LinkedIn can be your best lead generator and networking tool if you follow these tips.
LinkedIn can be your most effective online marketing lead generation tool. The world's largest B2B social network has over 150+ million decision-makers. Every LinkedIn profile provides juicy information from contact information to connections to current work. It is the ultimate decision-maker data platform. So how can you build and grow a presence on the network that will engage your target audience and help you to drive qualified leads? How can you network effectively in LinkedIn?
First things first, you have to create a professional engaging profile that supports the needs and interests of your target audience. This means posting a professional picture of yourself, either a high-res professional headshot or the same of you providing your service. Always show a smile. It has been proven that delivering a friendly composure in social media will more than likely attract your audience. Beyond a professional image, your LinkedIn headline, summary, job descriptions, blog content, and other multimedia files on your profile need to be full and interesting (to your target audience). To create all of this, you need to ask yourself such questions as, "Who is my exact target audience?" "What are their buying criteria?" and "What do I deliver that is valuable to this audience?"
Once you have created a professional and comprehensive profile that delivers your personal brand, effective content, and value to a proposed audience, it's time for you to start to build your network. In thinking of who is a prospective qualified LinkedIn connect, review those you attended university with, clients/customers you have worked with in the last 10 years, companies and people you have worked with, and people in associations where you are a proactive member. Start searching for those people in LinkedIn and invite them to connect with you (you will need their current email). In the invitation you want to quickly tell them why you want to connect. Remember that people will connect with others they know and like. Further, the invitation can also serve as a reason for you to talk and network with that person. Make your invite more than the standard LinkedIn invite message. Make it personal.
Other ways of building your network are to import your email contact list and import from your CRM tool. As a daily tip, every time you network in an offline event, make sure to take those business cards into your LinkedIn network and invite them to connect.
Once you have built your initial LinkedIn network, you can then commit to nurturing those first-connect relationships. This requires you to continually provide them with valuable content and information that will help them succeed. You can do this by posting information in your status, by answering their questions where you have an expertise, and by referring them to others in your first network. To start real LinkedIn networking, you should also request from your first connects the ability to review their first connects (your second connects) and then ask for warm introductions from first to second. Make sure you're specific as to why you want to connect and how you will provide value to their first connects.
Now that you have all of these connects, you need to commit to networking for the success of both you and your connects. What this requires is for you to first get a true understanding of each connect and what their needs are and then how you can help them, whether that is to provide them with specific individual content through messaging them, to provide them with a recommendation based on work performance, or connect them to people in your network that can help them. The more you help others in your network, the more you will realize that they will help you. Networking in LinkedIn is certainly a two-way street.
LinkedIn networking is not unlike any other marketing vehicle in terms of the need for a real plan, daily follow-through, and measurement. Make it a daily practice to individually send a message to a first connect that you haven't communicated with directly. Arrange calls and meetings with people in your network that you want to do business with. Using the Groups feature, join and participate in Groups where you have commonalities in business, college, and interests. Find ways to take LinkedIn discussions and connections offline. Attend LinkedIn group offline networking events. LinkedIn can be your best lead generator and networking tool if you follow the advice provided.
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Jasmine Sandler is a veteran in online marketing and CEO and founder of Agent-cy Online Marketing, an online branding agency. She has more than 15 years' experience in helping companies use the Web to develop and grow business. Sandler has provided interactive solutions for such clients as Citibank, ISO, Diamonds International, Doublerock Corporation, Loews Hotels, and CityLights Cruises.
Sandler has expertise in the areas of using LinkedIn to grow business, B2B social media marketing strategy, search marketing strategies for sustainable online visibility, website effectiveness for user engagement, and digital strategies for small businesses. She is a published author of Branding & Sales: The LinkedIn Way.
She is a frequent speaker for The Association of Strategic Marketing, The Association of Ghostwriters, ClickZ Live, Small Business Technology, and New York Business Expo and is a contributing writer for ClickZ.com, The New York Enterprise Report, and LinkedIn Original Content.
Sandler holds a dual MBA in Marketing and Technology from the University of Miami and is a very active supporter of LinkedIn and runs several business owner groups on the site. She was previously director of managed data networking sales at IBM Global Services for seven years.
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