedin since 2008 and he runs the Linkedinformed podcast where other Linkedin trainers and advanced users go to find out the latest news and tips on Linkedin.
Mark has had special access to the new Linkedin interface since October last year, and in this interview he walks us through all the significant changes in Linkedin we'll see when the new interface is rolled out widely (scheduled to be completed in May this year).
He covers what the changes are, how it impacts the key things you might want to do on Linkedin, and what you can do to prepare for the changes or deal with them when they happen.
If you're a serious Linkedin user you MUST listen to this podcast and in many cases take action before the changes hit you.
This week's question is from Anna and it's about the best ways of marketing using Linkedin Groups. There are many active Linkedin groups filled with your potential clients. But can they be used effectively for marketing? Should they? If so, what are the best ways?
I ran a webinar yesterday for members of Momentum Club focusing on practical strategies for winning clients with Linkedin.
If you'd like to get access to the recording (and all the other resources in Momentum Club), you can get hold of it by taking a $1 trial by clicking here.
Here's a summary of the Linkedin Tips we covered:
Strategy 1. Get Yourself a Client Focused Profile
Although I don't believe many clients actively search on Linkedin for potential service providers – they will almost always check you out on there before speaking to you or meeting with you if you connect in other ways.
So having a good linkedin profile is pretty vital.
The mistake most people make is that they treat Linkedin like an online CV. They focus on their jobs, their achievements, the responsibilities they've had over the years.
While that may be the sort of thing that interests prospective employers – it's of no value to potential clients.
My best linkedin profile tip is simple: make your profile client focused.
A client focused profile will highlight who you work with and how you help them. It should be more like the way you introduce yourself at a networking event than a resume.
You want a potential senior client to read it and think “this guy could help us – and I think we could work with him”.
So focus on what your clients get from working with you – and potentially include some testimonial type quotes from them too.
2. Connect Broadly, but with Purpose
When I first started on Linkedin I followed the advice to only connect with people I already knew well.
With hindsight, that was a mistake.
Linkedin can be a good way of starting new relationships – not just maintaining them with people you already know.
Now I'm not saying connect with everyone. But if you get the opportunity to connect with people who may know potential clients for you – then take it. Use it as a chance to start building a relationship with them. Send them a message after you connect and get a conversation going.
After all, if you went to a face to face networking event you wouldn't spend the whole time talking to people you already knew.
3. Use Linkedin to Turbo-Charge Your Referrals
Of all the Linkedin Tips I've given over the years – this one is without doubt the most powerful for getting new clients.
Referrals are pretty much the most powerful strategy you can harness to get more clients. The trouble is, we usually don't know who the people we know are connected to. So we end up making vague requests for referrals to “any small business” or “senior executives” that rarely come to fruition.
But imagine how powerful our requests for referrals would be if we knew who our contacts knew and were able to ask for referrals specifically to the ones that would be great clients for us.
Well, with Linkedin that's exactly what you can do.
You can either start by looking at the connections of people you know well. People you feel confident would give you a strong recommendation.
If you spot someone you'd like an introduction to then give your contact a call or an email (but preferably a call) and gently ask them to introduce you.
Or you can start by doing an “Advanced Search” on Linkedin to look for people in the ideal industry sector for you, with the right sort of job titles, and in the right geography. Or with a premium Linkedin subscription, working in the right sort of business with the right level of seniority.
When the search function returns the list of people meeting these criteria, choose to view 2nd order connections only (i.e. the connections of your direct contacts) and the list will tell you the name of the person who connects you.
If you know them well enough you can proceed as before. Give them a call and gently ask for an introduction or referral.
This strategy, more than any other, is the one that people who are having the most success using Linkedin to win clients are using. But you need to make sure you're connected to all the people you know who themselves are likely to be connected to your potential clients.
4. Use Groups (and Your Lead Magnet) to Turn Cold Contacts into Warm
One little known strategy that is incredibly effective is to harness the feature of Linkedin that allows you to send direct messages to people you're in the same group as even if you're not connected.
That means that if you join groups that your potential clients have joined (even if they're not active in dicussions) you can send them a message.
Now you have to be careful with this. An unsolicited message trying to sell yourself or your services to them is spam. And on Linkedin it feels even worse because it's such an intimate medium with mesages being primarily between people who have agreed to connect with each other.
But if you use the message to offer them something of value (your lead magnet), then it turns a cold contact into a communication the recipient will appeciate.
I recently ran a test campaign using this strategy and over 20% of the people I sent messages to offering a copy of my Pain Free Marketing Blueprint either went off and downloaded it directly, or sent me a message back to thank me and request a copy.
If you know about response rates in direct mail and email marketing you'll know that 20% is an order of magnitude higher than you normally get.
But it only works if you have something of value to offer, not a sales pitch.
Put These Linkedin Tips Into Action
These are the simple and direct strategies I've found to work the best to connect with high potential clients via Linkedin.
If you'd like more details on them and on other high performing client-winning strategies, then you might like to consider the $1 trial of Momentum Club. You'll get immediate access to the Linkedin webinar recording along with all my Core Marketing training on the best ways of getting clients.
My latest tips on building a Client Winning Profile for Linkedin are now on a free, short video – click here to watch it.
Last night I was finalising a training course I ran today on Linkedin. I was having a quick look round at people's profiles for good/bad examples – and what I saw shocked me.
First a little bit of background:
In my landmark post 10 Linkedin Tips for Professionals (still showing on page 1 of google for “linkedin tips”!) the very first Linkedin tip I shared was to build what I called a Client Focused profile.
When most people join Linkedin they do one of two things.
After going through the process of telling Linkedin your education and previous jobs you get the chance to create a summary. This is the main thing people will look at when they visit your profile – it's your opportunity to say exactly what you want them to read when they do so. Most people spurn that opportunity.
Either they put nothing in their summary at all, or they essentially copy the text from their resume and talk about the jobs they've had, the responsibilities they've held, the achievements they've made, etc.
It's a huge mistake.
Your achievements and responsibilities may be great for a resume – but are you actually looking for a new job right now? Did you join Linkedin to use it as a place to store your resume for all to see? Probably not.
Most of us aren't looking for a new job most of the time. But we are on the lookout for new clients most of the time.
For the vast majority of professionals, their Linkedin profile summary should be written to give the right impression to potential clients or potential referrers (depending on whether they typically get their work mainly directly, or mainly from referrers).
It's not hard. Figure what impression you want to give to clients and referrers and write to create that impression in your profile.
Perhaps you want to come across as an expert, or someone who's approachable and easy to do business with. Or experienced. Or fun. Or empathetic.
Whatever it is, figure it out. And prove it in what you write. Your profile summary is the thing that's looked at more than any other – and it's under your control.
It will be looked at by potential clients who you meet and then who check you out online afterwards. It will be looked at by potential referrers who you offer to connect with.
It's not rocket science. Don't mess it up.
And yet last night, when I looked at a random set of profiles I was truly shocked by what I saw. They were awful.
I searched for profiles containing “managing director” in the job title.
What I got in the first 10 I looked at were:
2 who had nothing in the profile summary at all.
1 whose summary said “for information go to www.mysite.com/myprofile” (if he couldn't be bothered to copy and paste a decent profile onto Linkedin what on earth makes him think the people reading his page would be bothered to copy and paste his website address to go and see it?)
1 who just listed some consulting jargon words. Business Process Reengineering, ERP, etc.
3 Who said nothing about themselves – just what their company did. No personal connection at all.
1 Who told me all about his vision, his favourite mottos, the rules he lives by (but nothing about what he might be able to do to help me).
And only 2 who had reasonably descriptive profile summaries that actually said who they worked with, and how they helped them – so that I was able to see whether I'd be interested in connecting with them further.
My latest tips on building a Client Winning Profile for Linkedin are now on a free, short video – click here to watch it.
Sparked by reading a colleague's rather amusing recommendation on Linkedin, I've decided to start collecting “Linkedin Funnies”. If you spot something funny on Linkedin – either in a profile or recommendation or wherever – then please leave a comment on this post.
Here are the funnies I've found so far:
The first recommendation, to my mind, is a work of sarcastic genius:
Next is a rather nicer recommendation:
The third is perhaps not laugh-out-loud funny – but is quite well done:
So do you have any better examples of funny profiles or recommendations? Drop them on a comment or email and I'll get them up here.
I've just had a rather heated argument with someone on a Linkedin discussion group that's had the side benefit for me of clarifying what I feel is the “right” way for professionals to promote their businesses.
I'll summarise the background briefly:
The person in question posts regular articles on a Linkedin group I'm a member of. His posts are pretty much “best practice” from a copywriting perspective. The headlines are always controversial and intriguing – they always make you want to read the article. And the articles are well written, opinionated and again, controversial.
Essentially, he's differentiating himself through his writing. He's not bland – he has clear points of view that I'm sure attract a lot of readers.
Last week, however, he posted on a subject I know something about. The business value of Twitter.
In a post entitled “Twitter is for Twits” he opined on how Twitter was a complete waste of time for businesses.
This is where it became intriguing for me. His headline was effective – it got people to read the article. The article was well written and got across a clear point of view.
The trouble was, I know a lot about using Twitter to get new clients. Both from my own experience and from others who I've talked to in depth about how they've used twitter to win new business. And my experience was very different.
His position massively oversimplified reality. In my experience, Twitter can work well for some people, in some circumstances, and used in certain ways. It's not a simple black or white, good or bad situation. Just like any other business development or lead generation channel, it requires careful thought to figure out if it will work in your circumstances, and to figure out how best to use it.
I wasn't the first person to answer the post – someone else posted a really thoughtful reply full of examples of how twitter could bring value. I posted my experience. I explained that I had 50,000 followers so I had some experience in the matter – and I went on to describe both how I had won (at least) a couple of clients via twitter and how others had done so with rather fewer followers but using a strategy of building deep relationships with a small number of people.
A few days later I received a Linkedin direct message from the person saying he was going to make a second post effectively using me as an example of how twitter was a waste of time because I had only won two clients despite having 50,000 followers.
I replied saying that that would be misinterpreting the facts. I use twitter for 10-15 minutes per day – and not every day. Getting two clients (and probably more, as I can't track all the clients who initially found me via twitter) and a bunch of other side benefits for 10-15 minutes per day in my spare time when there's not much else I can do for business development is actually a pretty good ROI in my point of view. Especially since I'm really, really expensive so those clients are very high value.
I also explained that whether twitter would be a valuable investment for people was not a simple question and required thorough analysis, not a blanket answer. And that I typically advised clients not to try to build large followings, but to use twitter to help build deeper relationships with a small number of potential clients.
Today I noticed he had gone ahead and made a new post on the Linkedin group exactly as he'd said. He'd completely ignored all the information and explanation I'd sent him.
Instead he made up a spurious calculation of how many people I must have touched with tweets over a year and claimed that only getting two clients from that “captive audience” viewing my tweets was an awful ROI.
Now measuring success with twitter in terms of new clients per tweet is like measuring success in advertising in terms of new customers per reader of the publication you've advertised in. Never mind that the one customer you got spent $1m and the advertising was free. Apparently it must have been a bad ROI because number of new customers per reader was low!
What he did was in many ways good copywriting. He continued to have compelling headlines and interesting, controversial and well-written material in his post.
But it was bad, bad advice. Worse, he deliberately gave that bad advice despite knowing better.
I can forgive him the initial post. We all sometimes write on a subject we're not experts on but which we feel passionate about. And sometimes we're wrong.
But I gave him detailed information which he then ignored when writing the second post.
Knowingly writing misleading information just to make an impact is wrong.
It may attract more viewers. It may build your reputation. it may make you more popular with people who share similar viewpoints.
But it's wrong.
People reading it will make bad decisions as a result that will cost them significant time and money – or worse.
And that brings me to my point.
As someone who writes a lot, I'll admit to trying to construct intriguing or controversial headlines to get more clicks to my site or readers to my articles. I've even constructed headlines to try to help my ranking in google.
But as professionals our primary duty is to our clients. We must give them the very best advice we can – not just say what best promotes ourselves.
Now sure, I may not be right all the time. And my passion may get the better of me and cause me to write or say something when I'm not in full possession of the facts.
But it is our absolute duty as professionals not to twist or ignore information to best serve our own interests.
So it's most definitely best to be truthful.
Interesting gets more readers and more traffic. But truthful is the right thing to do.
And it allows me to sleep at night.
And I like to think that in the long term, it wins loyalty and trust.
My latest tips on building a Client Winning Profile for Linkedin are now on a free, short video – click here to watch it.
As you might know, as (apparently!) a Linkedin Expert, I've been asked by Cisco Webex and Linkedin to do occasional blog posts related to the European Business Awards they're running.
One thing I was interested in finding out was how people were using Linkedin to win new business. Many people, myself included (in this article on Linkedin tips for professionals), have written on the topic and given ideas and recommendations based on our own experiences and private research.
But I wanted to know how this was playing out in practice.
Never mind the theory, how are people actually winning business via Linkedin in the real world?
Webex were kind enough to run a poll for me in the Business Awards group asking people what they'd found to be the best way of winning new business via Linkedin.
We had 256 respondents. Of course, the results have an inbuilt bias as they're not from the full Linkedin population, but from those who have participated in the Business Awards group. But they certainly give a good picture of the different ways people are actually using Linkedin effectively.
The Results: Just How Are People Using Linkedin to Win New Business?
The poll question asked was “What has been the best way you've found to win new business using Linkedin?”. Like all Linkedin polls, respondents were allowed to pick one answer only.
First up: Overall results from all respondents
That “Finding new connections” came out in 1st place is no surprise. The way Linkedin works makes it ideal for connecting with friends of friends. And that's been the main focus of most of the advice given about how to get new clients through Linkedin: using search and asking other to refer you.
But what was a surprise for me was that “Reconnecting with old contacts” was only just a few percentage points behind it in 2nd place. Remember, the question wasn't just about how you use Linkedin generally or for fun – it asked respondents about the best way they'd found to win new business. And nearly 30% of respondents were primarily getting new business from reaching out to old contacts they'd lost touch with.
When you think about it, this makes sense. Our old contacts (in the main) already know and trust us – whereas new connections don't. And the obvious initial question “what are you doing now?” can lead to interesting follow-ups: “oh really, funny you should say that, we were looking for someone to…” or “actually, I know someone who is on the lookout for…”. Although this is not something that's happened to me personally, a number of people I've spoken to have said this has worked well for them. the contacts they've reconnected with have often been in a position to pass on work to them.
Linkedin's pretty good at recommending names to reconnect with. And the more old contacts you connect with, the more it seems to recommend other, similar contacts.
So perhaps my biggest recommendation emerging from this survey is that if you want to use Linkedin to win new business, don't just focus on trying to find new connections: look at re-establishing contact with some of your old colleagues and clients.
Results by Company Size
There weren't really many differences between responses of different levels of seniority of respondents. But where there was an interesting difference was when you look at the results by company size.
You can see here a clear difference in the response of medium sized firms.
There were a significant number of responses from these firms (44), yet none of them found either contributing to discussions or deepending relationships to be good uses of Linkedin to win new business.
It's difficult to make a lot of sense of these results. Perhaps medium firms are less specialist than small ones – and hence don't get value from sharing their expertise in discussions. But then why would large firms and corporates firms see value in it?
Without knowing the answer, what is clear is that few medium sized firms have found value in this. Yet it's often a strategy recommended by experts in Linkedin.
My own experience is that I'd be wary of investing a lot of time in using Linkedin discussions (either in groups or the Q&A section) to try to win new business. Yes, you can establish yourself as an expert. But I've known many people invest a lot of time into building this expert status who've yet to see any work as a result from it. Not that no one has – but it does seem very hit and miss and difficult to predict in advance if it's going to pay off.
Results by Gender of Respondent: Stereotypes confirmed?
This is another area with markedly different results by group.
Firstly, there were a lot more men answering the poll than women: 192 to 64.
But more interestingly, the big difference is that for men, the strategy they report as being the most effective at winning new business by far is finding new contacts. For women it's a much more balanced picture. They get new business by reconnecting with old contacts more than men. They get business by deeping relationship with existing contacts more than men. And they get business by having their profile found more than men. In short, it plays right in to the stereotype of men as aggressive hunter gatherers – going out and looking for new business. While women spend more time nurturing old and existing relationships to win business.
Now this may be because we're playing to our stereotypes and if we tried alternative approaches we'd have success. Or it may be that women really are better at ‘relationship stuff” than men (I'm sure a woman wouldn't call it “relationship stuff” either). Either way, it's worth testing further.
What Does it Mean?
The main thing I've learned from this is to challenge my own assumptions. I've written quite a bit on Linkedin, discussed experiences with many people, and read widely. But it was still a surprise to me to find out how many people were using the “reconnection” strategy so effectively, or the differences between medium sized businesses and others, or the differences between the experiences of men and women.
In future I'm going to be a little more wary of assuming that because a certain strategy has worked well for me that it's the best one for others.
And, of course, I'm going to start reconnecting…
So that's my interpretation of the results? What do you think? Hit the Comments below to share – it's much appreciated.
Regular readers will know I'm a big fan of Linkedin as a business development tool for professionals (see 10 Linkedin Tips for Professionals for my guide to the best ways to use it).
I'll be doing quite a few more Linkedin posts in the upcoming weeks. Some of them will be further ideas on using Linkedin for business development. But some will be more news oriented.
The reason for that is I've been asked to blog about and comment on the upcoming Linkedin European Business Awards 2010.
As you may have seen in the press, Linkedin and Cisco WebEx are sponsoring these awards and are running a large poll over at www.linkedinbusinessawards.com to get votes for the Start Up, Leader, Business Innovation and Rising Star of the Year.
The judges for the Grand Prize are Pierre-Yves Gerbeau (of Millenium Dome rescue fame), Reid Hoffman (Executive Chairman of Linkedin) and James Campanini (Director of Cisco WebEx for EMEA and LATAM).
During the run-up to the awards, they'll be holding a variety of discussion events and polls. As a blogging partner for the event I'll be getting exclusive access to these and will also be able to pose questions to the judges. I'll be posting the results up here.
The first thing I've got a sneak preview of is a poll they've been running on leadership.
I don't claim to be a great expert on leadership, but I've run and analysed quite a few surveys in my time.
The basic question they asked was What do you think is the most important factor in Leadership?
The possible answers were:
Very surprisingly, despite the dominant stress on Vision, Drive and Character in the literature on Leadership, the overwhelming choice of the 608 respondents (so far) was Communication:
What do you think is the most important factor in Leadership? Overall Results
Does this really mean that communication is the most important factor in leadership?
Not really – after all, a poll is only telling you the opinion of people – it's not measuring which factor has the most impact in practice. But it does highlight something I believe is rather important.
In my experience, what polls like this actually measure is the most pressing related issue at the top of the minds of the participants right now. If you ask us what the most important factor in leadership is, or teamwork, or business development excellence; we never really give our objective, dispassionate view of the absolute importance of the factors. What we give is our view on what we are most missing out on right now.
In this case, the poll is highlighting that most participants see a problem with the level and quality of communication of their leaders (or they see it as their main challenge if they're a leader themselves). It's impossible for anyone to know for sure, objectively whether communication is more important than vision. But they answer with their gut feeling. And if currently they feel they're not being communicated well enough with, then that's what they'll answer.
The results were pretty consistent across gender, and also across the different sizes of companies respondents worked for. With the exception that communication was (understandably) viewed as even more of an important factor in very large enterprises.
Results across job role were similar too – with the interesting discrepancies that engineers don't seem to care about their leaders having character, IT people not seeming to care about them having a vision, and sales people not seeming to care if they had drive.
What do you think is the most important factor in Leadership? By Job Function
Perhaps the most interesting result was the variety in responses across age groups:
What do you think is the most important factor in Leadership? By Age Group
There's a big difference between the scores of the different age groups here (discounting the 55+ group which is obviously a very small sample size).
It seems that as young people enter the workforce, they have a fairly balanced view of what is needed from leadership. However, those in their mid 20s to mid 30s are focused much more than anything else on the importance of communication with leadership (or the lack of it). Then those from 35 upwards are less concerned with communication and again have a more balanced perspective on leadership issues.
The results could be read 2 different ways.
On the one hand, you could interpret this as meaning that the 35+ group are more senior and closer to their firm's leadership – and so are being communicated effectively with, whereas the younger cohort of up and coming staff aren't.
On the other hand you could view it as a demographic shift. Those of us of a slightly older generation don't expect so much communication and interaction with our leaders. But 20 somethings are used to being able to connect closely with their idols through the media or directly via twitter, and follow their exploits and outpourings on blogs, comment columns and gossip sheets. It could well be that this generation needs to be communicated with more, and in different ways.
I don't have the answers to this, of course. But it's interesting food for thought.
I'll be doing another Linkedin post shortly with a quick hint on using status updates. And I may well have some news about another interesting poll that's being run.
Disclosure: I'm not being paid or given anything to support this event. I'm a big user and fan of Linkedin, but I've never used WebEx at all so can't comment on it's effectiveness as a business tool (although I might give it a whirl sometime in the next few months)
Over on my (small but very friendly) Rainmaker Network Linkedin group we've been discussing using Linkedin for business development in professional services.
One idea I'd not heard before came from Julian Johnstone. He's set up a group called Meet: Lawyers where lawyers who are travelling can set up “meetings for coffee” with other lawyers in the cities they're visiting.
One of the best sources of referrals for many professionals is other professionals in the same field. This might either be in complementary or non-competing specialisms (a lawyer in a corporate practice referring to a divorce lawyer in a family law practice for example) or even from direct competitors (a divorce lawyer recommending a “competitor” as they clearly can't represent both sides in a case).
Sometimes professionals are asked to recommend people in other locations – and small firms are at a disadvantage here as they often don't have good contacts outside the town they practice in.
The Meet: Lawyers idea really helps with this. And for a lawyer alone in a different city, provides a bit of social contact too (hey, someone's got to feel sorry for lawyers).